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

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This Saturday: a happiness quotation from Michael Frayn.

Frayn“The idea of happiness is surely the sun at the centre of our conceptual planetary system – and has proved just as hard to look at directly.” –Michael Frayn

This line is from Michael Frayn’s novel A Landing on the Sun, which is absolutely ESSENTIAL reading on the subject of happiness.

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I'm just about finished writing my next book, Better Than Before, about how we can make and break our habits. If you’d like to hear when the book goes on sale, sign up here.

Have you discovered any Secrets of Adulthood? Here are a few of mine.

CoffeenewsI love taking notes and making lists, so one thing that makes me particularly happy is coming up with my Secrets of Adulthood. I get a big kick out of them.

I’d come up with a few new ones recently, but I hadn’t taken the time to add them to my full list on the left-hand column of the blog, until today.

Here are my latest additions:

People don’t notice your mistakes and flaws as much as you think.

It’s easier to prevent pain than to squelch it. (This is true literally and figuratively.)

Where you start makes a big difference in where you end up.

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. (Okay, Voltaire made that up, not me—it’s one of the most important Secrets of Adulthood.)

It’s nice to have plenty of money. (Note: I don’t say that it’s essential to have plenty of money; also, I do not define “plenty.”)

Most decisions don’t require extensive research.

If you want to talk to someone, stand next to that person while he/she finishes another conversation; in time that person will turn to speak to you.

That last Secret of Adulthood seems a little too specific to be on the list, but I must admit, it’s a secret that I’ve only recently understood and embraced, and it’s made my life much easier. That’s why I posted about it yesterday, too.

Just the other night, at a cocktail party, I stood like a patient lump, until it was my turn to talk to someone to whom I needed to speak.

I said to myself, “It’s okay to stand here, and listen, until it’s my turn.” And it was okay, and I had my turn, and I accomplished what I needed to accomplish, and it was very satisfying.

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New to the Happiness Project? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed: Subscribe to this blog’s feed. Or sign up to get email updates in the box at the top righthand corner.
If you’re starting your own happiness project, please join the Happiness Project Group on Facebook to swap ideas. It’s easy; it’s free.

This Wednesday: Ten tips for asking questions from the audience, plus a bonus Secret of Adulthood.

RaisehandEvery Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: 10 tips for asking questions from the audience, plus a bonus Secret of Adulthood.
(I know, it’s not actually Wednesday–I postponed the tips for one day.)

We’ve all been at panel discussions, large lectures, or big presentations. The Q-and-A period can be the most interesting part, but it sure helps if the audience does a good job of posing questions.

If you make a little effort, you can do a much better job of posing a question. It’s worth keeping in mind that whenever you speak in front of a group, people (speakers and audience) form an impression of you, so it’s a time to try to present yourself well. This is particularly important if you’re in a work environment—you have an opportunity to impress people whom you might not ordinarily meet.

Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re getting ready to ask a speaker a question:

1. Wait for the microphone, if there is one.

2. Pause for silence – don’t talk over a chattering crowd.

3. Don’t make excuses for yourself. This is tiresome and unnecessary.

4. Don’t address speakers by their first names. Some people will disagree with me, I’m sure, but this always strikes me as affected and inappropriately familiar, unless the mood of the presentation is extremely casual.

5. Don’t be long-winded.

6. Plan it out. This will help you avoid being long-winded.

7. Don’t ask double question. Give other people a chance.

8. If appropriate, say a little about yourself. Just a little.

9. Speak up. Nothing’s more frustrating to the audience than not being able to hear a question.

10. Remember: you’ll be happy that you asked a question. I’m one of those people who rarely asks a question at such an occasion. I never spoke in class in law school. But whenever I do participate, I feel more engaged and enjoy myself more. I’m working on speaking up.

Bonus Secret of Adulthood: You know the situation when you’d like to talk to someone who is surrounded by chattering people—whether after a lecture or at a cocktail party? Here’s a Secret of Adulthood: In a group, it’s okay to stand next to a person, and just listen, while that person finishes a conversation, and in time, that person will turn to speak to you. Other people understand this. Other people do this. They won’t think you’re rude, or clueless. Yes, it feels awkward, but it works. (If you need further tips on making conversation, try here.)

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Whenever I go to Guy Kawasaki’s blog, I find something interesting. This time, at his suggestion, I’m off to check out Website Grader.

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New to the Happiness Project? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed: Subscribe to this blog’s feed. Or sign up to get email updates in the box at the top righthand corner.
If you’re starting your own happiness project, please join the Happiness Project Group on Facebook to swap ideas. It’s easy; it’s free.

Yipppppeeeeee! An extremely happy day for me.

Hclogo_2Today has been an extremely happy day for me. Here’s why:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New York, NY (October 3, 2007) HarperCollins has acquired world English rights for THE HAPPINESS PROJECT: My Year Long Quest to be Happier by Changing My Life by bestselling author Gretchen Rubin. The pre-emptive deal was made by Gail Winston, Executive Editor, Harper, and Christy Fletcher of Fletcher & Parry. The book is tentatively scheduled to be published in Winter, 2010.

“Although the question of happiness has been examined by great thinkers and contemporary psychologists, this is a uniquely personal account of how one person actually learned to be happier,” says Winston. “Written with verve, intelligence, and a great sense of humor, this is popular non-fiction at its best.”

I’m thrilled! In celebration, Wednesday Tips will appear tomorrow.

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The indefatigable Ron Hogan wrote about the deal on GalleyCat. Fabulous.

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New to the Happiness Project? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed: Subscribe to this blog’s feed. Or sign up to get email updates in the box at the top righthand corner.
If you’re starting your own happiness project, please join the Happiness Project Group on Facebook to swap ideas. It’s easy; it’s free.

Sex and the City, the movie, comes right to my neighborhood — and brings a little happiness.

SexcityHow fabulous. Some scenes from the Sex and the City movie are being filmed in my neighborhood today.

The special “No Parking” notices went up a few days ago; they coyly said only “Untitled Movie,” but I suspected the movie was Sex and the City. When I came outside this morning, and confronted a fleet of Haddad’s trucks, I asked a woman with an earpiece, “What movie are they filming?”

“I really can’t tell you,” she answered, “but if you live right here, you’ll probably figure it out.”

A little later, I asked a neighborhood authority—a doorman. “Do you know what’s going on? What are they making?”

“Sex and the City,” he answered with customary doorman omniscience.

I’m getting a big kick out of seeing all the hubbub, and I asked myself–why? What happiness buttons are being pushed?

First, though this may sound surprising, it’s always engaging to watch other people at work. How they organize themselves, what the stages of the work are, how the people interact, the tools they use – it’s always interesting. For instance, the big movie trucks always have a set of doors marked “Lucy” and “Desi,” which I assume are bathrooms. But maybe not. Interesting.

Second, it created a nice neighborly feeling. Because other people were curious, I got curious. Like a lemming, or a nervous gazelle, when I saw the crowd of people staring up the block, I had to join them. Then we all chatted together.

Third, seeing the movie being made right near my house gave me a sense of the theatricality of everyday life. Suddenly, the mundane streets that I walk through many times each day seemed glamorous and exotic.

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My friend Marci Alboher just launched a terrific new New York Times blog, Shifting Careers, that highlights new ways of thinking about career choices and work. I was very happy to be included in her debut post, about Getting Happier, in Work and in Life.

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New to the Happiness Project? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed: Subscribe to this blog’s feed. Or sign up to get email updates in the box at the top righthand corner.
If you’re starting your own happiness project, please join the Happiness Project Group on Facebook to swap ideas. It’s easy; it’s free.