I'm not a fan of New Year's resolutions. We know that people keep less than 5% of New Year’s resolutions, and I think a big reason for this is that anything we are trying to change in our lives is really about self-discipline.

I realized this after spending two years reading what positive psychologists have discovered makes people happy. And, it turns out, that everything we know about what makes us happy comes down to having self-discipline to do what we know we want to be doing.

So of course making a New Year's resolution doesn't work, because it's the act of saying, “I want to make a change, but I'm not going to do it now. I'm going to do it in January.” That's not self-discipline, that's procrastination, right?

If you want to make a change in your life, you can start right now, with something that is not that hard to change. Read more

It’s the time of year when I list my top posts of 2009. When I first started doing this top-posts-of-the-year thing, I felt obligated to actually give you the real version of what was most popular. Now I don’t feel so obligated.

If you’re wondering, some of the posts that brought in more than 400 comments are:

But whatever. I feel like I’ve been talking about those posts all year. What about some other posts? One’s that are so well researched and I love what I learned from writing them:

Here are some firsts for me during the past year:

I am lost. I have been lost before in my career. It's just that I did not write about it while it was happening. I wrote about it after the fact. That's much easier. But in the past, during the time I was lost, I simply stopped writing.

For example, I quit playing volleyball and went to graduate school for English. And, at the same time that I realized that English professors make no money and have no job security, I also got dumped by the guy I had been living with for five years. So this is what I did in graduate school: Nothing. I had already written two full novels, so I turned in a little bit of them each week. And I had to take literature courses, which I passed by reading New York Times book reviews (you'd be surprised how far back those go.) And then, after burning every bridge possible at Boston University, I left, one credit short of a graduate degree.

There were other times I fell apart. And stopped writing. For example, when I had a baby, I stayed home with it, every hour of every day, while I had an identity crisis. I still needed to support the family, but I couldn't write anything because I couldn't imagine giving career advice when I was having a total career meltdown. So I took columns from five years earlier and turned them in as new columns. And, after about three months of that, I got fired.

Read more

The end of December is one of the hardest times of the year to be unemployed. The peer pressure for good cheer is outrageous, the financial pressure of gifts is huge even for those with a steady paycheck, and the constant catchup with friends and family means everyone will ask, “how are you doing?”

Here are ways to feel better in these situations if you are having a tough time right now.

1. Remember that most people have empathy.
The biggest shift in the workplace is that unemployment always looms, for everyone. It used to be that people who had “good careers” did not have to worry about being unemployed. These people had a ticket to retirement if they just stayed in one place and put in their hours. In those days, being unemployed was the equivalent of being a failure. Those days are over. Today everyone worries about being unemployed. Most people have been laid off more than once. Almost no one is so arrogant to think they are better than you because you can't find a job right now. And if you do meet someone who snubs their nose: They are delusional and out of touch, and should probably be more worried than everyone else about their own employment. Read more

My company, Brazen Careerist, partnered with PayScale to come up with a list of the Top 50 Employers for Gen Y. The list is based on what we at Brazen Careerist know about Gen Y and the new workplace, and what PayScale knows about slicing and dicing workplace data.

To me, the most interesting thing about Top 50 lists like this is the assumptions behind them. So here are the assumptions I think are interesting:

1. Salary negotiations are over.
In most polls, if you ask Gen Y what they care about when choosing a place to work, the top three things will be, in varying orders: flexibility, interesting work, and likable co-workers.

You will notice that salary is missing from the list. Many people assume this is because Gen Y doesn't care about salary. In fact, they care a lot. No generation has more debt than Gen Y, and no generation is more financially knowledgeable so early on in their lives as Gen Y.

Gen Y doesn't consider salary to be a huge factor in choosing a place to work because Gen Y knows that salary data is public. The days when a company can screw you by underpaying you are over. Anyone can go to a place like Payscale and find out what other people in a similar geographic location are getting paid for a similar job. Read more

It might be that the only useful thing you ever learned in school (besides how to make small talk at a party) is how to ask a good question.

Most of us didn’t learn that, though. Because it’s so hard to teach. I know it’s really hard to teach because people with Asperger Syndrome don’t understand how to ask a question, and I watched speech therapists (pragmatics specialists) try to teach my son, while I took notes for myself.

Children with Asperger’s often have to learn when to use Why, What, and Where because they don’t know how to ask questions, even though they often have through-the-roof IQs. They actually seem mentally slow because they cannot learn as fast as other children due to the lack of good questions – which is a great illustration of how important asking questions is.

I will answer almost any question someone asks, which makes me better at asking questions myself, but I am also very conscious of the fact that most questions people ask me are terrible.

So here are tips on how to ask good questions. Read more

This is what I thought yesterday: I thought, today is the day I'm going to start going to the gym again. I am certain that no one recovers from sadness until they go back to the gym: Endorphins, routine, self-control, these are all the pieces of getting back to normal.

I have said, every day for the past week, that today is the day I will go to the gym. But this is the day when my ex-husband sleeps over. It’s the day I am supposed to be at the farm. I am supposed to wake up with the farmer's arms around me, roosters crowing in my ears.

Instead, I wake up freezing, because the ex keeps my house much colder than I do. I wake up with the kids voices in the air downstairs, clamoring for breakfast. They sound so sweet and fun but I promised my ex I would hide in my bedroom until they kids go to school. It's his time with them, and if I stop hiding, we would have to parent together, and if we could do that then we'd still be married.

So I am sitting my bedroom, I am hungry. Not hugely hungry because, in a stunning example of the unfairness of life, I lose my appetite when I have been dumped, so I am very thin with no one there to see it.

It'll be another 45 minutes before I can go downstairs. I am hungry enough that I eat one of the chocolates the farmer gave me as a parting birthday gift. That's right. He gave me presents while he was dumping me. I have to bite into seven before I find one I like, and I lay in bed in between bites in case I have to cry, and then I bite four more to find a second one of the kind I like, and then there are broken chocolates strewn across my bed.

I am not crying, though. I think I am past that. I am looking for solutions. Read more

It’s my birthday. I’m going to give a gift to myself today. I’m going to post five posts that make me happy. I hope you will like reading them. I hope you haven’t read all of them already.

Also, maybe in the comments section, you will post your favorite post back to me. And tell me why it makes you happy. That would be a good gift.

Top Ten Jobs to Have, April 2006
I like this one because it is one of the first posts I did. It reminds me that each time I’ve tried something new I have been tentative, and largely terrible at it. This is not really a post as much as a start of a post. But I like the last line.

My financial history, and stop whining about your job, March 2007
My personal finances have been sort of a wreck since about 2001. It’s very scary to have a messy financial life. It’s even scarier to be a career advisor in a financial mess. I was so scared, all the time, that people would find out and then hate me. So it was a huge relief to write this post and come clean about who I am, and how I got here. And there were absolutely no negative ramifications from writing this post. It taught me so much about the value of being who I am, and trusting that it will be okay to be me. Read more

I don't usually write about my life in real time, because the difference between a blog post than reads like a diary entry and a blog post that someone would want to read is usually just time passing.

So time passing means that even though I get a ton of comments, I do not usually run my life based on the comments section. But in the last week I have been particularly lost, and particularly inundated by timely comments. On top of that, I know it seems like I can tell anyone anything, but I'm not actually like that. I don't understand the normal give and take of conversation.

I don't have friends, which is typical for someone with Asperger's Syndrome. I mean, I have friends, but it's not normal. Like, I know some people call their friends a lot. My two best friends are not in Madison, and I call them to say hi once every three months. At most. The second best friend doesn't even know she's my second-best friends. She'd probably be horrified to hear it. I'm probably her twentieth best friend.

(I am the type who has a significant other and they are my friend. I am a person who should be married. I like being married because I want a friend and that's really the only way I know how to do it.)

So I didn't tell anyone I was getting married. I wrote it on my blog. And friends who follow the blog wrote to me to congratulate me. Read more

It looks like a lot of people are coming here from the article in the San Francisco Chronicle: Big City Blues, Could a more affordable life, away from the Bay Area, actually be better, by Rob Baedeker.

Here are some of my most popular posts about figuring out where to live:

Also, when I moved to Madison, I founded the company Brazen Careerist, which is funded by investor groups in Madison, WI and Washington, DC. Then I wrote this post:

Starting a company in Silicon Valley is stupid

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy the blog!