“No Matter How Mundane Some Action Might Appear, Keep at It Long Enough and It Becomes a Contemplative…Act.”

“No matter how mundane some action might appear, keep at it long enough and it becomes a contemplative, even meditative act.”

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

Agree, disagree?

Yes, I’ve quoted from Murakami twice in a row, but I just couldn’t resist.

If you’re interested in habits,  you’ll find this book very interesting.

Also, this quotation reminded me of my own rule about adding “meditation” to the end of any activity that’s boring. If I’m impatient while waiting for the bus, tell myself I’m doing “Bus waiting meditation.” If I’m standing in a slow line at the drugstore, I’m doing “Waiting in line meditation.” Just saying these words makes me feel very spiritual and high-minded and wise.

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“I’ve Trained My Dog to Go Out at 6:30 am. His Habit Helped Me Change Mine.”

I’m writing my next book, Before and After, about how we make and break habits–an issue  very relevant to happiness. Each week, I’ll post a before-and-after story submitted by a reader, about how he or she successfully changed a habit. We can all learn from each other. If you’d like to share your story, contact me here. To be notified when the book is available for pre-order, sign up here.

This week’s story comes from someone who wants to stay anonymous.

I’ve trained my dog to go out at 6:30 a.m. His habit helped me change mine. I can’t really ignore 12 kg of cuteness whining in my ear, licking my hand and sitting on me back!

One of the most important habit-formation strategies is the Strategy of Accountability, and a dog is a very effective accountability partner. Dogs don’t care about excuses, they don’t tell you, “You deserve a day off,” they want to go out. And if they don’t get what they want, you pay the price.

For years, I felt accountable to our family schnauzer, Paddywhack. (“Knick-knack, paddywhack, give a dog a bone…”) In high school, when I was trying to stick to the habit of regular running, I always took Paddywhack with me. She leaped with joy every time I put on my running shoes, and her eagerness made it harder for me to skip a day, and strengthened my exercise habit.

In fact, one study—admittedly, by a pet health-care company—showed that dog owners get more exercise, and enjoy it more, than people who go to the gym; older people walk more regularly with a dog than when they walk with another person.

Have you found that having a dog helped you keep a good habit?

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

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

Every 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.