As I may have mentioned, my family and I just got a new puppy — a cockapoo named Barnaby. He’s fourteen weeks old, and super sweet and delightful.
However, he is a dog, and even more so, he’s a puppy. I knew that his arrival in our household would mean big changes — and would also teach me a lot about myself.
So far, here’s what I’ve learned: Continue reading
I’m not a particular fan (or not) of Rob Lowe, but several people had recommended his memoir, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, so I decided to read it.
It was very interesting for many reasons, and I was particularly struck by a story Lowe told, recalling a visit to the White House during his time on the show The West Wing: Continue reading
Guess: What’s one habit that’s very common and extremely dangerous?
Yes, of course, smoking. But what else?
Using your smart phone while driving is a terrible habit. So common, so dangerous. About one quarter of car accidents involve the use of a smart phone.
It’s easy to think, “Oh, I’ll just glance at the screen,” but it takes a minimum of five seconds to take a look, and if you’re going 55 mph, you’ll go the length of a football field in that time.
And it turns out that just reaching for the device raises the chance of an accident.
Probably, most of us know that using a phone while driving is a bad idea. And yet we’re in that habit. So how to stop? Continue reading
Even though I haven’t been in school for a long time, for me, September marks the beginning of a new year. Orange is the new black, breakfast is the new lunch, Monday is the new Thursday, pork is the other white meat, and September is the other January. (And yes, it’s still September, even though most schools start in August nowadays — and of course, this is true only in certain parts of the world.)
January is the official start of the new year, and I always get a burst of renewed zeal at that time, but here in the United States, for me, September also gives the same feeling of an empty calendar and a clean slate. The air seems charged with possibility and renewal.
Back-to-school is a time of self-evaluation and reflection–and also a time when I feel the urge to clean out my office.
Because of the new year feeling of September, when I wanted to do a a happier-at-home project, I decided to start it in September. Continue reading
From Further Secrets of Adulthood: Outer order contributes to inner calm.
One of the things about happiness that continually surprises me is the degree to which, for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm, and inner self-command. Continue reading
People often ask, “What’s the key to happiness?”
I think that question can be answered in a few different ways, depending on the framework used to approach the question.
For instance, one answer is: self-knowledge. As the Fifth Splendid Truth holds, we can build a happy life only on the foundation of our own nature, our own interests, our own values. Continue reading
Often when I read, I’m struck by something, but I’m not sure why.
I’ve read The Habit of Being several times — it’s a collection of Flannery O’Connor’s extraordinary letters. O’Connor is one of my favorite writers, but I can hardly bear to read her fiction; it makes my head explode.
On July 1, 1964, O’Connor (who was a devout Catholic) wrote to Janet McKane:
Do you know anything about St. Raphael besides his being an archangel? He leads you to the people you are supposed to meet…It’s a prayer I’ve said every day for many years.
A week later, she wrote McKane a follow-up letter, with the prayer, which reads in part: Continue reading
Because of my interest in habits, I read a lot of memoirs of addiction. I don’t tackle addiction in Better Than Before, but still, I find that I get a lot of insights from these accounts.
I recently finished an excellent new memoir, Sarah Hepola’s Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget.
I was particularly interested to see how she used loopholes to justify her drinking.
When we try to form and keep habits, we often search for loopholes, for justifications that will excuse us from keeping this particular habit in this particular situation. However, if we catch ourselves in the act of loophole-seeking, we can perhaps reject them.
We’re so good at thinking of loopholes! I’ve identified ten categories, in fact, and Hepola uses several of them as she justifies her drinking to herself. Continue reading
From Further Secrets of Adulthood: If we’re too tired to do anything except watch TV or cruise the internet, go to sleep.
I have to admit, I struggle sometimes to remember this Secret of Adulthood. I don’t have trouble getting off the internet, but sometimes I watch TV because I feel too tired to read. Continue reading
5 reasons why rewards can be very dangerous for habit-formation.
Of the 21 strategies that I identify, that we can use to make or break our habits, the Strategy of Reward was one of the most difficult for me to understand.
In large part, because the lesson is: be very wary of using rewards to master habits!
Why? It sounds so sensible to reward yourself for sticking to a good habit. But it turns out that rewards are very, very tricky to use well.
Why? Continue reading