Tag Archives: self-knowledge

Do You Face These Common Problems in Happiness and Habits? Here’s Your Answer!

For years, I’ve been reading, writing, and talking to people about their happiness and good habits. My preoccupation is: how can we make our lives happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative?

The Happiness Project, Happier at Home, Better Than Before, and now The Four Tendencies — all, in their own way, address this fundamental question.

And as I’ve talked to people, certain challenges keep coming up, over and over.

For years, I was so puzzled by them, I couldn’t stop thinking about them and trying to figure out the answers. Perhaps some sound familiar to you:

  • People can rely on me, so why can’t I rely on myself?
  • Why do people tell me that I ask too many questions?
  • How do I work with someone who refuses to do what I ask?
  • Why do people just do whatever they’re told to do, like lemmings, without demanding good reasons?
  • Why can’t I make myself do anything?
  • Why won’t you change what you’re doing, after I’ve explained the serious consequences of failing to change?
  • Why do people keep telling me I’m uptight?
  • Why do I have writer’s block?
  • How can I deal with someone who keeps telling me what to do?
  • How can I stop my teenager from dropping out of school?
  • How can my team become more effective, with less wasted time and conflict?
  • Why is everything an argument with my child?
  • I’m deeply committed to doing this thing (working on a novel, exercising regularly), so why can’t I do it?
  • Why can’t other people just get their own s!$* done?
  • Why can’t I convince my patients to take their prescriptions?
  • Why does my mother keep emailing me articles?
  • My child is so smart and does well on tests, so why does he refuse to do his homework?
  • How can I help my spouse to lose weight? To exercise?
  • Why can’t I start my side hustle?
  • Why am I always the one asked to pick up the extra work around here?
  • Why is it taking me so long to make this decision?
  • Why can’t my sweetheart be more spontaneous?
  • Why does this person refuse to answer my questions?
  • Why do my co-workers refuse to act with common courtesy — how hard is it to put your mug in the office dishwasher?
  • Why can’t I keep my promises to myself?
  • Why does this employee keep challenging every decision I make?
  • My spouse will do anything to help a client, so why can’t I get any help?

Why You Act, Why You Don’t

Perhaps it seems unlikely, but it’s true — the Four Tendencies framework sheds light on all these questions.

With every single one of these questions, I have an answer that I think can help, using the Four Tendencies.

To take just one example, I received this email about a teacher who used her knowledge of the Four Tendencies to change her way of working with a Rebel — in a way that allowed that Rebel to succeed:

I’m a teacher at our local county jail, mostly GED and high school diploma courses. Recently I had a student who was getting in her own way—arguing with the guards and not completing assignments. I believed her when she said that she really wanted to get her GED—yet she wasn’t making progress.

It dawned on me that she is a Rebel. I shared your theory with her, and it really helped her see herself in a new, more positive way. I stopped asking her to do homework and let her decide each day how she wanted to study: computer software, group lesson, independently, or not at all. As I write this, she has passed five of the five tests, and thus completed her high school equivalency.

When you know if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, you understand yourself much better — why you act, why you don’t act, why you feel the way you do.

And as the example above demonstrates, when you understand other people’s Tendencies, you gain great perspective on why they act, why they don’t act, and why they feel the way they do.

To a degree that astonishes me, simple tweaks in language and circumstances can allow people to do a much better job in dealing with themselves and others.

I certainly use the Tendencies myself. I’m married to a Questioner, and I’ve learned that I always need to explain the reason if I want him to do something. Even just yesterday. I was filling out a tiresome form that asked for his work address. I called him and asked, “What’s your work address?” He answered, “Why ?”

Now, if he’d asked me a similar question, I would’ve just answered. I wouldn’t ask why. But my husband wasn’t going to meet even the smallest expectation — tell me your work address — without knowing why.

That used to bug me. Why wouldn’t he just do what I asked? Why did he slow down the process? Now I don’t get annoyed with him, because I understand his nature.

Managing yourself, and others, is much easier when you know what to do — and why.

 

Want to find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel? Take the quick Quiz here.

Want to learn more about the framework? Order my book The Four Tendencies. All is revealed!

Want to talk about the Four Tendencies with other people? Join the discussion on my free Better app.

 

Buying Towels and a Moment of Self-Reflection: I’m Already Grown Up.

For a while now, my husband has been talking about wanting new bathroom towels. And he was right, we needed them.

As an under-buyer, I take great pleasure in the process of wearing things out or using things up — and boy, we got good use out of those towels. They were worn, frayed, torn, stained, and generally in bad shape.

We were both home on the Monday afternoon of the long weekend, so my husband proposed that we use the time to go towel-shopping.

We went to Bloomingdale’s, where they stock about a hundred brands of towels. We looked around, identified a mid-range brand (conveniently on sale), and pulled out six white towels to take to the cash register.

As we were paying, my husband asked, “Are these nice towels?”

And I said, “Not super-nice, but nice enough. Did you want very nice ones?”

He said, “No. Just regular towels.”

And here’s the weird thing: I said to him, “When we’re grown up, we’ll buy really nice towels.”

And I immediately thought — what am I thinking? When we’re grown up? We’re already grown up! We have a daughter going off to college next year!

This is something I’ve noticed so often in myself: I have this feeling that everything in my life is…temporary, provisional. That my adult life hasn’t yet truly started or assumed its ultimate form.

But that’s not true. I’m a grown up already. If I want nice towels, I should buy them now. I can’t expect that one day, I will magically have an adult life, with nice towels or anything else. Everything is as adult, or not-adult, as it will ever be, unless I make a conscious change.

Do you ever have this feeling? That somehow, you aren’t yet really a grown up? It’s not a Peter Pan, refusing-to-accept-responsibility feeling; it’s that feeling that nothing is yet real or permanent, but that someday, it will become real and permanent.

Even though I know it won’t.

Have you had this feeling?

Podcast 118: Design Your Summer (Again), Start a Podcast Club — and Are You the Difficult One?

Update: Elizabeth’s new podcast with her writing partner Sarah FainHappier in Hollywood — has launched! Very exciting. Listen, rate, review, tell your friends, tune in tomorrow to listen to episode 2 for a discussion of bullet journals. Subscribe here.

Keep those haiku coming! As we discussed in episode 117,  this month we’re posting our haiku on #happierhaiku. It’s so much fun to see everyone’s contribution. (And yes, if you’re wondering, “haiku” is the form for both singular and plural.)

Our next Very Special Episode will be dedicated to listener questions about the Four Tendencies, so if you have questions or comments, send them in. (Don’t know your Tendency? Take the quiz here to see if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel.)

Try This at Home: Design your summer. We’ve talked about this idea before, in episode 27 and episode 67. The challenge is to design the summer to be what you want it to be.

I plan to make lunch dates and to work on My Color Pilgrimage, my book about color.

Here’s the Robertson Davies quotation that I love:

“Every man makes his own summer. The season has no character of its own, unless one is a farmer with a professional concern for the weather. Circumstances have not allowed me to make a good summer for myself this year…My summer has been overcast by my own heaviness of spirit. I have not had any adventures, and adventures are what make a summer.”
— Robertson Davies, “Three Worlds, Three Summers,” The Enthusiasms of Robertson Davies

Happiness Hack: Simon suggests, “Start a podcast club. Like a book club, but for podcasts.”

Elizabeth mentions The New York Times podcast club on Facebook. It’s here.

Know Yourself Better: Are you the difficult one?

I mention the great books by professor Bob Sutton: The No A*** Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One that Isn’t and his forthcoming The A*** Survival Guide: How to Deal with People Who Treat You Like Dirt. (I’m omitting certain words not out of prudery, but to avoid triggering a filter.)

Reading his books got me thinking…how do you know if you’re the difficult one? If you disagree with some of these questions, or would add different questions, let me know.

–When you do something generous for others, do you think it only right that your generosity will allow you to make decisions for them or direct their actions?

–Do you often find that when you do something nice for people, they seem ungrateful or uncooperative? For example, you offered to host Thanksgiving dinner, but no one appreciates it.

–Do you think it’s important to express your true feelings and views authentically, even if that means upsetting other people?

–Do you find that people seem resentful and angry when you offer helpful criticism or advice?

-Do you enjoy a good fight?

–Do you often find yourself saying defensively, “It was just a joke!” Along the same lines, do you find yourself remarking on how other people don’t have a sense of humor, or can’t laugh at a little teasing? [Elizabeth and I talk about the dark side of teasing in episode 32.]

–Do people tend to gang up against you – when you’re arguing one side, everyone takes the other side, or when one person criticizes you, everyone else chimes in?

–Do you find it funny to see other people squirm?

–Do you think it’s useful to point out people’s mistakes, areas of incompetence, or previous track records of failure?

–Do people volunteer to act as intermediaries for you, rather than let you do your own talking? Your son says, “Let me talk to my wife about it,” rather than have you two talk.

Listener Question: Katy asks, “How do I overcome my under-buyer reluctance to buy things that I know would make me happier?”

If you wonder if you’re an under-buyer or an over-buyer, here’s a description.

Elizabeth’s Demerit: She’s been using her “floodrobe” and not hanging up her clothes.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: Gold star to listeners and readers who have sent me links, videos, podcasts, images, and posts about the subject of color. I so appreciate it. All fodder for My Color Pilgrimage!

Two Resources:

  1.  If you love great quotations, like the one I read from Robertson Davies, you can sign up for my free “Moment of Happiness” newsletter, and I’ll send you a quotation every day about happiness or human nature. Email me or sign up here.
  2. I have a group of Super-Fans, and from time to time, I offer a little bonus or preview or ask for your help. Want to join? Email me or  sign up here.

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 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.

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 Lyft  — join the ride-sharing company that believes in treating its people better. Go to Lyft.com/happier to get a $500 new-driver bonus. Limited time only.

 

Happier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #118

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, just launched! Check out Happier in Hollywood.

HAPPIER listening!

Podcast 117: Are You a “Revealer” or a “Concealer,” Write a Haiku, and How Introverted Parents Can Manage an Extroverted Child.

Update: Elizabeth’s new podcast Happier in Hollywood launches tomorrow, May 18! In the first episode, Liz (yes, she’s “Liz” on that show) and Sarah pick a new work mantra and talk to their agent about one of the worst calls he ever had to make to them. Listen, rate, review, tell your friends, have some green juice while you tune in.

Happiness Hack:  Katy suggests, “YouTube it.”  YouTube videos explain how to do just about anything.

Try This at Home:  Write a haiku. A haiku is a form of three-line Japanese poem with one five-syllable line; one seven-syllable line; one five-syllable line.

Here are my two haiku:

Where did the time go?

My girl is off to college.

Days are long; years, short.

I express this idea in a different form in my one-minute video “The Years Are Short.”

Central Park in bloom.

This year, I made sure to go.

Spring passes too fast.

Elizabeth’s haiku:

Nerves are a-flutter

Happier in Hollywood...

What will it become?

Post your haiku on Twitter! Tag it as #happierhaiku so we can all enjoy them.

Know Yourself Better: Harriet suggests asking, “Are you a ‘revealer’ or a ‘concealer?‘” I write about this distinction in Better Than Before — for some people, announcing a habit change makes it easier to follow through, while for other people, it makes it tougher.

If you don’t know your Tendency, take the quiz here to see if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel.

Listener Question: Cara asks, “How do we as introverted parents deal with our very extroverted child?” This question brings up the issue of the extroversion/introversion difference, which we discuss with Susan Cain in episode 107.

Demerit: Yet again, I “snapped” — this time, I made a snappy comment to my husband Jamie while we were planning the summer.

Gold Star: Elizabeth gives a gold star to the Amazon TV show Mozart in the Jungle.

Two Resources:

  1.  I created the free Better app for people to exchange ideas and tips about the Four Tendencies, and Better app also makes it super-easy to form accountability groups of all kinds.
  2. Subscribe to Happier in Hollywood!

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 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.

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.

Happier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #117

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 on May 18.

HAPPIER listening!

Warning! Don’t Expect to Be Motivated by Motivation.

I really dislike the word “motivation.” I try never to use it.

In writing Better Than Before, my book about habit change, and in talking to people about their desired habits, the term “motivation” came up a lot.

And here’s why I don’t like it: People use the term to describe their desire for a particular outcome (“I’m really motivated to lose weight”) as well as their reasons for actually acting in a certain way (“I go to the gym because I’m motivated to exercise”). Desire and action are mixed up in a very confusing way.

To make it even more confusing, people often say they’re “motivated” to do something when what they mean is, “My doctor and my family tell me that I need to quit smoking, and I know it would be healthier and cheaper to quit smoking, and I wish I would quit smoking, but I have no desire to quit and no intention to try to quit. But am I motivated to quit smoking? Oh, sure.”

People often tell me that they’re highly motivated to achieve a certain aim, but when I press, it turns out that while they passionately wish they could achieve an outcome, they aren’t doing anything about it. So what does it mean to say they’re “motivated?” No idea. That’s why I don’t use the word.

In fact, people aren’t motivated by motivation.

Expert advice often focuses on motivation, by telling people that they just need more motivation to follow through. This may work in a certain way, for certain people (see below), but not for everyone.

The bad result of this advice is that some people spend a lot of time whipping themselves into a frenzy of thinking how much they want a certain outcome, as if desire will drive behavior. And it rarely does.

Instead of thinking about motivation, I argue that we should think about aims, and then concrete, practical, realistic steps to take us closer to our aims.

Instead of thinking, “I want to lose weight so badly,” think instead about the concrete steps to take, “I’ll bring lunch from home,” “I won’t use the vending machine,” “I won’t eat fast food,” “I’ll quit sugar,” “I’ll cook dinner at home at least four nights a week,” “I’ll go to the farmer’s market on Saturdays, to load up on great produce.”

Of course, in Better Than Before, I argue that it’s a lot easier to follow through with such steps consistently if you make them into habits.

The great thing about habits is that you don’t need to feel “motivated!” And that’s important because again, motivation doesn’t actually matter much, if what you mean by that is “How badly do you want this?”

In my forthcoming book, The Four Tendencies, I do talk about how thinking about reasons for action can help some people to act, and how desire does help some people to act — but that’s not the same as motivation.

For Upholders and Questioners, thinking about reasons helps.

For Rebels, thinking about desire helps.

For Obligers, outer accountability is the crucial element. What does this mean? It means that Obligers are the least likely to be helped by thinking about “motivation.” And guess what? They’re the Tendency that talks most about motivation! They keep trying to amp up their motivation, and then they get frustrated because that doesn’t work. Nope. Obligers should focus on systems of outer accountability.

So whenever catch myself saying or writing, “I’m really motivated to do ___,” I stop and think: “What do I want, and why do I want it? And given that, what steps can I take to achieve my aim?”

Because we really can’t expect to be motivated by motivation.