Podcast: The First Episode of “Happier with Gretchen Rubin” — Exciting!

I’m thrilled to announce that...I have a podcast! It’s called “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.” It has been hard to keep this secret, so I’m excited to reveal it at last.

This podcast is one of many launching today on Panoply, a terrific new podcast network.  I’m so excited to be part of it — and in such good company. Other podcasts in the Panoply netwrk come from the New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine/Vulture, The Huffington Post, Inc., Real Simple, Popular Science, Food52,  HBO Documentary Films, and lots of others.  Yowza.

One thing that makes this podcast especially fun is that I’m doing it with my sister the sage, Elizabeth Craft.

When I was asked if I wanted to do a podcast, I thought, “Yes!” but then came the question of, well, what exactly would that podcast be?

As it happens, for years my sister and I have talked about the fact that we should have a radio show or YouTube show together. “It would be so fun! We could discuss all our brilliant musings!” we’d say to each other, but it never seemed possible.

So the minute I started to consider this podcast, I knew: this was the opportunity we’ve been waiting for. And it has been so fun to collaborate with my sister. (By the way, this is a good example of why it’s good to do some pie-in-the-sky dreaming from time to time. That way, you’re more ready for new chances.)

One of the main aims of my happiness projects — in both The Happiness Project and Happier at Home — was to spend more time with my brilliant, hilarious sister, because my relationship with her is one of the most important in my life. And if you read Better Than Before, you’ll discover that my sister is a major figure there — because she is the guinea pig/beneficiary/innocent victim of some of my most determined attempts to shape someone else’s habits. Which succeeded brilliantly in some ways, not so much, in others.

We’ve spent so much (phone) time together working on this podcast, and that will continue. That makes me so happy!

So what will you hear us discuss, 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).

Each week, we give  a “Try This at Home” suggestion, for some easy habit you can try, as part of your ordinary routine, to boost your happiness—something like setting an alarm to signal your bedtime, or using the one-minute rule, to help yourself stay on top of small nagging tasks.

We also suggest questions to help you “Know Yourself Better”—like “Whom do you envy?” and “Are you a Marathoner or a Sprinter in your work style?”—and explore “Happiness Stumbling Blocks,” those small, seemingly insignificant parts of daily life that drag us down—everything from the problem of the Evil Donut-Bringer to the fact that working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination.

We “Grill the Guest,” consider “Listener Questions,” and finally, we get even more personal, and each of us either gives ourselves a “Demerit” for a mistake we made that week, that affected our happiness, or awards a “Gold Star” to someone or something that deserves recognition.

We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much!

Here’s what we discuss in this launch episode:

Try This at Home: The one-minute rule, as a way to keep clutter under control. As noted, I’ve been surprised by the degree to which, for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm.

Know Yourself Better: Are you a satisficer or a maximizer? To read more about this distinction, check out Barry Schwartz’s book, The Paradox of Choice.

Happiness Stumbling Block: The one-coin loophole. You’re trying to keep a habit, but just this once, you’re going to let yourself off the hook. This loophole gets its name from “the argument of the growing heap,” which I learned about in Erasmus’s Praise of Folly.  (I love teaching stories, koans, paradoxes, fables,):

“If ten coins are not enough to make a man rich, what if you add one coin? What if you add another? Finally, you will have to say that no one can be rich unless one coin can make him so.”

There are ten categories of loopholes–all so funny.

Listener Questioner: “Does checking Facebook make people feel happier and more connected, or more lonely and sad?” Elizabeth isn’t even on Facebook; we discuss.

Demerit: I confess that I snuck emailing while talking to my husband on the phone.

Gold Star: Elizabeth gives her treadmill desk a gold star. In Better Than Before, I explain why I gave this gift to her, her very funny reaction, why she loves it so much, etc.  Here’s a photo of it.Elizabeth'sTreadmillDesk

 

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE: Maybe, like me until fairly recently, you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe.

To listen to this episode, just zip to the bottom of this post and hit the red “play” button.

But if you want 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. It’s very easy, really. Really! Instructions here.

Or for an amusing short how-to video made by Ira Glass of This American Life, click here.

If you listen, tell us what you think! Drop us a line at @gretchenrubin, @elizabethcraft, Facebook, podcast@gretchenrubin.com, or call 774-277-9336.

Be sure to subscribe and listen and subscribe on iTunes so you never miss an episode. And if you enjoyed it, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material.

Happy listening! Or I should say, HAPPIER listening!

Secret of Adulthood: Succeed by Failing

From Further Secrets of Adulthood.

I try to see failure as a necessary aspect of success. Which is easier said than done.

For instance, I often remind myself to Enjoy the fun of failure. This catchphrase has made a huge difference to me. I’m very ambitious and want to succeed at everything I try, and that makes me very anxious—which isn’t a creative frame of mind.

Telling myself that I can enjoy the “fun of failure” has made me (somewhat) more light-hearted about taking risks. As G. K. Chesterton wrote, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”

I also tell myself, “If I’m not failing, I’m not trying hard enough.”

I want to see failure as a necessary and acceptable part of a fun, ambitious, creative career. As an Upholder, that can be tough, because when I set out to do something, I really want to met that expectation for myself. So I try to expand my expectations for myself to include failure, as odd as that sounds.

Someone once said to me, “Don’t call it failure! Re-frame it!” At first, I thought that sounded like a good idea, then I realized — no. I don’t want to pretend a failure away; I don’t want to gild it up; I want to acknowledge and even welcome failure.

How about you? How do you think about failure? Can you stretch your definition of success to include failure, so that you can succeed by failing?

One Way To Use Someone Else to Strengthen Your Good Habits

In Better Than Before, my book about habit change, I outline the twenty-one strategies we can use to change our habits.

Don’t be alarmed: twenty-one may seem like a huge number, but it’s actually good — it means that each of us has many options from which to choose. In different situations, at different times, different strategies will be most helpful.

It’s clear, however, that one of the most popular and effective strategies is Accountability. When we know we’re answerable to someone, most of us do a better job with our habits.

For Obligers, the Strategy of Accountability is crucial. Key. Central. Necessary! If you’re an Obliger, external accountability is the element that will allow you to follow through.  And for Rebels, on the other hand, it can actually be counter-productive. Are you an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel? Take this Quiz. More than 53,000 people have taken it.

Because accountability is so important, I’m always looking for new, ingenious ways that people have created accountability — and I’ve noticed that some people create accountability by pulling another person into the process.

In the New York Times, Gina Kolata wrote the article, Doctors Strive to Do Less Harm by Inattentive Care.

The article explains that Dr. Michael Bennick wanted to reduce the number of times that patients were awakened in the middle of the night to get get their blood drawn.  Here’s what he did:

“I told the resident doctors in training: ‘If you are waking patients at 4 in the morning for a blood test, there obviously is a clinical need. So I want to be woken, too, so I can find out what it is.’ No one, he said, ever called him. Those middle-of-the-night blood draws vanished.”

The doctors were in the habit of ordering blood tests in the middle of the night, so they’d have the results when they made rounds in the morning. But when they had to wake up another doctor, as well as a patient, their habits changed.

This reminded me of a writer friend whose book was long overdue. She created a standard email response that said, “Please email only if you have an urgent message.” Despite that word “urgent,” people kept emailing her. So she changed the message, “If you have an urgent message, please email my husband, and he’ll convey it to me.” She gave his email address — but no one used it.

So how could this approach be adapted to other circumstances? I’m trying to think of ways to draw someone else in, as a buffer…maybe:

–you can eat ice cream, but only when your spouse eats it, too

–you can use a device only when your kids are using one, too; many people wish their children spent less time on devices, so this might be a good deterrent.

–before you make a purchase over $50, you have to call your brother and tell him

Can you think of other ways to use a person as a buffer? Somehow I feel like I haven’t quite got the knack of this one, to understand the possibilities. I’m eager to hear your suggestions.

For You, Does Abstaining Give Mastery Over a Pleasure–Or Not?

“It is not abstinence from pleasures that is best, but mastery over them without even being worsted. ”

— Aristippus, quoted in A History of Ancient Philosophy

This reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Samuel Johnson: “All severity that does not tend to increase good, or prevent evil, is idle.”

This issue comes up a lot with the Strategy of Abstaining, when Abstainers and Moderators debate their approach to resisting a strong temptation.

Moderators argue, “Why abstain, why be so absolute, why give up a pleasure altogether?” But for Abstainers — and I say this as an Abstainer myself — abstaining is the way to gain mastery over pleasures. It’s easier to abstain, and it’s a relief.  “Abstinence from a pleasure” not for the sake of abstaining, but because it’s easier.

Are you an Abstainer or a Moderator? Take this Quiz.

In Better Than Before, I have a whole chapter dedicated to the Strategy of Abstaining — but as always, I must emphasize, this is not a strategy that works for everyone! It doesn’t work for Moderators!

And most of us are a mix of both.

How about you? How do you best master your pleasures?

How Laura Ingalls Wilder Got a Rebel To Learn His Lessons

I’m a huge fan of children’s literature (in fact, I’m in three reading groups where we read children’s and young-adult literature), and Laura Ingalls Wilder has always had a special place in my heart.

So I was thrilled when I found out that her book Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, was being published. I raced through the book last week; so fascinating. For instance, it turns out Nellie Olsen was an amalgam of three annoying girls.

I was particularly struck, however, when I read a scene that also appears in These Happy Golden Years. Which I know like the back of my hand, by the way.

Laura is fifteen years old, and teaching school, where one of her pupils is Clarence. He’s older than Laura, very smart; “he was quick in speaking and moving…[and] had a way of speaking that was almost saucy.” He misbehaves occasionally, but the bigger issue is that after the first few days, that he refuses to study, and tells her “It’s no use trying to learn such long lessons.”

Laura is frustrated, because she knows that he could learn the lessons if he tried, but he won’t.

When Laura asks her parents for advice, Ma says, “It’s attention he wants.” Now that I’ve figured out the Four Tendencies, I disagree. I think Ma was nearer the mark when she also observes, “Better not try to make him do anything, because you can’t.” (If you want to read about the Four Tendencies–Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebel, or take the Quiz to determine your own Tendency, go here.)

From the description, I’d say that Clarence is a Rebel. He can’t stand for someone to tell him that he must do something; when he hears this, he resists, even though he’s a smart kid who wants to learn.

But when Laura changes her approach, he changes.

When Laura gives others their assignments, she tell him, “This doesn’t mean you, Clarence; it would make your lesson far too long…How much do you think you can learn? Would three [pages] be too much?”

In this way, she does two things. First, she leaves the choice to Clarence, and gives him freedom. Rebels want to act from choice and freedom.

Second, for Rebels, the impulse “I’ll show you!” is often very strong. They tend to respond to a challenge. When she suggests that he can’t master three pages, he thinks, “I’ll show her.”

The Pioneer Girl version shows this dynamic even more dramatically. There, Laura reports that she said, “‘Is that too long Clarance? Perhaps it is and better take only to here. I really don’t think you could learn so far as I first said,’ and he would exclaim, ‘Oh yes I can teacher.’ He had now gotten to the point where he would add a little more to my first suggestion and learn it too, to prove that he could.”

Within a week, Clarence has caught up to the other pupils.  He studied at night to master the material.

It’s very useful to understand the Four Tendencies, because Rebels — and Upholders, Questioners, and Obligers — really have very different perspectives on the world. If we want to be persuasive, if we want to work and live harmoniously with other people, it’s helpful to understand their ways of seeing things.

Ah, how I love Laura Ingalls Wilder! The end of my book Happier at Home is an homage to her and her brilliant work. Of everything I’ve ever written, I must say, the last few pages of Happier at Home are definitely among my favorites.

Have you ever found a way to communicate with someone — so that a point of conflict vanished? It’s not easy to see the world through someone else’s eyes.