358: Choose Your One-Word Theme for 2022 (We Reveal Ours). What Habit Loopholes Do You Use? Plus a Hack for Curiosity.


December 29, 2021, marks the twelfth anniversary of the publication of my book The Happiness ProjectTo celebrate, I’m holding a fun giveaway on social media – be sure to follow along @gretchenrubin on Instagram.

As Elizabeth so kindly noted, The Happiness Project was a #1 New York Times bestseller, and was on the list for two years. 

Try This at Home

Choose a one-word theme for the year.

We’ve chosen one-word themes for the past several years, and we’ve discussed our themes in episode 306254201, and elsewhere.

Some of our previous choices:

  • Elizabeth: “Free Time,” “Style,” “Hot Wheels,” “Novel,” “Home,” “Control,” “#6,” “Lighter,” and last year, “Butterfly.”
  • Gretchen: “Upgrade,” “Bigger,” “Lighten Up,” “Re-purpose,” “Delegate,” “Infrastructure,” “Growth,” and last year, “Open.”

This could be a fun way to approach your #Rest22in22 challenge. Make “Rest” your word! (For a one-pager for #Rest22in22, it’s here.)

Our words for 2022:

Elizabeth: Step. Ever forward!

We mention a story told by TV producer and writer Nichelle Tramble Spellman in episode 80 of Happier in Hollywood. I re-tell the story as a three-minute story in the episode of A Little Happier, “This Mother Knew Exactly What Advice to Give in an Awful Job Situation.”

Gretchen: Salt.

I mention the Salt Sampler that Elizabeth gave to Jamie as a holiday gift.

I also refer to the fairy tale, “I love you as much as the salt in my soup,” which you can listen to here.

Now that we’ve picked our one-word themes, the trick is to keep them uppermost in our minds. In the past, listeners have used screensavers, passwords, dog tags, jewelry, vision boards, bullet journals, and so on. For instance, Elizabeth and I both have necklaces that reflect our 2021 one-word themes.

Photo of Gretchen's "Open" necklace Photo of Elizabeth's butterfly necklaces 
I also have my one-word theme posted on my corkboard, where my eyes fall on it constantly. 

Gretchen's cork board with the word "open" on an index card 
You might also tie your one-word theme to your “22 for 22” list, by listing twenty-two things you’d like to do in 2022 related to your theme. If you’d like the free PDF template for making a “22 for 22” list, it’s here.

Happiness Hack

Search in your podcast player to find episodes that discuss books you’ve read or want to read–or anything else you’re interested in. (At least in Apple, be sure to look in “Episodes,” not Shows.”)

Know Yourself Better

What habit loopholes do you invoke?

In Better Than Before, my book about how to make and break habits, I identify the twenty-one strategies of habit-formation. Every strategy is important, every strategy is fascinating, but one strategy is the funniest strategy, and that’s the Strategy of Loophole-Spotting.

There are 10 categories of loopholes, and most of us have a few personal favorites:

  • False choice loophole – “I can’t do this, because I’m so busy doing that”
  • Moral licensing loophole  – “I’ve been so good, it’s okay for me to skip”
  • Tomorrow loophole – “It’s okay to skip today, because I’m going to do this tomorrow”
  • Lack of control loophole – “I can’t help myself”
  • Planning to fail loophole – formerly known as the “Apparently irrelevant decision loophole” — “I decided to explore one of my old neighborhoods and…well, look at that! I’m right in front of my favorite bakery. And of course, I couldn’t possibly pass up their cookies.”
  • “This doesn’t count” loophole  “I’m on vacation” “I’m sick” “It’s the weekend”
  • Questionable assumption loophole – “It’s not possible to do this”
  • Concern for others loophole – “I can’t do this because it might make other people uncomfortable”
  • Fake self-actualization loophole – “You only live once! Embrace the moment!”
  • One-coin loophole –”What difference does it make if I break my habit this one time?”

When we try to form and keep habits, we often search for loopholes, for justifications that will excuse us from keeping this particular habit in this particular situation. However, if we catch ourselves in the act of loophole-seeking, we can perhaps reject the loophole.

I talk about the difference between a loophole and a planned exception. Please send your examples of loopholes! I love them. The more ingenious and original, the better.

Demerits & Gold Stars

  • Elizabeth’s Demerit: She hasn’t had professional family photos taken in years.
  • Gretchen’s Gold Star: I give gold stars to our husbands, Jamie and Adam, for embracing our hometown of Kansas City.


  • If you’d like to learn more about my (bestselling) book The Happiness Projecthere you can find a sample chapter, reading-group guides, one-pagers to start your own happiness project, etc. If you’re interested in the giveaway, follow along @gretchenrubin on Instagram.
  • It’s almost 2022! If you’re looking for a creative way to set aims for the new year, try making a “22 for 2022” list, by listing 22 things you’d like to do in 2022. To help you organize your list, I’ve created this free PDF.

What we’re reading

  • Elizabeth: Listening to Life by Keith Richards (Amazon)
  • Gretchen: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (AmazonBookshop)




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