Tag Archives: decisions

Podcast 113: Reclaim Your Dump Zones, a Hack for Making Tough Decisions, and Is Your Birthday Important to You?

Update: There’s an official launch date of May 18 for Elizabeth’s great new podcast with her writing partner and old friend Sarah Fain. Yes, Happier in Hollywood launches in a few weeks. I’m counting down the days!

The Better app, all about the Four Tendencies, is now free. If you want to learn more about Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, or Rebels, join the discussion on the app. Or if you want to use the framework at work, with your health clients, with your family, with your students, you can find a lot of focused discussions there, too. And you can start or join an Accountability Group. (Don’t know your Tendency? Take the Four Tendencies quiz.)

Try This at Home: Reclaim your dump zones. I reclaimed the little table I describe — above, you can see it pictured in its naked glory.

Here’s one of my all-time favorite podcast episode — #10, live from Elizabeth’s messy closet.

If you’re intrigued by the subject of clutter-busting, you might enjoy my book Happier at Home. For many people, outer order is a very important for happiness at home.

Happiness Hack: Turn on the subtitles when you’re watching TV.

Know Yourself Better: Is your birthday important to you — or not?

Listener Question: Danielle asks, “My family constantly debates whether we should stay in New York City, or move to the suburbs, and it makes me feel constantly unsettled.”

The book I mention is Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness.

Demerit: I made the mistake of “treating a gift like a burden,” when I was working over spring break to get The Four Tendencies ready for publication.

Gold Star: Jack’s nanny Cynthia made lots of special plans to make spring break fun for him.

New feature: Each week, at the end of the podcast, I list “Two Resources for You.”

  1. To get every new episode of the podcast by email, sign up at happiercast.com/join.
  2. Every Tuesday at 3:00 pm Eastern Time, I do a Facebook Live video about the most recent episode. Join the conversation with your questions, comment, and insights. If you miss the live conversation, you can always see the archived version on my Page.

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.

As mentioned above, 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

Check out Smith and Noble, the solution for beautiful window treatments. Go to smithandnoble.com/happier for 20% off window treatments and free in-home or on-phone design consultations and free professional measuring.

Also check out StitchFix, an online personal styling service with real stylists who handpick clothing for you — your taste, your schedule, your lifestyle, your budget. Sign up at StitchFix.com.

Also check out Stamps.com. Want to avoid trips to the post office, and buy and print official U.S. postage for any letter or package, right from your own computer and printer? Visit Stamps.com to sign up for a 4-week trial,  including postage and a digital scale — just enter the promo code HAPPIER.

1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #113

We love hearing from listeners:

 

To sign up for my free monthly newsletter, text me at 66866 and enter the word (surprise) “happier.“ Or click here.

If you enjoyed the podcast, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Click here to tell your friends on Twitter.

Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

How to Subscribe

If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really.  To listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

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!

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

Check out Stamps.com. Want to avoid trips to the post office, and buy and print official U.S. postage for any letter or package, right from your own computer and printer? Visit Stamps.com to sign up for a 4-week trial,  including postage and a digital scale — just enter the promo code HAPPIER.

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

We love hearing from listeners:

 

To sign up for my free monthly newsletter, text me at 66866 and enter the word (surprise) “happier.“ Or click here.

If you enjoyed the podcast, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Click here to tell your friends on Twitter.

Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

How to Subscribe

If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really.  To listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

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!

With Habits, “It Helps to Adopt Simple Rules.”

Habits interview: Cass Sunstein.

I’m hard at work on Better Than Before, my book about habits, which focuses on how to change a habit – whatever you want your particular habit to be.  (To hear when the book goes on sale, sign up here.)

As part of my research, I’ve read innumerable books and papers on various topics related to habits. One of my favorite sources is the book Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler.

I started my career in law, so I knew a lot about American legal scholar Cass Sunstein and his work. Nudge, however, isn’t about law. It’s about how people and institutions can “nudge” behavior, to help people achieve better health, better finances, and better outcomes in many different areas, by shaping default choices that lead people to make better habits (often, without even realizing it), and by making better choices easier. “Choice architecture” takes advantage of the Strategy of Convenience: the simple facts that many people choose the default decision presented to them, rather than take the trouble to choose for themselves, and that when things are easier, we more likely to do them, and when things are harder, we’re less likely to do them (for good and for ill).

Sunstein and Thaler offer many practical suggestions about how to put this approach into practice; people are still free to make their own decisions, but they’ve been “nudged” in the right direction.

Gretchen: You’ve done fascinating research on the subject of habits. What’s the most significant thing you’ve concluded?

Cass: Probably this: It helps to adopt simple rules, which are easy to follow. For example: Exercise on specific days every week.  I play squash (an obscure racquet sport), and it’s good to have a plan to play with a specific person at a specific time every Monday, and another every Wednesday, and another every Friday. In fact it’s often best to adopt a practice that operates by default, meaning that unless you take active steps to alter the practice, you’re on the path you want. Example: Pay bills (credit cards, mortgage, etc.) automatically and electronically, so that you’re in the habit (so to speak) even if you aren’t thinking about bills at all. Habitual behavior isn’t something that we have to work at — though it might take a lot of work to make certain behavior habitual, or to turn something that is a struggle into part of life’s furniture.

What’s something you know now about forming healthy habits that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

That one’s tastes can change a lot, and that you often like some things more, or dislike them less, when you keep doing them. When I was 18 years old, I didn’t appreciate the extent to which new habits and new tastes can develop over time — and how much control people ultimately have over their own habits.

Here’s something that I also didn’t know: In thinking about habits, it’s useful to focus on two things: the costs of decisions and the costs of errors. That sounds like econo-speak, and it is, but when we have a good habit, the decision costs are low (because it’s a habit!) and the error costs are also low (because it’s a good habit, e.g., a healthy one). Bad habits tend to have low decision costs (because the relevant behavior is habitual) but high error costs (because they make your life worse). When we lack a habit, the decision costs are often pretty high, because we have to keep thinking about what to do. That can be a strong argument in favor of developing a habit; it simplifies life. True, the decision cost-error cost framework will hardly appeal to everyone, but I think it’s useful.

Which habits are most important to you? (for heath, for creativity, for productivity, for leisure, etc.)

I try to find at least two hours to write every weekday morning, between 9 am and noon — that is pretty helpful for productivity.

Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

After I left government, I developed a new habit, which is that I generally don’t do interviews. I am breaking that habit right now! [Gretchen: Which I very much appreciate.]

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.?

Actually I haven’t.

Do you embrace habits or resist them?

Depends on what they are! Some of them are helpful, of course, but others less so. One question is whether it is possible to object to habits as such. I think it is; some of them can be stultifying even if they are pretty good (or great). If you have a habit of eating only healthy foods, your life might be a bit boring. Another question is whether it is possible to endorse habits as such. I think that it is, because they simplify life, and make it more easily navigable.

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

Dick Thaler, my coauthor on Nudge (and several academic papers). I’ve learned a lot from him about the importance of default rules. He’s also responsible for the term “snudge” (meaning, self-nudge), which is admittedly awful. (But it’s a lot better, and more useful, than “selfie” — wouldn’t you agree?) If you keep your refrigerator pretty empty, and don’t fill it with unhealthy things, you’re snudging. In fact good lives are full of good snudges (but I am now considering whether to develop a new habit, which is not to use that particular word).

Secret of Adulthood: Most Decisions Don’t Require Extensive Research.

Further Secrets of Adulthood:

 

Agree, disagree?

Whether or not research is required, some people love to do research.

A desire to do extensive research may be related to whether you’re a satisficer or a maximizer, or where you fit in the Four Rubin Tendencies of Upholder, Questioner, Rebel, or Obliger. (Yes, for lack of a better label, I’m calling these the “Rubin Tendencies.”) Questioners, in particular, love to do research.

What’s true for you?

Have You Ever Been Stuck Between Two Options, and Unable to Decide?

I love teaching stories–parables from the Bible, Zen stories, paradoxes, Aesop’s fables, koans. That’s one reason that I now use my weekly video to tell a story.

One such story is the story of “Buridan’s ass.” In it, an ass stands between two identical piles of hay, and unable to find a reason to choose one pile over the other, dies of hunger.

I know this story well, and I was struck by how absolutely perfectly it applies to Geoff Dyer’s description of his struggle to decide what book to write next, as set forth in his fascinating book, Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D. H. Lawrence. Dyer writes:

Although I had made up my mind to write a book about Lawrence I had also made up my mind to write a novel, and while the decision to write the book about Lawrence was made later it had not entirely superseded that earlier decision. At first I’d had an overwhelming urge to write both books but these two desires had worn each other down to the point where I had no urge to write either. Writing them both at the same time was inconceivable and so these two equally overwhelming ambitions first wore each other down and then wiped each other out. As soon as I thought about working on the novel I fell to thinking that it would be much more enjoyable to write my study of Lawrence. As soon as I started making notes on Lawrence I realised I was probably sabotaging forever any chance of writing my novel which, more than any other book I had written, had to be written immediately, before another protracted bout of labour came between me and the idea of what I perceived as a rambling, sub-Bernhardian rant of a novel. It was now or never.  So I went from making notes on Lawrence to mkaing notes for my novel, by which I mean I went from not working on my book about Lawrence to not working on the novel because all of this to-ing and fro-ing and note-taking actually meant that I never did any work on either book.

This description struck a real chord with me. I’ve had that feeling of paralysis when I just couldn’t decide between two options. A very unhappy feeling.

Sidenote: This also reminds me of my Secret of Adulthood: Working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination.

Have you ever been stuck between two choices?