Podcast 254: Choose a One-Word Theme for the Year, and a Tough Question About Neighbors.

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Choose a one-word theme for the year.

We do this every year: in episode 201, we talked about picking our themes for 2019.

In the past, I’ve had themes such as “Upgrade,” “Bigger,” “Lighten Up,” “Re-purpose,” and “Delegate.” Last year, my word was “Growth.”

Elizabeth’s past choices have included “Free Time,” “Style,” “Hot Wheels,” “Novel,” “Home,” and “Control.” Last year, her theme was “#6.”

Here’s the quotation I love from writer John Gardner: “Every time you break the law you pay, and every time you obey the law you pay.”

For 2020, Elizabeth has chosen the theme LighterAnother one of my favorite quotations is from G. K. Chesterton: “It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.”

My word is Infrastructure. A very practical word!

Once we’ve picked our theme, the trick is to keep it uppermost in our minds. People use screensavers, passwords, dog tags, jewelry, vision boards, bullet journals, and so on.

Happiness Hack

For a weekly date night, our listener Julie and her husband are watching their way through the movies on the American Film Institute’s “The 100 Greatest American Movies of All Time” list.

This could be a fun New Year’s resolution or item for the “20 for 2020” list.

Know Yourself Better

Do you like or dislike New Year’s Eve? For both of us, it’s turned into a family holiday. 

Listener Answer

This week’s listener was making great progress with a resolution, very appropriate for our “Walk for 20 in ‘20” challenge, but she has run into a tough snag. If you don’t know what an “Obliger” is, take the free, quick quiz here to find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel.

We mention the Strategy of Pairing.

In September, I began pairing my daily walk with my trip to the bus stop with my youngest son. I was already outside, had shoes on, etc. so it made sense to continue on rather than heading for home.  A few weeks into my routine, a couple of the other moms asked what I was up too, liked the idea of my morning walk, and asked to join me. As an Obliger, I liked the idea of these ladies being my outer accountability. Fast Forward. I find myself trying to get out of these walks now! I don’t necessarily enjoy the company of these women, while they are perfectly friendly. Also, there has been some conflict between 2 of our children that has made some of the walks slightly awkward. I feel myself longing for the mornings when I was walking alone and could listen to podcasts, books, or music and push myself to walk farther if I wanted to. 

I feel trapped! –by the conversations, the walking routes, and these women. How can I “break-up” with them without sacrificing my morning walk that was paired perfectly with my trip to the bus? Unfortunately, I have to walk past both their houses to get to any route I may take to stay in my neighborhood. I can wait until later or drive somewhere, but that means my walk is no longer paired, and I fear I’ll just stop going.

Tricky issue. Listeners, what are your suggestions?

If you’re interested in this kind of predicament, we talked about a similar issue where the listener Cindy said, “My boss quit smoking, and now wants to join me in my precious solo lunchtime walks.” People had such interesting responses that we talked about it in episode 108, then did a deep dive in episode 112.

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Once again, Elizabeth has fallen into workplace “Emergency suspension” mode—when she’s working on a big project and lets everything else in her life fall by the wayside.

The problem is that her emergency state doesn’t last just for a day or a week; it goes on for months.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: Gold star to the many listeners who wrote in to make sure that I knew about two terrific new podcasts: Dolly Parton’s America and Office Ladies. I love them both, and you should definitely check out both podcasts, but even beyond that, it made me very happy to know that so many listeners were thinking of me.

If you want to listen to Jenna Fischer’s interview on the Happier in Hollywood podcast, about her terrific book The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide, it’s in episode 27.


  • Get the Resolution Chart I used for my own happiness project, for inspiration—the last page is blank, so you can use it as a template for yourself.

  • Or download the Checklist for Habit Change. This one-page chart will help you deploy the many strategies for habit change, as you work on a crucial key habit that you want to master. If you want to read about all the strategies, check out my book Better Than Before.

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