Tag Archives: learning

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.

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.

Want to get in touch? I love hearing from listeners:

 

Happier listening!

9 Tips if You’re Making Work-Related New Year’s Resolutions.

The new year is here, and for many of us, that means new year’s resolutions. And many of us make resolutions related to our work lives.

Now Questioners, I know you object to the arbitrariness of the January 1 date; Obligers, I know you may have given up making resolutions because you’ve struggled in the past; and Rebels, I know you may not want to bind yourself in advance. But some people do want to make resolutions. (Don’t know where you fit in the “Four Tendencies” framework, i.e.,  if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel? Look here.)

For instance, some common work-related resolutions include “I want to broaden my horizons,” “I want to do a better job with record-keeping,” “I want to network,” “I want to find a mentor,” and “I want to expand my skills.”

One key to consistent progress is to make a behavior into a habit. Habits are freeing and energizing, because they save us from the difficult, draining business of making decisions and exercising our self-control.

Habits matter, because research shows that about 40% of everyday life is shaped by habits. If we have habits that work for us, we’re far more likely to be happier, healthier, and more productive.

In my book Better Than Before, I discuss the twenty-one different strategies that we can use to make or break our habits. I know, twenty-one sounds like a lot to manage — but it’s helpful that there are so many, because some of these strategies work for some people, and not others. But we all have a big menu from which to pick.

So how might you make a habit of actions that will help you succeed at work? Consider these strategies:

1. Use the Strategy of Clarity, and be specific about what you’re asking of yourself.

Resolutions like “network more” or “research new opportunities” are too vague. Put your resolution into the form of a concrete, measurable, manageable action, such as “Every month, go to at least two events with networking opportunities” or “Spend one hour every Friday afternoon updating my time sheets and expenses.” Being specific helps you figure out what to do, and it also makes it possible to…

2. Use the Strategy of Monitoring, and monitor your habit.

Monitoring is almost uncanny in its power. Research shows that simply by monitoring a behavior, we tend to do a much better job of it, whether that’s how fast we’re driving, how much we’re eating, how many cold calls we’re making, or how many instructional videos we’re watching. Keep track, and you’ll push yourself in the right direction.

3. Use the Strategy of Scheduling, and schedule time for your habit.

Something like “Research that company this week” is a goal that can keep getting pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. Even if it’s important, it’s just not urgent. So schedule a specific time for research, for learning, for following up, and give it a slot on your calendar. But it’s crucial to remember that…

4. Working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination.

When you schedule time to do certain work, you should do that work, and nothing else. No filing, no cleaning, no research, no checking emails. Do that work, or stare at the ceiling. Otherwise, you may work and work and work, and never get around to doing the very thing you set out to do.

5. Use the Strategy of Distinctions, and take time to think big.

In the rigors of everyday life, it can be hard to step back and see what matters most.  Where do you want to be in two years? How could you develop your skills to make your work more interesting and yourself more valuable? Some people prefer to do this kind of thinking alone, with just a pad of paper; others prefer to talk it out, with a few trusted co-workers or an old friend; others might hire a coach. Or…

6. Use the Strategy of Distinctions, and take time to think small.

Sometimes people get overwhelmed when they try to make grand plans or ask huge questions; it’s also useful to focus on small, manageable steps that you can incorporate into your life immediately.

7. Use the Strategy of Clarity, and ask yourself: Whom do you envy?

Envy is an uncomfortable emotion, but it’s instructive. If you envy someone, that person has something you wish you had. Do you envy your friend who gets to travel all the time—or the friend who never has to travel? Do you envy your co-worker who’s taking night class toward getting an MBA, or who gets to make lots of presentations? Envy can help show us how we want to grow and change.

8. Use the Strategy of Other People, and spend time with people who have the habits  that you want to emulate.

Studies show that we tend to pick up habits from the people around us, so choose your company wisely. If you know that some of your co-workers cultivate habits that help them succeed at work, go out of your way to spend time with them, and you’ll more easily pick up those habits, yourself.

9. Use the Strategy of the Four Tendencies and the Strategy of Accountability, if it works for you.

If you’re an Obliger — that is, if you readily meet other people’s expectations, but struggle to meet your expectations for yourself — the answer, the solution, the key element is external accountability. Rebels, on the other hand, often do worse when they’re being held accountable. Figure out your Tendency and plug in accountability as necessary.

The most important thing to remember about habit change? We must shape our habits to suit ourselves—our own nature, our own interests, our own strengths. When we understand ourselves, we can apply the twenty-one strategies with the greatest success, and we can also help other people to change their habits.

It’s not hard to change your habits, when you know what to do. And it matters. When we change our habits, we change our lives.

Why Am I Obsessed with the Subject of Beautiful Colors?

Periodically, I get obsessed with subjects.  And nothing makes me happier than a new obsession! It’s energizing and exciting.

Sometimes, this obsession leads to a book — like The Happiness Project or Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill. Sometimes it stays a private obsession — like my obsession with beautiful scents.

Sometimes the subject is a big, obvious subject, like the subject of habits in Better Than Before, or sometimes it’s more obscure, like my long obsession with the question “Why do people destroy their own possessions?” which became the book Profane Waste.

It’s a wonderful, mysterious feeling to become wildly interested in something new. A new part of the world lights up for me, a previously ignored section of my beloved library becomes familiar, I have a new way to connect with people, and my bookshelves start to fill up (which is a mixed blessing).

Now, why am I so intrigued with the subject of color? No idea.

I know the minute my obsession started. On our podcast Happier, in episode 71, Elizabeth and I suggested the try-this-at-home of “Choose a signature color,” which sparked so much response that in episode 75, we did a deep dive into color. I got hooked.

However, despite my fascination with the subject of color — or perhaps because of it — I haven’t been able to choose a signature color (though I think if I did, it would be purple).

I love reading about color, taking notes on color, looking at color. It’s so much fun, it’s a great treat.

Oddly, it’s a treat that also feels like more work. I spend time doing research and taking notes, which is “fun” but is also a busman’s holiday. I also feel obligated to do my reading, so instead of picking up a novel I’m dying to read, say, I think “I really need to spend some time this afternoon reading about color.”

Of course this sense of obligation is completely self-imposed. As George Orwell wrote in the brilliant book The Road to Wigan Pier, “But what is work and what is not work?  Is it work to dig, to carpenter, to plant trees, to fell trees, to ride, to fish, to hunt, to feed chickens, to play the piano, to take photographs, to build a house, to cook, to sew, to trim hats, to mend motor bicycles?  All of these things are work to somebody, and all of them are play to somebody.  There are in fact very few activities which cannot be classed either as work or play according as you choose to regard them.”

Or as Tom Sawyer put it more succinctly, in Mark Twain’s novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, “Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and…Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.”

But why is color my Play? I’m extremely un-visual, so perhaps part of my pleasure comes from tapping into an underused aspect of my existence –as I did with the sense of smell.

And the writing about it! Much of it is extremely dry, but some of it is beautiful and thought-provoking. In the end, no matter how tied something may be to the physical senses, I still can only appreciate things through reading.

“All my life I’ve pursued the perfect red. I can never get painters to mix it for me. It’s exactly as if I’d said, ‘I want rococo with a spot of Gothic in it and a bit of Buddhist temple’—they have no idea what I’m talking about. About the best red is to copy the color of a child’s cap in any Renaissance portrait.” — Diana Vreeland

“If you cover a surface in red; where is the surface now? Under the red? Over it? The red itself?” –Bernard Cohen

“Colors must have a mystical capacity for spiritual expression, without being tied to objects.” –Johannes Itten

“The fact is, that, of all God’s gifts to the sigh of man, colour is the holiest, the most divine, the most solemn…the purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love colour the most.”  –John Ruskin (a bit self-congratulatory on my part!)

“I knew a wise guy who used to make fun of my painting, but he didn’t like the Abstract Expressionists either. He said they would be good painters if they could only keep the paint as good as it is in the can. And that’s what I tried to do. I tried to keep the paint as good as it was in the can.” — Frank Stella

I’ve learned new words, like “ombre.”  I have a much greater appreciation for painting.  I’ve learned some odd history — like the existence of killer wallpaper. My love of color has given me an excuse to buy giant sets of fine colored markers and pencils. It has given me something new in common with a few of my friends whom I’ve discovered, to my surprise, are also color-obsessed.

I realize that just as a romance usually fades out or ends in marriage, probably my love of color will abruptly burn itself out or turn into a book (I already have a title picked out: “My Color Pilgrimage.”). Who knows? I’m just trying to enjoy this beautiful, beautiful obsession for as long as it lasts.

If you have any suggestions for books I should read, paintings I should look at, movies I should watch, websites to follow, articles to read, or anything else, I’d love to hear them. I’ve received so many great tips from readers.

Have you ever become intensely interested in a subject? Why? Have you stayed interested for a long time, or have you moved on to other subjects?

Podcast 75: Develop a Minor Expertise, a Deep Dive into Signature Color, and How Do You Help a Rebel Sweetheart to Get a New Job?

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

Update: We won an award! At the recent Podcast Movement conference, Happier with Gretchen Rubin won the Academy of Podcasters “Best Health and Fitness Podcast 2016.” Exciting!

Try This at Home: Develop a minor expertise. Right now, I’m obsessed with color. The most fascinating, delightful subject ever.

Happiness Hack: I love the app TimeHop. It shows me what I was doing one year ago today, four years ago today, etc. Fun memories. If you like this one-year-ago-today way of remembering, you might enjoy The Happiness Project One-Sentence Journal: a Five-Year Record. I have to say, I’ve been surprised by how popular this journal has proved to be.

Deep Dive: So many fascinating comments and observations about having a signature color, coming off our discussion in episode 71. Listener enthusiasm got me color-obsessed!

Listener Question:Two listeners ask the same question: How do you help a Rebel sweetheart pursue a career change? If you want to take the Four Tendencies quiz, to find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, it’s here.

Elizabeth’s Demerit and Gold Star: In a single afternoon, Elizabeth got  a demerit for losing her temper with Adam, then she got a gold star for being spontaneous and going to get a drink at a hotel bar with him.

Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page about the podcast. To join the conversation, tune in Tuesdays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

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, plus a $110 bonus offer — just enter the promo code HAPPIER.

And check out BlueApron.comWish you cooked more? Get all the delicious, fresh ingredients you need to make great meals, delivered to your front door. Check out BlueApron.com/happier to get your first three meals free.

Also check out MeUndies.com, the maker of the world’s most comfortable underwear. Head to MeUndies.com/happier to get 20% off your first order.

 

Happier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #75

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 toHappier 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.

HAPPIER listening!

For Podcast Listeners, Something New! First Mini-Episode to Make You “A Little Happier.”

My sister Elizabeth and I are having so much fun doing our weekly podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

And I’ve found that there are some powerful ideas about happiness, good habits, and human nature that don’t quite fit the structure of the show.

So, for listeners who’d like to start their weeks with a little boost of happiness, I’ve started doing “A Little Happier.”

Each Monday, I’ll release a little bonus episode — maybe 2-3 minutes long — to help launch the week.

I’ve always been intrigued about how much we love stories, and in the end, how we learn best from stories, so these “A Little Happiers” will feature a story from my life, or something I’ve read or observed, that make a point about happiness. They’ll often feature one of my “Secrets of Adulthood” — the things I’ve learned, with time and experience, about how to be happier.

I love all teaching stories, koans, parables, aphorisms, maxims, epigrams, proverbs, and the like. A Little Happier is another way to explore the power of story and aphorism.

I hope these mini-episodes will help you start your week…a little happier. Let me know what you think!