My current emphasis: how to make good habits and break bad ones (really)

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Fill in the Blank: “The Mind Is So Rarely Disturbed But That __ Will Restore It to Tranquility.”

AdamSmith“The mind…is rarely so disturbed, but that the company of a friend will restore it to some degree of tranquility and sedateness.”

–Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Agree, disagree?

Ancient philosophers and contemporary scientists agree: strong relationships are a key to happiness. We usually get a little lift from engaging with other people.

I've just finished writing my next book, Better Than Before, about how we can make and break our habits. If you'd like to pre-order the book, click here.

Here’s My Habits Manifesto. What’s Yours?

BlackboardwithchalktrayEvery Wednesday is List Day, or Tip Day, or Quiz Day.

This Wednesday: My Habits Manifesto.

Writing a personal manifesto is a great exercise for clarifying your thinking — and it’s also a creative, absorbing process. I’ve written my Twelve Personal Commandments, and I also collect Secrets of Adulthood, which aren’t manifestos, but related to the same impulse.

As I’ve been writing Better Than Before, my book about how we make and break habits, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about habit-formation.

I decided I should write my manifesto for habits. Earlier, I’d done a similar exercise, where I distilled each strategy of the book into one sentence, and I also made a list of Secrets of Adulthood for Habits.

Voila, here’s my Habits Manifesto.

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.

Have you ever written your own manifesto? If you wrote a manifesto for habits, what would you add (or subtract)?

When I’m writing about a very big subject, I find it helpful to push myself to distill it. Trying to express an idea in very few words forces me to get very clear in my thinking.

In Books and Characters French and English, Lytton Strachey wrote, “Perhaps the best test of a man’s intelligence is his capacity for making a summary.” I’m not sure whether I agree with that, but I absolutely agree that making a summary is a great way to clarify thoughts.

To pre-order Better Than Before, click here.

Video: For Habits, the Strategy of Loophole-Spotting.

I’m doing a video series in which I discuss the various strategies that we can use for habit-formation.

Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life, and a significant element of happiness. If we have habits that work for us, we’re much more likely to be happy, healthy, productive, and creative.

My forthcoming book, Better Than Before, describes the multiple strategies we can exploit to change our habits. To pre-order, click here. (Pre-orders give a real boost to a book, so if you’re inclined to buy the book, I’d really appreciate it if you pre-order it.)

Today, I’m talking about the Strategy of Loophole-Spotting.

I have to say, this was my favorite chapter. The loopholes are so funny.

 

If you want to read more about a particular category of loophole, look here:

1. False choice loophole “I can’t do this, because I’m so busy doing that” – this is one I often use, myself

2. Moral licensing loophole  — “I’ve been so good, it’s okay for me to do this”

3. Tomorrow loophole — “It’s okay to skip today, because I’m going to do this tomorrow”

4. Lack of control loophole — “I can’t help myself”

5. Planning to fail loophole, formerly known as the “Apparently irrelevant decision loophole”

6. “This doesn’t count” loophole – “I’m on vacation” “I’m sick” “It’s the weekend”

7. Questionable assumption loophole

8. Concern for others loophole — “I can’t do this because it might make other people uncomfortable”

9. Fake self-actualization loophole – “You only live once! Embrace the moment!”

10. One-coin loophole“What difference does it make if I break my habit this one time?”

If you’re curious about the book I mention, The Boy Castaways of Black Lake Island, I write about it here.

What’s your favorite loophole?

See for Yourself! The Jacket for “Better Than Before” Is Revealed.

better_front_FINAL.inddIn the life of a book, there are many milestones.

Finishing the first draft, choosing the title, making the final edit — and figuring out the jacket art.

We’ve all heard “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but covers matter so much. The look of a book really influences our perception.

So, it’s a big moment for me to reveal the book jacket for Better Than Before, my book about how we can change our habits. Ta-da!

If you get my newsletter, daily quotations, book club recommendations, or you’re a Super-Fan, you got a preview. But now I’m unveiling it to the world.

Pay special attention to the star shapes. See how they suggest the formation of a habit? I must say, having the jacket makes the book feel much more real. It’s really about to go out into the world, at last.

I love the jacket, and I hope you do, too, but if you don’t — please don’t tell me. This ship has sailed.

Right now, I’m also finishing the “second pass pages,” which is my very last chance to make any edits. I’m handing that in on Wednesday, and then my work on the book is FINISHED. It’s exciting, but also nerve-wracking. I edit, edit, edit, and it’s hard for me to put down my pen and say that it’s done. Of course, it’s also a huge relief. For better or for worse,  Better Than Before will be finished on Wednesday.

Then it will be onward to March 17, 2015.

The book comes out in March, but f you’re inclined to buy it, it would be a big help to me if you pre-order it now. The way that book publishing works these days, pre-orders really matter. Booksellers, the media, other readers, the publisher, all pay a lot of attention to that number. So buy early and often! So many people have already pre-ordered, and I appreciate that so much.

Many people have asked me whether I’ll read the audio-book myself. Yes,  I will. Last time I did a recording, for The Happiness Project, I learned that I’d been mispronouncing “gimcrack” all my life. Who knows what I’ll find out this time?

To give you a taste of Better Than Before, here’s my Habits Manifesto:

  • 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. (For instance, with the Strategy of Abstaining.)
  • Things often get harder before they get easier.
  • When we give more to ourselves, we can ask more from ourselves. (The most fun strategy–Strategy of Treats.)
  • 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. (Strategy of Other People.)
  • We should make sure the things we do to feel better don’t make us feel worse.
  • We manage what we monitor. (Strategy of Monitoring.)
  • Once we’re ready to begin, begin now.

 

Agree, disagree?

My argument, in a nutshell: There are no one-size-fits-all solutions; to change our habits, we first have to figure out ourselves. When we identify key aspects of our nature — which is what Better Than Before does — we can tailor a habit to suit our particular idiosyncrasies, and that way, we set ourselves up for success.

Better than before! It’s what we all want.

Dear readers, thank you, as always, for your enthusiasm and support. Better Than Before is so much richer and more insightful (I hope) than it would have been if I hadn’t had the benefit of the brilliant insights and comments from readers.

How to End This Sentence? “There Is Certainly No Greater Happiness Than To…”

Samuel-Johnson-reading

How would you end that sentence? Here’s how Dr. Johnson completed it:

“There is certainly no greater happiness than to be able to look back on a life usefully and virtuously employed, to trace our own progress in existence by such tokens that excite neither shame nor sorrow.”

–Samuel Johnson, “Rambler No. 41,” August 7, 1750

I love the work of Samuel Johnson. I was looking back through the draft of Better Than Before, my book about habit change, and I realized that I’d quoted him several times — and I cut out several more quotations, as well. (To pre-order Better Than Before, click here.)

What authors do you find yourself quoting most often?