Better Than Before

“Habits are the invisible architecture of daily life.”

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I first stumbled onto Gretchen Rubin’s work several years ago when I happened upon a copy of her hugely popular The Happiness Project.

Since then, I’ve become an avid listener of Happier, the helpful and funny podcast she co-hosts with her sister.

And I just keep reading her books. She is startlingly clever, and devotes a great deal of her abundant energy to researching happiness, habits, and human nature; and thankfully, much more of that energy to sharing what she learns with the rest of us!

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So basically, if you’re human, and want to choose your habits rather than letting them choose your life for you, this book is for you. I really enjoyed learning about what makes us tick, and how to tap into that awareness in order to struggle less and succeed more .

“How do we change? –by using habits…. If we change our habits, we change our life.”

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Self-Knowledge

As knowledge is power, the first part of the book helps us learn see ourselves through the lens of our instinctive response to expectations (both inner and outer)…

  1. Upholders respond readily to both inner and outer expectations.
  2. Questioners question all expectations, and respond only to those they can internally justify.
  3. Obligers respond readily to outer expectations while struggling to meet their own inner expectations! (me)
  4. Rebels resist all expectations, both their own, and those of others.

p.s. In case this fascinates you as it does me, there is whole other book about these four tendencies. (The Four Tendencies)

From there, we proceed to a series of thought-provoking questions to help us further understand our individual natures… (the ‘Distinctions’)

Am I…

  1. a lark or an owl?
  2. a marathoner, a sprinter, or a procrastinator?
  3. an underbuyer or an overbuyer?
  4. a simplicity lover or an abundance lover?
  5. a finisher or an opener?
  6. a familiarity lover or a novelty lover?
  7. promotion-focused or prevention-focused?
  8. and, do I like to take small steps or big steps?

The answers I came up with reveal facets of my personality I wasn’t even aware existed. ‘Things I never knew I never knew.”

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And then, the main course!

The author (I am convinced she is actually a genius. Maybe if I write in to her blog and ask, she will tell me her I.Q. score…?) has identified:

Strategies for habit change!

Here they are:

  1. Monitoring
  2. Foundation
  3. Scheduling
  4. Accountability
  5. First Steps
  6. Clean Slate
  7. Lightning Bolt
  8. Abstaining
  9. Convenience
  10. Inconvenience
  11. Safeguards
  12. Loophole-Spotting
  13. Distraction
  14. Reward
  15. Treats
  16. Pairing
  17. Clarity
  18. Identity
  19. Other People

(She often refers to the 21 strategies of habit change, but I have presented the first two- Tendencies & Distinctions- separately above under the Self-Knowledge heading.)

What I really appreciate about this book (apart from its user-friendly presentation of research that matters) is the individualized approach. Once I figured out my own answers to the questions at the top (which was fun to do) I could recognize which strategies would work best with my personality.

The idea is to reduce friction!

And it works. I sleep more now!

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Why make things harder than they have to be?

What habits have you successfully changed, and how?

Thank you for reading with me,

Leah 🙂

Lagom!

‘It’s a kind of Swedish Goldilocks approach, with everything “just right.”’

Evidently, the Scandinavians have really got some things figured out.

And naturally, the rest of us are lining up- and signing up- to become a little more Scandi-savvy!

In today’s post, let’s take a look at Sweden’s ‘best export’; lagom.

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The word lagom seems to have originated with a Viking term ‘laget om‘ (around the team) which referred to the social custom of passing a horn of drink around a circle and making sure everyone took just his fair share, so as to leave enough for the others to do the same. As one author wittily remarked,

“The Vikings wouldn’t usually be first on my list as a moral compass, but they were certainly on to something.”

Modern Swedes have come a long way from their Viking forbears; so how does Lagom translate today?

Contentment, balance, and doing things in ways that make sense for everyone…

Harmony, restraint, and appreciation for simplicity…

Moderation, sustainability, and environmental consciousness…

As I sit typing this morning at my HEMNES desk (thank you IKEA) I’m hoping you’ll enjoy taking a little peek with me into the timeless, yet trendy Scandi-secret of lagom!

For your scrolling pleasure, I’ve read three books (just triangulating data 😉 on this scintillating subject to share with you. Each one was written by someone in the know…

Elisabeth Carlsson grew up Swedish in Sweden, and is now married to an Englishman raising their children in London. Here is her book, the lagom life.

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Linnea Dunne is another Swede who left the land of lagom as a young adult and is now married to an Irishman, with whom she lives in Dublin, where they are raising their young child. She’s the author of this LAGOM book:

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“Consensus is king and everyone mucks in.”

Honestly, my favourite is Niki Brantmark’s Lagom book; she’s an Englishwoman who fell in love with a Swedish man and jumped at the chance to relocate to his homeland (about 15 years ago) where they are happily settled and raising their children Swedish-style!

Somehow her perspective seems more to the purpose… She’s looking at the culture of her adopted homeland through the lens of someone who was newly (and enthusiastically) introduced to it as an adult, which is closer to how the rest of us are seeing it, with fresh eyes and an appreciative embrace…

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“Perhaps the most liberating lesson of all has been feeling satisfied with ‘enough’.”

Whatever their various emotional approaches are to Swedish culture, they are definitely all speaking on the same subject! Here are some common themes I found running steadily through all three books:

  1. Moderation– while this isn’t a terribly exciting approach to life, it’s certainly a healthy one. And it greases the wheels of social life; greed and bragging are frowned upon. No self-respecting Swede would reach for the last treat on the plate once it had gone around at fika (coffee break) time.
  2. Forangkringsprocessenkvallspromenad (evening walk after supper) or bass bastu (sauna with refreshing breaks in cold water or snow)!!
  3. Balance– famously efficient, Swedish employees mean business about quitting time! Making time for family, health (such as Friskis & Svettis; unpretentious open air group exercise in public parks), self care, and creativity. (Incidentally, friskis & svettis sounds a little to my untrained ear like frisking and sweating- nej?
  4. Allemansratten“He who buys what he does not need steals from himself.” -Swedish Proverb

Lagom at home means keeping down clutter. Simply take a kopstopp (purchasing break) if all else fails. To further ensure home comforts, draw in as much natural light as possible, decorate with plants, and choose furniture for functionality. This is all very important, especially when the weekend comes; Fredagsmys is the traditional Friday night  family veg session with convenience food and TV, followed closely by Lordagsgodis (Saturday candy time)!! Very lagom ways to approach lounging on the couch for some screen time, and consuming candy, ja? 

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I have lots to learn about this moderate and balanced approach myself… I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, and never take coffee breaks (with or without cookies and cake)!

How about you?

Are you Swedish?

Have you been to Sweden, and what do you think of lagom?

Do any of these ideas resonate with you or help you see day-to-day challenges in a new light?

Thank you for reading with me,

Leah 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

The Happiness Passport

“Happiness is a mindset for your journey, not the result of your destination.” ~Shawn Achor

I’m obsessed with a few things; happiness naturally being one of them, because… who doesn’t want to be happy? According to the wise and witty Jane Austen, no one;

“I wish, as well as everybody else, to be happy; but, like everybody else, it must be in my own way.”

Handily, I also find that I have an insatiable appetite for learning. And people, and places. So you can imagine the relish with which I devoured this gorgeous book!

Clearly, no one place or culture has a monopoly on happiness. It’s absolutely fascinating to discover elements of contentment and joie-de-vivre tucked away in all parts of the world.

When I started school, my mom was part of a carpool; parents from nearby farms took turns driving each other’s children to school along with their own. Two of the families in our carpool were from India, and our mother wasted no time learning to cook a delicious Indian vegetarian curry and roti from one of these women. This recipe became one of our family favourites, and to this day we love to make it; only a couple weeks ago our adult son asked me for the recipe so he can make it with/for his lovely wife!

I’m grateful to my mom for this introduction to cultural diversity appreciation!

I’m convinced that we can learn something from everyone we meet. And from people we don’t meet, who find other ways to share their experiences and perspectives with us. For example, because of Megan C. Hayes, PhD., we now have at our fingertips such simple and sweet word/concepts as ‘cwtch’ (a Welsh term for a cozy cuddle), ‘ubuntu’ (Nguni Buntu for the common bond of unanimity between all people), ‘melmastia’ (a Pashto expression for unconditional hospitality and profound respect for guests), and one of my personal favourites -surely coined by someone who enjoys babies and little people as much as I do- ‘gigil’ (Tagalog for an overwhelming feeling, often in the context of wanting to pinch a cute or cherished baby)!!!

You might want to check out Megan Hayes’ program for writing oneself happy!

Positive Journal

What happiness tips have you gleaned from other languages, cultures, or places?

Thank you for reading with me,

Leah 🙂

The Golden Rule

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“DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU.”

Like most of us, I’ve been familiar with this ethic of empathy for as long as I can remember. Because I am a Christian, I learned it from my parents as well as in church.

What I didn’t realize before reading this artfully illustrated book is that the golden rule is found in all the world’s religions… According to author Ilene Cooper,

“Christianity says: You should love your neighbour as you love yourself.

Judaism says: What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow humans.

Islam says: Hurt no one that no one may hurt you.

Hinduism says: This is the sum of duty: to do nothing to others which would cause them pain.

Buddhism says: Do not do to others what would hurt you.

The Shawnee Tribe says: Do not kill or injure your neighbour, for it is not he or she that you injure; you injure yourself.”

This book presents a simple tale of a young boy learning about this universal element of humanity in a thought-provoking conversation with his grandfather…

The little lad likes that the Golden Rule is the same for children and adults. I like how his grandpa answers his how-to query;

“You begin by using your imagination.”

Sometimes it’s too easy for me to interact with (especially my family) just a little thoughtlessly. When I take a little moment to consider first, I’m far more likely to treat the people I love the most in the way I would like to be treated; with kindness and respect.

A couple days ago a man stepped aside, holding the door open for me as I was leaving the post office. He was on his way in, and happened to have his hand on the door handle before I did. It was easy and natural for me then to hold it open for him as he took his turn passing through. It was such a simple gesture, but it brightened my day.

How has someone touched your life with gold by following this simple rule?

Thank you for reading with me,

Leah 🙂