Tag Archives: time

What’s Your Most Fruitful Time for Thinking?

“Some of the most fruitful thinking times are when I wake after sleeping a few hours, and in the seamless time when nothing needs to be done, not even getting up, I meditate.”

–May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude

When is your most fruitful time for thinking — in the middle of the night, before you get out of bed, in the shower, during a run, walking the dog, in the car?

I have a friend who never misses his weekly massage, because that’s when he gets his best ideas for building his business.


“Sometimes I Dream About Him When He Was Younger, and I Remember It with Such Sweetness that It Wakes Me.”

“I also can still see many of Sam’s ages in him. New parents grieve as their babies get bigger, because they cannot imagine the child will ever be so heartbreakingly cute and needy again. Sam is a swirl of every age he’s ever been, and all the new ones, like cotton candy, like the Milky Way. I can see the stoned wonder of the toddler, the watchfulness of the young child sopping stuff up, the busy purpose and workmanship of the nine-year-old…

“I held him loosely and smelled his neck. Sometimes when I dream about him, he’s in danger, he’s doing things that are too risky, but most of the time he’s stomping around or we’re just hanging out together. Sometimes I dream about him when he was younger, and I remember it with such sweetness that it wakes me.”

–Anne Lamott, “Diamond Heart,” in Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

My daughter graduated from high school this week, so you see where my head is.

Some Thoughts on My Daughter’s High School Graduation: Go Forth Unafraid.

Yesterday, my daughter graduated from high school. It was a bittersweet afternoon.

Happy, because it’s satisfying to think of the work that she’s done, sweet because it’s great to see the friends she’s made, and exciting to see her move forward. (Like that old joke, “That’s why they call it a Commencement.”)

Sad, because this ceremony marks an end. This time in her life, and in my life too, has come to a close. I always feel a sense of loss when things come to their end (even things I want to end).

During the ceremony, the school crest was projected on a giant screen above the graduates’ heads, and I got to thinking about the school motto.

I love maxims, proverbs, manifestos, mantras, teaching stories — anything that crams a big idea into a small space — and I’ve always been fascinated by school mottoes.

The motto of my high school was “Freedom with responsibility.” We talked about it often in school, and I still think of it, to this day. It’s a great motto for anyone, it’s a great motto for the United States, it’s thought-provoking and transcendent.

My daughter’s school takes a different angle on the school motto — it’s  “Go forth unafraid.”

As with my high school, the school talks about this motto often. Teachers lecture about  it, kids joke about it, it’s prominently displayed throughout the school.  It’s part of the school song: “We go forth unafraid/Strong with love and strong with learning…” It’s deeply embedded in the school culture.

For instance, the seniors have a tradition of the end-of-year “Count Down” celebration: as kids from younger grades look on admiringly, the seniors gather in the Senior Lounge with a big digital clock, and count down together to their final 3:15 p.m. dismissal time. I watched a video, and saw that as the last seconds slipped by, the seniors broke into the school song, and as 3:15 started to flash, they were all singing its last line at the top of their lungs: “Here we have learned to go forth unafraid.”

I’ve always loved this motto, and it never struck me more forcefully than during the graduation ceremony.

It prompted me to recall my daughter’s very first day of pre-school. As I stood in the corridor  with the other parents, all of us struggling to say good-bye to our children, the head of the school said to me gently, “This is the first of many times that you will say good-bye to your child.”

And as hard as it was to let my three-year-old daughter walk through that brightly decorated door, I was so happy when she marched ahead, interested and eager, to explore her new classroom.

And as I sat in the audience and watched all the seniors receive their diplomas, I thought, “As hard as it is to see this time come to an end, I’m happy, too, and what I want most for my daughter and all these kids is for them to go forth unafraid, strong with love and strong with learning.”

And as I sat in the audience, and searched for my daughter’s mortarboarded head among the crowd onstage, I recalled that three-year-old girl going to school for the very first time — and remembered something else from those days.

Back then, she and I rode the bus to school, and I wrote a little video story about that bus ride, called “The Years Are Short.” Of everything I’ve ever written, this one-minute video has resonated most with people, and its truth, for me, has never struck me more forcefully. In my daughter’s childhood, some days seemed interminable, but the years have passed in a flash.

That three-year-old pre-schooler has become an eighteen-year-old high school graduate.

Now what?

Go forth unafraid.

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.

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Happier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #118

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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!

A Little Happier: One of the Worst Ways to Waste Time Is to ____.

One of my favorite things to do is to help my sister Elizabeth clear clutter. (If you want to listen to my all-time favorite episode, Very Special Episode 10, recorded from inside Elizabeth’s clutter-filled closet, listen here.)

Our efforts included a good example of an important Secret of Adulthood: One of the worst ways to waste time is to do well something that we need not do at all.

I wonder: Is this a special problem for Upholders? It’s probably not much of a problem for Questioners.

Have you ever caught yourself pouring a lot of time and energy into something that, really, you didn’t need to bother to do at all?

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.

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 Happier listening!