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

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“I Still Feel a Very Strong and Positive Pleasure in Being Stranded in Queer Quiet Places.”

chesterton“I can recall in my childhood the continuous excitement of long days in which nothing happened;  and an indescribable sense of fullness in large and empty rooms.  And with whatever I retain of childishness…I still feel a very strong and positive pleasure in being stranded in queer quiet places, in neglected corners where nothing happens and anything may happen; in unfashionable hotels, in empty waiting-rooms, or in watering-places out of the season.  It seems as if we needed such places, and sufficient solitude in them, to let certain nameless suggestions soak into us and make a richer soil of the unconscious.”

–G. K. Chesterton, “On the Thrills of Boredom”

I feel exactly the same way. Years ago, my sister and I stayed at a small, shabby motel in the middle of Nebraska, and it gave me the most tremendous sense of excitement. Very odd.

Perhaps relatedly, when I’m trying to calm myself, I often envision places that are usually crowded and busy in their empty, quiet times–an empty parking lot, a deserted Metropolitan Museum.

How about you? Do you love diners in small towns, and the like?

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.

A Trip to the Pediatrician’s Office Reminded Me of This Important Truth.

stethoscope1This week, I took both my daughters to the pediatrician for their annual check-ups. I was a little late, but the need to turn in camp health forms got me to schedule the appointments, finally.

As I walked out of the second appointment this morning, I found myself thinking, “Good! That’s another thing to cross off my to-do list.”

But this afternoon, another thought occurred to me. At various points, several of my friends would have joyfully given all they possessed for a fifteen-minute appointment with the pediatrician that ended with the cheerful words, “Everything looks great! See you in the fall for flu shots.”

Once again, I remind myself: The things for which I’m most grateful are often the things that I take for granted.

One day, we all have that bad visit to the doctor’s office, but this week, our visits were good. And I want never to lose sight of how very, very grateful I am for that.

Secret of Adulthood: By Doing a Little Bit Each Day, You Can Get a Lot Accomplished.

Further Secrets of Adulthood:



We tend to over-estimate what we can do in a short time (say, an afternoon), and under-estimate what we can do over a longer time (a month) a little bit at a time. This realization led me to my very helpful resolution to Suffer for fifteen minutes. (I write about it a lot in Happier at Home, chapter on “Time.”)

At the same time, it’s true that some people prefer to do a lot packed into a short time, and others prefer to do less over a longer period. Are you a tortoise or a hare? I asked a friend, “Are you a tortoise or a hare? If a piece of work took 21 hours, would you rather work for 3 hours  a day for 7 days, or 7 hours a day for 3 days?” She said, “I’d rather work for 2 days, for 10.5 hours!” A true hare.

How about you?

Revealed! Book Club Picks for May. Happy Reading.

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

  • One outstanding book about happiness.
  • One outstanding work of children’s or young-adult literature. I have a crazy passion for kidlit.
  • One eccentric pick. This is a book that I love, but freely admit may not be for everyone.

I’ll post these recommendations here, or to make sure you don’t miss them, sign up for the monthly Book Club newsletter.

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

An outstanding book about happiness:  Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choice. Buy from WORD;; Amazon.

An outstanding children’s book:  J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. Buy from WORD;; Amazon.

An eccentric pick: Sir James Frazer’s  The Golden BoughBuy from WORD; BN.comAmazon.

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. So I won’t describe these books, but I love all the books I recommend; I’ve read them at least twice if not many times; and they’re widely loved.

If you read last month’s recommendations…what did you think? Wilson’s Naturalist, Godden’s The Greengage Summer, O’Connor’s Wise Blood.

Story: “Now I’m Free From French Fries.”

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: Now I’m free from French fries. It relates to one of my favorite subjects: the abstainer/moderator split.


Can’t see the video? Click here.

If you want to read more along these lines, check out…

Want to be free from French fries? Or, why abstaining may be easier than you think.

Are you an Abstainer or a Moderator?

Trying to resist holiday temptations? 7 tips for abstainers and moderators.

You can also read more about this in Happier at Home, chapter six.

Find the archives of videos here.  More than 1.3 MILLION views. Don’t forget to subscribe!