A Lovely Family Tradition…Suggested by the Author of FIGHT CLUB?

Two of my happiness-project resolutions are Take time for projects and Enjoy this seasons and this time of life. These are family-directed resolutions, meant to make sure that I put the time and effort into holidays, family projects, and fun outings.

I came up with these resolutions because the year before my happiness project, Halloween came and went without us carving a pumpkin, and I was utterly appalled by myself. To my mind, that’s Mommy malpractice, even though my daughters didn’t seem to mind much. (Lesson learned: we bought and carved a pumpkin yesterday.)

Because of these resolutions, I’m always looking for fun and also manageable ways to do family projects or celebrate family traditions. For example, I love holiday breakfasts – an idea I lifted from a friend.

I just got a new idea from an unexpected source. I’m a raving Chuck Palahniuk fan, but I don’t turn to his novels for inspiration for lovely ways to celebrate traditions with my children. No, there’s a lot you can get from Fight Club and Choke and Survivor, but sweet family traditions aren’t there.

On the suggestion of a thoughtful reader, however, I picked up a copy of Palahniuk’s non-fiction essays, Stranger Than Fiction, and I was captivated by an idea I read about in “The People Can.” Palahniuk describes the lives of the crew of the Navy submarine the Louisiana, and he explains the tradition of Halfway Night.

“Before departure, the family of each man on board gives Chief of Boat Ken Biller a shoe-box-sized package, and on the night that marks the halfway point in the patrol, called Halfway Night, Biller distributes the boxes. Smith’s wife sends photos and beef jerky and a toy motorcycle to remind him of his own bike on shore. Greg Stone gets a pillowcase printed with a photograph of his wife, Kelley.”

I’m enchanted by the idea of “Halfway Night.” It seems like a great idea to adapt to any arduous situation, to something truly awful like chemotherapy, or just extremely tiresome, like studying for the bar exam.

I can’t think of something in my life right now that would lend itself to a Halfway Night, but I’m squirreling the idea away for the proper occasion.

Have you hit upon an tradition to ease a difficult situation? Have you tried something like Halfway Night?

* I spent a lot of time cruising around Parents Connect — “we’re not perfect, we’re parents.”

* If you’re interested in launching a group for people who meet to do their happiness projects together, sign up for the starter-kit. More than 3,000 people have requested it. You might also like to check out the Facebook conversation for group leaders — that’s a good resource if you’re trying to get started.

“When Happiness is Absent, We Do Everything to Possess It.”

“We must, therefore, pursue the things that make for happiness, seeing that when happiness is present, we have everything; but when it is absent, we do everything to possess it.”
— Epicurus

This statement is much more challenging and mysterious than it appears on first glance. What things really brings happiness? How do we pursue those things?

* My friend Abigail Pogrebin’s book, One and the Same: My Life as an Identical Twin and What I’ve Learned about Everyone’s Struggle to Be Singular, just came out. Her book trailer is terrific; the book sounds fascinating, even to a person like me who is not a twin, let alone an identical twin, and I’ve ordered my copy — but also, I must admit that I could look at photos of identical twins for hours.

* Interested in starting your own happiness project? If you’d like to take a look at my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email me at grubin, then the “at” sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. (Sorry about writing it in that roundabout way; I’m trying to thwart spammers.) Just write “Resolutions Chart” in the subject line.

A Secret to Happiness: Don’t Try to Keep That Resolution.

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

One of my Secrets of Adulthood (cribbed from Niels Bohr) is “The opposite of a great truth is also true.” So whenever I’m very convinced that something is true, I ask myself, “Is the opposite also true?”

The main strategy for my happiness project is to make and keep resolutions. I’ve made dozens, maybe hundreds of resolutions, and I have Resolutions Chart where I score myself on the most important resolutions. I constantly remind myself, “It’s important to keep that resolution! It will make me happier!” and usually it does.

But I have at least one resolution that I just can’t seem to keep, and I’ve decided to resolve to do just the opposite, to “Give up that resolution.”

I’m giving up my long-standing, often-repeated resolution to “Entertain more.” Fact is, I’ve never really committed to that resolution: I never broke the goal down into steps that I could follow and pushed myself to keep them. Well, why not? Why was I able to keep resolutions like Stop gossiping and Read more and Don’t expect praise or appreciation, but not this one?

I want to entertain more, but clearly, I also do NOT want to entertain more. Finally I realized – I need to give up this resolution for a while.

If I’m honest with myself, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. The Happiness Project book is finally about to hit the shelves, and that means a lot of work – not just writing work, which I’m used to, but other kinds of work. My children need a lot of attention. My husband has been traveling a fair amount. When I have some spare time, I want to just hang around the apartment and read; I don’t want another to-do list, even for something fun. Some people like party errands (flowers, food, fixing up the house, figuring out whom to invite), but I don’t.

So I’ve decided to abandon that resolution for a while.

Starting an exercise routine. Learning Italian. Cleaning the basement. We all have longstanding resolutions hanging over our heads – resolutions that we want to keep, but we don’t really make much progress towards, and which can therefore give us a feeling of powerlessness or failure. As important as it is to try to keep resolutions, sometimes you need to give up a resolution.

Sometimes, too, I think a resolution can block you. You don’t have any nice clothes because you want to lose weight. You don’t read any novels because you’ve promised yourself to read War and Peace. Letting go of one resolution might make it easier to keep other resolutions.

The thing is, I know if I’d keep the resolution to “Entertain more,” it would make me happier. But I’m going to admit to myself how happy it will make me not to keep that resolution.

How about you? Have you ever boosted your happiness when you gave up a resolution?

* I loved watching this video of starlings’ flight patterns.

* Zoikes! More than a week has gone by since I mentioned the fact that The Happiness Project is available for pre-order! Act now! If you need any convincing, look here and here.

Take a Look at Some Other Happiness Projects. It’s Not Just Me!

One of the most exciting things about working on my happiness project is seeing other people start their own happiness projects.

I get a real kick from seeing these happiness-project blogs, where people have taken my basic idea and run with it themselves — taking the concept in so many different directions. Every happiness project is different; every one is fascinating. Check these blogs out yourself:


If you have a blog that’s not on this list, please add yours to this simple form, and your blog’s name and URL will be added to the chart. That way, all of us can see what you’re doing.

If you’d like to start a happiness project, but don’t want to do it using a blog, here are some ideas for getting started. Happiness projects for everyone!

* How can I resist a column on Money & Happiness? I can’t, so I’m a big fan of Laura Rowley’s writing Yahoo! Finance.

* For more discussion about happiness, join the Facebook Page. Lots of people, lots of fascinating insights and conversation.

Eight Excellent Tips for Living that My Parents Gave Me.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: Eight excellent tips for living my parents gave me.

My mother:
–“Stay calm.” My mother probably reminds of this three or four times each time I see her. I really need this advice. Every day.
–“The things that go wrong often make the best memories.” My mother told me this when we were getting ready for my wedding. It’s a very good thing to keep in mind, because it’s absolutely true, and it can also help you laugh at a bad situation while it’s happening.
“You like to have a few things that you really like, instead of lots of choices.” Okay, this advice might not be widely applicable, but it was a huge revelation to me about my own nature. My mother made this comment in the context of clothes, but it’s true in many areas of my life.
–“That’s so wonderful! Be grateful, because you worked hard for what you got, and you deserved it, but others also worked hard, and people don’t always get what they deserve.” My mother made this observation when I called home to report that I’d been elected the editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal. I repeated her remark to a friend, who thought it sounded like a little unenthusiastic, but in fact, it was reassuring, especially in the long run. Because it’s TRUE. You don’t always get what you deserve, even when you work hard, and my mother’s observation has been very comforting to me in other circumstances, when things didn’t go my way.

My father:
–“If you’re willing to take the blame, people will give you the responsibility.” This was perhaps the best advice for the workplace I ever got.
–“Energy.” Very true. The first chapter of The Happiness Project is devoted to energy. (Here are nine tips for giving yourself an energy boost in the next ten minutes.)
–“Enjoy the process.” If you can enjoy the process, you are less concerned about outcomes. That’s a big help in the world.
–“All you have to do is put on your running shoes and let the front door shut behind you.” Good advice for all couch potatoes trying to pick up an exercise habit. Just do that much! That counts!

My parents never gave me relationship advice or weighed in on my boyfriends (true, I only had two real boyfriends, one of whom I married, but I’m sure it was hard to resist nevertheless).

However, once when I was home for vacation, both of my parents remarked on the requirements of a happy relationship. Maybe they’d had a conversation between themselves, which was why it was on their minds. Anyway, it was so unusual for them to make this kind of remark that both statements made a big impression on me:
–My mother said: “In a relationship, it’s important that a person is kind, because eventually, if he’s not kind to other people, he won’t be kind to you.”
–My father said: “In a relationship, it’s important that a person be able to have fun, because you’re not going to have a happy life with someone who can’t have fun.”

Have you received any great advice from your parents?

* A thoughtful reader sent me the link to a great Boston Globe article she wrote: Will He Hold Your Purse? “As a breast cancer doctor, I’ve learned how to spot a devoted husband — a skill I try to share with my single and searching girlfriends.”

* It’s Word-of-mouth Wednesday, the day when I gently encourage (or, you might think, pester) you to spread the word about the Happiness Project. You might:
— Forward the link to someone you think would be interested
— Link to a post on Twitter
— Pre-order the book for a friend
— Put a link to the blog in your Facebook status update
Thanks! I really appreciate any help. Word of mouth is the BEST.
(Note that links in the comment box, just below, make some of these steps easier.)