A Little Happier: A Reminder from a Favorite Moment in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”

I’m a huge fan of children’s and young-adult literature. I’m in three book groups where we discuss children’s and YA literature. I read those books all the time — and I also re-read my favorites, over and over.

One of my very favorite scenes in children’s literature — and maybe all literature — is in C. S. Lewis’s masterpiece, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

It’s an enormously satisfying scene, and it’s also a very good reminder: If all else fails, we can try minding our own business.

Here’s the conversation, if you want to read it:

The Professor says, “There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn’t tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth.”

The children continue to explain why they don’t accept Lucy’s story.

“But there was no time,” said Susan. “Lucy had no time to have gone anywhere, even if there was such a place. She came running after us the very moment we were out of the room. It was less than minute, and she pretended to have been away for hours.”

“That is the very thing that makes her story so likely to be true,” said the Professor. “If there really is a door in this house that leads to some other world (and I should warn you that this is a very strange house, and even I know very little about it) – if, I say, she had got into another world, I should not be at all surprised to find that the other world had a separate time of its own; so that however long you stayed there it would never take up any of our time. On the other hand, I don’t think many girls of her age would invent that idea for themselves. If she had been pretending, she would have hidden for a reasonable time before coming out and telling her story.”

“But do you really mean, sir,” said Peter, “that there could be other worlds — all over the place, just round the corner — like that?”

“Nothing is more probable,” said the Professor, taking off his spectacles and beginning to polish them, while he muttered to himself, “I wonder what they do teach them at these schools.”

“But what are we to do?” said Susan. She felt that the conversation was beginning to get off the point.

“My dear young lady,” said the Professor, suddenly looking up with a very sharp expression at both of them, “there is one plan which no one has yet suggested and which is well worth trying.”

“What’s that?” said Susan.

“We might all try minding our own business,” said he. And that was the end of that conversation.

After this things were a good deal better for Lucy.

Whenever I’m not sure how to address a tricky situation involving other people, I always remind myself, “I might try minding my own business.” It surprises me how often that advice works.

Do you love the Narnia books as much as I do?

Which is your favorite? For me, it’s a toss-up between The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Silver Chair, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and The Magician’s Nephew.

If you’re a fan of children’s/YA literature, you can check out my list of my 81 favorite books here. So many wonderful books.

Listen to this mini-podcast episode by clicking PLAY below.

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.

Want to get in touch? I love hearing from listeners:

 

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“All That I Ever Hope to Say Is that I Love the World.” What Do You Hope to Say?

“All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world.”

–E. B. White

He wrote this to a reader of his masterpiece of children’s literature, Charlotte’s Web.

If you were to fill in the blank, “All that I ever hope to say is that I _____,” how would you answer?

Ah, Charlotte’s Web. An extraordinary, beautiful book. If you haven’t read it since you were a child, re-read it now. It’s a book that immediately made it onto my list of my 81 Favorite Works of Children’s and Young-Adult Literature.

“I Wish My 18-Year-Old Self Had Realized That Incrementalism Is ‘OK.’”

Interview: Robb Wolf.

I often write about how I eat a low-carb, high-fat diet. As I describe in Better Than Before, I experienced the “Strategy of the Lightning Bolt” after reading Gary Taubes’s book Why We Get Fat, which convinced me of the health benefits of avoiding carbohydrates — I changed practically everything about the way I ate, overnight, after reading that book. (If you’d like to listen to the podcast interview with Gary Taubes, about his new book The Case Against Sugar, it’s here.)

Because of my interest in eating low carb, I got to know Robb Wolf. Robb comes at the issues of diet, eating, and nutrition from the Paleo perspective. It’s a different philosophy of eating, but in the end, we eat mostly the same way, so it’s interesting for me to hear about it.

Robb has a popular podcast, The Paleo Solution, and he has new book that just hit the shelves called Wired to Eat: Turn Off the Cravings, Rewire Your Appetite for Weight Loss, and Determine the Foods that Work for You.

Wired to Eat emphasizes that it’s important to figure out how to eat in the way that works for you. It also discusses the importance of things like sleep and movement in trying to eat more healthfully.

As I’ve written and spoken to people about their happiness and habits, the issue of “wanting to eat healthier” comes up again and again as a habit that people struggle with; they’d know they’d be happier and healthier if they ate healthier, but they find it tough. (Sound familiar?)

So I was curious to hear what Robb had to say.

Gretchen: You’ve done fascinating research. What’s the most significant thing you’ve concluded on the subject of habits?

Robb: This may seem a bit far afield to your readers but one of the best insights into habits and human behavior came to me when I started looking at this topic from the perspective of evolutionary biology. If we think about the environment that forged our genetics, we can get a sense of some important “hard wiring” that may seem to defy logic in the modern world. Let’s consider healthy eating as an example. It’s easy to vilify overeating, to make this tendency some kind of character flaw, but in our not so distant past it made good sense to eat anything one could find and then to REST. All organisms that move to eat follow a process called “Optimum Foraging Strategy” which is just a fancy way of looking at the energy accounting an organism must maintain to go on living. If a given critter (in this case let’s say us) consistently burns more energy than it finds in the environment…it dies. So, humans are literally wired to “eat more, move less.” This is a completely normal and even healthy state of affairs when living in an ancestral environment, but with modern culture and technology we can order a nearly infinite variety of foods to our door, and barely expend any energy at all. It is now incredibly easy to overeat and we experience a host of health problems as a consequence. This evolutionary biology perspective can help with habits in that if we are not starting a process from a perspective of guilt or shame (which is common when folks are contemplating diet and lifestyle changes) we stand a much better chance of making that process of change stick.

What’s a simple habit that consistently makes you happier?

When I start feeling cranky and like life is working against me I have found that a few minutes of gratitude goes a long way towards making me feel better. I do this every night before bed and it is incredibly calming and also keeps me grounded in all the good things I have in my life.

What’s something you know now about forming healthy habits that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

Something I wish my 18-year-old self had been aware of is that incrementalism is “ok.” For much of my life I tackled things with a perfectionist attitude and what this did is set me up for failure in anything that I was not inherently good at. If I struggled a bit at something I’d get self-conscious and default back to those things I’m good at. Not a great way to add new habits and skills to one’s life!

Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

I’m pretty strongly a Questioner. I love seeking out information from folks that are better versed in a topic than I am but I tend to run their advice or teaching through the following filter: Does it make sense? When I implement the recommendations, does the process work? I rarely, if ever, dismiss something out of hand, but I will stress-test the concept and see if it holds up to scrutiny. I’m also always looking for ways to improve upon the original teaching or advice.

Podcast 109: Pay Attention to the Light, a Fun April Fool’s Tradition, and a Demerit for Talking Too Much.

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

Update: My daughter Eliza turns 18 years old! Unbelievable. If you want to listen to Eliza Starting at 16, it’s here; if you want to watch my one-minute video “The Years Are Short,” it’s here. I know now, even better than when I created that video, how truly short the years are.

Try This at Home: Pay attention to the light.

I mention the very interesting book Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation by Alan Burdick; you can read my interview with Alan Burdick here.

And here’s the beautiful quotation I read: “Light, that first phenomenon of the world, reveals to us the spirit and living soul of the world through colors.” –Johannes Itten

Happiness Hack: Our listener Kim suggests celebrating April Fool’s Day with a “Junk Dinner” of junk food.

Know Yourself Better: Do you like seasons, or do you like constant good weather?

Listener Question: Our listener Trish asks: “what is happiness anyway? How do we measure it?”

If you want to read more about this question, I discuss it at greater length in The Happiness Project.

Demerit: In a conversation with a friend going through a difficult time, I talked too much.

Gold Star: Elizabeth gives a gold star to the notion of changing doctors.

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

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Happier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #109

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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.

HAPPIER listening!

A Little Happier: A Happiness Lesson from a Founding Father.

When I was still working as a lawyer, before I switched to writing, I worked at the Federal Communications Commission. My former boss, Chairman Reed Hundt, had a line he often quoted, and it made a big impression on me.

It’s from the Founding Father Benjamin Franklin:

“Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.”

Note: “Dear” is an old-fashioned term for “costly.”

Meaning: Experience is a costly way to learn, but sometimes it’s the only thing that can teach us. And I find that immensely comforting. Sometimes, the only way to learn is to learn the hard way!

As I mention, the reason that I know Kim Scott, one of the co-hosts of the terrific podcast Radical Candor, is that we worked at the FCC together.

Listen to this mini-podcast episode by clicking PLAY below.

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.

Want to get in touch? I love hearing from listeners:

 

Happier listening!