Podcast 299: Review How You’re Doing in the “Essential 7” Areas for Habits, a Hack to Make Thanksgiving More Memorable, and an Interview with Chef Carla Hall about How to “Say Yes!”


We want to hear from listeners on a few different subjects:

  • We’re planning a Deep Dive into success stories from #Walk20in20, so send in your story. We can’t wait to share these stories. 
  • So many people are eager for 2020 to come to an end. We’re going to talk about different ways that we and listeners plan to “Exorcise 2020.”

Try This at Home

Review how you’re doing with the Essential Seven, what you’ve been doing well, and what you could be doing better.

I identified the Essential 7 when I was writing my book Better Than Before, about the subject of habits. Whenever I thought about my own habits, or other people’s habits, I realized that just about all desirable habits fell into seven broad categories:

1. Eat and drink more healthfully (give up sugar, eat more vegetables, drink less alcohol)

2. Exercise regularly

3. Save, spend, and earn wisely (save regularly, pay down debt, donate to worthy causes, make purchases that contribute to happiness or habits, pay taxes, stay current with expense reports, take classes to expand career options)

4. Rest, relax, and enjoy (pursue a hobby instead of cruising the internet, enjoy the moment, stop checking email, get enough sleep, spend less time in the car, take time for myself)

5. Stop procrastinating, make consistent progress (practice an instrument, set aside two hours daily for uninterrupted work, learn a language, maintain a blog, keep a gratitude journal)

6. Simplify, clear, and organize (make the bed every day, file regularly, put keys away in the same place, recycle, give away unused clothing)

7. Engage more deeply—with other people, with God, with yourself, with the world (call family members, read the Bible every day, volunteer, spend time with friends, observe the Sabbath, spend time alone in nature). This year, #7 is of particular importance; people are very focused on civic engagement and racial justice.

Take some time to think about how you’re doing in these seven areas, so you can end the year on a strong note and head into 2021 with a plan.

We talked about this in Very Special Episode 90I also posted about it, if you want to read more.

Happiness Hack

For Thanksgiving, make or buy paper leaves, and ask friends and family members to write down what they’re grateful for. These leaves make a terrific memento (also easy to store) and can be clipped to a banner to make a great holiday decoration.


Carla Hall.

You may know world-renowned trained chef Carla Hall from her days as a competitor on Bravo’s “Top Chef” and “Top Chef: All Stars,” or as a co-host of ABC’s popular series “The Chew,” or on “Good Morning America.” She’s written several cookbooks, and her latest, Carla Hall’s Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration (AmazonBookshop) was included in many annual “Best Cookbook” lists across the country and received an NAACP Image Awards nomination. 

She recently launched a terrific new podcast Say Yes! With Carla Hall where she talks to guests about finding success through overcoming adversity.

We talked to Carla Hall about…

  • her motto: “Say Yes. Adventure Follows. Then Growth.” She mentions the “Six Word Memoir” project
  • her motto includes “Say yes,” but she also has a checklist to help her to say “no.”
  • her conviction that food connects us all and can help us come together—Biscuit Time!
  • how understanding that she’s a Rebel has helped her understand her own actions in the past. (Don’t know if you’re a Rebel, Obliger, Upholder, or Questioner? Take the free, quick quiz here.)
  • how she learned to be a good listener
  • her role as the Culinary Ambassador for the Sweet Home Cafe at the Smithsonian National Museum for African American History and Culture
  • why she doesn’t listen to music in the kitchen—she wants to hear the sounds of cooking

Carla Hall’s Try This at Home: She gave two — 1) Turn the music off in the kitchen, and hear the food. 2) To get rid of a garlic smell on your hands, wash them then run them against a stainless-steel spoon or the faucet. Some interesting points that Carla Hall made:

  • “It’s one thing to break bread together; it’s another thing to make bread together.”
  • [On being a Rebel] “There have been contracts, there have been people that I’ve worked with, and because I felt like they were dictating to me to do something, I think, ‘I don’t want to do it now.’”
  • “You can derail a Rebel: ‘It would have taken me two days. But because you keep asking me and micro-managing me, it’s going to take two months.’”
  • “You can’t just cook with your eyes, with a recipe. You have to cook with your ears, and your nose, and your sense of touch.”
  • “I don’t listen to music in the kitchen. I want to focus on the food. I want to hear the water running, I want to hear the crunch of my vegetables.”
  • “I love the sound of food. I love the sound of the first crunch of popcorn.”

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Despite her announcement that she was going to get back in the habit of pleasure reading, she hasn’t been doing any reading.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: Gold star to the reporters who didn’t have time to sleep during the election coverage.


  • My Happiness Project One-Sentence Journal for Mothers makes a great gift for new mothers or mothers of any age. In a season when many parents are spending more time at home, this journal provides a fun way to keep track of little memories and moments. Visit gretchenrubin.com/shop to purchase. 
  • Speaking of books, if you’re thinking ahead to the holidays and want to give one of my books as a gift, you can request a free, signed bookplate to go with it. 
  • If you listen to Happier (or most other podcasts), you hear the hosts ask listeners to rate and review the show. Why? Listeners respect the views of other listeners, so by rating and reviewing—assuming you have good things to say!—you make other people get interested. Rates and reviews also build buzz around the show. It’s easy to rate and review—once you know what to do. Click here to find step-by-step instructions. Give yourself a gold star if you’ve subscribed, rated, reviewed, or recommended the show. It really is a tremendous help to Elizabeth and me.



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