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Podcast 314: Re-Engage with Your Resolutions, a Hack for Helping People to Give Gifts, an Outdoors Demerit, and Why Humor Is Such a Powerful Tool at Work and in Life.


Update: Our sixth anniversary episode is coming up! We'd love to know what try-this-at-home suggestions have helped you most, what hacks have proved most useful, or any kind of favorite moment—from the last year or ever. We're doing a round-up.

Try This at Home: Re-engage with your resolutions.

Research shows that by mid-February, most people have abandoned new year's resolutions. If you're determined to stick by your resolutions, it may help to review the 21 Strategies for Habit Change, to look for fresh strategies to try.

All these Strategies are explored in full in my book Better Than Before.

  • The Four Tendencies -- to find out if you're an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, take the free quiz here; for more discussion, read my book The Four Tendencies. Knowing your Tendency will make it possible to figure out which of the other twenty strategies are likely to work best for you!
  • Distinctions --Are you a Marathoner or Sprinter? Under-buyer or over-buyer? Finisher or Opener? Novelty-lover or Familiarity-lover? Knowing these differences can help you set yourself up for success
  • Monitoring -- we manage what we monitor
  • Foundation – to change habits, it helps to have a strong foundation: get enough sleep, get some exercise, don't let yourself get too hungry or too thirsty, and for most people, try to maintain reasonable outer order. To help with that last leg, check out my book Outer Order, Inner Calm– also discussed in episode 18
  • Scheduling -- I love this strategy, but note: many Rebels find it counter-productive
  • Accountability -- works for many people and is essential for Obligers
  • First Steps -- the most important step is to begin
  • Clean Slate -- take advantage of transitions. They wipe away old habits so new habits can form more easily.
  • Lightning Bolt -- sometimes, a new piece of information, an insight, a milestone, or a new role hits us like a lightning bolt, and habit change follows. For me, it came from reading Gary Taubes's book Why We Get Fat. Read about that change here.
  • Abstaining -- when it comes to facing a strong temptation, Abstainers find it easier to give something up altogether; Moderators find it easier to indulge a little bit, or sometimes. We discuss this distinction in episode 2. I'm 100% Abstainer, and it was a huge relief to realize that truth about myself.
  • Convenience -- make it easy to do the right thing
  • Inconvenience -- make it hard to do the wrong thing
  • Safeguards -- plan to fail
  • Loophole-Spotting -- there are ten categories of loopholes. My personal favorite is the false-choice loophole: I can't do this, because I'm so busy doing that"; Elizabeth's favorite is the tomorrow loophole: "It's okay to skip today, because I'm going to do this tomorrow"
  • Distraction -- healthy distraction is a great way to resist temptation
  • Rewards -- this is a very tricky strategy! Many people use it the wrong way, and don't understand why it doesn't work! Proceed with caution.
  • Treats -- everyone's favorite strategy. Treat yourself! We discuss this in episode 9.
  • Pairing -- a very effective strategy, discussed in episode 74
  • Clarity -- important for all of us, and essential for Questioners
  • Identity -- important for all of us, and essential for Rebel
  • Other People -- we're all very influenced by other people's habits, so pay attention to your social environment. We discuss in episode 86

Which strategies have helped you to succeed? Please share.

If you want suggestions to figure out which strategies are most likely to work for, given your Tendency, read this post or check out the guide here.

For a longer discussion of the 21 Strategies, listen to episode 148.

Download "Checklist for Habit Change" here.

Happiness Hack: To help people not disappoint you, as we discussed in episode 313, appoint an "elf" to act as a go-between. Also, give someone a list of choices and let that person choose. That way, they're still "picking" a gift, and giving you a surprise, but with less guess work (and also a reminder).

We mention Gary Chapman's framework of the "Five Love Languages." We discussed it in episode 80.

  • Words of Affirmation (the love language for both Elizabeth and me)
  • Quality Time
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch

Interview: We talked to Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas about their new book, Humor, Seriously: Why Humor Is a Secret Weapon in Business and Life (Amazon, Bookshop).

Their book explores how humor can be a powerful tool for accomplishing serious things. Research shows that humor makes us look more competent and confident, strengthens relationships, unlocks creativity, and boosts resilience.

We discuss several aspects of humor:

  • research that shows how humor has a transformative effect on our behavior and psychology
  • humor is an under-utilized asset at work
  • it's not about being funnier, it's about being lighter
  • while people sometimes assume that using humor might make them seem less serious, actually using humor makes people seem more competent
  • leaders with a sense of humor are much more effective
  • self-deprecation can be a powerful tool, especially when you're high status, but if you're at a lower level of status, it may have a negative effect
  • people have different humor styles: magnet, sniper, stand-up, and sweetheart.

Ready to discover your humor style and harness humor as the secret weapon it is? Jennifer and Naomi have developed a 21-day SMS coaching tool that's delivered to your phone. Click here to learn more and use the code HAPPIER to get 50% off your registration.

Elizabeth's Demerit: With her work on the Fantasy Island TV show speeding up, Elizabeth has gone days without setting foot outside. And she's in Los Angeles!

Elizabeth mentions our discussion of the importance of sunlight.

Gretchen's Gold Star: I give a gold star to Elizabeth, for encouraging me—for years—to watch Mad Men. I’m in season 7, and of course I love it.

In fact, we're going to do a bonus episode discussion of Mad Men! Send us your favorite scene. There are so many haunting moments.


  • Want to know when my e-books or video courses go on sale? Or want to get the Happier podcast show notes in your inbox each week? Sign up for these updates and more in my free weekly newsletter here.
  • If you want to get a jump on spring cleaning, consider joining my Outer Order Inner Calm 30-Day SMS Challenge—daily text messages with an audio message from me that give you a simple challenge to create more outer order. Click here to learn more and join.

What we’re reading:

  • Elizabeth: Deacon King Kong by James McBride (AmazonBookshop)
  • Gretchen: The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw (Amazon, Bookshop)

Quote From the Podcast

“We think of humor as a fun, frivolous nice-to-have, but we’re finding that individuals can’t afford to be humorless.”
Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas

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