378: Ideas for Family Traditions, an Accountability Hack for Obligers, and We Reveal Our Book Club Choice

Thanks to everyone who wrote to tell me that my book The Happiness Project makes a brief cameo appearance in the trailer for the new HBO Max movie Father of the Bride. It’s at about :39.  So fun!   

Bookcase with stacks of books
We’re announcing our next Happier Podcast Book Club Choice! It’s The Office BFFs: Tales of The Office from Two Best Friends Who Were There (AmazonBookshop) by Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey. We’ll discuss in upcoming episode 381, airing June 8 in honor of “National Best Friends Day.” In episode 27 of Happier in Hollywood, Elizabeth and Sarah talked to Jenna Fischer about her first book, The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide (AmazonBookshop). Here’s a description of the book:

An intimate, behind-the-scenes, richly illustrated celebration of beloved The Office co-stars Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey’s friendship, and an insiders’ view of Pam Beesly, Angela Martin, and the iconic TV show. Featuring many of their never-before-seen photos. Receptionist Pam Beesly and accountant Angela Martin had very little in common when they toiled together at Scranton’s Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. But, in reality, the two bonded in their very first days on set and, over the nine seasons of the series’ run, built a friendship that transcended the show and continues to this day. Sharing everything from what it was like in the early days as the show struggled to gain traction, to walking their first red carpet—plus exclusive stories on the making of milestone episodes and how their lives changed when they became moms—The Office BFFs is full of the same warm and friendly tone Jenna and Angela have brought to their Office Ladies podcast.

Send in your questions and comments! 

Try This at Home

Design your summer. We’ve followed this try-this-at-home for several years now—most recently, in episode 325. The challenge is mindfully to design your summer, to make sure that you have the summer experience that you want. This idea was initially inspired by writer Robertson Davies:

Every man makes his own summer. The season has no character of its own, unless one is a farmer with a professional concern for the weather. Circumstances have not allowed me to make a good summer for myself this year…My summer has been overcast by my own heaviness of spirit. I have not had any adventures, and adventures are what make a summer.”

—Robertson Davies, “Three Worlds, Three Summers,” The Enthusiasms of Robertson Davies

I mention the Calendar of Catalysts. Elizabeth is planning a Summer of Health. I’m planning a Summer of Re-Reading. Many people want to read more over the summer. If that’s part of your plan, check out the Reading Jump-Start. Also, I’m putting together a list of readers’ favorite beach reads, so send in your favorites. If you need help getting yourself to follow through with your aims for your summer, try the Happier app. It has many different kinds of tools, so you can find the one that works for you and your aim. 

Happiness Hack

For people who need or want extra accountability, use Focusmate. To find out if you’re an Obliger, Questioner, Upholder, or Rebel, take the Four Tendencies quiz here. Elizabeth mentions the Twitter feed of TV writer Jane Espenson, where she organizes writing sprints. 

Deep Dive into Family Traditions

In episode 376, a listener with a new baby asked for suggestions for family traditions or rituals that listeners have established. We heard from many listeners:

  • use the same “Happy Birthday” sign for every birthday
  • every Friday night during the summer, have a campfire in the yard and put out drinks and s’mores ingredients for friends and family
  • take annual pictures of family members in a special place
  • take turns giving gifts rather than receiving them
  • celebrate “month milestones” as well as yearly birthday — every 50 months is about four years
  • on New Year’s Eve, make predictions for the upcoming year and review last year’s predictions — I also mention flying wish paper
  • for the first sports event of the season, have an “Opening Day Dinner”: dress in your fan gear, eat stadium food, watch the game
  • every Mother’s Day, make sure to get a photo of mother and children; same for Father’s Day

We received so many great suggestions that we’re going to do a Part II next week. 

Demerits and Gold Stars

  • Gretchen’s Demerit: Repeat demerit: I’m not looking ahead on my calendar to see what’s coming up for my week.
  • Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth gives a gold star to her old friend and colleague Karine, for joining the writing staff of Fantasy Island and being such a tremendous help. I mention the Get Back documentary about the Beatles.


  • From time to time, I write about “drift.” Drift is the decision we make by not deciding, or by making a decision that unleashes consequences for which we don’t take responsibility. I’m thinking about this issue now, because we’re entering graduation season. Curious to know whether you’re drifting? Take the short quiz. Visit gretchenrubin.com/resources 
  • If you listen to Happier, you hear us 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. Find instructions here. Gold star if you do this!

What we’re reading

  • Elizabeth: The Office BFFs by Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey (AmazonBookshop)
  • Gretchen: Ties by Domenico Starnone (AmazonBookshop)

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