My current emphasis: how to make good habits and break bad ones (really)

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Do You Want a Personalized, Signed, Free Bookplate for a Mother’s Day Gift?

HappierAtHomePaperbackI know that many people give Happier at Home and The Happiness Project as Mother’s Day gifts. A trend that I very much appreciate.

If you’d like to make your gift more special and personalized, sign up here, and I’ll send you a bookplate that’s personalized for the recipient and signed by me. Think how happy you’ll be to cross some gift-giving tasks off your list! Feel free to ask for as many as you like, but U.S. and Canada only — so sorry about that.

I can be a little slow, so to make sure that neither of us has to worry about whether you’ll receive the bookplates by Mother’s Day on May 11, request as soon as possible.

If you’re not able to envision what I’m talking about, look here.

If you’re wondering whether Happier at Home would make a good gift for the mother(s) in your life, I will self-promotingly say that it was a New York Times bestseller, and you can…

– read a sample chapter on the subject of “time”

— watch the one-minute book trailer, “Ten ways to be happier at home” (guess which suggestion proved controversial?)

— listen to a sample of the audiobook

— request the one-page book club discussion guide

— read the Behind-the-Scenes extra (I had a great time writing this)

If you’re wondering if The Happiness Project would make a good gift, I can’t resist mentioning: #1 New York Times bestseller, and a bestseller for more than two years. That’s right, TWO.

–  order your copy

check out the gallery of foreign covers; so interesting to see what different countries put on the cover

watch the one-minute book video

listen to a sample of the audiobook

HAHbookplateHere’s what a bookplate looks like, if you’re not sure.

Obviously, I’m happy to sign and personalize a bookplate for you–it doesn’t have to be a gift! Request as many as you want — within reason. Although I’m flattered when people request 100, I can’t send that many. Again, I’m very sorry that because of mailing issues, this is limited to U.S. and Canada.

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I've just finished writing my next book, Better Than Before, about how we can make and break our habits. If you'd like to pre-order the book, click here.

Can You Add to This List of Famous Upholders, Questioners, Rebels, and Obligers?

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

This Wednesday: Can you add to this list of famous Upholders, Questioners, Rebels, and Obligers?

I continue to be preoccupied with refining the framework of the Rubin Tendencies. 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 (my husband is a Questioner)
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike
  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves


To help clarify the categories — and to help us all understand ourselves better — I’m devising a reading list.

I want to provide examples of the Rubin Tendencies from well-known movies, TV shows, and literature, or from memoirs, autobiographies, or biographies.

I just started looking for these examples, and I could use many more suggestions. I highly recommend everything on this list, by the way, even aside from the light they shed on the Tendencies.


–Book: J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter books — the character of Hermione Granger. In particular, her campaign on behalf of house elves in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a good illustration of a classic Upholder looking for the rules beyond the rules.

–Movie: The Bridge on the River Kwai — the character of Nicholson


–No example yet. Help!

Rebel (these are both autobiographical, and I’m sure these two Rebels would be annoyed by the fact that I’ve slotted them into a category):

–Memoir: Geoff Dyer, Out of Sheer Rage

–Magazine article: Elizabeth Wurtzel, “Elizabeth Wurtzel Confronts Her One-Night Stand of a Life,” New York Magazine, January 6, 2013


–Novel: Laurie Colwin, Family Happiness — a brilliant portrait of an Obliger in full Obliger-rebellion

I think — but I’m way behind in watching, so this is very preliminary, and may be disproved by episodes that I haven’t seen yet — that in the TV show Girls, the four characters embody the four Types. What do you think, does this work?

Upholder — Marnie

Questioner — Hannah

Rebel — Jessa

Obliger — Shoshanna

NOTE: I’m using these terms with very specific meanings, so for instance, a person who is doing rebellious things may or not be a Rebel.

As you can see, this list is very preliminary. So your suggestions are most welcome.

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Story: It’s Better to Persuade People Than to Bully Them.

This week’s video story: It’s better to persuade people than to bully them — courtesy of Aesop. I love teaching stories, and there’s no one better than Aesop.   I love the beautiful illustrations in the book that I’m holding. You can look at it yourself here. What’s your favorite fable by Aesop? Can’t see the video? Click here. Find the archives of videos here.  More than TWO MILLION views. Don’t forget to subscribe! If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here.

What Are Your Treats? Do You Have Any That Don’t Look Like Treats?

shovelsI’ve asked this question before, but I’m asking again, because I find it so fascinating: Do you have any “treats” that don’t look like treats? What are your treats?

In my forthcoming book, Before and After, about how we make and break habits — really — I identify a bunch of strategies we can use to change our habits. Perhaps the most delightful one is the Strategy of Treats. (To be notified when the book is available for pre-order, sign up here.)

What exactly counts as a “treat?” A treat is different from a reward, which must be justified or earned. A treat is a small pleasure or indulgence that we give to ourselves just because we want it.

Treats give us greater vitality, which boosts self-control, which helps us maintain our healthy habits. When we give ourselves treats, we feel energized, cared for, and contented, which in turn boosts self-command. When we don’t get any treats, we feel depleted, resentful, and angry, and we feel justified in self-indulgence. We start to crave comfort—and  grab that comfort wherever we can, even if it means breaking good habits. “I deserve this, I’ve earned this, I need this”…Loophole-Seeking!

I embrace treats but I’m also very wary of treats. Treats help us feel energized, appreciated, and enthusiastic–but very often, the things we choose as “treats” aren’t good for us. The pleasure lasts a minute, but then feelings of guilt, loss of control, and other negative consequences just deepen the lousiness of the day. An extra glass of wine, an extra brownie, an impulse purchase…

As I’ve thought more about treats, and tried to lengthen my list of healthy treats, I’ve been surprised to realize that many treats don’t look like treats.

Someone was telling me the other day that she loves to do laundry. Go figure. Someone else told me that he loves to make travel arrangements.

It dawned on me yesterday that one of my unconventional treats is clearing clutter. Some kind of clutter is difficult–letting go of things with sentimental value, sifting through papers–but some clutter I find very refreshing to clear. I drive my daughters nuts because I’m always wandering into their rooms to clear clutter.  (It’s a lot easier to clear other people’s clutter than my own clutter.)

Again, I realize the importance of the Fifth Splendid Truth about happiness: I can build a happy life only on the foundation of my own nature. Which means that I must recognize the truth about myself. Be Gretchen. And go clear some closets.

How about you? Do you have any treats that most people wouldn’t consider a treat? What are your treats?

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“I Have Only a Few Reasons to Keep on Running, and a Truckload of Them to Quit.”

Murakami1_2677991b“If I used being busy as an excuse not to run, I’d never run again. I have only a few reasons to keep on running, and a truckload of them to quit.”

–Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

I’m editing my draft of Before and After, and although I love this quotation, alas, it just hit the cutting-room floor. I’m consoling myself by posting it here. (I include a lot of quotations in my books, and at a certain point, it can just be too much. Plus I have another Murakami quotation.)

This quotation was cut from one of my very favorite chapters, about the Strategy of Loophole-Spotting. As Murakami  points out, there are truckloads of loopholes, in ten categories.

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