Revealed! Book Club Choices for October.

Because nothing boosts happiness more than a great book, each month, I suggest:

· one outstanding book about happiness or habits

· one outstanding work of children’s or young-adult literature–I have a crazy passion for kidlit

· one eccentric pick–a widely admired and excellent book that I love, yes, but one that may not appeal to everyone

Shop at the wonderful Brooklyn indie WORD, BN.com, Amazon (I’m an affiliate of all three), or your favorite local bookstore. Or visit the library! Drumroll…

An outstanding book about happiness or habits:

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion.

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon.

An outstanding children’s book:

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon.

An eccentric pick:

Open by Andre Agassi

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon.

Some readers have said that they wished that I’d describe and make the case for my book choices, instead of just providing links.

I’ve noticed that many times, when someone describes a book to me, I want to read it less. And often, weirdly, the better a book is, the worse it sounds.

Nevertheless, because so many readers have requested it, I’ve decided to give a bit more context for these choices in the book-club newsletter. So if you’d like to know more about why I made these selections, check there. To get that free monthly book-club newsletter, and to make sure you don’ t miss any recommendations, sign up here.

In any event, I assure you that, for all the books I choose, I love them; I’ve read them at least twice if not many times; and they’re widely admired.

If you read last month’s recommendations…what did you think? Organizing from the Inside Out; Ballet Shoes; Cloud Atlas.

Also, in book-related news, I can’t help mentioning that Better Than Before, my book about how we change our habits, is now available for pre-order. If you’re inclined to buy it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d pre-order.

Pre-orders build support for a book, by creating buzz among booksellers, the media, and the publisher. Pre-orders really matterBuy from your favorite indie (Rainy Day Books is my fabulous hometown indie), tell your library you’d like to read it, or go here: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, iBooks.

End of commercial. Happy October, and happy reading.

New! You Can Get All Five 21 Day Projects in One Bargain PDF.

I’ve been thrilled — and I must admit, astonished — by the popularity of my 21 Day Projects.

I created these because, over the years, I kept hearing the same issues coming up again and again, as people talked about their happiness challenges. Fighting a never-ending battle with clutter.  Feeling drained by someone else’s difficult nature. Feeling bad about yelling at your kids too much. Being out of touch with yourself.

In response, I created four “21 Day Projects” for you to follow, if you want to tackle one of these challenges. I collected ideas in a form that makes it easier for people to remember and follow various connected resolutions on these particular themes.

In just 21 days, I believe, it really is possible to take many small, concrete steps to make your life happier. And don’t worry, none of these proposed resolutions take much time or energy—because no one has much time or energy to spare.

When I created these, however, I wasn’t sure if people would want them, so it has been very exciting to see how many people have signed up.

Curious about which topic is most popular? Know Myself Better is in the lead, and it has been from the beginning (which I did not predict). De-clutter My Life, Cope Better with Difficult People, and Quit Yelling at My Kids jump around in position.

Each 21-Day Project is $4.99, and delivers a new email from me, every day for three weeks, with ideas and suggestions for you to explore in your own life.

If you’d like to experiment with this approach for free, you can sign up for the 21 Day Relationship Challenge.

NEW and IMPROVED: Now, in addition to the individual 21 Day Projects, you can buy the 21 Day Project Omnibus. People kept asking for something like this, to use as a reference or to get all the emails at once, so here it is. (Also, I’ve always loved the word “omnibus” to got a real kick from getting to use it.)

The Omnibus is a PDF that allows you to buy all five Projects at once in a single document, and to read it on a device or to print it out. The Omnibus is a bargain: $11.99 instead of $19.96.

I hope you find these 21 Day Projects useful as you pursue your own happiness project.

If you enjoy the Projects, you may also enjoy my books The Happiness Project and Happier at Home.

If you have trouble turning any of the proposed ideas into permanent habits, just wait until my next book comes out, in March. In Better Than Before, I examine all the strategies we can use to change our habits. For real. To hear when it becomes available, sign up here.

“It Is Easy To Be Heavy: Hard To Be Light.”

“It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.”

–G. K. Chesterton, “The Eternal Revolution,” in The Everyman Chesterton

Agree, disagree? This idea haunted me as I was writing The Happiness Project. It seemed relevant to everything.

Video: For Habits, the Strategy of Convenience.

I’m doing a video series in which I discuss the various strategies that we can use for habit-formation.

Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life, and a significant element of happiness. If we have habits that work for us, we’re much more likely to be happy, healthy, productive, and creative. My forthcoming book, Better Than Before, describes the multiple strategies we can exploit to change our habits. To hear when it goes on sale, sign up here.

Today, I’m talking about the Strategy of Convenience. This is one of the most powerful, straightforward, and popular strategies of habit change.

People often ask me, “What surprises you most about habits?” One thing that continually astonishes me is the degree to which we’re influenced by sheer convenience. The amount of effort, time, or decision making required by an action has a huge influence on habit formation. To a truly remarkable extent, we’re more likely to do something if it’s convenient, and less likely if it’s not. For instance, here are 8 reasons why convenience can interfere with exercise.

 

We should pay close attention to the convenience of any activity we want to make into a habit. Putting a wastebasket next to our front door made mail sorting slightly more convenient, and I stopped procrastinating with this chore. Many people report that they do a much better job of forming the habit of staying close to distant family members now that tools like Facebook, Skype, FaceTime, and group chats make it easy to stay in touch.

It’s a Secret of Adulthood for Habits: Make it easy to go right, and hard to go wrong.

Questioners, What Questions Do You Ask About Your Habits?

Every Wednesday is List Day, or Quiz Day, or Tip Day.

I posted the other day about “Are you a people-pleaser?” This question is related to the  Four Tendencies framework, which I develop in Better Than Before, my book on habit change. (To hear when it goes on sale, sign up here.)

A key piece of self-knowledge — which is crucial to habit change — is “What is your ‘Tendency?”  That is: How do you respond to expectations?

-outer expectations (meet a deadline, perform a “request” from a sweetheart, follow traffic regulations)

-inner expectations (write a novel in your free time, keep a New Year’s resolution, start flossing)

Your response to expectations may sound slightly obscure, but it turns out to be very, very important.

In a nutshell:

  • Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations (I’m an Upholder, 100%)
  • Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense, so they make everything an inner expectation
  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike

 

I gave a talk at LinkedIn about the Four Tendencies, so if you’d like to see me discuss each category in  a video, you can watch: for Upholders, watch here; Questioners, here; Obligers, here, and Rebels, here.

I’m always trying to deepen my understanding of how the Tendencies play out. So over the past week, I’ve been posing some questions. One day, I focused on Rebels.

Today’s questions relate to the Questioner Tendency.

I have a lot of exposure to this Tendency, because my husband is a Questioner.

Being married to a Questioner is helpful to me, because as an Upholder, my instinct is to meet an expectation without questioning it too closely. My husband always questions an expectation before he’ll do it, and I’ve learned to question more myself. This Tendency saves him a lot of work. Sometimes I admire it, sometimes it drives me crazy.

Last night, I pointed to two small drawings hanging on the wall, and said, “Can you please switch these two?”

He said, “Why can’t you?” He didn’t mean it in a bad way, but just — why can’t you do it?

I gave him a look. As an Upholder, I must confess, this response annoys me. I don’t ask him to do much, and when I do ask him to do something, I have my reasons, and I don’t feel like I should have to justify at length every single request. But that’s what a Questioner wants! Explanations, justifications.

I’m making a list of the questions that Questioners pose, before they meet an expectation. Forming a habit is a form of expectation (whether self-imposed or other-imposed), so to form a habit successfully, Questioners need to have their questions answered. They often ask:

Why should I listen to you? (This question isn’t meant in a snarky way, but literally.) What’s your expertise? A friend told me, “When my son broke his arm, I interviewed four doctors. My husband thought I was crazy, but I can’t listen to a doctor unless I have complete trust.”

–Why should I have to do this, instead of someone else? My husband and household habits. Questioners are great at delegating, unless they think that no one else can do something.

–Where can I get more information? Questioners love information and research. In fact, they sometimes complain of “analysis paralysis”; they want more and more information.

–How can I tweak this habit to suit my individual needs?

–Isn’t there a better way to structure this habit? Questioners like to find better ways to do things.

–What problems has everyone else overlooked, that I can identify? Questioners are good at spotting error.

Questioners, what other questions do you find yourself asking? Questioner-observers, what do you get asked? Does this list ring true?

Do you find questioning helpful, or does it become tiresome at some points?

What am I missing?