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

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“Really Skillful People Never Get Out of Time, and Are Always Deliberate, and Never Appear Busy.”

Musashi_ts_pic“Speed is not part of the true Way of strategy.  Speed implies that things seem fast or slow, according to whether or not they are in rhythm.  Whatever the Way, the master of strategy does not appear fast….Of course, slowness is bad.  Really skillful people never get out of time, and are always deliberate, and never appear busy.”

–Miyamoto Musashi, A Book of Five Rings

I often think about how to incorporate the quality of “unhurriedness” into my life, and I recall this passage often. If you want to read more about that, check out Happier at Home, chapter on “Time.” (You can read it as a sample chapter here.)

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I'm deep in the writing of my next book, Before and After, about making and breaking habits, and there's nothing more satisfying than reading the success stories of people who have changed a habit. If you have a Before-and-After story of a habit you changed, and you're willing to share it here on the blog, please contact me here. Once a week, I'll post a story. We can all learn from each other.

Why I’m Trying to Explain Less.

speech-bubbleI’m trying to curb a bad tendency in myself–the tendency to explain myself in a tiresome way.

Perhaps it’s my status as an Upholder, but I really hate to let people down, to make a mistake, to screw up. Some people can let small slip-ups slide off easily, but they really bother me. And so whenever I have a justification to explain my lapse, I want to tell people. In great detail. Even if they don’t care.

I finally realized–somehow–how exhausting and irrelevant people must often find this behavior. They don’t want to listen to my long explanation of what happened on the subway, or how I spilled coffee on my laptop, or how I was confused about the address.

Some email exchanges helped me understand this. Whenever this person had to change the time of a meeting, she would provide lengthy explanations about why she needed to make that change. I found this draining and overwhelming. Because so much information was presented, I repeatedly assumed that the information must somehow be significant to me, but it wasn’t. It was irrelevant, and I found it confusing and boring to try to sift through it.

I also sat through a presentation by a lawyer who was clearly enjoying showing off his command of information, but because he was including everything he knew, it wasn’t clear what was relevant to us in the audience. We needed the answers to a very few questions, and he was telling us everything he knew that was slightly related.  I felt dazed.

This behavior really annoyed me, but then I noticed the same tendency in myself. Oh my goodness, I love to explain and give facts, and to justify and defend. And, as Jung observed,  “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” Or in less elegant but catchier terms, “You spot it, you got it.” Well, I got it!

Just today, I was ten minutes late for an appointment. I said, “I’m sorry I’m late,” and had to bite my tongue not to let forth a torrent of unnecessary and boring explanations.

Now I’ve resolved to Explain Less–to tell people what they need and want to know, and not to deluge them with information just because I want to justify myself. How about you? Do you ever have a similar urge?

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

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Story: There’s Something Special about Being A Doctor.

For the weekly videos, I now tell a story. I’ve realized that for me, and I think for many people, a story is what holds my attention and makes a point most powerfully.

This week’s story: There’s something special about being a doctor. I mention that I was talking to medical students about “drift“–the decision you make by not deciding, or by making a decision that unleashes consequences for which you don’t take responsibility. If you want to read more about drift, go here and here.


In the video, I talk about being a doctor–because it was a doctor who made the comment to medical students that started me thinking–but really this point applies to anyone in a healing profession. To help to take away pain, to bring people back to health–there really is something special about that. At least it seems that way to me.

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Do you agree that there’s something special about being able to help heal people?

Find the archives of videos here.  More than 1.5 MILLION views. Don’t forget to subscribe!

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Secret of Adulthood: Things Often Get Messier Before They Get Tidier.

Further Secrets of Adulthood:



This phenomenon can be very frustrating. I spend an hour clearing-clutter, and my apartment looks worse before I started! Moving stuff into the trash, into recycling, or out the door to a thrift store or a friend takes time. I remind myself of this Secret of Adulthood when I’m feeling frustrated.

How about you? Do you find that things often get messier before they get tidier?

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Quiz: Are You a Finisher or an Opener?

toothpaste-gelEvery Wednesday is Tip Day, or Quiz Day.

This Wednesday: Are you a Finisher or an Opener?

I love dividing people into categories. Under-buyers and over-buyers. Eeyores and Tiggers. Abstainers and Moderators. Upholders, Questioners, Rebels, and Obligers.

A thoughtful reader and fellow lover of taxonomies, Dianne Volek, suggested a  new system of categories. Let’s call the two types of people  “Finishers and Openers.”

Do you get more satisfaction from…

  • Throwing away a container or bottle after using the very last drop, or
  • Opening a fresh new container

I’m a Finisher; my husband is an Opener. I love to extract the last tiny bit out of a tube of toothpaste, and he loves opening the new tube. True, I do love that first squeeze, and the first dip into a new jar of peanut butter, but I also enjoy using the very last bit of the old stuff. I feel a real sense of accomplishment when I use the last egg in a carton (as I did this morning).

Perhaps this explains the weird satisfaction I feel when something breaks or is worn out. Why do I like to see the worn spots on our sofa? Why do I like getting a hole in a pair of socks? Perhaps it’s my Finisher nature, delighting in the finish.

When I visited my sister a few weeks ago, I noticed that she had about twenty bottles of hair products in her shower. I suspect she’s an Opener.

I wonder if this is related to the distinction between Simplicity Lovers and Abundance Lovers.

Do these categories ring true for you? Are you a Finisher or an Opener?

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