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

Want to get the "Moment of Happiness"? A daily happiness quotation in your inbox. Sign up here close daily quote

Secret of Adulthood: Burn Energy To Create Energy

Further Secrets of Adulthood:



I’m surprised by how true this Secret of Adulthood proves to be.

Research shows that when people move faster, their metabolism speeds up. Also, because the way we act influences the way we feel (to an almost uncanny degree), acting with energy will make you feel more energetic. Standing up while talking on the phone, walking more quickly, speaking with more animation.

In fact, I’ve found that a slightly goofy–but highly effective–way to boost my energy is to jump up and down a few times. I do jumping-jacks by my desk, I run down the stairs, I hop over puddles. It takes energy, but it gives energy.

Have you found this to be true?

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.

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.

“The Attar from the Rose Be Not Expressed by Suns — Alone — It Is the Gift of Screws.”


Essential Oils — are wrung –

The Attar from the Rose

Be not expressed by Suns — alone –

It is the gift of Screws –


The General Rose — decay

But this — in Lady’s Drawer

Make Summer — When the Lady lie

In Ceaseless Rosemary –

– Emily Dickinson, The Complete Poems

How Will You Make Your Own Summer? I Plan To Read for Pleasure.

booksinsuitcaseYesterday was the last day of school for my two daughters. They wore special outfits, I took pictures, lots of excitement.

The last day of school is always bittersweet to me; it’s fun to head into the summer, but it’s always a little sad that another year is over. I’m always reminded that “The days are long, but the years are short.”  (The one-minute video I made about this feeling is probably the thing, of everything I’ve ever written, that resonates most with people.)

The end of the school year is also significant to me because I still measure my own life by the school calendar. September is the other January–which is why, for my second happiness project in Happier at Home, I did a project from September through May.  September is a new beginning, and the June/July/August season feels separate from the rest of the year.

So now that school is over, my summer has started–but fact is, my summer is a lot like the rest of my year. We go on some family trips, and my daughters’ schedules are different, but my work and routine, and my husband’s work and routine, don’t change much.

But I want the feeling of summer in my life, and so I’ve made a resolution: every weekend, I’m going to read a book for pleasure. Pure pleasure! I read a lot, all the time, but often I read books for research, or because they’re interesting to me in some way, even if they aren’t exactly “pleasurable.” But on summer weekends, I’m going to read only what I LOVE. Books that I can’t put down, books that I’ll race through in a few days. And if I don’t love a book, I’m going to stop reading it (another new resolution for me).

In The Enthusiasms of Robertson Davies, Davies wrote, “Every man makes his own summer. The season has no character of its own, unless one is a farmer with a professional concern for the weather. Circumstances have not allowed me to make a good summer for myself this year…My summer has been overcast by my own heaviness of spirit. I have not had any adventures, and adventures are what make a summer.”

Reading is my adventure, it’s my cubicle and my playground–and this summer, I’m going to make sure to spend a lot of time on the playground side.

How about you? How do you plan to “make your own summer”?

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.

“Bed, of Course. Bed with Books, Children, Dogs.”

carpenter31Happiness interview: Lea Carpenter.

I met Lea Carpenter many years ago, because we were both involved in the New York Public Library (one of my favorite New York City institutions). She’s always been an ardent lover of libraries, literature, and books of all sorts–so I was thrilled when I heard that she was writing her first novel.

I’m so happy for her, because her debut novel, Eleven Days, is just about to hit the shelves, and just today got a great review by Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times. Who called her “an extraordinarily gifted writer.” Zoikes!

Gretchen: What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?

Lea: Exercise. Scrambling the perfect egg.

What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

It comes from within. And it is fleeting, by design.

Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?


 Is there a happiness quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful?

“J’ai decide d’etre heureux parce que c’est bon pour la santé.” It’s Voltaire; I trust him. [I decided to be happy because it's good for my health.]

If you’re feeling blue, how do you give yourself a happiness boost? Or, like a “comfort food,” do you have a comfort activity? (mine is reading children’s books).

Reading. Swimming, if that’s an option.

Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness? 

Texting must detract. I lack evidence, but it must. It’s so rife with ambiguity.

Have you always felt about the same level of happiness, or have you been through a period when you felt exceptionally happy or unhappy – if so, why? If you were unhappy, how did you become happier?

I agree with the experts that we each possess “set points,” but that theory needs something like what bankers call a MAC clause. Because certain events sure shift you from center. A wedding, for example. A loss.

Is there some aspect of your home that makes you particularly happy?

Bed, of course. Bed with books, children, dogs.

Have you ever been surprised that something you expected would make you very happy, didn’t – or vice versa?

I don’t expect happiness. I do think becoming a mother exceeds everyone’s expectations, emotionally. Parenting is one place where emotion isn’t circumscribed, or conditional. IMHO, as they say.

Consider These Questions Posed to You Upholders, Questioners, Rebels, and Obligers.

four-ornate-columnsEvery Wednesday is Tip Day, or List Day, or Quiz Day.

This Wednesday: More questions about the Four Rubin Tendencies.

I’m still obsessed with the four categories I’ve developed–which, for lack of a better name, I’m currently calling the Four Rubin Tendencies.

These categories describe how people tend to respond to expectations: outer expectations (a deadline, a “request” from a sweetheart) and inner expectations (write a novel in your free time, train for a marathon).

To learn more about the Four Rubin Tendencies, read here and here. In a nutshell:

Upholders respond readily to both inner and outer expectations

Questioners question all expectations, but will follow expectations if they think the expectations are sensible (effectively making all expectations into inner expectations)

Rebels resist all expectations

Obligers meet outer expectations but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves

I’m still working on refining these types, and I’d love to hear what you have to say about the following questions.  Obviously no one would answer all these questions, but if one strikes a particular chord with you, I’d be interested in your reaction.

Do you feel that you have to work by yourself, or be in charge, or work with others?

How do you feel about standing in line?

Do you make and keep resolutions? Why or why not? Do you do them as New Year’s resolutions?

Is it important to you to have a lot of information?

Are you powerfully motivated by a desire to avoid feeling guilty?

Do you struggle with the question, “How do I make time for me?”

Do you hate making a mistake or dropping the ball?

If you believe that a rule is arbitrary, though not unethical, would you be likely to follow it or not?

If you have difficulty sticking to a course of action, do you find yourself assigning responsibility to someone else? “I can’t stick to a diet because my mother urges me to take more food.” “My boss makes it hard for me to exercise.”

Do you prefer to do things spontaneously?

Do you prefer to do things according to a plan?

Do you sometimes feel paralyzed when you feel that you don’t have enough information to judge a course of action?

Do you enjoy the process of questioning and learning?

Do you like to be the boss? Do you need to be the boss?

How do you view shared work in a household? (Laundry, trash, cooking, etc.) How do you view your obligation, if any, to contribute? Who does what work in your household?

Do you find yourself researching issues that other people make with much less knowledge? Or do you make decisions with less knowledge than others might wish to have? E.g., picking a summer camp or a travel destination.

Do you believe that it’s very important that people keep their commitments to themselves—to go to an exercise class, to make time for their friends?

Do you feel a sense of accountability to your own calendar? So that you’ll do something if it’s on your calendar?

Here’s something that’s a bit hard to pose as a question. I’ve noticed what seems to be a pattern of Obligers sometimes “snapping” and refusing to do something they’re expected to do, or stubbornly and uncharacteristically not obliging in a particular matter, though they oblige in general. Has anyone noticed this themselves or in others? Is this pattern peculiar to Obligers or do Questioners and Upholders also do this occasionally? (Not an issue for Rebels.) I suspect not, but would be curious to hear from others on this question.

I welcome all observation and insight!

Jump to this post here.