"Working on My Novel, Remembering that Life Is Long -- and Yet Not Overscheduling."

I got to know novelist Christina Baker Kline through a writing group I joined -- which is now connected with the very helpful writing site, She Writes. Christina's wonderful novel, Bird in Hand, just came out in paperback -- joining The Way Life Should Be. Christina also has a very interesting blog, Writing/Life, "notes on craft and the creative process."

Buddhism Has 8 Auspicious Symbols. I Chose My Own Set of Symbols. What Are Yours?

I get a tremendous kick out of the numbered lists that pop up throughout Buddhism: the Triple Refuge, the Noble Eightfold Path, the Four Noble Truths. In fact, it was Buddhism that inspired me to write my Four Splendid Truths (after I formulated the First Splendid Truth, I just had to assume that I’d end up with more than one). However, it’s surprising to me that Buddhism, with its emphasis on gateless gates and transcending the bounds of rational thinking, has so many of these numbered lists. I love them, but still, it seems incongruous. There’s a koan to be written about it, that’s for sure. Let's see...how about, “Use numbers to throw away enumeration.”

Video: Imitate a Spiritual Master. Who Is Your Spiritual Master?

In the hubbub of everyday life, it can be easy to lose touch with the things that really matter. Finding a way to incorporate transcendent values into your ordinary day will make you happier -- but it can be challenging to do that. For that reason, this week's resolution is to Imitate a spiritual master:

What Is "Opportunity Cost"? Does It Matter For Happiness? --Yes.

One of the things I love about studying a new subject is learning the particularized vocabulary. New words describing new concepts allow me to understand the world in a deeper way. For example, in law school, after I learned the concept of “acting in reliance,” I suddenly saw people acting in reliance all over the place. (For example, when my friend John signed a lease for a two-bedroom apartment because Michael promised to room with him, he’d acted in reliance, and so when Michael wanted to move in with his girlfriend instead, John was entitled to hold him to his word.)

Want To Be Happier? Avoid False Choices.

I started thinking about false choices when I heard a friend describe a new job he was considering. “I don’t think I’ll take it,” he explained. “There are two ways to do that job. John Doe was the wise counselor to the boss, the old friend who had the boss’s respect and his ear. Joe Doe was the sycophant, the suck-up who told the boss what he wanted to hear and did all his dirty work. I can’t follow the first model, and I won’t follow the second model. So the job’s not for me.” But that was a false choice. There are any number of ways to do a job; he didn’t have to limit himself to one of those two models.

"Watching Project Runway, Not Criticizing My Husband, and Remembering that 'Things Tend to Get Done.'"

I got to know Trish Ryan because I was such a fan of her first memoir, He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not: A Memoir of Finding Faith, Hope, and Happily Ever After. We exchanged emails, and then when I was in Boston for my book tour, I finally got to meet her in person. Her next book just hit the shelves: A Maze of Grace: A Memoir of Second Chances.I'm a big fan of Trish's writing for two reasons. First, although I would describe myself as a reverent agnostic, I'm very drawn to accounts of other people's faith. Trish writes about Jesus and her faith in a way that's engaging, thoughtful, and even very funny. Also, Trish is extremely honest. Not just honest about the things that have happened in her life, but also honest about her real thoughts and judgments and motivations -- to an unusual degree. 

10 Tips for Parents Who Want to Help Their Children Handle Social Struggles.

A few days ago, in a post about teasing, I quoted from Michael Thompson's excellent book, Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children. In the book, Thompson includes a list of ten rules for parents who want to help their children manage their social lives. He discusses each point at greater length, of course, but I thought the list itself was very helpful.

Video: Plagued by Clutter? Clear a Surface.

2010 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2010 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year – and even if you haven’t officially signed up for the challenge -- this month’s focus is Clutter. Last week’s resolution was to Find an exact place for things. Did you try to follow that resolution? Did it help to boost your happiness? This week’s resolution is to Clear a surface.

Should Parents Tease Their Children about Social Struggles?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about teasing, and I was astonished both by the number of people who commented and by the intensity of their reactions. Clearly, teasing is a painful issue for many people. It’s a tricky subject, however, because teasing comes in so many flavors. Teasing among family members, and teasing at work. Gentle teasing and mean teasing and flirtatious teasing. Teasing that’s really a disguised compliment, and teasing that’s really a masked attack. Teasing that makes people feel included and recognized, and teasing that makes people feel excluded and diminished.

Stop Talking, Or, a Happiness Lesson from Sex and the City 2.

A few days ago, as a treat, a friend and I went to see Sex and the City 2, which was tons of fun. SPOILER ALERT: I am going to talk about the plot here for a minute, so be warned.

"Oddly, I Am a Naturally Sunny, Optimistic Person Who Has Also Struggled with Depression."

I recently made a new friend, Maia Szalavitz, and I was thrilled when I got my hands on her new book (with co-author Bruce Perry), Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential--and Endangered. Empathy, and the ties that bind people into relationships, are key elementsof happiness. The book has many fascinating sections. For example, I was struck by this passage:

10 Extremely Simple Tips To Eliminate Stress in Your Day

When I was little, I was always puzzled by the maxim, "A stitch in time saves nine." I couldn't figure out what that meant. Finally, light dawned: a single stitch, made in good time, saves the trouble of making nine stitches later. In other words, a little effort now saves a lot of effort later. That notion underlies several of the tips below. 

Video: Find an Exact Place for Things. It Saves a Lot of Time--and Is Surprisingly Satisfying.

2010 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2010 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year – and even if you haven’t officially signed up for the challenge -- last resolution was to Follow the one-minute rule. Did you try to follow that resolution? Did it help to boost your happiness?  This week’s resolution is to Find an exact place for things.

Tell Other People about What Makes You Happy -- a New Feature of the Happiness Project Toolbox.

A few days ago, I wrote about the happiness of creative collaboration. Another collaborative project which has been a huge source of happiness, novelty and challenge, and fun for me has been the creation of my companion website, the Happiness Project Toolbox. What is the Happiness Project Toolbox? As I was working on my happiness project, I invented several methods that helped me to boost my happiness. My one-sentence journal, my Personal Commandments, my Secrets of Adulthood, and of course – most important of all – my Resolutions Chart.

Find a Vehicle for Creative Collaboration.

A while back, I read Daniel Pink’s The Adventures of Johnny Bunko. This short, engaging book is quite striking, because it’s a career guide written in the form of a manga comic book. Terrific! It blew my mind. I was so inspired by it, in fact – by this engaging way to tell a story and to convey information – that I became determined to do a comic myself. It took me some digging to find the right person with whom to collaborate, but at last I found the brilliant, funny, and (appropriately) very happy young cartoonist, Chari Pere.

"There's a Huge Difference Between Pleasure and Satisfaction."

Tony Schwartz's new book just hit the shelves this week: The Way We're Working Isn't Working: The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance. Tony is very interested in the question of how to create a work environment that helps people be not only more productive, but also more engaged, more creative, and happier. He focuses on four areas: sustainability/physical; security/emotional; self-expression/mental; and significance/spiritual. I'm fascinated with the relationship between work and happiness, so I was very interested to hear what Tony had to say about his own approach to happiness.

10 Tips for Living a Better Life, One Day at a Time--from Pope John XXIII.

One of the most important strategies of my Happiness Project has been keeping my Resolutions Chart. It provides accountability, it prompts me to review all my resolutions once a day, it gives me the gold stars I crave -- when I manage to follow my resolutions. (If you'd like to see a copy of my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email me at grubin [at] gretchenrubin [.com].) I love reading other people’s resolutions and their personal commandments, and I was very interested to read the daily decalogue of Pope John XXIII (a "decalogue" is a set of rules having authoritative weight). Pope John XXIII was pope from 1958-1963 and was known as “The Good Pope.”

Video: Want To Keep Clutter under Control? Follow the "One-Minute Rule."

2010 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2010 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year – and even if you haven’t officially signed up for the challenge -- this month's theme is Order. Last week’s resolution was Don't get organized. Did you try to follow that resolution? Did it help to boost your happiness? This week’s resolution is to Follow the one-minute rule. This rule holds that if I can do a task in less than a minute, I should go ahead and do it -- no procrastinating. Scan a letter and toss it, put a dish in the sink, hang up my coat, etc. Following this rule means that, to a large extent, the scum of clutter in my life is under control, and for me, as for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm.

Did Your Parents Make You Take Piano Lessons? If So, Have They Made You Happier?

I’ve been thinking a lot about my urge to sign up my children for lessons -- piano lessons, Tae Kwon Do, etc. I feel extremely lucky that I can choose to provide lessons for my daughters -- that I can afford to do it. Absolutely! But is it a good idea? I'd like to hear adults' reflections on their own experiences with lessons. If you have a minute, I'd appreciate it if you'd answer three quick questions. For these purposes, don't consider any lessons that you, as a child, asked to take; here, I’m interested in parent-initiated lessons. Also, don’t consider religious school. Sunday school, Hebrew school, CCD, etc. are in a different category from soccer practice.

"People Do Best What Comes Naturally."

“A man marries a woman, not a first lady. If he becomes president, she must fit her own personality into her own concept of a first lady’s role. People do best what comes naturally.” --John F. Kennedy * A terrific blog, Love That Max, "a blog about kids with special needs and the parents who adore them," is up for a well-deserved "best parenting" award. Vote early and often!

Enjoy the Fun of Failure.

I’m very competitive, and perfectionist, and also insecure, and I hate, hate, hate the feeling of failure -- but I know that failure is a necessary part of creativity, of risk-taking, of aiming high. I remind myself that if I’m not failing, I’m not trying hard enough.  So one of my happiness-project resolutions is to “Enjoy the fun of failure.” I really think that repeating this idea over and over has helped me to be more light-hearted about taking risks.

"People Who Knit Are Usually in a Good Mood. People Who Stare into Their iPhones AND Demand Your Attention Aren't as Much Fun."

I’m a longtime fan BoingBoing, that hugely popular, wonderful website that’s “mischievous fun for higher primates," so a few years ago, when I got a link and a nice email from founder Mark Frauenfelder, it was a huge thrill. Mark has a fascinating book that just came out, Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World. As you can tell from the title alone, this book has a lot to do with happiness, work, DIY, and...handiness, learning to make and do things with your own hands instead of running out to get cheap, mass-produced items that provide no larger meaning or connection. If you're a Seth Godin fan, it's interesting to take a look at Seth's thoughtful, short commentary.

Can TV Make You Happy? 9 Tips To Ensure that TV Is Boosting, Not Undermining, Your Happiness.

In terms of hours, watching TV is probably the world’s most popular pastime. Among Americans, it’s the most common free-time activity – for an average of about five hours a day. It’s a source of relaxing fun. But while television is a good servant, it’s a bad master. It can swallow up huge amounts of time, without much happiness bang for the buck.

Video: Don't Get Organized.

2010 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2010 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year – and even if you haven’t officially signed up for the challenge -- last month’s focus was Mindfulness. Last week’s resolution was to Keep a food diary. Did you try to follow that resolution? Did it help to boost your happiness? This month's theme is Order, and this week’s resolution is, perhaps counter-intuitively, Don't get organized. That's right, I know the impulse, but resist the urge to organize all your stuff! Here's why:

“Accepting Oneself Does Not Preclude an Attempt To Become Better.”

“Accepting oneself does not preclude an attempt to become better.” -- Letters of Flannery O'Connor This reminds me of one of the paradoxes of my happiness project: I want to accept myself, but also expect more from myself.

Imitate a Spiritual Master.

One of the most universal spiritual practices is the imitation of a spiritual master as a way to gain understanding and discipline. For example, in Christianity, many people study The Imitation of Christ and ask themselves, “What would Jesus do?” In the secular world, I suspect, people often read biographies for spiritual reasons: they want to study and learn from the example of great lives. As a writer, I steeped myself in the lives of Winston Churchill and John Kennedy, and it seems to me that much of the fascination in these two towering figures comes from people’s desire to imitate their great qualities (though of course they both also had some not-so-great qualities).

"Cycling, Writing, Walking -- and Living in the Right City."

I became interested in the work of economic development expert Richard Florida when I read his fascinating book, The Rise of the Creative Class. He has a new book, just out, The Great Reset: How New Ways of Living and Working Drive Post-Crash Prosperity. Richard writes a lot about the how community, place, work, and the economy interact to affect people’s happiness and career satisfaction. I was curious about how he thinks about happiness in the context of his own life.

Happiness Question: What's an obstacle to your happiness?

If you’re doing a happiness project, it’s worth spending a fair amount of time thinking about…unhappiness. Although it’s helpful to focus on the positive, to count your blessings, and to remind yourself of what makes you happy, it’s also very important to pay attention to what’s undermining your happiness.

Video: Keep a Food Journal.

2010 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2010 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year – and even if you haven’t officially signed up for the challenge -- this month's theme is Mindfulness. Last week's resolution was Use cues to cultivate mindfulness. Did you follow that resolution? How did you do? Did it boost your happiness? This week’s resolution is Keep a food journal. I've tried several times to keep a food journal, because so many studies show that writing down everything you eat is a great way to improve your eating habits: when you're mindful of what you eat, you eat differently.

In Which I Go to a Dance Parade and Reflect on Happiness.

This Saturday, my husband suggested that we all go downtown to watch the annual dance parade. I’d never heard of it, but for the past three years, New York City has had a dance parade, where thousand of dancers, from all sorts of dance organizations, dance their way down a parade route. Some of the dancers were from “real” dance schools or groups, others were from dance/exercise classes, and many groups, we suspected, had been organized for the sole purpose of marching on Saturday. This outing turned out to be tremendously fun. We found a place where we could perch on a high railing, so we had a good view and a place to sit. The weather was lovely. And the dancers were more fun to watch than practically any parade I’ve ever seen.

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