• December 2014

Happiness Rules

Are you happy? Not the “great hair day” or “I’m in my skinny jeans” kind of happy. Not “the new shipment of my new book finally arrived” kind of joy, either. We’re interested in the deep, gut-level happiness you feel when you are living the life you dream of.

That’s the kind of happiness that Gretchen Rubin aspired to find when she penned The Happiness Project: Or, why I spent a year trying to sing in the morning, clean my closets, fight right, read Aristotle, and generally have more fun.

“I’d always vaguely expected to outgrow my limitations,” she writes. “One day, I’d stop twisting my hair, and wearing running shoes all the time, and eating exactly the same food every day. I’d remember my friends’ birthdays, I’d learn Photoshop, I wouldn’t let my daughter watch TV during breakfast. I’d read Shakespeare. I’d spend more time laughing and having fun, I’d be more polite, I’d visit museums more often, I wouldn’t be scared to drive.”

Then, one April morning, she had a sudden realization. “I was in danger of wasting my life. As I stared out the rain-spattered window of a city bus, I saw that the years were slipping by. ‘What do I want from life, anyway?’ I asked myself. ‘Well, I want to be happy.’”

At that moment, she grasped two things: “I wasn’t as happy as I could be, and my life wasn’t going to change unless I made it change.”

And so Rubin made a promise to herself. For the next 12 months, she embarked on a project she called “The Happiness Project.” It’s a powerful process. One that Rubin has given us permission to share with our readers over the next year. In January, for instance, you’ll learn to boost your energy. In June, you’ll make time for friends. By making small changes each month in 12 areas, at this time next year, you’ll be happier—and your closets will be cleaner, too.

On Jan. 1, 2015, be on the lookout for your first assignment. For now, scroll down to read our Q&A with Rubin. For even more insights, listen to our podcast interview on Inkandescent Radio.

What makes us happy at The Inkandescent Group? For starters, it’s the new office we opened last month at 1719 W. Main Street in Richmond, VA. We are working with the talented students and faculty in the PR, video, and arts program at Virginia Commonwealth University, and several of those students are our newest Inkandescent Interns. The next time you are in town, stop by and visit our new digs!

Also in this issue:

  • Which countries have the happiest people? Why do people in isolated Bhutan measure Gross National Happiness? And is happiness really good for your health? Don’t miss these interesting research studies. Check out the latest happiness research.
  • If you are a student with a loan, how do you feel about being in debt to the federal government for the foreseeable future? That’s the question college junior Eurah Lee tackles in her first episode of the new Millennials Radio Show.

And that’s just for starters. We hope that this issue inspires you to find what makes you truly happy—and puts you on the path to accomplish your goals.

We leave you with this parting thought from Benjamin Franklin, whose Autobiography inspired Rubin. Franklin insisted: “Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind than on outward circumstances.”

Here’s to finding your inner bliss! Happy holidays from the entire Inkandescent team. — Hope Katz Gibbs, publisher, Be Inkandescent magazine

Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project: Prepare to Smile

COVER STORY: DECEMBER 2014

SING IN THE MORNING. CLEAN YOUR CLOSETS. FIGHT RIGHT. READ ARISTOTLE.

Author Gretchen Rubin Challenges Us to Be Happier in 12 Months

By Hope Katz Gibbs, Publisher
Be Inkandescent

Gretchen Rubin was a young lawyer clerking for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor when she realized that what she really wanted to be was a writer.

Since then, she has written several books, including the bestselling “Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill,” and her uber-popular “The Happiness Project: Or, why I spent a year trying to sing in the morning, clean my closets, fight right, read Aristotle, and generally have more fun.”

Best-selling author Dan Pink said of the book, “This is a rare book that will make you both smile and think—often on the same page.”

We couldn’t agree more, so it was a pleasure to interview Rubin from her home office in New York City and find out about the project she devised that has made strides and changed lives—her own and others’.

Scroll down for our Q&A. Click here to listen to our podcast interview.


Be Inkandescent: So let’s get down to business! In your book, “The Happiness Project,” you talk about having an epiphany one rainy afternoon on a city bus. Tell us about that moment.

Gretchen Rubin: It was pouring rain, and I was on a city bus that was moving very slowly. I looked out the window and thought, “What do I want in life anyway?” In the rush of life, you rarely take the opportunity to step back and ask yourself big, transcendent questions. And when I did, I thought, “Well, I want to be happy.” I realized I didn’t spend any time thinking about whether I was happy, or if I could be happier.

In a flash I decided I should have a “happier project” —that was the phrase that occurred to me. The next day I went to the library, got a huge stack of books, and started researching happiness. I wanted to know what everybody knows about what can make you happy, or how to make yourself happier, and I wanted to try everything to see if it really works.

At first the project was just going to be for me. I was finishing writing a biography of John F. Kennedy, and happiness research was just something I was doing for fun for myself. But the research is so rich and fascinating that I found myself spending more and more time on it, and finally I thought, “Maybe this should be my next book.” The book asks: Can you make yourself happier? And if so, how can you make yourself happier? It’s really compelling.

Be Inkandescent: In the 12 months that followed, adventures ensued. What inspired your list—from boosting your energy in January, to getting serious about play in May?

Gretchen Rubin: I figured that a year was long enough for real change to happen, and short enough that it felt manageable. Since there are 12 months of the year, I decided to figure out what elements in my life contribute most to my happiness—and focus on some of them each month.

Be Inkandescent: Some of your choices are a little out of the norm.

Gretchen Rubin: That’s right. For example, a lot of people would include adventure in their happiness project. I know that I am not a very adventurous person, so that is not something that would make me happy.

I decided to start my happiness project with energy, because I figured if I had more energy, then everything else that followed would seem easier, which I think is very much the case with all of us. When we are feeling overwhelmed and drained, it is very hard to take the time to do things, even when you know those things are going to make you happier.

I also wanted to focus on different aspects of my life that make me happy—such as my marriage, work, play, and parenthood (I have two daughters). Just figuring out the list was a very helpful intellectual exercise.

Try it. If you were going to pick 12 things in your life that you want to work on, what would they be?

Be Inkandescent: Talk about your desire to be a better parent.

Gretchen Rubin: This was really important to me. I realized that I was losing my temper very quickly; apparently I make a terrifyingly mean face.

I wanted to be more tender, more attentive, and sillier. A lot of the resolutions I made were around that—to try to be different and to make a different atmosphere in our home. I think my resolutions about parenthood really made a big difference, to me and to my family. When I lighten up, they lighten up, too.

Be Inkandescent: Was there any particular month you really found to be happy, and another you didn’t?

Gretchen Rubin: That’s an interesting question. I think all of the months were challenging, because I was picking things I wanted to change, or things I wanted to do differently. But it’s tough to say sometimes whether some things were easy or hard.

For example, going to bed on time. Is that hard or is that easy? After all, what is so hard about going to bed on time? But in practice, it is kind of hard—not that it’s difficult to do; it’s that you have to make up your mind to do it and stick to it.

Some things were easy and very fun, like my choice to kiss my husband every morning and every night. That is very easy, and very nice.

The bottom line is that being happy boils down to the decision to expect more from yourself, figuring out the fine line between the natural limitations of your nature, and the places that you should expect more.

Be Inkandescent: What does it mean to be happy?

Gretchen Rubin: I started my career in law, and I have happy memories of spending an entire semester arguing about the definition of contract. If anything, defining and understanding happiness is even more elusive. There are actually 15 academic definitions of happiness, and you can spend a lot of time arguing about contentment versus bliss. I feel that for most people, it’s not that helpful to worry so much about what happiness is. It’s actually easier to think about being happier.

Does money buy happiness? And what do the brain and body do when you’re happy? Read all about it.

New Year's Resolution: Start Your Own Happiness Project

“Each person’s happiness project will be unique, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit from starting one,” writes Gretchen Rubin in her book, “The Happiness Project.”

  • Start small: Put your keys away in the same place every night.
  • Think big: Repair relationships with your family.

Most importantly, decide what resolutions to make by answering the following questions:

  • What makes you feel good? What activities do you find fun, satisfying, or energizing?
  • What makes you feel bad? What are the sources of anger, irritation, boredom, frustration, or anxiety in your life?
  • Is there any way in which you don’t feel right about your life? Do you wish you could change your job, city, family situation, or other circumstances? Are you living up to your expectations for yourself? Does your life reflect your values?
  • Do you have sources of an atmosphere of growth? In what elements of your life do you find progress, learning, challenge, improvement, and increased mastery?

Once you’ve made your resolutions, find a strategy to assess your progress and hold yourself accountable.

  • Record and score your resolutions.
  • Keep a one-sentence journal on any topic you like.
  • Identify your personal commandments: Share your happiness hacks, your Secrets of Adulthood, and any kind of list that keeps you on track.
  • Create an inspiration board of your favorite books, quotes, movies, or images.
  • Want to start a group for people also doing happiness projects? Send Rubin an email.


9 Tips to Make Keeping Your Resolutions Easier

  1. Write it down … and be specific. Not “make more friends,” but “start a movie group, “remember birthdays,” “say hello,” “make plans.”
  2. Review your resolution constantly. If your resolution is buzzing through your head, it’s easier to stick to it.
  3. Hold yourself accountable. Tell people about your resolution, join or form a like-minded group, score yourself on a chart.
  4. Think BIG! Maybe you need a big change, a big adventure—a trip, a break-up, a new job.
  5. Think SMALL! Don’t assume that only radical change can make a difference. Cleaning your fridge can give you a real boost.
  6. Break your main resolution into manageable tasks.
  7. Keep your resolution every day. Weirdly, it’s often easier to do something every day (exercise, post to a blog, deal with the mail) than every few days.
  8. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Instead of training for a marathon, aim for a daily 20-minute walk. Instead of cleaning the basement, tackle one closet.
  9. Consider dropping a resolution if you keep breaking it. Don’t let an unfulfilled resolution to lose 20 pounds or give up TV block you.

Learn more about Gretchen Rubin and her happiness project at gretchenrubin.com.

Things don’t change. You change your way of looking, that’s all.”

– Carlos Castaneda

No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it”

– Andrew Carnegie

A lot of people have ideas, but few decide to do something about them now. Not next week. But today.”

– Nolan Bushnell, founder, Atari

We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”

– Winston Churchill

Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make Me Feel Important.’ Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life.”

– Mary Kay Ash

A great secret of success is to go through life as a man who never gets used up.”

– Albert Schweitzer

Challenge is a dragon with a gift in its mouth. Tame the dragon and the gift is yours.”

– Noela Evans

Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”

– Eckhart Tolle

You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing.”

– Maya Angelou

The best reason to start an organization is to create a product or service to make the world a better place.”

– Guy Kawasaki

The biggest flaw in our existing theory of capitalism lies in its misrepresentation of human nature.”

– Muhammad Yunus

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

– John Quincy Adams

You don’t go into a field that requires cracking people’s heads open or operating on something as delicate as the spinal cord unless you are comfortable with taking risks.”

– Dr. Ben Carson

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.”

– Robert Louis Stevenson

Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do.
Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.”

– Ella Fitzgerald

A man who strikes first admits that his ideas have given out.”

– Chinese Proverb

Tolerance and patience should not be read as signs of weakness. They are signs of strength.”

– The Dalai Lama

Think of yourself as on the threshold of unparalleled success. A whole, clear, glorious life lies before you. Achieve! Achieve!”

– Andrew Carnegie

My goal was to tell the life side of the story. We have become a nation of voyeurs that expect sensationalism, and that offends me.”

– Kathleen Jo Ryan

I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent.“


– Thomas Edison

Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.”

– Thomas Carlyle

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

– Mary Oliver

Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity.”

– Ray Bradbury

In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.

– Robert Frost

Treat the attainment of happiness in the same way an entrepreneur would approach building a business — with a vision, plan, goals, and a systematic approach.”

– Ted Leonsis

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

– Nelson Mandela

Passion makes perfect.”

– Eugene Biro

Do not say, ‘why were the former days better than these,’ for it is not from wisdom that you ask this.”

– Ecclesiastes, 7:10

Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. 
Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.”

– Mary Jean Irion

A man without a smiling face
 should not open a shop.”

– Chinese Proverb

The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

– Carl Rogers

The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.”

– Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., U.S. Supreme Court justice

To follow, without halt, one aim: There’s the secret of success.”

– Anna Pavlova

He who knows he has enough is rich.”

– Tao Te Ching

Ripeness is all.”

– William Shakespeare

If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise.”

– Robert Fritz

Do you have the desire to create something new; the strength of conviction to believe your creation will be successful, and the reservoir of energy necessary to thrust it into the marketplace?”

– Steven Schussler

Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.”

– Basil King

If you do work that you love, and the work fulfills you, the rest will come.”

– Oprah Winfrey

The man who acquires the ability to take full possession of his own mind may take possession of anything else to which he is justly entitled.”

– Andrew Carnegie

A person who learns to juggle six balls will be more skilled than the person who never tries to juggle more than three.”

– Marilyn vos Savant

No longer talk at all about the kind of man a good man ought to be, but be such.”

– Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

I’m not afraid of storms,
for I’m learning to sail my ship.”

– Louisa May Alcott

Traveling is one way of lengthening life, at least in appearance.”

– Benjamin Franklin

You’ve got to be willing to crash and burn. If you’re afraid of failing, you won’t get very far.”

– Steve Jobs

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.”

– President Calvin Coolidge

A diamond is a lump of coal that stuck with it.”

– Norwegian proverb

‎Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way.”

– Booker T. Washington

The only dream worth having is to live while you’re alive and die only when you’re dead.”

– Arundhati Roy

Everyone is a mirror image of yourself—your own thinking coming back at you.”

– Byron Katie

Books

Location, Location, Location: The Right Place Can Make You Happy

Where do you find your bliss? Journalist Eric Weiner discovers that “where we are is vital to who we are.”

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Diplomacy

Tour Embassy Row With Colleen Mudlaff's Women's Diplomatic Series

Are you ready to take a magic carpet ride to Pakistan and Botswana? Check out our Q&A with Colleen Mudlaff, founder of DC’s Women’s Diplomatic Series.

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Estate Planning

A Trust Is Like a Contract That's on Steroids

“While a contract is an agreement between two parties that sets out the rights and responsibilities that each party owes to the other,” says Estate Planning attorney Lisa Hughes, “a trust is a contract on steroids.”

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Food

The Joy of Comfort Food

Craving a little comfort food this holiday season? You aren’t alone. True, they are frequently packed with carbohydrates. But hey, that makes them all the more delicious. Check out the top-10 recipes. Are your favorites on the list?

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Hiring

Barbara Mitchell's #1 Happiness Rule

Can you choose to be happy—no matter where you are, or what you are doing … even at work? Yes, insists Hiring expert Barbara Mitchell, whose recent trip to Paris helped her reset her “happiness clock.” She suggests three ways that you can, too.

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History

Cate Magennis Wyatt Takes Us on a Journey Through Hallowed Ground

“There is no place like the stretch from Gettysburg to Monticello,” avers the founder of Journey Through Hallowed Ground (JTHG). Here’s why.

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Intuition Rules

Judy Amato on the Art of Automatic Writing

Judy Amato’s ability to do automatic writing can help others see the events of their past, give them clarity—and even see into their future. Are you skeptical? Amato believes we are all intuitive. Some of us are just more “tapped in” than others.

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Live Love Laughing

Why Do People Work Too Much?

“High productivity and high earning rates … make it possible for people to work less and enjoy more, yet many continue to work assiduously to earn more,” says U of Chicago professor Christopher Hsee. Here’s why.

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Millennials

The Student Loan Dilemma

“Sure, getting the loan was essential to me going to college,” knows Eurah Lee, a college junior and the host of the new “Millennials Radio Show.” “But the longer I think about it—the more I realize that I am now connected to the federal government for the foreseeable future.”

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Networking

Women in Technology Are "Networking Around the Beltway"

Women in Technology is a Washington, DC-based organization that seeks to empower women to be architects of change in the technology industry. Don’t miss our Q&A with WIT’s Sue Butler, and learn how to network your way to the top.

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Andrew Carnegie

Publisher
Hope Katz Gibbs
Art Director
Michael Glenwood Gibbs
Website developer
Max Kukoy
Managing Editor
Kathleen McCarthy
Associate Editor
Cheryl Moore
Assistant Editor
Samantha Dannick
Editorial Interns
Meet our 2014 team

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Photography

From the White House to Weddings: Tracey Attlee Photography

Former New York Times and Associated Press White House-credentialed photographer Tracey Attlee offers tips to those who want to make it big as a professional photographer.

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PR Rules

The Happiness of Creating a Stunning Website

Did you see our interview about “PR Rules: The Playbook” on “Let’s Talk Live?” Click here to learn how to create a stunning website.

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Public Speaking

Are You Suffering From the "Bullet Point Effect"?

“I couldn’t survive the holidays without making bulleted lists of everything I need to get done,” shares Public Speaking expert Robin Miller. “But actually speaking in bullets to my friends and family would leave them cold.”

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Inkandescent Radio

New! The Millennials Radio Show

Welcome to the “Millennials Radio Show” — a monthly podcast that shines a light on what 20-somethings think, feel, and dream about. Your host is 20-something Eurah Lee, whose candid style and thoughtful approach will give a voice to the next great generation.

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Research

The Science of Understanding Happiness

Which countries have the happiest people? Why does isolated Bhutan measure Gross National Happiness? And can being happy make you healthy? Don’t miss these interesting research studies.

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Retirement

Women and Social Security: 4 Steps to Creating a Plan for Retirement Income

American women face a complex challenge when it comes to securing retirement income that will last a lifetime. “But longevity is only a portion of the story,” explains Financial Adviser Carmen Wu.

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Speakers Bureau

Ace Hardware Owner Gina Schaefer on the Joy of Entrepreneurship

What’s a happy entrepreneur? No one who fits that description better than Gina Schaefer, owner of nine Ace Hardware stores in DC and Baltimore. What gives her such joy?

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Inkandescent TV

Does Learning About History Make You Happy?

Don’t know much about history? Then tune into the Grateful American™ TV Show, featuring interviews with the leaders of the nation’s top presidential homes, history experts, authors, and educators.

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Truly Amazing Women™ Who Are Changing the World

Women Helping Women: Lindsey Mask Invites Us to Join "Ladies America"

Lindsey Mask is the founder and executive director of Ladies America, a national network of professional women. Her motto: “Women Helping Women.”

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Wealth

4 Strategies to Integrate Your Happiness Plan With Your Wealth Plan

Has your money bought you happiness? If not, financial planning may be just the ticket you need to help you gain clarity, confidence, and control over your finances, says Rita Cheng, a Certified Financial Planner™ professional.

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Andrew Carnegie

To learn more about becoming a client of Inkandescent Public Relations, or becoming a Be Inkandescent Magazine columnist. send an email to publisher and founder Hope Katz Gibbs at hope@inkandescentpr.com.

Here’s to your incredible, indelible, Inkandescent success!