Tag Archives: experience

A Little Happier: A Happiness Lesson from a Founding Father.

When I was still working as a lawyer, before I switched to writing, I worked at the Federal Communications Commission. My former boss, Chairman Reed Hundt, had a line he often quoted, and it made a big impression on me.

It’s from the Founding Father Benjamin Franklin:

“Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.”

Note: “Dear” is an old-fashioned term for “costly.”

Meaning: Experience is a costly way to learn, but sometimes it’s the only thing that can teach us. And I find that immensely comforting. Sometimes, the only way to learn is to learn the hard way!

As I mention, the reason that I know Kim Scott, one of the co-hosts of the terrific podcast Radical Candor, is that we worked at the FCC together.

Listen to this mini-podcast episode by clicking PLAY below.

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“How Does One Bring One’s Mind and Body Back Together? The Best Means Is ___”

In The Awakened Eye, Ross Parmenter writes, “How does one bring one’s mind and body back together? The best means is a vacation.”

Hmmmm…I think there are many ways a person could answer the question, “How does one bring one’s mind and body back together?”

I think some people would say “Meditation.” As I write about in Better Than Before, meditation wasn’t helpful for me, but many people do find it useful.

For me, I’ve found, I can bring my body and mind together by mindfully enjoying the experience of my body. Which is delightful.

For instance, I take a moment to enjoy my sense of smell. We can enjoy beautiful scents without any time, energy, or money; a scent ties us to the present moment, because we can’t bookmark it, or save it for later, or even continue to experience it for very long. In my book Happier at Home, I write about the power of the sense of smell, and all I did to try to get more good smells into my life (and also get rid of bad smells, very helpful!)

I also deliberately notice the colors around me. I’ve become obsessed with color. So many beautiful colors, so many fascinating aspects of seeing color.

Do you agree that a vacation is a good way to bring your mind and body back together?

How would you fill in the blank?

Podcast 105: Leave on High Note, Childlike Wonder vs. Adultlike Wonder–and What I Eat Every Day.

It’s time for the next installment of  Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Update: In response to our discussion in episode 102, listeners told us the different “missing puzzle pieces” they’d managed to find.

Try This at Home: Leave on a high note.

Happiness Hack: The Metropolitan Museum has introduced an extraordinary new resource: for artworks that are in the public domain, the Met makes them freely available for unrestricted use (including commercial use). Learn more and browse here!

Happiness Stumbling Block: What appeals to you more: childlike wonder, or adultlike wonder?

Listener Questioner: Fiona asks, “Gretchen, what do you eat every day?’

I talk about the fact that I’m an “Abstainer” — are you an Abstainer or a Moderator?

As I write about in Better Than Before, I was inspired to quit sugar after reading Gary Taubes’s Why We Get Fat. If you’d like to read my interview with Gary Taubes about his new book, The Case Against Sugar, request it here.

Demerit: I hate the theme of unjust accusation in books, movies, plays, and TV shows — but I unjustly accused my family of ignoring the groceries.

Gold Star: Elizabeth went to two doctors’ appointments in one day.

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Happier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #105

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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.

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Agree, Disagree? Memories Live Longer Than Dreams.

Interview: James Wallman.

I’ve long been fascinated by the relationships between people and possessions. It’s a complicated, rich, emotionally-fraught bond. In the chapter on the Strategy of Distinctions in my book Better Than Before, for instance, I discuss the difference between over-buyers and under-buyers, and abundance-lovers and simplicity-lovers, and how those differences affect habits.

On this fascinating subject, James Wallman has a new book, Stuffocation: Why We’ve Had Enough of Stuff and Need Experience More than Ever,

I was very interested to hear what James had to say about habits, possessions, happiness, and human nature.

Gretchen: What’s a simple habit that consistently makes you happier?

James: In a note my Granddad, Jack, gave me on the day he died, he wrote that “Memories live longer than dreams.” As you can imagine, I’ve thought about that note a lot since then. I now believe he meant that what matters in life isn’t material things but experiences. So I have an ingrained habit to spend as little (money, time, energy) as possible on stuff, and as much as possible on experiences. When I come to any decision, I ask myself: will this, at the least, create a memory? It’s a great habit because it informs everything I do, it makes making decisions so much easier. I buy far less stuff, and do more things. And it makes my life full of interesting experiences.

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

The most important thing I’ve learned about forming healthy habits is the difference between the conscious and unconscious mind. Daniel Kahneman calls them System 2 and System 1 in Thinking, Fast and Slow. Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein think of them, in Nudge, as Homo Economicus and Homer Economicus. And Jonathan Haidt, in The Happiness Hypothesis, describes them as like the elephant and the rider. These ways of seeing the conscious and unconscious mind have made it clear to me that you have to set things up to help yourself follow your habits. Your System 1, Homo Economicus, rider has to “architect choice” for your System 2, Homer Economicus, elephant—so it’s easy for you to follow any habit.

So, if you don’t want to eat chocolate, don’t have chocolate in the house. If you don’t want to drink beer, don’t go to the pub. If you don’t want to end up with more stuff, don’t go shopping. And then, don’t only not do something, but have something positive to head towards. Have an alternative, non-sugary treat in the house. Have another way to spend time with friends: go climbing, for a walk, to the cinema, or anywhere where beer or shopping isn’t the main activity.

By architecting choice, you (the rider) can steer the elephant in the right direction.

Do you have any habits that continually get in the way of your happiness?

Checking email! I’ve removed email from my phone so I can’t check it when I’m away from my computer.

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

I believe in sacred time. I can’t multi-task anyway, but I find it’s too easy to get distracted (hello, email). So whatever I’m doing, I try to completely focus on it. I switch my cellphone to airplane mode when I go to the park with my kids, for instance. So instead of checking Twitter and catching up with friends by text (hah, getting rid of email only takes you so far!), I actually focus on hanging out with them.

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

I didn’t understand the categories till I’d taken the quiz, to be honest. But since I took the test and it says I’m a Questioner I totally get it. It’s me exactly: I question everything that I’m told, and I like to stick to things that matter to me. How else can any author be good at what they do? Our job is to question things, work out if they’re true, if they work, if they’re worth sharing. And then, we have to knuckle down and put hours, days, years, early mornings, late nights into bringing our passion from that idea that struck us at some obscure, quiet moment into the bright light of publication day. Hey, that’s how it’s been for this author at least!

Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits? (e.g. travel, parties)

I like to meditate early in the morning. It’s great for focusing the mind, setting up the day, getting things done. But I have a one-year-old and a three-year-old – and as often as not, they get up too. Hey, at least I get to hang out with them and have breakfast… which I guess is a healthy habit too.

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.?

That note from my Granddad.

Do you embrace habits or resist them?

I’m realistic: we’re creatures of habit. So the best thing is to try to create good habits.

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

My Mum and Dad. They’ve always been very positive. It wasn’t that they pushed my brother and I, but they would always say: “It doesn’t matter how well you do, just do your best.” And they meant it. They didn’t judge us (or at least, I didn’t feel like they were judging us) on whether we succeeded or failed at something. They were happy if we’d had a go. And I think that’s a good practice, a good habit to have. Life throws all sorts of things at us: ups, downs, amazing surprises and frustrating setbacks. And if you know you’re doing all you can do, if you know you’re not wasting your opportunity, the result doesn’t matter. You can stand tall, be satisfied and happy with yourself, knowing you’re doing your best.

Secret of Adulthood: Experience the Experience.

Further Secrets of Adulthood:



I constantly struggle to experience the experience, to experience now. Not to think about the past, or the future, but now. In fact, the last chapter of Happier at Home is titled “Now.” It always seems as though experiencing the present moment should be easy, but it’s so challenging. At least for me. But then I struggle so much with mindfulness.

How about you? Do you have a mantra or a habit or a Secret of Adulthood that helps you “experience the experience?”

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