Podcast 74: Choose the Quote for Your Yearbook Page, Use the Strategy of Pairing, and Some Thoughts about the Four Tendencies.

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Update: If you want to take the Four Tendencies quiz, it’s here, to find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel. What would be some good questions to pose to children, to help identify their Tendencies?

Try This at Home: Pick your “yearbook quote.” What quote would you choose? Among others mentioned, Elizabeth’s quotation comes from Kurt Vonnegut’s Welcome to the Monkey House. Let us know: what quote would you choose?

If you want to sign up for the “Moment of Happiness,” my free daily email newsletter with a terrific quotation, sign up here.

Better Than Before Habit Strategy: The Strategy of Pairing is one of the simplest — and for many people, one of the most effective — of the 21 strategies of habit change that I identify in Better Than Before.

Listener Question: Laura asks, “Elizabeth and Gretchen, what are the Tendencies of your parents?” Interesting question. Again, if you want to take the Four Tendencies quiz, it’s here

Gretchen’s Demerit: I’m kicking myself for not realizing that Eleanor won’t have a way to take photos at summer camp — they have a strict no-cell-phone policy.

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth gives a gold star to her writing partner Sarah for encouraging her to go to the Podcast Movement conference.

Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page about the podcast. To join the conversation, tune in Tuesdays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

Sign up for The Great Courses Plus today and you’ll get unlimited access to thousands of fascinating lectures taught by top professors and experts in their fields. Special offer for our listeners: try it for free when you sign up at www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/happier.

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Happier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #74

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Want to Write Better? 21 Reminders about the Elements of Good Style.

Whether you write all the time, or only occasionally, you’ve probably thought about how to write better.

One of the best books about writing is The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., and E. B. White. It has been in print for forty years.

I don’t know anything about Strunk, but I’m a huge fan of the writing of E. B. White.  I love his children’s books of course — masterpieces like Charlotte’s Web and The Trumpet of the Swan — and I also love his brilliant essays, like Here Is New York, and the Letters of E. B. White.

So I pay close attention to whatever he says about style.

The reminders from The Elements of Style include:

 

  1. Place yourself in the background. Zoikes, so I don’t adhere to this element. Not an auspicious start.
  2. Write in a way that comes naturally. Phew, I do better with this one.
  3. Work from a suitable design. I couldn’t agree more. Structure is the most important element. Whenever I write a book, a blog post, a podcast episode, the first issue is the structure.
  4. Write with nouns and verbs. It sounds so easy, right? But as we all know from reading, many people don’t grasp this principle.
  5. Revise and rewrite. Re-writing is my favorite kind of writing.
  6. Do not overwrite.
  7. Don’t overstate. This reminder is literally a life-saver.
  8. Avoid the use of qualifiers. Sometime, it seems, they’re a little unnecessary.
  9. Do not affect a breezy manner.
  10. Use orthodox spelling. I’m still standing against “donut.”
  11. Do not explain too much. My editors and I often disagree about this one.  They want me to explain at more length, and I think that what I’ve said is perfectly clear and doesn’t need further explanation. Nice to know I have Strunk & White on my side.
  12. Do not construct awkward adverbs.
  13. Make sure the reader knows who is speaking.  Wolf Hall, anyone?
  14. Avoid fancy words. This is tough for me. How I love fancy words. But they’re right, better to use the simple, direct words. I learned this from studying Winston Churchill’s speeches.
  15. Do not use dialect unless your ear is good.  Sidenote: I love Flannery O’Connor’s use of dialect.
  16. Be clear.
  17. Do not inject opinion. I think that sometimes opinion is acceptable.
  18. Use figures of speech sparingly. Yes! It’s a sign of cliche!
  19. Do not take shortcuts at the cost of clarity.
  20. Avoid foreign languages.
  21. Prefer the standard to the offbeat.

Which elements do you think are most important? I would say #16, #3, #4.

 

If you want to read more books about writing, here are My 5 favorite books about writing.  What books have I overlooked?

A Little Happier: We Can’t Spare Our Children Normal Social Pain.

I have a few favorite parenting books that I’ve read and re-read, books such as Faber and Mazlish’s How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk and Siblings Without Rivalry; Schulman and Birnbaum’s Practical Wisdom for Parents; and Thompson’s Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children.

In today’s Little Happier (scroll down and click to listen), I talk about a truth from Michael Thompson’s book Mom, They’re Teasing Me: Helping Your Child Solve Social Problems that I find both sad and reassuring: we can’t spare our children normal social pain.

Sidenote: One thing I’ve learned is that advice that’s great for children usually applies equally well for adults. I apply most of what I’ve learned from these books to my adult relationships, with equal success. For instance, when I was researching habits for Better Than Before, I did a fair amount of research on the design of pre-school and kindergarten routines.

Want to get in touch? I love hearing from listeners:

 

Happier listening!

Is There One “Best” Type of Temperament? Or Tendency?

“Temperament does not predestine one man to sanctity and another to reprobation. All temperaments can serve as the material for ruin or for salvation…It does not matter how poor or how difficult a temperament we may be endowed with. If we make good use of what we have, if we make it serve our good desires, we can do better than another who merely serves his temperament instead of making it serve him.”

–Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

This passage from Merton caught my attention, because of my Four Tendencies framework for personality.

In that framework, I divide all of humanity into four types: Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebel. (Want to find out what you are? The Quiz is here. Almost 500,000 people have taken it.)

People often ask me questions like, “What’s the best Tendency?” “Which Tendency tends to be the most successful?” “Which Tendency has the happiest people?”

And I always answer, “There’s no best Tendency.  Each Tendency includes people who are happy and unhappy, and successful and unsuccessful. What matters is that each of us harnesses the strengths of our Tendency and shores up the weaknesses, so we can have the life we want.”

Which is what Merton is talking about: “If we make good use of what we have, if we make it serve our good desires, we can do better than another who merely serves his temperament instead of making it serve him.”

Merton was a Rebel, by the way. In the book that I’m writing about the Four Tendencies,  I discuss his Rebeldom. It’s fascinating. A Trappist monk, and a Rebel. It’s not as surprising as you might expect.

(One of the great pleasures of my life is to pursue my minor obsessions. Some of these minor obsessions include color, the sense of smell, pain, and also Thomas Merton. I’ve read a lot about Thomas Merton.)

Do you feel that you’re able to make good use of your temperament? It’s a great challenge–maybe the greatest challenge of our lives.

Episode 73: Get Rid of Something Useless, What to Do When Everything “Turns to Ashes”–and Something Beautiful for Free.

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Update: We’ve heard from so many people about their signature colors, from episode 71; we’re going to do a Deep Dive soon. And despite her screaming, Elizabeth has now successfully ordered fabric for their banquette.

Try This at Home: Get rid of something as soon as it becomes useless. Harder than it sounds! Elizabeth mentions Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Happiness Stumbling Block: How to cope when everything “turns to ashes” (as it did, for Elizabeth).

Listener Question: Whitney asked about what to do about the fact that her very loving mother-in-law has given her a diaper bag that she doesn’t want.

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth has delayed going to the doctor for too long. We talk about the Four Tendencies framework — if you want to read more about it, look here.

 Gretchen’s Gold Star: I give a gold star to the New York Public Library’s collection of digital images that are in the public domain. Free to share and reuse. Beautiful, amazing! What a treasure trove! The beautiful collection I mention — Plante et Ses Applications Ornamentales — is here.

Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page about the podcast. To join the conversation, tune in Tuesdays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

If you want to take the Four Tendencies quiz, it’s here.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

Sign up for The Great Courses Plus today and you’ll get unlimited access to thousands of fascinating lectures taught by top professors and experts in their fields. Special offer for our listeners: Get One Month Free when you sign up at www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/happier.

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Happier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #73

We love hearing from listeners:

 

To sign up for my free monthly newsletter, text me at 66866 and enter the word (surprise) “happier.“ Or click here.

If you enjoyed the podcast, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Click here to tell your friends on Twitter.

Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

How to Subscribe

If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really.  To listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen toHappier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much.

HAPPIER listening!