Secret of Adulthood: Accept Ourselves, and Expect More From Ourselves

Of everything that I’ve considered and concluded about happiness and good habits, I think this phrase sums it up best.

We must strive to know ourselves, and accept the truth about ourselves, but at the same time, try to do the best we can.

As Flannery O’Connor put it, “Accepting oneself does not preclude an attempt to become better.” (Letter, December 9, 1961, quoted in The Habit of Being.)

Agree, disagree?

Need a Good Gift for a Father in Your Life? Look No Further!

 Sunday, June 21, is Father’s Day in the United States and Canada.

If you’re looking for a thoughtful gift for a father in your life, may I suggest my new (bestselling) book, Better Than Before? It’s all about how we can master our habits.

I’ve heard from a lot of people who are giving the book as a gift. I offer free, signed bookplates, to make books more special, but if you’d like one (or as many as you’d like), request soon, because it can take a little while to get those signed and mailed back. Request bookplates here. (U.S. and Canada only, sorry–mailing costs.)

If you’d like to read an excerpt, to see if you think the book would be a good gift, read here.

If you’re considering giving the audio-book, listen to a clip here.

I love all my books equally, but a surprising number of people have told me that of all my books, Better Than Before is their favorite.

I know some people think that days like “Father’s Day” are artificial and forced, but for myself, I find it helpful to have reminders to think about the important people in my life.

I love giving books as gifts, generally. Partly for selfish reasons — I always love an excuse to go into a bookstore.

One thing I regret about the switch to digital for music is that buying music in a physical form was so satisfying and straightforward. It’s always fun to buy stationery and office supplies as gifts, but it takes a long time for people to use them up. Do you have a type of gift that you love to give?

Do You Have an Image that Calms You? Like a Clock During a Thunderstorm.

“Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm.”
-Robert Louis Stevenson

I love this image, and often recall it to my mind when I feel anxious or harried.

Do you have an image that calms you?

Trying to Change a Habit? Beware These 5 Traps.

Today is Tip Day: Avoid five habit traps that can destroy your good habits.

In my book Better Than Before, I describe the multiple strategies we can exploit to change our habits. Habits — the most fascinating subject ever.

One thing I observed is that when we’re trying to master our habits, it’s important to be aware of the justifications or arguments that we sometimes invoke that interfere with keeping a good habit.

They slip in so easily and quickly, it can be hard to spot them. Be on the look-out for these five popular lines of thoughts:

1. Thinking, “Well, now that I’ve slipped up and broken my good habit, I might as well go all the way.”

I remind myself, “A stumble may prevent a fall.” Because of the colorfully named “what the hell” phenomenon, a minor stumble often becomes a major fall; once a good behavior is broken, we act as though it doesn’t matter whether it’s broken by a little or a lot. “I didn’t do any work this morning, so what the hell, I’ll take the rest of the week off and start on Monday.” “I missed my yoga class over spring break, so what the hell, I’ll start again in the fall.” It’s important to try to fail small, not big.

2. Thinking, “If I really beat myself up when I break a good habit, I’ll do a better job of sticking to it.”

Although some people assume that strong feelings of guilt or shame act as safeguards to help people stick to good habits, the opposite is true. People who feel less guilt and who show compassion toward themselves in the face of failure are better able to regain self-control, while people who feel deeply guilty and full of self-blame struggle more. Often, when we feel bad about breaking a good habit, we try to make ourselves feel better by — indulging in the bad habit! A woman told me, “I felt so bad about breaking my diet that I ate three orders of french fries.” This is the cruel poetic justice of bad habits.

3. Thinking, “Sure, I’m not sticking to the habit that’s meant to keep me productive, but look how busy I am.”

Working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination.

4. Thinking, “Of course I usually stick to my good habits, but in this situation, I can’t be expected to keep it up.”

We’re all adults, and we can mindfully make exceptions to our good habits, but alas, everything counts.  Justifications like “It’s my birthday,” “I’m sick,” “It’s the weekend,” “I deserve it,” “I’ve been so good,” “You only live once,” are loopholes, meant to excuse us from responsibility. But nothing’s off the grid. Nothing stays in Vegas.

I love all the strategies in Better Than Before, they’re all powerful and fascinating, but I especially loved writing the chapter on the hilarious Strategy of Loophole-Spotting. We’re so ingenious of thinking of loopholes for ourselves!

5. Thinking, “I love my good habit so much, and I get so much satisfaction from it, that now it’s okay for me to break that habit.”

One danger point in habit-formation is the conviction that a habit has become so ingrained that we can safely violate it: “I love my morning writing sessions so much, I’d never give them up,” “I stopped eating cereal two years ago, so now it’s okay for me to eat it.” Unfortunately, even long-standing habits can be more fragile than they appear, so it pays not to get complacent.

What have I missed? What traps catch you, when you’re trying to keep a good habit?

Podcast 13: Stop Reading a Book, a Know-Yourself-Better Quiz, and the Trap of Free Stuff.

Time for the next episode of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Always game to talk about her clutter issues, Elizabeth reports on the status of her closet, in the aftermath of our special clutter-clearing in episode 10. For better and after closet photos, look here. (Boy, I love before-and-afters.)

Also, many listeners responded to tell us how they “treat themselves,” which was the Try This at Home for episode 9. Excellent treats!

This week:

Try This at Home: Stop reading a book if you don’t enjoy it.  (If you want more ideas for reading better than before, check out this one-pager.)

Better Than Before Habit Strategy: This is the “Four Tendencies” Framework, which tells you whether you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel. Take this Quiz 170,000 people have taken it. I’m an Upholder; Elizabeth is an Obliger. As I mention, if you want to start an accountability group, here’s the starter kit.

Listener Question: “Do you have any tips about staying happy while slogging through dating?”

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth fell prey to the allure of free stuff. Of course, it’s true, that some people would have been thrilled to get those items–and that free stuff is a problem that’s also a luxury. Absolutely. But for Elizabeth, taking the free stuff was a happiness mistake. Here are two photos: what she intended to buy, and what she brought home.

facecreamfacecreamwithstuff

Gretchen’s Gold Star: Having “weekly adventures” with my teenage daughter. I talk about this at some length in my book Happier at Home.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors! Check out The Great Courses for a wide variety of fascinating courses. Special offer for our listeners: go to thegreatcourses.com/happier to order from eight of their bestselling courses, including Practicing Mindfulness: an Introduction to Meditation, and get up to 80% off. Limited time.

Also, thanks to Framebridge.com — a terrific way to get your art and photos framed, in a super easy and affordable way. Use the code HAPPIER at checkout to get 20% off your first Framebridge order. This ad includes a fun bonus flashback to the Closet-Clearing episode!

Want to get in touch? Email: podcast@gretchenrubin.com. Twitter: @gretchenrubin and @elizabethcraft. Call: 774-277-9336 (774 HAPPY 336).  Facebook Page. Or comment right here.

And we would love to hear from you — whether you stopped reading a book that didn’t interest you, whether it was helpful to know your “Tendency,” your questions, and any other comments.

To listen to this episode, just zip to the bottom of this post and hit the red “play” button.

Or if you’re reading this post by email, click here to view online, to listen to the podcast from this post.

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!

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. Instructions here.

Or for an amusing short how-to video made by Ira Glass of This American Life, click here.

If you want 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.

Again, be sure to subscribe and listen and subscribe on iTunes so you never miss an episode. And if you enjoyed it, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. 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.)

HAPPIER listening!