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To Be Happier, Go to the Library


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If you liked the Japanese tradition, here's another one from this side of the Pacific:

“Older people often draw as much happiness from ordinary experiences — like a day in the library — as they do from extraordinary ones.


Personally I'm still a fan of jetsetting about on international trips, so I don't think you have to choose between travel and "ordinary experiences"—but yes, a day at the library can bring a lot of joy.

Link: Affixing More Value to the Ordinary Experiences of Life

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The Japanese Tradition That Encourages Us to Be Present


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More supporting evidence for my focus on units of momentary happiness:

"Japanese tradition tells of ichi-go ichi-e, a concept fortified over centuries of practice that says we only have one meeting, at one time—our experiences with one another stand alone. Every encounter we have—a dinner, a shared bottle of wine, a late evening of conversation on an old red couch—will happen once, and then will never happen again.

The circumstances surrounding an encounter, the people involved and their exact dispositions and history make each event unique. We may interact with the same people, within similar circumstances, but ichi-go ichi-e says that each interaction is an experience all unto itself, never to be re-created perfectly."

Since each encounter lasts but once, how will we choose to treat it?

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Beware the Power of Bad Advice: A Lesson in Life and Plumbing


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Holly Finch founded the LightBox Collaborative, a San Francisco-based consultancy for non-profits. Lightbox has eight “collaborators” but no employees. When I asked Holly what she should advise someone hoping to follow her path, she said: “Do it your way—but check the math.”

She explained that this means you should always apply someone else's lessons in a way that makes sense to you, but you should also make sure that your happiness allows for enough money.

Speaking of advice, here's what Holly had to say about relying on “professional" advice... and why those who give such advice should be careful.

After weeks of apartment hunting, my husband Hal and I had finally found “The One.” It was our San Francisco dream flat. The only sticking point was the water pressure in the shower, which was little more than a light spittle. The lackluster morning shower and our resulting crankiness became a black cloud over our otherwise happy new home.

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It’s Okay to Schedule “Real Life” Into Your Calendar


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While looking for people who have their "Dream Job" or career to to profile as case studies for my upcoming book, I came across a great quote from Kaitlin on one of the initial survey forms:

"I've accepted that it's okay to schedule 'call parents' in my calendar so long as it helps me actually do it. It doesn't make me a bad person for scheduling real life into my calendar.”

I completely agree with this. You shouldn’t feel bad about “scheduling real life.” If you thrive on business goals and struggle with relational ones (that was me all last year), try being intentional about the relational goals.

One of my relational goals this year is to write or call one friend every day. So far I’m well on track—and having it written down as a stated goal is what makes it happen.

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“In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart”

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From The Diary of Anne Frank:

"In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death.

I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”

Part of why I believe this too is that the alternative is too depressing to consider. So what happens when people hurt us, or when someone else does something to us that's totally unexpected? I guess we have to think about context, try to see it from their perspective, and so on.

And even when we’re wronged, I think we have to have grace. Again, what’s the alternative To refuse grace only hurts us in the end.

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Lessons from Don Miller: Success Is More Difficult to Manage than Failure

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Don Miller is the kind of guy that I implicitly trusted the first time I met. Not to psychoanalyze too much, but in general I’m not a very trusting person. I believe that most people are good, but I don’t necessarily trust a lot of people. With Don, though, I felt comfortable discussing personal stuff right away.

After a lunch meeting, he wrote me an email with more advice. I asked him if I could share part of it, and he agreed. Maybe it helps some of you, too? Here's Don:

"Rapid success is much more difficult to manage than failure, I believe. It's just like walking a tight rope. I think the thing is, success changes you radically, but nothing around you from the old life changes, so now you're a different person and to some degree larger than the small walls you've been living in.

But it's all a bunch of tricks and lies. What matters in the end is taking the folks who loved you early with you into the new life as gingerly as possible."

Check out Don's book, Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy.

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7 Alternative Ways to Evaluate Your Life Every Day

As regular readers know, I’m all about setting goals and working toward big projects over time. When you have a big goal, especially one with a clear end point, it’s easy to know when you’ve achieved it. But most big goals take time, and—as I’ve been learning—our lives consist of more than just a series of work-oriented projects that occupy our time.

No, to truly define success, we need to think of both these long-term goals and the actions we take every day. We also need to ensure our lives are in proper order. The challenge lies in the middle: how do we accomplish all of this?

Therefore, it may be more helpful to create an alternative method of evaluating ourselves as we go along. Here are seven different ideas to consider.

5549123_dd3e6c2b3f_z 1. At the end of the day, ask yourself, “Did today matter?”

Sure, you could spend a long time thinking back on your to-do list and reviewing your calendar. And what were all those emails about? But when you ask yourself this question, chances are you’ll know the answer intuitively.

Did today matter? If so, great. Do more things like it tomorrow. Can't remember anything in particular that made a difference? Well, better change it up.

Before you hit the ground running, take a few moments in meditation or thoughtfulness to decide what you’d like to see happen by the end of the day. Again, be sure to prioritize: it would be great to make a ton of progress on everything, but you probably won’t. What's most important? What is realistic to achieve?

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Travel Disasters and Misadventures Are Good for Us

Earlier this year, as I was wrapping up the writing for The Happiness of Pursuit, I commissioned an illustration from Mike Rohde to commemorate a few of my more spectacular travel disasters and misadventures:

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[View or Download as a PDF] All of these experiences, even the negative ones, were helpful in building confidence to continue the journey.

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Arbitrary Numbers, Part II

After publishing yesterday’s post, I realized I also wrote about arbitrary goals in The Happiness of Pursuit. Here’s the story: I use an app on my phone to track my running, especially the longer runs that I do most Sunday mornings. On a recent eight-mile run, I noticed that my pace was consistently around 8:34…

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Nostalgia for the Opposite

Jez Butterworth on writing a play about navigating the zero-sum world of opposing choices: He described it as a kind of psychological holding place as ‘nostalgia for the opposite.’ Holding two options in one’s mind simultaneously enables an emotional state—of freedom or evasiveness, depending on one’s view—in which Butterworth’s characters tend to reside. ‘The idea…

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Units of Momentary Happiness

“Everything we need to be happy is easy to obtain.” -Epicurus I’ve long advocated that happiness is not entirely related to a feeling of a precise moment. Instead, it’s more closely related to the overall life we live, as well as the life we hope to have in the future. If you quit smoking, you…

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How to Be Alone on a Holiday

I remember a Christmas in which I spent the day entirely by myself. Strategy #1: sleep as late as possible. Strategy #2: fill up the day with as many things to occupy my time without feeling lonely. It didn’t work, at least not completely. I was sad and depressed for much of the day. I…

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