I shared previously that I’ve been listening to the podcast Happier with Gretchen Rubin. Usually I’m obsess over a blog or a book to get my inspiration or motivation fix, but I love the portability of a self-help podcast. It feels extra efficient! I also really like the sisterly banter between Gretchen and her sister, Hollywood writer/producer Elizabeth Craft. I think it can be very discouraging when you’re trying to work on yourself and the people you’re reading/listening to are preaching and make it seem like they have it all figured out, but Gretchen and Elizabeth don’t do that. In fact, they give themselves demerits and gold stars at the end of each episode, and I find that very relatable.
Here are my five favorite lessons I’ve learned from Happier with Gretchen Rubin:
1. The Four Tendencies
I heard SO many podcasters talk about the four tendencies for a while now, so this was one of the main reasons I started listening to the Happier podcast. I recommend taking the quiz and then listening to the episodes that take a deep-dive into each tendency—episode 35 for upholders, episode 36 for questioner, episode 37 for obligers, and episode 38 for rebels.
The four tendencies are how we deal with inner and out expectations, and knowing which tendency you are is supposed to help you set appropriate habits so you can ultimately reach your goals. I took the quiz and even before getting my results I knew I was a Questioner. It made a lot of sense because I do really struggle with meeting outside expectations if I don’t understand the why or respect the person asking me to do something.
I realized that I needed to approach my habits and goals by answering a lot of deep questions if I wanted to commit to doing the work. So I sat down one day and just jotted down all of my goals, mostly big, but some small. I wrote why they were important to me, and how I’d tackle them, and a concrete first step to meeting that goal. Just knowing that my tendency can sometimes stand in my way of doing what I want is helpful.
2. Food Based Rewards Don’t Work
A lot of what Gretchen and Elizabeth talk about is habit formation, and how creating healthy habits leads to happier lives. Like many people, I’ve tried to employ all sorts of rewards and treats (without really knowing the difference) for sticking to habits and routines that work or don’t to some degree. One breakthrough I had was figuring out why my system for rewarding myself with coffee never worked…
According to Gretchen, using food as a reward is ultimately not good for habit formation. “It teaches us that we do this activity only if a reward is offered.” In my case, I didn’t want to leave the house unless I got rewarded with coffee, otherwise, it just didn’t feel worth the trouble of getting myself and Rory ready and out the door. This became a very expensive and unhealthy habit, but I’m glad to say that I’ve finally kicked it. I don’t need to reward myself for living the kind of life I want—one where I am active with my toddler, and grateful not to be chained to my office for forty hours a week. A true reward is supposed to help you dive deeper into a good habit, so for me it might be splurging on a class or activity with Rory.
You can listen to Gretchen and Elizabeth talk about rewards on episode 63.
3. Treats Aren’t Selfish
Instead of relying on the concept of a reward (which must be earned), I’ve learned that it’s okay to give myself treats. According to Gretchen, treats are simply small pleasures or indulgences we can give ourselves just because. I think this falls into easy self-care—an hour to write or read, a lovely scented candle or body wash, picking up a bottle of Rosé while shopping at Costco, getting a car wash, watching an episode of TV in the middle of the day just because you can. I never have to feel guilty about a treat, because when I give more to myself, I can ask more of myself.
You can listen to Gretchen and Elizabeth talk about treats on episode 68.
4. Power Hour
It’s pretty self-explanatory, it’s a set amount of time you dedicate to taking care of tasks. I like a power hour for things I have been putting off for no reason, other than they feel like a giant time suck and I’m never really prepared to complete them from start to finish.
Recently I did a power hour where I just did returns and exchanges at stores around town. It was awesome getting some money back in my pocket, and even doing an exchange for a birthday gift that allowed me to pick something out I really liked! I’ve also spent a power hours wrapping gifts and putting packages together to mail, I’ve finished thank you notes, updated my address about a million places online, I’ve changed our doctors with our health insurance, and made appointments galore.
5. Design Your Summer
The concept is simple—if you plan to have fun this summer, you have to plan to have fun. This topic has been covered a couple of times, and I think this is applicable to any season, but it’s been helpful for me since we moved this summer and I really needed something to motivate me to make plans. I posted about my plans here. I’ll update you on how I faired:
⊗ Host a friends bbq or dinner: We did it! We hosted two Friday night pool parties.
⊗ Go to a festival: We went to a car show during Graffiti Week.
⊗ Go to a concert
in the park: Well, we may have missed the season, but we have tickets to a concert in September, so I’m going to say it counts.
⊗ See a movie
at the independent theater: Revising this to just see any movie at any theater. We did it! We saw The Big Sick.
⊗ Visit the Bay Area with Rory: Date set for August 19!
Share your favorite tip or hack you’ve learned from the Happier podcast or recommend another self-help podcast you think I should check out!