Want Personalized Bookplates for Holiday Gifts? Don’t Delay!

Many people give Happier at Home and The Happiness Project as holiday 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 (as shown in the photo). Think how happy you’ll be to cross some gift-giving tasks off your list! 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 in time, request as soon as possible.

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

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

If you’re wondering whether Happier at Home would make a good gift, it was also 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)

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.

A Surprising Way to Feel Better About Yourself. Have You Tried It?

Over the weekend, I read Christopher Isherwood’s memoir, My Guru and His Disciple. It’s an account of Isherwood’s relationship with Swami Prabhavananda, the Hindu monk who was his spiritual mentor and friend for more than thirty years. (The photo shows Swami Prabhavananda on the left, Isherwood on the right, and Aldous Huxley between them.)

I was surprised to learn that Christopher Isherwood — who’s perhaps best known for The Berlin Stories, which was the basis for Cabaret — lived for years in Swami Prabhavananda’s monastery in Los Angeles, and considered becoming a monk himself.

The book is interesting for many reasons, but I was particularly struck by Isherwood’s passing remark, of his cigarette smoking: “I had given up the habit with difficulty in 1941, because I was upset about my parting from Vernon and wanted to raise my morale by asserting my willpower.”

I was fascinated by this brief remark. He wanted to raise his morale by asserting his willpower.

We usually think of an effort like quitting smoking as something that’s demanding, draining, a big drag. And it is, of course.

But it’s also interesting to see that an effort like that is also a morale-booster. And it’s true: whenever we ask something of ourselves, and follow through, we get a big boost in our sense of “self-efficacy,” our sense of control over ourselves.

One thing that has surprised me, in my work life, is that sometimes, when I’m feeling very overloaded, I feel better when I tackle something big and new. There’s an energy and excitement that comes from a new challenge.

Although it’s always tempting to think, “I’m doing too much, I’m so stressed out, I can’t ask this of myself, I need to cut back.” But it may be that asking more of ourselves will actually make us feel more competent, more energized, and less stressed.

Surprising, but true.

Have you ever got a big morale-boost by quitting smoking, quitting sugar, starting an exercise routine, or the like? Or tackling some huge undertaking?

“The Sweetest Things Become the Most Bitter by Excess.” Examples?

“The sweetest things become the most bitter by excess.”

–Democritus

Do you agree — and if so, can you think of examples? I’d suggest: technology, ambition, sugar, TV, habit (I consider habit a “sweet thing,” though of course not everyone agrees).

Maybe…generosity, sometimes. I’ll have to think about that.

Why This New Idea for a Book Group Is So Smart.

When I was in Kansas City a few weeks ago for my high school reunion, I heard a great idea for a book group.

A guy who had moved away from Kansas City had committed to coming home every six weeks or so, to spend time with his parents, who weren’t in great health. (I don’t remember his name, so call him John.)

Some friends who still lived in Kansas City decided to form a “pop-up book group.” They’re a book group that meets only when John comes to town.

I think this is a great idea, for many reasons.

First, I’m a big believer in forming groups as a way to stay closer to friends. It may sound strange to talk about efficiency and friendship, but friendships take time, and most of us don’t have much time. By meeting in a group, you see several friends at once; you cut down on time spent coordinating when to get together; if you miss one meeting, you’ll see everyone the next time.

Second, I’m sure it makes it much more fun for John to visit home. He sees friends, he feels part of the life of Kansas City. That little bit of fun may make it much easier for him to stick to his commitment to visit his parents, over the long run. As my Habits Manifesto argues, “When we give more to ourselves, we can ask more from ourselves.”

Third, I suspect that his parents may also enjoy his involvement in the group. It’s a little less time that he spends with them, true, but he hears news about what people are doing; he has his own independent life in Kansas City, he’s not just a constant visitor. It’s probably more fun to be around him.

Fourth, this is a very nice thing to do for a friend. I’m sure it makes John feel happy that they built the pop-up book group around him, and I’m sure it makes the members of the group feel happy, too.  Few things make us happier than the good we do for other people.

This group happened to form around books. I’m a huge fan of book groups — I’m in four book groups, myself, and they’re a huge engine of happiness for me. Huge.

But a group can be formed around anything.

You can start a Happiness Project group. Email me here if you want the “starter kit” for launching a group for people doing happiness projects together.

You could start a Better Than Before group, for people working on their habits together. (People don’t have to work on the same habit; it’s about the process of tackling a habit.) I’m working on the starter kit for that right now — stay tuned for that.

A friend is in a “fine baked goods” group. They take turns making fancy desserts for each other, and while they eat the desserts, they discuss baking.

My father-in-law was in a group (it only met once) where people talked about fly-fishing. They didn’t fish, they just talked about fishing.

Along the same lines, at my daughters’ school, one after-school club is “Sports Talk.” They talk about sports.

A friend told me, “I’d like to start a group where we discuss People magazine. I’d always be prepared, and I have a lot to say.” She still hasn’t started it, but apparently people are clamoring to get in.

Also, a “group” can be small. I’m in a terrific group that has only three members.

Are you a member of a book group, or something like a book group? Does it add to your happiness?

Avoid These 5 Traps that Can Destroy Your Good Habits.

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

Today: Avoid these five habit traps — they can destroy your good habits.

When we’re trying to master our habits, it’s important to be aware of the justifications or arguments that we sometimes invoke that interfere with keeping a good habit.

They slip in so easily and quickly, it can be hard to spot them. Be on the look-out for these five popular lines of thoughts:

1. Thinking, “Well, now that I’ve slipped up and broken my good habit, I might as well go all the way.”

I remind myself, “A stumble may prevent a fall.” Because of the colorfully named “what the hell” phenomenon, a minor stumble often becomes a major fall; once a good behavior is broken, we act as though it doesn’t matter whether it’s broken by a little or a lot. “I didn’t do any work this morning, so what the hell, I’ll take the rest of the week off and start on Monday.” “I missed my yoga class over spring break, so what the hell, I’ll start again in the fall.” It’s important to try to fail small, not big.

2. Thinking, “If I really beat myself up when I break a good habit, I’ll do a better job of sticking to it.”

Although some people assume that strong feelings of guilt or shame act as safeguards to help people stick to good habits, the opposite is true. People who feel less guilt and who show compassion toward themselves in the face of failure are better able to regain self-control, while people who feel deeply guilty and full of self-blame struggle more.

3. Thinking, “Sure, I’m not sticking to the habit that’s meant to keep me productive, but look how busy I am.”

Working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination.

4. Thinking, “Of course I usually stick to my good habits, but in this situation, I can’t be expected to keep it up.”

We’re all adults, and we can mindfully make exceptions to our good habits, but alas, everything counts.  Loopholes like “It’s my birthday,” “I’m sick,” “It’s the weekend,” “I deserve it,” “I’ve been so good,” “You only live once,” are loopholes, meant to excuse us from responsibility. But nothing’s off the grid. Nothing stays in Vegas.

5. Thinking, “I love my good habit so much, and I get so much satisfaction from it, that now it’s okay for me to break that habit.”

One danger point in habit-formation is the conviction that a habit has become so ingrained that we can safely violate it: “I love my morning writing sessions so much, I’d never give them up,” “I stopped eating cereal two years ago, so now it’s okay for me to eat it.” Unfortunately, even long-standing habits can be more fragile than they appear, so it pays not to get complacent.

What have I missed?

As I’ve mentioned before, my forthcoming book, Better Than Before, describes the multiple strategies we can exploit to change our habits. Habits–the most fascinating subject ever. To pre-order the book, click here. (Pre-orders give a real boost to a book, so if you’re inclined to buy the book, I really appreciate it if you pre-order it.)