364: Use the “Calendar of Catalysts,” How to Work Joyfully for Change, and a Great Gift for Booklovers

Try This At Home

Use the “Calendar of Catalysts.” We’re big fans of any reminder to stop to consider what changes could make our lives happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative—whether that prompt comes from the New Year, a milestone birthday, Valentine’s Day, or official “days” like “Earth Day.” Some people (Questioners!) often object to using a date like January 1, because they consider the date arbitrary. It’s true, it is arbitrary—and why wait? Now is always the best time to begin. 

Nevertheless, external dates can be valuable reminders to reflect. In the tumult of everyday life, it’s hard to remember to step back, reflect, and think about what changes we’d like to make. As I write about in Better Than Before, the “clean slate” is powerful—when we feel like we have a fresh start, it helps us spur us on. For that reason, I’m creating a Calendar of Catalysts—a menu of dates to use as reminders to stop,  evaluate, and plan. Dates below are for 2022; some will change slightly for different years. Reverse the solstices and change the seasons to suit your hemisphere. There are several months that lack a catalyst day—have any suggestions to add?

January 1New Year’s Day is one of the most popular time to reflect. It’s also the start of the first quarter of the year, Q1.

February 15—this day might be called this “Discouragement Day,” because research suggests that by this point, most people have abandoned their New Year’s resolutions.

But if you’re wisely using this date as a catalyst to take stock at your progress (or lack of progress) on a new habit, call it “Determination Day.” Much better!

March 4—March Forth” to new, better habits.

March 20—First day of spring and spring equinox (day and night are of most equal length)

April 1—first day of Q2


June 21—First day of summer and the summer solstice (the day with the most sunlight for the year)

July 1—First day of Q3.

July 2Halfway Day—it’s the 183rd day of the year, so it marks the halfway point.

In Chuck Palahniuk’s essay “The People Can,” in his collection Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories (AmazonBookshop) Palahniuk wrote about time he spent on a submarine. He noted:

Before departure, the family of each man on board gives Chief of Boat Ken Biller a shoe-box-sized package, and on the night that marks the halfway point in the patrol, called Halfway Night, Biller distributes the boxes.

I loved learning about this custom, and think it’s a great idea to celebrate the halfway point of any major undertaking.


September 6La Rentrée Day — In the United States, Labor Day (in 2022, September 5) marks the official end of the summer season, and the day after Labor Day signals the start of the new season.

In France, people use la rentrée to refer to the “re-entry” to school and work after the summer holidays. They don’t have an exact date for la rentrée, but in the United States, the day after Labor Day is the traditional re-entry day. That’s why September is the other January.

September 22First day of fall and the fall equinox (day and night are of most equal length)

October 1—start of Q4


December 21First day of winter and the winter solstice (day with the most darkness for the year)

A few notes about the Calendar of Catalysts: Choose the dates that resonate most with you. For instance…

  • if nature is very important to you, you might want to use the summer solstice as your catalyst, because that natural cycle is appealing
  • if you have a whimsical bent, you might embrace the pun of “March Fourth”
  • if you’re business-inclined, using Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4 might feel right

This kind of personal association may be particularly important for Questioners and Rebels.

  • Questioners resist anything that feels arbitrary, and a date like January 1 often feels arbitrary to them. They do better when they pick a date that feels justified—or they may just start right away, which is always an excellent time to start!
  • Rebels want to live up to their identity, so might benefit from starting on a date that feels particularly suited to a particular identity

(Don’t know if you’re a Questioner, Rebel—or Upholder or Obliger? Take the free, quick quiz here.)

On the day that you’ve chosen as your catalyst for change, you might also consider adding some ritual to mark your determination. Maybe you write down the habit you want to break and burn the paper. Maybe you empty a shelf to hold all books you’re going to read, going forward. Maybe you keep your calendar free for the entire morning of your catalyst day, so you can reflect and plan. Check out Better Than Before, my book about habit change, and in particular, the chapters on the Strategy of First Steps , the Strategy of the Clean Slate, and the Strategy of Identity. 

Happiness Hack

I love this box of “Bibliophile Notes” – great note cards for book-lovers.  

Selfie of Gretchen with Bibliophile Notes

In episode 361, we talked about how Tuesday, February 22, 2022,  is a great day to celebrate the minor holiday of “Twos-day” with someone who’s part of an important twosome with you. For Twos-Day, I sent Elizabeth two gifts. First, I sent the silly — but very Twos-Day appropriate gift — of a tutu for her dog Nacho.  

Elizabeth's two corgies

I also sent her a Memento Keepsake Journal – that was her “real” gift. 


Karen Walrond is a writer, photographer, and an activism and leadership coach. She wrote the bestselling book The Beauty of Different: Observations of a Confident Misfit (AmazonBookshop) and now she has a new book. The Lightmaker’s Manifesto: How to Work for Change Without Losing Your Joy (AmazonBookshop) helps us identify the skills, gifts, values, and actions that bring us joy; pinpoint the causes that spark our empathy and concern; and put it all together to change the world.

Screenshot of Happier interview with Karen Walrond

We talked about:

  • How, back in 2017, when Hurricane Harvey struck Houston, Karen and her family were hit very hard; that experience ultimately led her to write this book
  • How and why Karen wrote her manifesto
  • The title of the book is “Lightmaker’s Manifesto” and it’s divided into four light-making sections: Clearing; Tinder; Spark; and Fire and Light. Karen describes each of these steps, and what role they play in activism — for instance, anger can be a valuable spark, but it’s not a fuel
  • How we can work for change in a way that prevents us from burning out


Karen Walrond’s Try This at Home: Karen suggests that for 21 days, in a journal, people write the answers to three questions:

  • how can I feel connected today?
  • how can I feel healthy today?
  • how can I feel purposeful today — how can I help give back?

At the end of 21 days, look back, reflect on your responses, and see how you can “make light” yourself. 

Demerits & Gold Stars

Elizabeth’s Demerit: She hasn’t restarted her monthly mahjong game.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: I give a gold star to everyone who has decided that holiday cards don’t need to arrive by any particular date. Much less stressful, and just as much as fun.


I’m creating a series of “jump-starts” based on people’s actual responses to the question, “What are you working on in 2022?” The first jump-start is for Movement. Each jump-start will offer several tools, so you can choose what works for you, to give you a boost of energy. Or use them all:

  • a free SMS challenge – for seven days, you’ll get a prompt to remind you to move and to reflect on ways to build movement into your daily routine
  • a free PDF worksheet to help you know yourself better and customize your routine so it works for you
  • tips for using the Happier app to keep your habits more easily and effectively
  • conversations on Instagram Live to discuss questions, swap tips, and get encouragement
  • suggestions for beautiful tools that could make your habit easier or more pleasant to keep

Visit the Jump-start page

What we’re reading

  • Elizabeth: Listening to Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead (AmazonBookshop)
  • Gretchen: Reading Deaf Utopia: A Memoir–and a Love Letter to a Way of Live by Nyle DiMarco (AmazonBookshop)

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