Want To Change a Habit? These May Help.

Now that my book Better Than Before is out in the world, and people are starting to read it, I’m starting to see a lot of interest in certain resources that I offer.

So I wanted to make sure that everyone knows they’re available.

STARTER KIT: First, I’m getting more and more requests for the “starter kit” for people who want to launch a Better Than Before habits group.

One of the best ways to build good habits (and happiness) effectively – and also one of the most fun ways – is to join or start a group. I love joining or starting groups. At last count, I’d joined or started thirteen groups since I realized this fact, while writing The Happiness Project.

Better Than Before habits groups swap ideas, build enthusiasm, give energy and encouragement, and – most important – hold each other accountable. Think AA and Weight Watchers. Remember, most people find accountability helpful, but if you’re an Obliger – and many people are, this is a huge group — external accountability is the key to sticking to your good habits.  Crucial! Absolutely necessary! There are many ways to give yourself external accountability, but a group is one of the most effective. (Not sure if you’re an Obliger, or even what an “Obliger” is? Take this Quiz. More than 120,000 people have taken it.)

Everyone in the group doesn’t need to be working on the same habit; what’s necessary is the accountability. I heard about one (small) group, where one Obliger wanted to be held accountable for working on a writing project, and the other Obliger, unconventionally, wanted to be held accountable for things like getting a massage! This may sound silly, but is actually very wise. We need treats (that’s the Strategy of Treats), and Obligers may have trouble giving themselves treats — and so the answer is external accountability.  If they’re pushed too far, Obligers may burn out — or develop Obliger-rebellion, which can be very destructive.  They often need accountability to help them be kind to themselves.

So, if you’d like help launching a group for people doing a Better Than Before habits groups together, request it here.

DISCUSSION GUIDES: I’ve also heard from people who are talking about Better Than Before in a group.

Some, in a traditional book group. I love book groups. I’m in four, myself.

Some want to talk about it with people from work – there’s a  lot in the book about habits in the workplace, such as the discussion in the “Strategy of Distinctions” about the difference between Marathoners vs. Sprinters, Abstainers vs. Moderators, Simplicity-Lovers vs. Abundance Lovers; also the “Strategy of Other People,” the “Strategy of Convenience,” and so on. And of course, the Four Tendencies is quite helpful to consider at work.

Some want to discuss Better Than Before in a spiritual context — at a Bible study group, at a spirituality book group, for clergy, and the like.  Habits have enormous influence over our spiritual lives, as well as our work life, family life, health, etc. For one thing, as Flannery O’Connor noted, “The things that we are obliged to do, such as hear Mass on Sunday, fast and abstain on the days appointed, etc. can become mechanical and merely habit. But it is better to be held to the Church by habit than not to be held at all. The Church is mighty realistic about human nature.”

I’ve created a discussion guide for these three types of groups. You can download them here.

BetterThanBeforeBookplateinBookSIGNED BOOKPLATES: I’ve heard from a lot of people who want to give Better Than Before as a gift, to help someone they know who is struggling with a habit. I’ve also heard from many people who want to give away stacks of the book, to clients, patients, etc. An impulse which I very much appreciate. If you’d like free signed bookplates to make the gifts more special — or if you want a bookplate for your own book! — request them here. U.S. and Canada only, sorry–mailing costs.

CHECKLIST FOR HABIT CHANGE: To my regret, I didn’t think to create this checklist in time to include it in the book. Maybe I can add it to the paperback. Anyway, I created a one-page “Checklist for Habit Change.” At the top, you note the habit you want to master, then use the checklist to see how many of the 21 strategies you can use to change it. (This checklist is probably only useful if you’re reading the book.) Download it here.

I also have one-pagers for Eating Better Than Before, Exercising Better Than Before, Working Better Than Before, and Reading Better Than Before — I expected that the one about reading would be the least popular, but I think it may be the most popular. I guess a lot of people love to read as much as I do.

Are there other resources that you’d like to have?I truly do believe that it’s possible for us to change our habits — even when we’ve failed before. It’s not that hard — when we know what to do.

What’s Your Favorite Quotation About Coming Home?

When the fiddle had stopped singing Laura called out softly, “What are days of auld lang syne, Pa?”

“They are the days of a long time ago, Laura,” Pa said. “Go to sleep, now.”

But Laura lay awake a little while, listening to Pa’s fiddle softly playing and to the lonely sound of the wind in the Big Woods. She looked at Pa sitting on the bench by the hearth, the firelight gleaming on his brown hair and beard and glistening on the honey-brown fiddle. She looked at Ma, gently rocking and knitting.

She thought to herself, “This is now.”

She was glad that the cosy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.

— Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House in the Big Woods (last paragraphs)

This is one of my favorite passages in all of literature. I think of it often, especially when I come home after a trip. “This is now.

I was just away for ten days for my book tour — which may be the longest time I’ve been away from my family at a single stretch. I’m home for the weekend, then I leave again.

It’s a good example of how habits affect us: when I’m home, I take all the little things for granted, but when I come home after a trip, I feel everything keenly, for a time.

While I was traveling, my older daughter had a birthday and my younger daughter got a retainer.  I love getting the chance to talk to readers, but I do miss being home. Nothing happens, and everything happens. The days are long, but the years are short. (Of everything I’ve ever written, I think this one-minute video resonates most with people.)

Does some passage from literature, or some song, or something else, remind you of home? A friend says that every time he returns from a trip, he thinks of the scene from The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy is repeating, “There’s no place like home.”

“Better Than Before” Hits the Bestseller Lists! I’m So Happy.

Hooray! Better Than Before is an instant bestseller. In fact, it’s an international bestseller!

Of course, I had to take a photo when I actually saw it in a bookstore for the first time.

It appears on the…

-New York Times bestseller list

-Wall Street Journal bestseller list

-Indie bestseller list

-Globe & Mail bestseller list (Canada)

-Sunday Times bestseller list (London)

-“Best Books of the Month” in iBooks

-“Best Books of the Month” in Australian iBooks

Writing is a lot of work; it’s my favorite kind of work, and I would write even if no one read what I wrote, but it’s extraordinarily gratifying to see the book strike a chord with so many people. Thank you, readers, as always, for your support and enthusiasm. It’s thrilling to have the book out in the world at last.


Podcast #5: Embrace Good Smells; Remember That Working Is One of the Most Dangerous Forms of Procrastination.

My sister Elizabeth Craft and I are having so much fun with our new podcast,  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

I was in Los Angeles last weekend, as part of my book tour for Better Than Before, which was published last week. (Buy early, buy often!) It was great to have a chance to visit Elizabeth and her family — they live in Encino. While I was there, Elizabeth and I got a professional photo taken of ourselves, for the podcast, and we also managed to record two episodes. Usually, we don’t get to be in the same room as we talk, so it was great to be able to see each other for the conversation.

We also recorded an episode that will be a little bit…different.  I’m dying to see how that one turns out.

As I’ve been doing events for Better Than Before many people have told me that they’re enjoying the podcast. Thanks so much, and thanks for listening!

Here’s what we discuss in today’s episode:

Try This at Home: Embrace good smells. How I love good smells. The unconventional perfumer I mention is Christopher Brosius’s CB I Hate Perfumes.shrinetosmell Here’s a photo of my Shrine to Smell. What are some of your favorite smells?

Happiness Stumbling Block: It turns out that working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination. One big theme of Better Than Before is the question of how to use habits to avoid procrastination. WorkingIsOneOfTheMostDangerousForms_124851

Listener Question: “What’s something that can be done every morning that will guarantee a happier start to the day?”

Gretchen’s Demerit: I can’t make myself check my voice-mail messages on my land-line phone. It drives me crazy.

Elizabeth’s Gold StarInform Fitness Gym. I’m a believer, now Elizabeth is a believer! It’s a gym where we do high-intensity strength-training. The form of training is called “Super Slow.”

1pixGretchenRubinwithAndyBowersBonus Gold Star: When Elizabeth and I were recording, we got to see Andy Bowers, the brilliant Chief Content Officer of Panoply. Gold Star for Andy, who has made our entree into the world of podcasting so fun and easy.

This week, we had our first advertiser! Very exciting. Check out Framebridge — a terrific way to get your art and photos framed, in a super easy and affordable way. Use the code HAPPIER at checkout to get 20% off your first Framebridge offer.

To listen to this episode, just zip to the bottom of this post and hit the red “play” button.

Or if you’re reading this post by email, click here to view online, to listen to the podcast from this post.

Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen toHappier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).

Each week, we give  a “Try This at Home” suggestion, for some easy habit you can try, as part of your ordinary routine, to boost your happiness—something like setting an alarm to signal your bedtime, or using the one-minute rule, to help yourself stay on top of small nagging tasks.

We also suggest questions to help you “Know Yourself Better”—like “Whom do you envy?” and “Are you a Marathoner or a Sprinter in your work style?”—and explore “Happiness Stumbling Blocks,” those small, seemingly insignificant parts of daily life that drag us down—everything from the problem of the Evil Donut-Bringer to the fact that working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination.

We “Grill the Guest,” consider “Listener Questions,” and finally, we get even more personal, and each of us either gives ourselves a “Demerit” for a mistake we made that week, that affected our happiness, or awards a “Gold Star” to someone or something that deserves recognition.

We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much!

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE: If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really. Instructions here.

Or for an amusing short how-to video made by Ira Glass of This American Life, click here.

If you want to listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

Tell us what you think! Drop us a line at @gretchenrubin, @elizabethcraft, Facebook, podcast@gretchenrubin.com, or call 774-277-9336. Or just add your comment to this post.

Again, be sure to subscribe and listen and subscribe on iTunes so you never miss an episode. And if you enjoyed it, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

Happy listening! Or I should say, HAPPIER listening!

I Had a Very Odd Experience at the Gym This Morning.

Something odd happened to me this morning.

Right now, I’m in Dallas for my book tour for Better Than Before (buy early, buy often!) I was in the gym, walking on the treadmill, when suddenly I felt something shift in my personality.

The experience lasted about twenty seconds.

It was like a dial turned inside me. Or like the chips of glass inside a kaleidoscope made a new pattern.

I was still myself, but somehow in different proportions. I felt, for that moment, what it would be like to be…different. More light-hearted, more easy-going.

One fact about me is that I’m intense. There’s a relentlessness to my nature. And I don’t mind that. My discipline is my freedom. My sister Elizabeth tells me that I’d make a good monk. I’m an Upholder, and I love being an Upholder! Even though I recognize the downsides to it.

But for just a minute, for some reason, I felt like a different person. Then I snapped back to normal.

Something like this has happened to me once before. A few years ago, I was walking down Lexington Avenue, and suddenly I felt all my ambition vanish. It was as if I’d been carrying a heavy backpack for decades, and suddenly it slid off my back. I’d never consciously realized it before, but I have a voice in my head constantly saying, “Did you…?” “Should you…?” “Could you…?” For a moment, it was shut off, and then it returned.

And that was what I felt, this morning. I experienced myself as if I were just a little bit different. It was odd, and exhilarating, and a little sad. It would be fun to be less relentless! And yet I must Be Gretchen.

This is the music that was playing when it happened — Rachel Portman’s Main Theme from the soundtrack of the movie Chocolat. I guess it set off some kind of unexpected response.

Also, for a writer, having a new book out makes everything feel very heightened, so I’m sure that also contributed to it.

Have you ever had an experience like this? It was very odd. For a moment, I was someone different. Not very different, but different nevertheless.