345: Escape from Zombie Mode, Help People Say “No,” and What Do You Want to Be Known For?


For all you Super-Fans, thank you for your enthusiasm and support! And if you want to volunteer as super-fan, you can join here. I have many exciting things coming, so join by October 31 so you don’t miss anything.

Thanks, too, to everyone who has written us nice notes about the new items in the shop. The next choice for the Happier Podcast Book Club is Kate Bowler’s memoir, No Cure…(AmazonBookshop). We can’t wait to talk to Kate about this brilliant book.

Try This at Home

Escape from Zombie Mode.

In episode 342, Elizabeth gave herself a demerit for falling into zombie mode, and instead of doing something restorative, like reading a book or going on a hike, she just sat on a sofa and played games on her phone.

So many listeners had suggestions for escaping Zombie Mode.

  • spending time in nature
  • get lots of sleep–here are 14 tips for better sleep
  • act like a zombie, to help laugh at yourself
  • give yourself permission to enter Zombie Mode occasionally–a suggestion that reminded me of this passage from the extraordinarily productive Anthony Trollope:

The playing of whist before dinner has…become a habit with me…I have sometimes felt sore with myself for this persistency, feeling that I was making myself a slave to an amusement which has not after all very much to recommend it. I have often thought that I would break myself away from it, and ‘swear off’….[N]ow, as I think of it coolly, I do not know but that I have been right to cling to it. 
Anthony Trollope, An Autobiography (AmazonBookshop)

  • go for a walk in whatever you’re already wearing; wash one large item; start a load of laundry; keep a list of small tasks that you then tackle in Zombie Mode
  • tap into a different identity

Happiness Hack

To give people a true “out” when asking them for something, suggest an actual excuse they might give you. The excuse you give them must be:

  • tangible,
  • possibly true, and
  • not self-deprecating

Know Yourself Better

The brilliant Crystal Ellefsen is a poet, fiction writer, entrepreneur, and marketing consultant for authors. Her primary business since 2014 has been Consulting for Authors. 

Liz, Gretchen, and Crystal from September 2017 at the Happier meet-up in Los Angeles.

Screenshot of Gretchen and Liz interviewing Crystal Ellefsen
Crystal’s know-yourself-better question: What are the five things you want to be known for?

  1. Write down everything that you’re known for—skills, personality traits, hobbies, strengths, interests, etc.
  2. Identify themes and items that can be grouped together
  3. Circle the five items that you most want to be known for, to give you focus in how you present yourself
  4. Add spokes to each circle with different ideas related to those five things, to give you clarity or content ideas
  5. Allow the list to evolve
  6. You can also make a list of things you don’t want to be known for

Crystal’s Build Your Author Platform is a roadmap for authentic author marketing on the internet in eight video lessons. At the end of the course, you will have an in-depth six-month Author Platform Strategy. Visit and use promo code HAPPIER to get 50% off Build Your Author Platform.

Crystal offers a free PDF to help you brainstorm around your “five things.”

Gold Stars & Demerits

Gretchen Demerit: I can’t figure out what to do about the arms of my office chair, where the material is flaking off. But wait, maybe I did figure something out!

Gretchen's office chair arms

Elizabeth Gold Star: Adam gets a gold star for replacing all the worn-out parts of Jack’s trampoline.


  • Subscribe to the Happiness Project email list to get tips, tools, and insights for your own Happiness Project–delivered to your inbox weekly.
  • If you listen to Happier (or 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. It’s easy to rate and review—once you know what to do.

What we’re reading

  • Elizabeth: Listening to Heads in Bed: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality by Jacob Tomsky (AmazonBookshop)
  • Gretchen: Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf (AmazonBookshop)




Like what you see? Explore more about this topic.

Subscribe to Gretchen’s newsletter.

Every Friday, Gretchen Rubin shares 5 things that are making her happier, asks readers and listeners questions, and includes exclusive updates and behind-the-scenes material.