Tag Archives: The Happiness Project

Tips for Adulthood: Five Reasons The Elegance Of The Hedgehog Is For Grown Ups

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

This week I’d like to take a page from Gretchen Rubin, who blogs over on The Happiness Project. From time to time, Gretchen will identify a book or movie that she thinks encapsulates certain key ideas about happiness and blog about them. (Here’s one example:  a post about the movie Junebug.) I did this recently for adulthood and the film Up In The Air.

In that vein, I’ve just finished reading Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance Of The Hedgehog for my book club. This is a very small, intimate novel about an exceedingly well-educated concierge in a Paris apartment building and her relationships with its tenants. In addition to thoroughly enjoying it, here are five reasons I think that this book is essential reading for grown ups:

1. It’s about social class. Not a very American topic, I grant you. (Unless you bought into the whole John Edwards “Two Americas” thing- oh those were the days…). But boy, does it resonate over here in the U.K. right now, where social mobility is a major theme in the upcoming British elections. (Not to mention a time-honored theme in France, where the novel is set.) And to me, that’s a very grown-up topic for a novel.

2. It’s about the possibility of change. Which is – perhaps more than anything else – what defines adulthood, at least for me. Sure, all those personality tests I’ve taken basically confirm that I’m the same person I’ve always been. But growing up is about being open to change. It’s about knowing that  – however sure you are of yourself – there’s always a possibility that you’ll discover something new. Or find out that something you thought was closed off to you is actually within reach. Or just recognize when it’s time to make a bold move.

3. It’s about love. But not of the sappy, head-over-heels variety. Rather, it’s about the love of one’s friends. It’s about the love you can experience when you connect with strangers. And it’s about the possibility – but just that – of romantic love.

4. It has an appropriately bittersweet ending. Some will no doubt be disappointed by how this book ends. I won’t spoil it for you. But as a die-hard fan of feelbad movies, I loved reading a book where the ending was less than 100% hunky-dorey. That’s life, as they say.

5. It’s about Paris. And what – pray tell – is more grown up than that?

*****

Today I’m over on PoliticsDaily.com talking about the central role that women voters will play in the upcoming British General Election.

Image: Hedgehog skin by gari.baldi via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

Every Friday I point you towards some recommended reading around the blogosphere.

This week, however, I’m going to do things a bit differently. I’m still going to recommend some things for you to look at, but one’s a book, one’s a newspaper and one’s a radio program. (Every once in awhile it’s fun to shake things up…):

1. The Happiness Project (the book)- I’ve often mentioned Gretchen Rubin’s fantabulous blog, The Happiness Project here. Gretchen spent a year test-driving the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies, and the lessons from popular culture about how to be happy. Now she’s producing a book on the same topic. The book will come out on December 29, but it can be pre-ordered here. I was lucky enough to read an early draft and I can’t say enough about it…it’s insightful, it’s funny, it’s incredibly wide-ranging and it’s also quite accessible. Plus, it’s a great holiday present for anyone looking to devise – or live up to – all those New Years Resolutions coming your way just around the corner. I know I’ve already got a list of people I plan on giving it to. Please go have a look.

2. San Francisco Panorama – Also on the list of “not-yet-out-must-reads” is Dave Eggers’ forthcoming, one-time-release San Francisco Panorama. Eggers will be familiar to many as the wunderkind who wrote A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, his post-modern memoir of raising his little brother while still barely an adult himself. He’s also the founding editor of McSweeney’s, which will publish Panorama on December 8th. Panorama was inspired by Eggers’ belief that in the age of the internet, we are in serious danger of losing the newspaper as we know it. So as a paean to the broadsheet of yore, he has pulled together journalists, writers, comic strip artists…even kids to recreate that old-fashioned thing we call a newspaper, one more time with feeling. Pre-order here. (Hat Tip: Book Snob.)

3. A National Day of Listening – Finally, if you like family stories (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t?) you should check out Story Corps’ National Day of Listening. The idea behind this project was to get families talking to one another and to preserve those conversations on line for posterity’s sake. Stories will be aired starting today, and you can still go and download your own. As we used to say in radioland, have a listen! (Hat tip: Motherlode.)

*****

Finally, if you live in the U.K. and ever wonder whether Big Brother is watching you, he is. Read all about how the British police are now spying on protesters in my article at PoliticsDaily.com here

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Ways to Establish A Tone

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

As a writer, I think a lot about tone. Does any given essay/blog post/tweet that I write convey not just the meaning – but the attitude – that I’m after?

Setting a tone in writing is no less important than setting a tone in person. How we speak to other people and the verbal and non-verbal message we communicate to them often determines whether they want to listen to us, befriend us, or – dare I say it – be our children/siblings/parents/spouses.

With this in mind, I’ve chosen five bloggers I regularly follow whom I think have mastered  “tone” in their writing, which in turn makes them very inviting as people. In each case, I highlight what they bring to their blogs to cultivate this tone:

1. Curiosity. Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project is a must for anyone out there looking for concrete, practical steps to leading a happier life. Sometimes this means cleaning out a closet; sometimes reading more Virginia Woolf. But the main thing Gretchen communicates on her blog  is a deep and abiding curiosity about the world around her. From the diverse range of articles and blogs that she recommends on a daily basis to her willingness to try pretty much anything  – like singing in the morning – in order to see if it actually makes her happier, you get the sense that she is, at all times, drinking in life.

2. Community. Another hugely practical site is the Freelance Writing Jobs blog network, founded and managed by Deb Ng. A lot of people come to this blog for its diverse set of writing tips, as well as its amazing daily listings of freelance jobs. I come because Deb’s passion for building community is almost irresistible. It shines through her daily tweets which always begin with “Good Morning World” (usually followed by an observation about D.C. weather), as well as the way in which all of her posts are infused with an appreciation for- and commitment to – the community of writers she’s gathered around her.

3. Introspection. You’d be hard-pressed to read a single post on Colleen Wainwright’s glorious Communicatrix and not come away feeling that this was a person who was putting herself out there, for all to see, day in and day out. Laugh-out-loud funny – but also brutally honest – this is a “self-development” blog that succeeds in making you feel like you are accompanying the author on the journey, not just listening to her ex-post musings. Check out her trademark 21-day Salutes. (She’s in the midst of one right now.) They will convince you – if you needed convincing – that the examined life is definitely the one worth living.

4. Enthusiasm. Christina Katz’ Writer Mama blog brims with enthusiasm. Written by a team of “writer mamas,”  this blog offers writing tips, links to online writing classes as well as observations on the writing life. But what most stands out about the blog is the indefatigable Christina Katz herself, who sounds so genuinely enthusiastic about writing, parenting, networking and – above all – platform building, that it’s infectious. To Christina’s credit, she not only promotes her own work on the blog. She is also extremely generous about highlighting the success of her co-bloggers and former students.

5. Wisdom. It’s really tough to try and offer advice to other authors while being sincere and funny at the same time. But Nicola Morgan’s Help! I Need A Publisher! blog does just that. Nicola manages to somehow combine a strong dose of wit and “telling it like it is” with a lot of really smart advice. Read this post where Nicola reacts to the self-doubts of a struggling writer and see if you don’t find yourself laughing while also nodding your head in agreement.

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Image: Tone by Passetti via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Can I Have an Outfit for My Prius? The Next Phase in Eco-Friendly Cars

One of my pet obsessions is cycling as an alternative to driving. I’m hopeful that cycling represents the next phase of transportation in adulthood.

Another of my obsessions are the many different ways that the U.K. and the U.S. – despite sharing a common heritage – are still miles apart culturally.

Imagine my delight, then, in happening upon this gem in yesterday’s Guardian:  The TFL (that’s Transport for London, the city’s transportation agency) is partnering with a private company to provide, quote “normal clothing that serves as specialist cycling clothing.” This new line of clothing is cleverly called Bspoke and you can view it right here on the TFL website.

That’s right. The City of London’s government is promoting a line of cycling gear.

Can you imagine that happening anywhere in the U.S. (O.K., anywhere outside of Portland?)

Of course you can’t. And that’s because even though car usage in the States appears to be on the decline, it’s a slow burn. For all sorts of reasons – most of them cultural, some having to do with urban sprawl – cars are still central to the American way of life.

So, no. It doesn’t look like we’re going to see Mayor Bloomberg promoting the Manhattan equivalent of Bspoke anytime soon.

But there is some good news here. Even if Americans are still reluctant to embrace cycling in quite the way Europeans do, the environmentally-friendly Prius (now in its third iteration) is generating waiting lists in Japan. And Toyota is hopeful that this enthusiasm will be matched in America (as well as in Europe).

My mother owns a Prius, so I’ve had the pleasure of driving one of those bad boys. And – oh my – was it  fun.

In the meantime, while we wait to see where gasoline prices and energy policy and – ahem – Middle East politics are headed, I took some comfort in this other news flash, courtesy of the blog Kim and Jason Escape Adulthood:

Question: What was the best-selling car in America last year?

Answer: The Little Tykes Cozy Coupe, with 457,000 units sold.

My only question is when the Cozy Coupe line of clothing will emerge…

*****

Further to yesterday’s post on five great lifehacking websites, I learned today that one of those sites – The Happiness Project – has spawned a sister site that is a happiness-hack-lover’s dream. Appropriately called The Happiness Project Toolbox, this site is a collection of “Eight Tools that will help you be happier now” – things like resolutions charts, lists of commandments and one sentence journals that can be shared with others. Check it out!

Image: Roadtrip by kaymoshusband via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Tips for Adulthood: Five Great Lifehacking Websites

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Yesterday I fessed up to not being a lifehacker. But just because I don’t employ many lifehacks in my own life except, perhaps, accidentally (hmmm…”The Accidental Lifehacker” – perhaps that should be the title of my memoir…), this doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate the beautiful simplicity of short cuts for daily life.

So today, in honor of all my lifehack-loving friends out there – including, and especially, my lovely husband – here are five great lifehacking websites:

1. Lifehacker. This eponymous lifehack website is mostly geared towards downloads that fuel productivity. But lest you think it is only for computer nerds, there’s something for everyone on Lifehacker. Given my sleep issues, I was particularly drawn to this post on how to improve your sleep posture.

2. Zen Habits. Here’s another lifehacking site focused on – as the sub-title has it – “simple productivity.” So, for example, here’s a post about “executing your to do list” (Sub-title: why writing it doesn’t actually get it done). Egads! But it’s all about the crossing off…I mean isn’t it? I sometimes write things down after I’ve done them just to experience the thrill of crossing them off the dreaded to-do list! Clearly, I need to spend some more time here.

3. Dumb Little Man. This website offers “tips for life” that run the gamut from personal finance to self-development to improving your productivity. In light of my new-found enthusiasm for physical therapy, I was quite taken with this post on how to improve your hunched over PC posture. (You mean leaning in further, typing faster and more furiously, and telling yourself that you’ll stretch in the next half hour – but then never managing to actually do it – isn’t the way forward?) Insider Tip: My husband has a “stretch shoulders” alert on his computer that reminds him to stretch once an hour.

4. Write to Done. Started by Leo Baubuta – creator of Zen Habits – it provides productivity tips to writers of all kinds. It also features a lot of guest posts, which makes it feel like a real writing community. As a sometime fiction writer, I really liked this post on how to let loose with your story telling.

5. The Happiness Project. Penned by my old pal Gretchen Rubin, this blog narrates the author’s journey through a year of learning what makes people happy by “trying on” advice, bromides and strategies from Aristotle to Oprah. But every Wednesday, Gretchen also offers happiness tips. Some of my favorites have been her tips on parenting, including this post about “Seven Tips to Defuse a Tantrum” and this post about “Five Tips for Getting a Little Kid to Take No for an Answer.”

OK. I must admit that after that brief stroll  through lifehacker-land, I’m beginning to see why these sorts of things are so addictive…but can a zebra really change its stripes?

Image: To Do List by Ebby via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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