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363: Push Beyond a 30-Day “Challenge,” a Hack for Taking Pills, and Listeners Share Their One-Word Themes.


Update: I mention a few items that are available in the shop. Want a mug with your Tendency and its motto? An "Onward and Upward" t-shirt? A "Choose the Bigger Life" travel mug? Plus there are stickers, if you want to spice up something you already own, like a laptop. Take a look here.

Try This at Home: Push beyond a 30-day challenge. So often, we have great success with a 30-day challenge, but then it doesn't stick.

In some cases, a 30-day challenge is an experiment, and a 30-day challenge works very well for that purpose.

But sometimes, we do 30-day challenges as a way to try to jump-start a habit, and for that purpose, they often don't work -- for two reasons.

  • The problem of the finish line. When we hit a finish line, we're finished! But with a habit, we want to keep going. Instead of celebrating a finish line, celebrate milestones. We mention the Don't Break the Chain Habit Tracker.
  • The problem of the all-or-nothing. The action of a 30-day challenge is so clear; there's no decision fatigue. But that structure doesn’t push us to figure out how to structure a habit more realistically, to keep it going.

I talk about being an "Abstainer," and also about how I like to do things every day, instead of some days – like visiting the Metropolitan Museum.

Want to learn your Tendency—whether you’re an Obliger like Winter, our listener? Or an Upholder, Questioner, or Rebel? Take the free quick quiz here.

I write about the challenge of challenges in Better Than Before, my book about habit change.

Happiness Hack: If you have trouble swallowing pills:

  • Drink some cold beverage first to help lubricate the throat, and keep drinking after you’ve swallowed, to help the pill go down
  • Try the “lean forward” method: Put the capsule on your tongue. Take a sip of water, but don’t swallow yet. Tilt your chin slightly towards your chest. Swallow the capsule and the water with your head bent forward.
  • Place the pill in the center of a teaspoon of something with a pureed consistency, like yogurt, pudding, or applesauce, and let it slide down 
  • Ask if the medicine is available in liquid form
  • If not, ask your doctor if you could cut a pill in half, or crush it and place it in a teaspoon of pureed food, and take it that way. This must be approved by your doctor! Certain medications shouldn't be crushed!
  • Practice with different head postures—for some people, for instance, it's easier when their head is turned to the left or right.
  • If you want to practice swallowing pills, Elizabeth suggests using Tic Tacs.

Deep Dive into One-Word Themes:

In episode 358, we talked about the Try This at Home idea to "Choose a one-word theme for the year." We've heard so many brilliant ideas from listeners!

Elizabeth's one-word theme: Step

Gretchen's one-word theme: Salt. (I got a big kick out of seeing that someone else chose the word “Pepper.")

  • Reverie
  • Action!
  • Flex
  • Flourish
  • Embrace
  • Soigné
  • Recharge
  • Now
  • Done
  • More
  • Clear
  • Clear Away
  • Health
  • Peace
  • Green
  • Renaissance
  • Rhythm

For even more examples of listeners' choices of one-word themes for the year, read here.

Demerits and Gold Stars:

Gretchen's Demerit: I'm not doing my evening “closer” to clear up my office at the end of my work day. I write about this practice in Outer Order, Inner Calm, and it makes my office so much more pleasant.

Elizabeth's Gold Star: She gives a gold star to her writing partner and Happier in Hollywood podcast co-host, Sarah Fain. Sarah has so much going on in her life, yet she's completely present creatively. (If you want to listen to the bonus episode where Elizabeth and I talk to Sarah about her decision to move from Los Angeles to Ojai, it's here).


  • Valentine's Day is right around the corner, also “TwosDay” on February 22– need a gift? The Memento Journal and the One-Sentence Journal are particulary giftable. Special promo code for Happier listeners: LISTENER15, good for 15% off journals.
  • Want to keep the resolution to exercise in 2022? Beautiful tools make work a joy – and suitable clothes make working out a joy. The right equipment can make it more pleasant and more convenient to keep a habit. We're teaming up with Stitch Fix to help put an end to #gymtimidation. Learn more on Instagram (@gretchenrubin) – and I'm doing a giveaway.
  • Subscribe to the Happier podcast on YouTube.

What we’re reading:

  • Elizabeth: Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead (Amazon, Bookshop)
  • Gretchen: A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders (Amazon, Bookshop)

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