What habit would you like to quit? (eating when I’m not hungry)
What habit would you like to start? (closing the laptop earlier in the evenings)
The exact things that help you maintain a habit are likely different than what helps someone else, due much to your personality type. So says Gretchen Rubin in Better Than Before. And I believe her.
Gretchen explains these “Four Tendencies” that greatly affect how we live our everyday lives. Which one are you?
- Upholder—responds readily to both outer expectations and inner expectations
- Questioner—questions all expectations, and will meet an expectation only if they believe it’s justified
- Obliger—responds readily to outer expectations but struggles to meet inner expectations
- Rebel—resists all expectations, outer and inner alike
Your intrinsic motivations and subsequent habit formations will differ according to your type. Gretchen explains,
“For an Upholder, a habit that’s a source of control might have special appeal; for a Questioner, curiosity; for an Obliger, cooperation; for a Rebel, challenge.”
Once you know your type, you can get better strategize to keep your habits.
I’m an Upholder (but can lapse into the other types; no one is all or nothing). That means I typically schedule out my day and try to stick to the plan. I like checking off a to-do list. I want to meet your expectations of me, but I also want to meet my own expectations for myself.
Knowing this, I can make schedules for my habits (exercise on Monday/Wednesday/Friday) and for the most part, stick to them.
But if your personality type is different—say, you’re a rebel—you don’t want to be told exactly what you’ll be doing today. Making a set schedule for yourself everyday would drive you crazy. Your habit formations need to work differently.
Thus, “Self-Knowledge” is the first section in Better Than Before for creating a structure in your everyday life. Subsequent sections include:
- Pillars of Habits
Monitoring your habits; Laying a foundation; Scheduling; Accountability
- The Best Time to Begin
Taking first steps; Starting with a clean slate; Making lighting bolt changes
- Desire, Ease, and Excuses
Abstaining vs. moderating; Making it convenient; Setting up safeguards; Rewarding
- Unique, Just Like Everyone Else
Making it specific; Creating a new identity; Influence from/on others
I love having strong habits because it takes less self-control. Less decision-making.
Once a habit is firmly established, you no longer have to think about it; you just do it.
So to change my habit of eating when I’m not hungry, I’m following Gretchen’s suggestions for setting up an “if/then” habit. If I start to head for a snack, I’ll first ask if I’m just bored instead and then distract myself for 10 minutes to see. Often if I’ll just engage in something else, I forget (temporarily at least) about the food lure.
To change my habit of staying on the computer too much, I’m going to use sunlight as a cue. When the sun goes down, I’ll put down my computer for the night, too, making it at least inconvenient to pull back out and use. (Similar to brushing your teeth after supper; it’s amazing how that cuts down on late-night snacking for me.) It turns out that convenience is a key factor in keeping habits.
There are many specific tips in this book, but also—and perhaps more importantly—there are many foundational ideas about why things work for us (or not), based on our type.
With this extra knowledge, we can better keep our habits in place. Not perfectly, but more reliably. As Gretchen says, “It’s simple to change habits, but it’s not easy.” But easy or not, it’s definitely possible.
Here is Gretchen’s “Better Than Before Habits Manifesto.” [You can download the The Habits Manifesto here.] We can all learn something from these as well.
The Habits Manifesto by Gretchen Rubin
- What we do every day matters more than what we do once in a while.
- Make it easy to do right and hard to go wrong.
- Focus on actions, not outcomes.
- By giving something up, we may gain.
- Things often get harder before they get easier.
- When we give more to ourselves, we can ask more from ourselves.
- We’re not very different from other people, but those differences are very important.
- It’s easier to change our surroundings than ourselves.
- We can’t make people change, but when we change, others may change.
- We should make sure the things we do to feel better don’t make us feel worse.
- We manage what we monitor.
- Once we’re ready to begin, begin now.
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What’s a habit you’re glad you have? Do you have a habit you’re trying to change in 2016? Please share in the comments.
My thanks to Blogging for Books
for the review copy of this book
- Do you believe what they’re saying? Blacks and whites in America
- “Welcome” – Have I failed at my One Word already?