Podcast 84: Why It’s Easier to Do Something EVERY Day, Keep a Trash Bag in the Car, and How to Deal with a Tardy Friend.

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Update: If you live near Seattle, please come to our live event! We’ll be recording an episode of the podcast live on stage at Seattle’s Town Hall on October 13, 7:30. Tickets are $25. More info and buy tickets here. Please come, bring your friends. We hope to sell t-shirts — cash only, if we do manage to pull it together.

In episode 76, we talked about manifestos, and if you’re coming to the Seattle event, we’d love to highlight a few manifestos from listeners. So send us your manifesto for work, life, parenting, marriage, exercise, clutter-clearing — whatever! And maybe we’ll talk about it with you on stage.

Try This at Home: It’s often easier to do something every day than to do it some days. I mention The Happiness Project One-Sentence Journal: A Five-Year Record. A lot of people have told me that this daily, manageable structure makes it easier to keep a journal.

Happiness Hack: Daphne suggests keeping a garbage bag in the car.

Happiness Stumbling Block: The “China Syndrome” — the fantasy that we’ll automatically become adults. (By the way, I’m having my book group over tonight, and I will use my wedding china.)

Listener Question: Jessica asks “How can I handle my annoyance with my good friend who is always late?”

Gretchen’s  Demerit: I rehearse angry thoughts in my head.

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth gives a gold star to her friend Karine for doing the research to find a vacation rental for their two families.

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #84

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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.

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A Question I’m Often Asked: 17 Fun Places to Visit in New York City.

Readers who know I live in New York City often write to say, “I’m coming to New York. What should I do while I’m in town?”

I don’t have a lot of obscure recommendations to make — you’ve probably heard of all these suggestions — but for what it’s worth, here are some of my favorite places to visit.

If you’re thinking about planning a trip, research suggests that doing new and challenging things, like traveling, tend to boost happiness. It’s the atmosphere of growth! So it’s true that your adventure will probably make you happier.

  1. No surprise, I have to list the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Natural History. They’re both spectacular; inexhaustible; breath-taking.
  2. The High Line is a recent addition to the attractions of New York City. It’s an elevated park built along an old railroad line — which means it’s an outdoor experience, so take that into consideration.
  3. Central Park is a gorgeous place to visit. My favorite place there — and maybe in the whole city — is Bethesda Fountain. I also love the Alice in Wonderland Statue by the pond for model boats, also Conservatory Garden.
  4. The National September 11 Memorial and Museum — unforgettable.
  5. Walk around Chinatown. So fun.
  6. Ditto the Meatpacking District. (See #2 and #8.)
  7. The Frick Collection is a small museum, very quiet and peaceful. No kids allowed however (which is part of why it’s so peaceful, I suppose).
  8. The Whitney Museum of American Art is in its new location downtown.
  9. My favorite independent bookstore is Crawford Doyle — a wonderful bookstore, just a few blocks from my apartment.
  10. In Brooklyn, it’s really fun to walk along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, to look at the water and the Manhattan skyline.
  11. It’s also fun to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.
  12.  I’ve been to Ellis Island twice — so thought-provoking, all about the immigrant experience. I’ve never actually visited the Statue of Liberty, but you get a great view of it from Ellis Island.
  13. Not as historically educational, but also fun, is Ripley’s Believe or Not. Also, Ripley’s is located in Times Square, and…
  14. No visit to New York City is complete without a visit to Times Square.
  15. In the end, one of my favorite things to do in New York City is just to start in one place and walk for hours in one direction. In the space of just a few blocks, the eco-system of the neighborhoods change dramatically. It’s fun just to see what’s around you. And along the same lines…
  16. Visit a grocery store, a drug store, and a toy store. Especially if you’re from another country (but even if you’re just visiting from someplace else), it’s surprisingly fascinating to look at these everyday places.
  17. And even if you live in New York City yourself, try visiting these places — or find new places to visit. In Happier at Home, I write about why it’s a happiness-booster to be a tourist without leaving home.

What have I overlooked — what places would you add to this list?

A Little Happier: Keep the Paint as Good as It Is in the Can.

I love koans, paradoxes, teaching stories, aphorisms, maxims, anything of that sort.

I discovered this personal “koan” from artist Frank Stella in Color Chart: Reinventing Color: 1950 to Today, by Ann Temkin. The book was published to accompany a big exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art here in New York City. My color obsession continues!

Stella says, “I knew a wise guy who used to make fun of my painting, but he didn’t like the Abstract Expressionists either. He said they would be good painters if they could only keep the paint as good as it is in the can. And that’s what I tried to do. I tried to keep the paint as good as it was in the can.”

The painting is Frank Stella’s Lac Laronge III. What do you think — is the paint as good as it is in the can? (Whatever that means.)

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How Do You Become an Artist? Maybe You Don’t.

“You don’t become a painter, you just discover one day that you are one.”

–Yves Klein, quoted in Klein by Hannah Weitemeier

This reminds me of the answer I heard a comedy writer give, when she was asked, “How do you get a job writing comedy?” She replied, “You do what you love, and then your friends hire you.”

In both cases: that work finds you.

Agree, disagree?

An Interesting Accountability Solution from a Fantasy Novel: the Booth of Promises.

I love fantasy fiction, and I recently discovered the work of Sharon Shinn. I’ve been reading my way through all her novels.

I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of her novel Unquiet Land, which is the new addition to her Elemental Blessings novels.

These days, everything reminds me of my Four Tendencies framework, and Unquiet Land was no exception. (Don’t know about the Four Tendencies? Find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel here.)

One key aspect of the Four Tendencies is understanding the role that accountability can play. For Obligers, outer accountability is crucial; for other Tendencies, it may not be needed, and for some people, may even be counter-productive.

But because Obliger is the largest Tendency, accountability is a very important strategy. And Unquiet Land features a great accountability solution.

In the country of Welce, people can go to the Plaza of Men to visit the booth of promises. “Here patrons could swear, before witnesses and for all eternity, that they would accomplish specific tasks, and their vows were recorded in books kept by the booth owner and his family.” The promissor can choose whether to make a public recording that anyone can ask to read, or a private one that’s not released until he or she gives permission or dies.

In beautiful script, the promise is written in a record book and on a heavy sheet of paper. Both copies are signed and can be sealed, and one copy is given to the promissor.

An interesting method of holding yourself to a promise! Using the strategies that I outline in Better Than Before, a person commits in writing (Strategy of Clarity), decides whether that promise is more powerful when public or private (Strategy of Distinctions), and is creating accountability (Strategy of Accountability). Plus, the promise is made as part of a formal, elaborate ritual, which gives it extra strength (Strategy of First Steps).

I wish we had something like a booth of promises — but of course, we probably do. I’m sure there’s an app that does the same thing!

If you want to read the first book in the Elemental Blessings set, get Troubled Waters. So good.

Do you think that you’d be better able to stick to a good habit if you made a promise in a booth of promises?