Making Myself Make the Effort

I’m a big fan of simple living. This is not always a good thing.

I’ve told you before how when it comes to saying yes to new adventures, my default setting is “no.” I love my life. I love my home. I love the regular rhythm of our everyday, and just hanging out with my husband and my kids.

This means that while lots of people say they need to learn to say no, I need encouragement to say yes.

Thankfully, I’m not the only one.

I just finished Gretchen Rubin’s latest, Happier at Home. It’s great. I suspect one of the reasons I enjoyed it and The Happiness Project so much is that my personality strongly resembles the author’s. I resonated with this passage:

The first principal of my happiness project was to “Be Gretchen.” One important way to “Be Gretchen” was not to assume that virtues that others strive to cultivate are ones that I should strive for. Others strive to save; I push myself to spend out. Others try to work more; I try to play more. Others strive for simplicity; I fight the simplifying impulse, because if anything, I cultivate too much simplicity–not a disciplined, thoughtful simplicity, but one created by indifference and neglect.

Like Gretchen, I don’t need to strive for simplicity; I was born with the keep-it-simple gene. But what I too often end up with is not serene and joyous; it’s bare and spartan. My “no” is not strong and purposeful; it’s merely automatic. When my “no” is reflexive, I’m not a good steward of my resources–time, and more precious, energy. I’m a hoarder of them. I want to do better.

Last summer, I resolved to fight my own simplifying impulse. I changed my default to “Yes.” I had a wonderful, memorable, (tiring) summer.

Now, I’m resolving to carry that “yes” forward. Because when I make the extra effort, I’m almost always glad I did.

I’ll be revisiting this theme in 2013 here on MMD. I’m dreaming and scheming all sorts of ways to put it into practice in my own life, and you can bet I’ll be sharing those with you.

But right here, right now, here’s what this looks like for me:

Like Gretchen Rubin, “I never looked forward to traveling–too many details.” Those words from Happier at Home could have been mine. Logistics wear me out, and traveling is all about logistics.

But this fall, I’ve been doing tons of traveling–much more than usual–and there’s more to come. Since going home is not an option, I’ve been trying to Go Big.

We’re currently making preparations to head off to a family wedding in Virginia. Usually, this would be an in-and-out kind of trip. But this year–with an eye to saying yes–we’ve decided to make a little extra effort to see some sights and make some memories.

We’ll be oh-so-close to Washington, D.C. for the wedding, so we’ve decided to drive an extra 100 miles to show our kids the nation’s capitol. We’re swinging through Williamsburg–my once-college town and “home” to my daughter’s beloved American Girl doll. We’re seeing new sights, old haunts, and long-lost friends.

It’s going to be a total pain. But it’s going to be worth it.

What’s your natural inclination? Do you need to simplify? Or do you need to make yourself make the effort, like I do? 

P.S. I wrote a book about personality! In Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything, I walk you through 7 different frameworks, explaining the basics in a way you can actually understand, sharing personal stories about how what I learned made a difference in my life, and showing you how it could make a difference in yours, as well.

DC photo credit

Books mentioned in this post:

Happier at Home

Happier at Home

I've been meaning to re-read this one since I made my 2013 goals last year. Rubin reminds me it's worth making the effort to do the little things--especially in my home—because they really do make a difference.

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About the Book

Publisher’s description:
In the spirit of her blockbuster #1 New York Times bestseller The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin embarks on a new project to make home a happier place.

One Sunday afternoon, as she unloaded the dishwasher, Gretchen Rubin felt hit by a wave of homesickness. Homesick—why? She was standing right in her own kitchen. She felt homesick, she realized, with love for home itself. “Of all the elements of a happy life,” she thought, “my home is the most important.” In a flash, she decided to undertake a new happiness project, and this time, to focus on home.

And what did she want from her home? A place that calmed her, and energized her. A place that, by making her feel safe, would free her to take risks. Also, while Rubin wanted to be happier at home, she wanted to appreciate how much happiness was there already.

So, starting in September (the new January), Rubin dedicated a school year—September through May—to making her home a place of greater simplicity, comfort, and love.

In The Happiness Project, she worked out general theories of happiness. Here she goes deeper on factors that matter for home, such as possessions, marriage, time, and parenthood. How can she control the cubicle in her pocket? How might she spotlight her family’s treasured possessions? And it really was time to replace that dud toaster.

Each month, Rubin tackles a different theme as she experiments with concrete, manageable resolutions—and this time, she coaxes her family to try some resolutions, as well.

With her signature blend of memoir, science, philosophy, and experimentation, Rubin’s passion for her subject jumps off the page, and reading just a few chapters of this book will inspire readers to find more happiness in their own lives.

Series: 15 books to help you achieve your New Year's resolutions
Genre: Memoir
Tag: 2013 Summer Reading Guide
Length: 289 pages
ASIN: 0307886794
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  1. Linda says:

    Stewardship and balance are the recurring themes in my life. It looks a little different here, but that’s okay.

    You will so love going to Williamsburg with your family. We went in the spring with our girls. I’d do it again. We want to take them to DC as well. So many wonderful things to do and see. Enjoy your time away!

  2. Carrie says:

    Yes yes yes… those statements really smacked me in the face too. I also feel like Gretchen and I must be so much alike (and you and I – teehee!), Happier at Home made me feel this way even more than the Happiness Project.

    Really though, I wonder if this tendency to say no is about conserving physical energy (and not a personality flaw)? When I started reading up about classical homeopathy I was fascinated to learn that this tendency to tire easily and say no to things to avoid getting depleted was a quality of the Silicea personality.

  3. Katherine says:

    Yay for Virginia in the fall! What a great time to visit. We camped this past weekend here in central Virginia and it is really beautiful.

    You, of course, know that from your time in Williamsburg:)

    If it weren’t for my husband, I would rarely travel or do any “adventures”. I would say no all the time because it just keeps life simpler and easier. Like- camping? With two kids and a baby? If it were purely up to me- heeeeck no. But he encourages me to get outside of myself and it is worth it, 99% of the time. We had a great (albeit freezing) time this weekend. The kids loved it, and so did it (except in the middle of the night).

    Have fun!

  4. Jillian Kay says:

    Have a great trip! What will you be doing while you’re here? Will you have any time to drive up on the Blue Ridge Parkway or are you going straight up 95? My kids love the Udvar Hazy center out in Dulles if you have the time. It’s so much better than the Air & Space museum on the Mall.

  5. Interesting. Now that I think about it. I LOVED to travel before I had kids. With each addition to our family, it has become less and less appealing to me. I’m definitely a fan of keeping things simple.

    However, I do agree that it IS necessary for me to occasionally push myself out of my comfort zone so they can explore the wide world!

  6. Nathalie says:

    Anne! Thanks for this. Since turning 30 a couple of years ago I, more than ever, have been striving to BE NATHALIE! Which means I might not follow the trends…that’s ok. I might parent differently than my friends or the latest parenting books…that’s ok. Anyway…I just SO resonated with this. Have fun in Virginia! 🙂

  7. Hm. I think you and my mom are possibly the same person. And I am exactly the opposite. 😀

    I’ve always kinda wondered how my hates-to-travel, likes-to-be-home-all-day mom and I can be related.

    We just got back from a whole week at Disneyland at the beginning of October, and I’m already planning an anniversary getaway weekend for us next summer. I love traveling – and half the fun for me is the logistics and planning.

  8. I crave simplicity but I also crave being busy – I get antsy if I sit still for too long. I suspect that’s why I enjoy blogging so much. I know that in my home, I crave simplicity, but not contemporary, IKEA-like simplicity, more like homey, farmhouse simplicity – lots of warm woods, simple decorations, cosy blankets, and the like.

  9. Missy June says:

    Being a single mom makes my default, “No” simply because I often lack the energy and resources to do more. BUT, knowing that I’m the only one shaping my children’s childhood is also motivation to make it memorable and meaninful, so I’ve had to find balance that works for us.

    I have intentionally sought out adventures close to home and try to say yes whenever possibile. This has probably been one my greatest lessons in learning not to be selfish. Many times, I would rather veg in front of the tv or skip that picnic in the park (seriously, there is a lot of prep-work!), and sometimes I do! But saying YES has created much more fun, lots of memories and fun bonds among my three little ones and with me.

    It is worth it!

  10. Mary says:

    Oh my word . . .I thought I was the only one. “No” is the automatic, the default, for me. I have to REALLY step outside my comfort zone to say “yes”–whether it be to social invitations, new experiences, or really anything outside of the home. I am just very much a homebody and find it way too easy to spend all my time there.

    Thanks for this post…I feel encouraged to start saying “yes” more often!

  11. tgz says:

    I am odd, it seems. I go through phases: sometimes my social default is “Yes” for going outside the home, new experiences (as long as they don’t involve danger) and meeting people (as long as it is in a relaxed situation); other times my social default is “No”. I believe I am right at the middle of the extravert/intravert spectrum…

  12. My latest blog post relates to just this! I think saying “yes” is also about being more spontaneous–which I am not. I, too, just finished that chapter in Happier at Home. I, too, am planning a trip to Washington, D.C. with my daughter. Gee.

  13. Jennifer says:

    I’ve been lobbying for a family trip to DC. When you get back, let me know the 9-year old’s favorites for my own planning 🙂

  14. Yes, yes, yes. I haven’t read Gretchen Rubin’s newest book yet, but when I read The Happiness Project, I triple-underlined the part about overbuying vs. underbuying. I am a chronic underbuyer – I am always running out of socks, toothpaste, eggs, etc. because I can’t bring myself to spend any more money than I “have to.” The same goes for adventure – if something isn’t unavoidably necessary, I probably won’t spend money on it. Glad to hear there are others like me out there. I’m inspired by your commitment to saying “yes”!

  15. Heather says:

    This is so fascinating. I have read Rubin’s Happiness Project book but not this one. I keep meaning to download it. Loved reading your take on the simplicity issue and I look forward to hearing how your experiment goes. We took our son to DC last month and had a lot of fun. Safe travels!

  16. I think it’s a hard balance. And finding out who we are is so important. I am a homebody–sort of. We’re more reserved by nature and don’t like to attend lots of events and fill our schedules up. But…we love planning outings. A picnic to the park, a day trip there, and weekend get-a-way. Usually finances hold us back more than anything, but we do love planning when we can do something!

  17. annie says:

    When I’m at home, I’m the same as you: my default tends to be no. But I love to travel. I joke that I’m either at home or outside the country. I need to learn how to say no when it comes to traveling, because I always want to do as much as I can while I’m wandering away from home.

  18. Elizabeth Kane says:

    I’m more excited about the possibilites that come along with “yes” than the actual doing of the things. The details to get there can exhaust me before I’ve even started. But then once I get into the planning, I get really into it (kind of a little OCD) because I want everything to work well so I’m not exhausted from it all and I can enjoy the trip I’m leaping to take. Once I get a push, I’m always glad I did it, but I want good friends enjoying the leap with me.

  19. Erin says:

    I love DC! I grew up in MD and we went all of the time. My favorite place is the US History Museum. It is somewhat interactive, but filled with all sorts of neat things! I really do love it and go every time I visit.

  20. I’ve been talking to my husband about this idea lately, though in a different form. We choose to live frugally, but I’ve been saying no to purchasing things for so long that I’ve become less frugal and more cheap. I say no to spending money so often that it’s become a habit. I can say yes once in a while, and I’m learning how to start doing that again. I’m taking steps to allow myself to open my hands and be more generous with what we have.

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  22. This post resonates with me. I, too, love being at home. What can I say? I’m a homebody (is homebody still used?). My children, have been the motivator in getting me out. We are homeschoolers, and if it were not for field trips and extra-curricular activities, we would probably just be home quite a bit. Thank you for sharing. It’s comforting to know I am not the only one. 🙂

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