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

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“I Really Believe There Are Things Which Nobody Would See Unless I Photographed Them.”

diane_arbus“I do feel that I have some slight corner on something about the quality of things. I mean it’s very subtle and a little embarrassing to me, but I really believe there are things which nobody would see unless I photographed them.”

–Diane Arbus, Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph

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.

Do You Agree That These “Patterns” Make Places Beautiful and Comfortable?

raisedflowers

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

This Wednesday: Do you agree that these “patterns” make places beautiful and comfortable?

I’ve written before about Christopher Alexander’s brilliant, strange book, A Pattern Language. Few books have made such an impression on me and the way that I think. The book sets forth an archetypal “language” of 253 patterns that make the design of towns, buildings, and–most interesting to me–homes the most pleasing.

This book doesn’t need to be read from front to back; I often just flip through it and study the parts that resonate with me–and look at the pictures, too, of course.

I’m a very text-centric person, and not very visual, and this book helped me to identify the elements about spaces that I like, or don’t like. I’m able to see the world in a new way, and as a consequence, I’ve been able to do some things differently in my own space, to make it more enjoyable.

Here’s a list of some of the “patterns” that I love most–and I even love the aptness of the phrases used to describe them:

Half-hidden garden–this is an example of something that I love but just can’t put into practice in New York City, alas.

Staircase as stage–ditto.

Cascade of roofs–once I started looking, I realized that many of my favorite buildings had a cascade of roofs.

Sleeping to the east–after my parents moved to a new place, they both remarked, independently, how much they enjoyed having a bedroom that faced east.

A room of one’s own–yes!

Light on two sides of every room–after I moved to New York City, I became acutely aware of the importance of light, and it’s true, having light on two sides of a room makes a huge difference.

Six foot balcony–this pattern explained something that had always puzzled me: why people in New York City apartment buildings seemed so rarely to use their balconies. It turns out that when a balcony is too narrow, people don’t feel comfortable on it. It needs to be at least six feet deep.

Windows overlooking life–our apartment has good light, which I’m so thankful for, but we can’t look down on any street scenes, just the sides of buildings; it’s surprising how much we miss being able to overlook life.

Sitting circle–odd to me how many people place their furniture in ways that don’t make for comfortable conversation.

Ceiling height variety–I was astonished to notice how much more I enjoy places that have ceilings at different heights.

Built-in seats–yes! Window seats, alcoves, banquettes, love these. Especially window seats.

Raised flowers–yes!

Things from your life–in Happier at Home, I “cultivated a shrine” to my passion for children’s literature, as a way to make a special place for certain things from my life (for instance, my old copies of Cricket magazine, my complete set of The Wizard of Oz books, my mother’s old copy of Little Women, my Gryffindor banner that a friend brought me from the Harry Potter Theme Park.

Child caves–so true that children love to play in small, low places. My sister had the “Cozy Club” with a friend, and my younger daughter now plays in an odd little space she has decorated.

Secret place–ah, this is my favorite. Again, as I write about in Happier at Home, I was inspired to create my own secret places in our apartment. I couldn’t stop with just one. As Alexander writes, “Where can the need for concealment be expressed; the need to hide; the need for something precious to be lost, and then revealed?”

How about you? Have you identified some “patterns” in the design of the places you love?

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Story: Be Polite, and Be Fair.

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: Be polite, and be fair.

 

Can’t see the video? Click here.

I love short mantras that cover a lot of situations. Do you have a mantra or catchphrase that helps you remember how you want to behave? My favorite personal mantra is Be Gretchen. (Other people should substitute their own names, of course.)

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

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Secret of Adulthood: Burn Energy To Create Energy

Further Secrets of Adulthood:

BurnEnergyToCreateEnergy_124762

 

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?

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

emily-dickinson

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