Tag Archives: patron saints

Secret of Adulthood: Enthusiasm Makes Difficult Tasks Easy.

Further Secrets of Adulthood:

 

The more I think about happiness, the more I value enthusiasm.

Enthusiasm is a form of social courage — it’s safer to criticize and scoff than to praise and embrace — and I’ve decided that I’d rather be “enthusiastic” than “confident.”

I have a patron saint for enthusiasm. Can you guess it? Julia Child! (This post about Julia Child may be one of my favorite posts ever.)

It can seem cooler and smarter to be ironic, detached, or critical, and it’s certainly much easier and safer to adopt that sort of stance. But enthusiasm is more fun. Enthusiasm is generous, positive, energetic, and social. It’s outward-turning and engaged. It’s unselfconscious, warm-hearted, and kind of goofy. Like Julia Child!

Also, enthusiasm makes difficult tasks easy. One interesting question for self-knowledge is: What do you memorize without effort? That tells you something important about yourself. Do you effortlessly remember sports scores, song lyrics, scientific facts, vocabulary words, recipes, details about friends’ lives?

When I feel enthusiastic about some undertaking, it comes so, so, so much more easily to me. For instance, writing. My husband is great at writing, but I’m a writer, and he’s not — because I have endless enthusiasm for writing and revising, and he doesn’t.

How about you? Do you find that enthusiasm makes an otherwise difficult task easy?

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Who Are Your Patron Saints? Here Are Mine.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day, or List Day.

This Wednesday: Six patron saints.

People often ask me, “Come on, what’s the key to happiness? If you had to pick one thing, what would you say?”

I think that question can be answered in several ways, depending on what framework you use.

But one answer would certainly be–self-knowledge. It’s the Fifth Splendid Truth: We can build a happy life only on the foundation of our own nature.

But it’s surprisingly hard to know yourself! So how can you sneak a glimpse into your own nature?

You can ask yourself: Whom do I envy? What do I lie about? The answers to these questions reveal the way in which your life doesn’t reflect your values.

You can ask yourself: What did I do for fun when I was ten years old? You’d probably enjoy as an adult a version of what you enjoyed as a ten-year-old.

You can ask yourself: What do I actually DO?

You can ask yourself: Who are my patron saints? (A “patron saint” is a saint who has a special connection to a person, place, profession, or activity, or in more casual terms, a person who serves as a particular leader or example.)

I have many patron saints, but here are six of them:

Benjamin Franklin: practical, curious, inventive.

St. Therese of Lisieux: showing great love through small, ordinary actions. St. Therese is also my spiritual master.

Samuel Johnson: wildly eccentric, with a deep understanding of human nature. This patron saint made it into the subtitle of Happier at Home!

Julia Child: goofy yet masterly; light-hearted yet authoritative. For some reason, she’s been on my mind lately.

Winston Churchill: indefatigable, indomitable. I wrote a biography of Churchill, Forty Ways To Look at Winston Churchill, so I have a special attachment to him.

Virginia Woolf: intensely attuned to the power of the passing moment.

When I look back on the pieces I’ve written about my patron saints, I see that they’re among my favorite posts.

How about you? Who are your patron saints, and why?