Tag Archives: happiness

Have You Ever Experienced Split-Second-Aging?

Yesterday, I got my feeling of split-second-aging.

While I was riding on the subway, for no particular reason, I felt some odometer click over, and I became older. I felt it happen. I crossed some invisible border, and now some things seem closer and clearer and more important, and other things, further away.

I’ve had this feeling of unexpected split-second-aging before, and I’ve also failed to feel it, when I expected to feel it. The night I got married, for example, I remember saying to my husband of a few hours, “I thought I’d feel different, but I feel the same. Do you feel different?” He didn’t feel any different, either.

Having a baby, too. I felt a huge range of new emotions and concerns, but I didn’t feel any older or more mature. Same old me.

But I remember feeling split-second-aging when my husband had knee surgery. I was sitting in the waiting room with my mother-in-law and father-in-law, waiting for him to regain consciousness, when the doctor came in to give us the update. (Never have I felt such love for my father-in-law as when he said, nicely but sternly, “Doctor, we want to manage this situation for no pain.”) It wasn’t a dangerous operation, but suddenly I knew that I’d leave that hospital a lot older than I’d come in.

But sometimes split-second-aging feels good. Several years ago, my mother, sister, and I organized a surprise party for my father in my apartment, and the oversized flower arrangement made a big impression on my four-year-old. When a babysitter arrived to watch her while the party was going on, I overheard my daughter explain in a soft voice, “My mommy is having a flower party.”

Suddenly, I felt like the the omnipotent Mommy of my own childhood, or Mrs. Dalloway. I felt grown-up in a way I never had before — in a pleasing way.

The passage of time is one of the great currents of life that affect happiness. Split-second-aging isn’t a happy feeling or an unhappy feeling, but it is a weighty feeling.

Do you know what I’m talking about? Am I the only one who has experienced split-second-aging?

* I can’t get over how nice people are being about my forthcoming book – Karl over at the great blog Work Happy Now! wrote an incredibly generous post.

* Speaking of people being helpful and nice, if you’d like to volunteer to help me from time to time with The Happiness Project, you can sign up here. Super-Fans, THANKS again for all your help.

“The Hardest Victory Is Over Self.”

“I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.”
–Aristotle

* Fascinating post on Starfish Envy about “numbness.” Numbness is a very helpful term for a particular state of mind, and the post really got me thinking.

* Have you pre-ordered your copy of The Happiness Project? No? Well, here’s your chance! Lucky you!

Six Tips for Coping with the Fact that You’ve Forgotten Someone’s Name.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: Six tips for coping with the fact that you don’t remember a person’s name.

If you’re like me, you sometimes have trouble remembering people’s names, or even how you know them. A few years ago, while at a chaotic birthday party for a three-year-old, I was on the brink of going over to some little kid’s father to say, “I think we went to college together.” Turns out it was Dylan McDermott!

In ancient Rome, the job of the “nomenclator” was to whisper or announce the names of people as they approached a politician. My husband serves this function for me; he has an uncanny ability to recall names and faces — people he has met once, years ago, and also famous people. I’ll insist I’ve never met someone before, and he’ll say, “Wasn’t he in your class in college?” I have no idea how he does it, but I really suffer when I got to social events without him.

So I’ve developed some strategies for coping with the fact that I’m not able to pull up a person’s name right away. Of course, you can always just say politely, “I’m sorry, I don’t recall your name,” but if you’d rather try to disguise your forgetfulness a bit, give these a try:

1. The “I know your name, but I’m blocked” dodge:
“I keep wanting to call you “David,” but I know that’s not right.”

2. The “Of course I know you — in fact, I want all your information” dodge:
“Hey, I’d love to get your card.”

3. The “The tip of my tongue” dodge:
“I know I know your name, but I’m blanking right now.”

4. The “You’re brilliant!” dodge:
“Wow, you have a terrific memory. I can’t believe you remember my name from that meeting six months ago. I can’t remember the names of people I met yesterday! So of course I have to ask you your name.”

5. The “Sure, I remember you” dodge:
“Remind me – what’s your last name?” If you ask a person for his last name, he’s likely to repeat both names. “Doe, John Doe.”

6. The “One-sided introduction” dodge:
“Hey,” you say to the person whose name you can’t remember, “let me introduce you to Pat Smith.” You introduce the two and say the name of the person whose name you remember. Almost always, the nameless person will volunteer his or her name.

Also, remember that others might have trouble remembering your name. When you’re saying hello to someone, err on the side of re-introducing yourself. “Hi, John, it’s Gretchen Rubin.” Say your name slowly and clearly. And don’t get offended if someone doesn’t remember your name! And while you’re at it, remember to smile. It really does make a difference in how friendly you’re perceived to be.

* The brilliant Leo Babauta of Zen Habits fame has started a site, Mnmlist.com, about minimalism, “How less is the answer.” Lots of wonderful material there.

* As I posted the other day, I’m trying to figure out the level of interest for a book tour. If I did a book event in your town, and you’d come, it would be very helpful if you’d either post a comment below or drop me an email at grubin[at]gretchenrubin[dot com]. (Sorry about the weird format – trying to thwart spammers). Just write “tour” in the subject line, and be sure to include the name of your city! Thanks very much to all the people who already answered; the information is enormously helpful.

“We Feel More Satisfied…If We Have Stirred Up Our Minds.”

“A man does not work only for the sake of producing, but to set a value on his time. We feel more satisfied with ourselves and with our day if we have stirred up our minds and made a good start, or have finished a piece of work.”
–Eugene Delacroix

* Good stuff at Work Happy Now!

* I send out short monthly newsletters that highlight the best of the previous month’s posts to about 27,000 subscribers. If you’d like to sign up, click here or email me at grubin, then the “at” sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. (sorry about that weird format – trying to to thwart spammers.) Just write “newsletter” in the subject line. It’s free.

Why Might Small, Comfortable Changes Work Better than Radical Steps?

I just read a short, interesting book by Robert Maurer, One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way.

I’m surprised I hadn’t known about kaizen before. The Japanese term kaizen is an approach of using small steps of continuous improvement to bring about change. Instead of pursuing radical changes – which are ambitious, difficult, and often don’t succeed – you take small, comfortable steps. Maurer points out that although kaizen developed in a business setting, it also applies to individuals.

His example: after telling his patient Julie about the importance of taking time for herself and getting exercise, instead of giving the standard (and unrealistic) advice that she spend thirty minutes a day on aerobically challenging exercise, he said “How about if you just march in place in front of the television, each day, for one minute?”

When she returned for her next visit, she reported that she had kept with that routine (which wasn’t hard!). This didn’t add up to much exercise, but it gave her a more optimistic, energetic frame of mind, and she was willing to take on more. Within a few months, she was doing full aerobic workouts.

When a goal is too intimidating – “How can I switch careers from law to writing?” “How can I have a baby as a single mother?” “How can I start my own business?” “How can I lose sixty pounds and get in shape?” – you don’t even want to think about it. Pushing yourself to think of the smallest possible steps toward that goal keeps it from being too scary.

Also, if you ask yourself a specific question often enough, you’re bound to come up with some useful answers.

Maurer suggests a few kaizen questions to prompt ideas:
— If health were my first priority, what would I be doing differently today?
— How could I incorporate a few more minutes of exercise into my daily routine?
— What’s the smallest step I can take to be more efficient?
— What can I do in five minutes a day to reduce my credit-card debt?
— How could I find one source of information about adult education classes in my city?
— Whom could I ask for help? [Yes! Ask for help! Why is it so easy to overlook this extremely effective strategy?]
— What’s one small, loving act I can do today for a friend, acquaintance, or stranger?

For my own happiness project, I’ve found that these kinds of questions have helped me focus on concrete actions. Instead of asking, “How can I get more joy out of life?” I asked, “What’s one thing I can do for ten minutes each day that would give me a bit of joy?” Instead of asking, “How can I be a better parent?” I asked, “What’s one thing I can change about our mornings to make them more pleasant for everyone?” It’s hard to think of an answer to the first question; it’s easier to think of an answer to the second question.

That’s why with my happiness project, I focus so much on my resolutions. These concrete, manageable steps, attempted every day, are what have made me happier since I started my project. (If you need help keeping resolutions, here are twelve tips.)

* If you’re looking for a way to make small, concrete, comfortable changes, try using the Happiness Project Toolbox.