Revealed! Three Book Club Choices for January. Happy Reading.

Because nothing boosts happiness more than a great book, each month, I suggest:

— one outstanding book about happiness or habits

— one outstanding work of children’s or young-adult literature–I have a crazy passion for kidlit

— one eccentric pick–a widely admired and excellent book that I love, yes, but one that may not appeal to everyone

Shop at IndieBound, BN.com, or Amazon (I’m an affiliate), or your favorite local bookstore. Or my favorite, visit the library!

For all the books I choose, I love them; I’ve read most of them at least twice if not many times; and they’re widely admired.

Bonus book this month: with Shea Olsen, my sister Elizabeth Craft has a new young-adult novel, Flower. The tag line? “She had a plan, then she met him.” Romance, temptation, secrets, and celebrity...how well I remember the phone call when Elizabeth first told about her idea for this book. And now it’s hit the shelves! Check it out.

Now, for the three book-club choices. Drumroll…

A book about happiness, good habits, or human nature:

Absent in the Spring by Agatha Christie

I don’t read many mysteries, but for some reason I felt like reading Agatha Christie’s wonderful Autobiography. In it, she discusses the writing of Absent in the Spring — an unusual book for her, because it isn’t a crime mystery (in fact, Christie wrote it under a pseudonym, Mary Westmacott). It’s about a woman who’s stuck by herself for a few days while traveling, and with that opportunity for self-reflection, she realizes the fundamental ways that she’s misunderstood herself and the people around her. It’s a short, quick, very thought-provoking book.

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

 

An outstanding children’s book:

The Secret Language by Ursula Nordstrom

Nordstrom was an enormously brilliant, influential editor of children’s books. I’ve read Dear Genius, her terrific book of letters,  three times. She wrote this one children’s book herself, and she wasn’t satisfied by it — which is a shame, because I love it. It’s about Victoria, a young girl who goes to boarding school and makes a best friend there. How I love boarding school books,

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

 

An eccentric pick:

All About Colour by Janice Lindsay

I’ve become obsessed with the subject of color. All about Colour is one of the most accessible, amusing, and thought-provoking discussions that I’ve read– many books about color are surprisingly dry. Lindsay has a very strong point of view (for instance, she objects to the popularity of white paint) which makes the book fun to read.

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

 

If you want to make sure you never miss a month’s selections, sign up here for the book club newsletter.

Remember, if you want to see what I read each week, I post a photo of my pile of completed books on my Facebook Page every Sunday night, #GretchenRubinReads.

What books are you excited to read in 2017? I’m always looking for great books to add to my reading list.

A Not-So-Little Happier: Announcing the Launch of “The Onward Project” Podcasts!

Ta-da! In this not-so-Little Happier, I’m announcing the launch of a family of podcasts, headed by me, called The Onward Project.

These podcasts will make your life better — happier, healthier, more productive, more creative.

The shows are very different from each other, but they share a similar vibe. They’re fascinating, with great hosts, and they’re all full of concrete, manageable ideas, research, stories, and tips for how to make your life better.

The idea is that if you like Happier, you’ll like the other Onward Project shows, too.

Radical Candor 

Radical Candor from Kim Scott and Russ Laraway. Kim describes the podcast as “how not to hate the boss you have, and how not to become the boss you hate.” It’s all about how to be constructive, and critical when necessary, and also kind. If you want to look at Kim’s book Radical Candor, it’s here.  New episodes every Tuesday.

Side Hustle School

Side Hustle School from Chris Guillebeau. If you heard our episode 87, our live event in Seattle, you heard us talk to Chris — so you have a sense of what an interesting guy he is. In Side Hustle School, he talks about how to pursue a “side hustle” — a money-making project you pursue apart from your day job. It’s not a part-time job; it’s not a hobby; it’s something you create. Chris is a Rebel, by the way.  New short episodes every day.

I’m so excited about these podcasts — these hosts are so engaging, with such interesting stories and perspectives. And I can’t wait to hear what you think! Let me know.

And to give a teaser, in March, two more podcasts will launch:

Happier in Hollywood

Yes, Elizabeth is doing another podcast! This one is with her longtime writing partner, Sarah Fain. It’s about how to be happier, healthier, saner, more creative, more successful, and more productive in a back-biting, superficial, chaotic, unpredictable, fundamentally world. I can’t wait to listen. Elizabeth and Sarah have the craziest stories.

Whole30

We got a huge response after episode 52, when we interviewed Melissa Hartwig of Whole30. Whole30 is a very structured way of eating for thirty days, to re-set your body clock. As we discussed, it’s not an approach that works for everyone, but for many people, it’s life-changing (and I don’t use that word lightly). Her ideas resonated so much with listeners that I asked her to start her own podcast.

Check out Yogi Tea. When it comes to enjoying life, little moments — like drinking a delicious cup of tea — can make a big difference.

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

 

Happier listening!

“The Salvation of Man is Through Love and in Love.”

To usher in the new year of 2017, I wanted to post one of my very favorite passages in all of literature:

We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor’s arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: “If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don’t know what is happening to us.”

That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth — that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way — an honorable way — in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.”

–Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

If you haven’t read Man’s Search for Meaning, run out and get a copy now.

Want to Keep a New Year’s Resolution? How to Make It Right for YOU.

Many people make New Year’s resolutions, and many people get frustrated and abandon their New Year’s resolutions.

A common mistake? Setting up the resolution in the wrong way. We think we “should be able to” do it first thing in the morning, or we think we should imitate a resolution that works well for someone else.

But there’s no one, correct way. It’s just whatever works for us.

I know this, because I used to try to indulge moderately in sweets — but I’m an Abstainer. And I used to try to do difficult writing in the afternoon — but I’m a Lark. And I use to hold myself back from buying too much at one time — but I’m an Under-buyer. Etc. Now that I set up resolutions to suit my nature, I succeed much more often.

As you set up your resolutions, be sure to consider these distinctions, as outlined in the “Strategy of Distinctions” in my book Better Than Before, which is all about the multiple strategies we can exploit to change our habits.

Before you decide on the resolution you’ll make, consider…

-are you a Lark or Owl?

are you a Marathoner or Sprinter?

are you a Simplicity-lover or Abundance-lover?

are you a Finisher or Opener?

are you an Abstainer or Moderator?

-are you an Under-buyer or Over-buyer?

As you’re thinking about these distinctions, it can be helpful to ask, “When have I succeeded with this resolution in the past?” If there was a time when you exercised regularly, cooked frequently, got enough sleep, etc., that might hold clues for how you might be able to do a better job in the present.

When we know ourselves, we can set up a resolution in the way that’s right for us. It’s not that hard to keep our resolutions, and to change our habits — when we know what to do.

9 Tips if You’re Making Work-Related New Year’s Resolutions.

The new year is here, and for many of us, that means new year’s resolutions. And many of us make resolutions related to our work lives.

Now Questioners, I know you object to the arbitrariness of the January 1 date; Obligers, I know you may have given up making resolutions because you’ve struggled in the past; and Rebels, I know you may not want to bind yourself in advance. But some people do want to make resolutions. (Don’t know where you fit in the “Four Tendencies” framework, i.e.,  if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel? Look here.)

For instance, some common work-related resolutions include “I want to broaden my horizons,” “I want to do a better job with record-keeping,” “I want to network,” “I want to find a mentor,” and “I want to expand my skills.”

One key to consistent progress is to make a behavior into a habit. Habits are freeing and energizing, because they save us from the difficult, draining business of making decisions and exercising our self-control.

Habits matter, because research shows that about 40% of everyday life is shaped by habits. If we have habits that work for us, we’re far more likely to be happier, healthier, and more productive.

In my book Better Than Before, I discuss the twenty-one different strategies that we can use to make or break our habits. I know, twenty-one sounds like a lot to manage — but it’s helpful that there are so many, because some of these strategies work for some people, and not others. But we all have a big menu from which to pick.

So how might you make a habit of actions that will help you succeed at work? Consider these strategies:

1. Use the Strategy of Clarity, and be specific about what you’re asking of yourself.

Resolutions like “network more” or “research new opportunities” are too vague. Put your resolution into the form of a concrete, measurable, manageable action, such as “Every month, go to at least two events with networking opportunities” or “Spend one hour every Friday afternoon updating my time sheets and expenses.” Being specific helps you figure out what to do, and it also makes it possible to…

2. Use the Strategy of Monitoring, and monitor your habit.

Monitoring is almost uncanny in its power. Research shows that simply by monitoring a behavior, we tend to do a much better job of it, whether that’s how fast we’re driving, how much we’re eating, how many cold calls we’re making, or how many instructional videos we’re watching. Keep track, and you’ll push yourself in the right direction.

3. Use the Strategy of Scheduling, and schedule time for your habit.

Something like “Research that company this week” is a goal that can keep getting pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. Even if it’s important, it’s just not urgent. So schedule a specific time for research, for learning, for following up, and give it a slot on your calendar. But it’s crucial to remember that…

4. Working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination.

When you schedule time to do certain work, you should do that work, and nothing else. No filing, no cleaning, no research, no checking emails. Do that work, or stare at the ceiling. Otherwise, you may work and work and work, and never get around to doing the very thing you set out to do.

5. Use the Strategy of Distinctions, and take time to think big.

In the rigors of everyday life, it can be hard to step back and see what matters most.  Where do you want to be in two years? How could you develop your skills to make your work more interesting and yourself more valuable? Some people prefer to do this kind of thinking alone, with just a pad of paper; others prefer to talk it out, with a few trusted co-workers or an old friend; others might hire a coach. Or…

6. Use the Strategy of Distinctions, and take time to think small.

Sometimes people get overwhelmed when they try to make grand plans or ask huge questions; it’s also useful to focus on small, manageable steps that you can incorporate into your life immediately.

7. Use the Strategy of Clarity, and ask yourself: Whom do you envy?

Envy is an uncomfortable emotion, but it’s instructive. If you envy someone, that person has something you wish you had. Do you envy your friend who gets to travel all the time—or the friend who never has to travel? Do you envy your co-worker who’s taking night class toward getting an MBA, or who gets to make lots of presentations? Envy can help show us how we want to grow and change.

8. Use the Strategy of Other People, and spend time with people who have the habits  that you want to emulate.

Studies show that we tend to pick up habits from the people around us, so choose your company wisely. If you know that some of your co-workers cultivate habits that help them succeed at work, go out of your way to spend time with them, and you’ll more easily pick up those habits, yourself.

9. Use the Strategy of the Four Tendencies and the Strategy of Accountability, if it works for you.

If you’re an Obliger — that is, if you readily meet other people’s expectations, but struggle to meet your expectations for yourself — the answer, the solution, the key element is external accountability. Rebels, on the other hand, often do worse when they’re being held accountable. Figure out your Tendency and plug in accountability as necessary.

The most important thing to remember about habit change? We must shape our habits to suit ourselves—our own nature, our own interests, our own strengths. When we understand ourselves, we can apply the twenty-one strategies with the greatest success, and we can also help other people to change their habits.

It’s not hard to change your habits, when you know what to do. And it matters. When we change our habits, we change our lives.