Gretchen Rubin

Make yourself happier by re-framing: reality doesn’t change, but your feelings do.

We all have little things that bother us more than they should, and one of those things for me is library fines.

Maybe it’s because I love libraries so much – I hate to feel that I’m not in good standing. Obviously, the librarians don’t glower at me just because I have an overdue book, but I feel as if they might. Also, it’s such a dumb way to waste money (at ten cents a day, it’s not a huge amount, but still).

I recently had some overdue books at my beloved New York Society Library. The three books were stacked up by the front door, ready to go, but I hadn’t been able to visit the library for several days.

Finally the day came when I could return them. Feeling guilty, I walked up the stairs with my stack, when it struck me, “Hey, this is the LIBRARY. If I pay a fine at Video Room on a late DVD, they just make a little more profit. If I pay a fine at the library, they have a little more money for books! I give money to this library every year; this is just another way of making a contribution.”

Of course, the good library citizen returns her books promptly. Others might be waiting. But realizing that I could re-frame the fines from “breaking library rules” and “money thrown away” to “giving money to the library” lightened my mood considerably.

(I recognize that this is an absurdly small thing to dwell on. But the fines really did bother me. And if nothing else, it’s a good example of the power of re-framing.)

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I came across an interesting post on Productivity 501 in which people wrote in to answer the question, "What is the single biggest way people waste time without even realizing it?" Now, you might think that READING a post on the topic of how people waste time might, itself, be considered a potential time-waster, but there was some really interesting commentary on how to make better use of time.

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