Tag Archives: books

How Do We Learn Most About Another Person?

“You learn more about a person by living in his house for a week than by years of running into him at social gatherings.”

–Philip Lopate, “Reflections on Subletting” in Against Joie de Vivre: Personal Essays

Agree, disagree? I agree.

What are other good ways to get to know someone? Travel together, work on a project together, meet his or her family, look at the photos on his or her phone…

Observations from Marie Kondo about the Life-Changing Magic of Creating Good Habits.

Interview: Marie Kondo.

It’s hard to exaggerate the influence that Marie Kondo has wrought with her blockbuster books The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy. The latter book takes its name, of course, from the question she urges us to ask ourselves, “Does this possession spark joy?”

Her ideas about how to create order and fight clutter have helped countless people to give themselves more energy and peace. (You might ask, “How does something paradoxically give you more energy and give you more peace?” and I would say, “That is exactly the effect of clutter-clearing.“)

The New York Times called her “perhaps the world’s only decluttering celebrity.” Absolutely!

Even I don’t agree with everything that Marie Kondo prescribes (as I write about here), I’m a huge fan of her work. It’s practical, thought-provoking, and often surprising. For most of us, outer order contributes to inner calm, and her “KonMari method” resonates with many, many people.

One thing I love is that alongside detailed instructions for how to fold a t-shirt, Marie Kondo makes observations like this: “Tidying is the act of confronting yourself; cleaning is the act of confronting nature.” Profound.

In my books The Happiness Project and Happier at Home (can’t resist mentioning–both bestsellers), I write a lot about the role of possessions in building a happy life. It’s a fascinating area.

I was thrilled to get the chance to ask Marie Kondo questions about happiness and good habits.

Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

In terms of tidying, I’m definitely an Upholder. I stay tidy because I feel that the effects ground me and allow my home to spark joy for my family and me.  However, I’m not sure if I qualify as an Upholder in other aspects, as I’ll procrastinate submitting written work or sometimes show up late to get-togethers with friends or colleagues!

Perhaps this makes me a Questioner, as I’ll only do things if, when I ask myself: “Does it spark joy?” and the answer is “yes.” My very profession is centered on encouraging others to ask themselves: “Does it spark joy?” This must qualify me as a Questioner! [Yes, that sounds Questioner to me.]

Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits?

I usually go to bed early and wake up early with my kids, who are 18 and 5 months old. However, because I travel frequently for work, I’ll sometimes get jet-lagged. This can disrupt my sleep pattern for a couple of days after! When this happens, I get a little anxious that I am getting behind on work or missing out on time spent with my daughters while I try to catch up on rest.

Simply having children can interfere with healthy habits!  For instance, before bed, I usually like to stretch and release any tension that may have developed over the course of the day. However, if one of my daughters cries or calls out for me, I’ll tend to them and, by the time they’re calmed down, I’m tempted to pass on stretching and head straight to bed.

Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you changed a major habit very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

When I was 15, I would continually tidy my room, only to have it become cluttered again shortly after.  This cycle contributed to so much stress that one day, I fainted. This breaking point made me realize that I was approaching tidying the wrong way.  Instead of focusing on discarding things and approaching tidying as the removal of negativity, I realized that I needed to focus on finding and keeping things that spark joy.

Do you embrace habits or resist them?

For daily life, I try to keep to routines, but for work, I prefer variety. For example, I get new ideas by traveling and exposing myself to other countries’ cultures. I enjoy giving talks in a variety of locations, because it allows me to interact with different people and learn from their diverse perspectives.

Has another person ever had a big influence on your habits?

My grandmother taught me the importance of tidying up even those places you don’t openly see, such as the insides of drawers and bureaus.  She recognized the intrinsic beauty in belongings and took pride in their presentation in her home.  When she dressed and accessorized, she applied the same philosophy to her personal appearance – everything mattered.  I developed my initial respect for my belongings as a result of her influence.

Podcast 112: Pick a Uniform, Time Yourself, and a Deep Dive into a Conflict with a Boss.

Update: There’s an official launch date of May 18 for Happier in Hollywood, the fantastic new podcast that Elizabeth is doing with her longtime writing partner and friend, Sarah Fain. Of course I’m biased, but it’s so good.

Try This at Home: Pick a uniform.

Here are the two articles I mention about wearing a uniform: “Why I wear the same thing to work everyday” by Matilda Kahl, and the follow-up article, “Saatch & Saatchi has a Dress Like Matilda day.” So fun to see this uniform in action! (The photo above shows people at the “Dress Like Matilda” day.)

We talked about Kim Scott, co-host of the podcast Radical Candor and author of the bestselling book Radical Candor, who wears a uniform of an orange sweater and jeans.

I also mention the article “Obama’s Way,” the interview by Michael Lewis where President Obama talks about paring down his decisions about choosing suits.

Happiness Hack: Clare in Seattle suggests timing yourself to see how long a task actually takes.

Deep Dive: We return to Cindy’s listener question, which we discussed in episode 108: “My boss quit smoking, and now wants to join me in my precious solo lunchtime walks.” Listeners raised so many excellent points.

If you want to take the Four Tendencies quiz, it’s here–find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel.

Speaking of Kim Scott, because so many listeners suggested using “radical candor,” we actually called her to ask  how to use radical candor in this context. For more info on Radical Candor, check out the podcast. And here’s a photo of the “Flintstone House.” It’s pretty kooky.

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Listener Question: Tara asked for study tips, because she’s a mother, working full-time, and studying for online course.

Demerit: Elizabeth’s glasses were scratched and hard to see through — for years. But now she has new glasses! Demerit becomes gold star.

Gold Star: I give a gold star to Eleanor, who used a cute video of baby sloths to calm herself while getting a shot.

New feature: I’m starting a new feature; each week, at the end of the podcast, I’ll list “Two Resources for You.”

  1. Check out Elizabeth’s terrific young-adult novel, Flower.
  2. The Better app, which is all about the Four Tendencies, is now free! It used to cost $9.99/month, but I decided to make it free.

If you want easy instructions about how to rate or review the podcast, look here. Remember, it really helps us if you do rate or review the podcast — it helps other listeners discover us.

I do weekly live videos on my Facebook Page to continue the conversation from the podcast — usually on Tuesdays at 3:00 pm ET. To join the conversation, check the schedule.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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Also check out Little Passports. Check out “Science Expeditions” — the new educational subscription with a science theme that kids and parents will love. To save 40% on your first month’s subscription, enter the coupon code HAPPY.

Visit Framebridge.com — a terrific way to get your art and photos framed, in a super easy and affordable way. Use the code HAPPIER at checkout to get 15% off your first Framebridge order. Shipping is free.

1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #112

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Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen to the award-winning Happier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much!

Want a new podcast to listen to, with the same vibe as Happier? The Onward Project is the family of podcasts that I’ve launched, for podcasts that are about “your life–made better.” The first shows are Side Hustle School and Radical Candor. Elizabeth’s show with her writing partner, Sarah Fain, will be Happier in Hollywood, so stay tuned for that.

HAPPIER listening!

Revealed! Three Excellent Books for April: How to Influence Others, a Romance, and an Art-Filled Memoir.

Because nothing boosts happiness more than a great book, each month, I suggest:

— one outstanding book about happiness or habits or human nature

— one outstanding work of children’s or young-adult literature–I have a crazy passion for kidlit

— one eccentric pick–a widely admired and excellent book that I love, yes, but one that may not appeal to everyone

Shop at IndieBound, BN.com, or Amazon (I’m an affiliate), or your favorite local bookstore. Or my favorite, visit the library!

For all the books I choose, I love them; I’ve read most of them at least twice if not many times; and they’re widely admired.

Now, for the three book-club choices. Drumroll…


A book about happiness, good habits, or human nature:

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

This is an absolutely fascinating book about persuasion — how do we persuade other people, and what do they do to persuade us? It’s written in an accessible, interesting way, and is one of the rare books that truly transformed my way of seeing the world around me.

 

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.


An outstanding children’s book:

Flower by Elizabeth Craft and Shea Olsen

Of course I can’t resist recommending the excellent young-adult novel by my sister. The tag line is “She had a plan, then she met him.” There’s romance, temptation, secrets, family drama, best friends, college applications, extravagant gestures, celebrity...delicious. If you enjoy listening to Elizabeth on the Happier podcast, you might get a kick out of reading her book.

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.


An eccentric pick:

Another Part of the Wood: A Self-Portrait by Kenneth Clark

I love memoirs, and I loved reading this self-portrait of Kenneth Clark, the museum director, art historian, and presenter of the blockbuster TV series Civilisation. I especially love reading memoirs by people who describe why they love their work so much.

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.


If you want to make sure you never miss a month’s selections, sign up here for the book club newsletter.

Remember, if you want to see what I read each week, I post a photo of my pile of completed books on my Facebook Page every Sunday night, #GretchenRubinReads.

I continue to read book after book on the subject of color — it’s odd to find myself fascinated by this highly specialized topic. It’s definitely contributing to my desire to collect giant sets of colored pens and colored markers — which I can now use in the coloring book I created! The Happiness Project Mini-Posters: A Coloring Book with 20 Hand-lettered Quotes to Pull Out and Frame hit the shelves this week. It shot to  #1 in Adult Coloring Books (a surprisingly large category) which made me very happy.

Lately I’ve been in the mood for memoirs. Any great ones to recommend? Or books about color, of course.

“Going Blind Turned Out to Be One of the Greatest Blessings of My Life. I Lost My Sight, But I Gained Vision.”

Interview: Isaac Lidsky.

I got to know Isaac Lidsky because he and I both clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Our clerkships didn’t overlap, but clerking for a Justice is like coming from the same very small hometown — you feel an instant kinship.

Beyond that Supreme Court clerkship, Isaac has had a fascinating career. Among other things he played Weasel on NBC’s Saved by the Bell: The New Class and was a tech entrepreneur. He was also diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a retinal degenerative disease that caused him to lose his sight.

Isaac’s new book just hit the shelves: Eyes Wide Open: Overcoming Obstacles and Recognizing Opportunities in a World that Can’t See Clearly, about how he managed to build a life of joy, professional success, and fulfillment while losing his sight.

Can you figure out the meaning of the design of his book jacket?

If you’re intrigued by the book Eyes Wide Open, you can read an excerpt here — it was an immediate New York Times bestseller, by the way.

Millions of people have watched his TED Talk, “What Reality Are You Creating For Yourself?

I asked him to talk about happiness and habits.

Gretchen: You slowly lost your sight from age 13 to age 25, but it didn’t slow you down–you nonetheless  starred on a sitcom, went to Harvard and Harvard Law School, clerked for two U.S. Supreme Court Justices, started several successful businesses, married, and had four children. How did you change your habits to stay driven and pursue your goals as you went blind?

Isaac: When I was diagnosed with my blinding disease, I knew blindness would ruin my life. I was wrong. Going blind turned out to be one of the greatest blessings in my life. I lost my sight, but I gained an empowering vision that has helped me to thrive and brought me much fulfillment. With blindness, I learned to see what is important to me, at work and at home–to understand what I truly want to accomplish with my life. Moreover, I learned to hold myself accountable for the differences between the way I’d like to live my life and the way I actually live it.

What is the toughest harmful habit you’ve overcome?

We have a tendency to perceive others in our lives as our heroes or villains–to imagine that others control the way we experience our lives.

This is especially true when we’re afraid of the unknown, in times of great change or crisis. Without relevant experience to draw upon, fear beats a retreat, and we look to others we can blame or credit, others whose wrongs we can condemn, others we can turn to for rescue. Too often, the result is that we remain on the sidelines, stay out of the fight, fail to take control.

I used to see heroes and villains in my life, and I unwittingly outsourced to them my destiny.

How did you overcome this habit?

It takes ongoing effort and discipline–in a sense, it requires forming a new, healthy habit. Whenever I’m afraid I ask myself two questions: (1) What, precisely, is my problem? Right now, concrete, broken down into its smallest, most manageable pieces. (2) What, precisely, can I do about it? Emphasis on “I”; no heroes, no villains, just me. I focus on the elusive distinction between what I know and what I think I know, and I remind myself that I alone bear responsibility for how my circumstances are manifested in who I am or how I choose to live my life.

What is a healthy habit you would encourage others to adopt?

I think introspection is a neglected skill that is critical to living well. Clarity of vision demands that you are absolutely honest with yourself and accountable to yourself–for your thoughts, beliefs, opinions, actions. We do ourselves great harm when we lie to ourselves. It’s even worse, though, when we avoid facing ourselves altogether. In every moment, we choose who we want to be and how we want to live our lives–whether we realize it or not, whether we like it or not, whether we do so with awareness and intention or by default. I think folks should make a habit of thinking critically about those choices.

You write that losing your sight gave you your empowering vision. How?

What we see feels like “truth”–something out there that is objective reality, that is factual, that is universal. But as my eyes progressively deteriorated, I literally saw firsthand that the experience of sight is altogether different. It is a unique, personal, virtual reality that is constructed in the brain, and it involves far more than our eyes. Our sight both shapes and is shaped by our conceptual understanding of the world, other knowledge, memories, opinions, emotions, mental attention, and many other things. I began to search for other ways in which I was misperceiving as objective “truth” the beliefs and assumptions that were in reality creations of my own making-creations I could change. This was the eyes-wide-open vision that enabled me to take control of my reality and my destiny.