The Happiness Project

“Try Something Eight Times Before You Give Up”

I’ve started a new feature—the True Rules series. These aren’t general rules for living, like “Enjoy the present.” They’re more concrete lessons that come out of people’s specific experiences.

Traditions boost happiness . Every August, my college roommate comes out from California with her family to spend several weeks in New Jersey with her in-laws. At some point while she’s on the East Coast, according to our tradition, she takes the train into Manhattan, and we spend most of the day going for a long walk. (One of the nicest things about New York City is that when you walk even a mile, you feel like you’ve really traveled far; each neighborhood is so different from the others.)

We see each other only one day each year, but we cover a lot of ground on that day. Highlights of this year’s walk include her stopping to read choice bits from Coleridge’s letters, a trip to a bookstore, and our discovery that we’re both raving fans of Twilight —we spent a long time trying to plumb the mystery of its strange power.

Along the way, I asked for a True Rule, and she had a good one:

If you can’t watch the video: “One of my True Rules—and I’ve used it with my kids a lot, and it has held true—is to try something eight times before you give up in a snit.”

Eight times is a good number. Your child begs to try something, then wants to quit right away—eight piano lessons, eight attempts on rollerblades, eight ballet classes is enough to permit a real judgment. I’m going to try that on my children—and on myself.

* Benjamin Franklin is one of the patron saints of people doing happiness projects; in fact, he inspired the design of my Resolution Charts . So I was thrilled to see this homage to him by Maira Kalman on her great blog, And the Pursuit of Happiness .

* Speaking of Resolutions Charts, if you’d like to take a look at my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just e-mail me at grubin, then the “at” sign, then gretchenrubin dot com . (Sorry about writing it in that roundabout way; I’m trying to thwart spammers.) Just write “Resolutions Chart” in the subject line.