Tag Archives: habits

Want To Talk about Your Habits in a Group? It’s a Good Idea.

It’s been so satisfying to have Better Than Before out in the world at last. I must admit, I do look in every bookstore I pass, to see it on the shelves. I get a thrill every time. (I’ve also been known to sneak around putting copies of my books in more conspicuous places.)

And I was thrilled, yesterday, to hear that Better Than Before is still holding strong on the New York Times bestseller list. Yay! Thank you, readers.

It’s fascinating to me to hear how people are responding, now that there’s been time for people to have read the book — what ideas they’re finding most helpful or most surprising, and how they’re using the habit strategies themselves.

Please email me or post a comment here if you find a great way to apply one of the 21 strategies! I simply cannot hear enough examples. For instance, yesterday, I got an email from one reader who had leased a new car, and then used the Strategy of the Clean Slate to break the habit of eating fast food during the commute home from work. In the new car, no fast food. So simple, so brilliant.

In particular, many people have told me that they’re discussing the book in a group.

For instance, people are discussing Better Than Before in book groups, groups at work, and in spirituality-based groups (Bible study groups, spirituality groups, and the like). And support groups–one group discussed it during a support group for weight-loss surgery patients.

So, if you’d like one of the discussion guides for these groups, email me your request at gretchenrubin1 at gretchenrubin dot com or click here to download the guides (scroll down).

I’m in four book groups myself, so it gives me special pleasure to hear that Better Than Before is being discussed by a book group.

I’m also getting a lot of requests for the starter kit, from people who want to launch a Better Than Before habits group, where people work on their habits together.

No surprise, many of these requests come from Obligers, who now see that external accountability is the key to sticking to their good habits — they want to form the group that will give them that crucial accountability. Which is a great idea!

Some solutions — like hiring a coach, working with a trainer, or taking a class — work extremely well, but they carry a cost; starting a habits group is free. If you’d like the starter kit, email me at gretchenrubin1 at gretchenrubin dot com, or download it here.

If you’re reading the book in any kind of group, and your group would like signed bookplates to make the books feel more personal, request them here (I’m so sorry–I can offer this for U.S. and Canada only, because of mailing costs). Or request a bookplate for yourself, or a gift, if you want.

Unrelatedly, in a book-signing line, someone asked me, “Do you really make your bed when you’re staying in a hotel? Even on the morning you’re checking out?”

Yup. I really do.

This is a good example of something from my Habits Manifesto: We’re not much different from other people, but those differences are very important. This hotel-bed-making habit, which seems natural and unexceptional to me, strike many people as deeply weird. As I’ve discovered. On my book tour, I’ve had many opportunities to make my hotel bed.

Podcast #7: Treat Yourself Like Toddler, Beware the “I’m Right, You’re Wrong” Conversation, and the Benefit of Lowered Expectations.

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

For the last few weeks, I’ve been on my book tour for Better Than Before, and many people have told me that they’re enjoying it. Thanks so much, and thanks for listening! (If you like the podcast, we’re sheepishly asking people to rate and/or review it, if time and inclination permit; very helpful for a new podcast like ours.)

Today I’m off to Toronto. Can’t wait — I love Canada.

Before describing this week’s episode, I want to say thanks to the folks at iTunes; they created something special for me, a single page on iTunes where people can find Happier with Gretchen Rubin as well as my books.  And I can’t resist quoting what they said:

“We’re major fans of Gretchen Rubin, bestselling author of The Happiness Project. Rubin’s fascination with human behavior–as well as her sincere believe that we can make our lives more fulfilling and joyous–shines through in her podcasts, blog, and books. Her new book, Better Than Before, looks at how we form and break habits and is packed with her trademark warmth, wit, and down-to-earth intelligence.”

Gosh! That’s nice to see.

Here’s what Elizabeth and I discuss in today’s episode:

Try This at Home: Treat yourself like a toddler. A cranky toddler.

Happiness Stumbling Block: Ever find yourself in an endless “I’m right; you’re wrong” conversation?

Listener Question: “How do you work on a habit that’s not a priority for your partner or family?” Good question. This comes up a lot with habits.

Gretchen’s Demerit: I unjustly accuse my husband of failing to fax an important form for me. I headed straight to blame! Sheesh.

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth’s lowered expectations for the weather in Hawaii meant that her family had a better vacation, in the end.

Thanks again to our advertiser, 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 order.

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” (well, we plan to — we haven’t had a guest yet), 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!

This New Yorker Cartoon Expresses a Big Idea in a Very Brief Way.

I’ve often thought that it would be fun to write a book about happiness and habits that would consist of a series of New Yorker cartoons, with my commentary.

Wouldn’t that be fun?

Consider, for instance, this cartoon by David Sipress. A guy in an office looks up from his computer to see Death, with his hooded cloak and scythe, walking through the door.

The guy says, “Thank goodness you’re here–I can’t accomplish anything unless I have a deadline.”

This reminded me of a couple of principles of happiness and good habits.

First, we all share that ultimate deadline. The days are long, but the years are short. I often remind myself: don’t wait to find time for something that’s important to me; make time for it now. Because we never know when we’ll run out of time.

Second, for most people, deadlines — and other forms of external accountability — are very helpful. If there’s something we want to accomplish, it’s helpful to put a deadline around it. Something that can be done at any time is often done at no time. Deadlines help.

And for Obligers, this external accountability is key. Crucial. Indispensable! (Not sure if you’re an Obliger — or what an Obliger is? Take this quiz.)

I admire the ability of cartoonists to capture large ideas in a single image and a few lines of text.

Is there a cartoon that you saw where you thought, “Wow, this cartoon says it all”? Or a cartoon that you’ve kept on the fridge or above your desk, for years?

How Are Your Habits Shaped by Your Surroundings?

“There is a myth, sometimes widespread, that a person need only do inner work…that a man is entirely responsible for his own problems; and that to cure himself, he need only change himself…The fact is, a person is so formed by his surroundings, that his state of harmony depends entirely on his harmony with his surroundings.” —Christopher Alexander, The Timeless Way of Building

One of the items on my Habits Manifesto is “It’s easier to change our surroundings than ourselves.”

Have you found ways to change your surroundings, in a way that helps you keep your good habits? Sometimes it’s as simple as not buying ice cream, or keeping the TV remote control hidden on a high shelf, or making your bed.

This comes up often with Obligers. Obligers often say to me, “I need to build my self-esteem,” “I need to learn to honor my own priorities,” or “I need to make time for myself.” My response is — change your surroundings, not yourself. Add external accountability, and you’ll meet that inner expectation. And adding external accountability is so much easier than trying to change ourselves.

What has worked for you?

“I Formed a ‘Resolution Club’ with Three Friends. We Each Had Different Resolutions.”

Interview: David Lat.

I got to know David Lat through our connection as being combination lawyer/writers. He founded and is the managing editor of Above the Law, a site which covers law firms and the legal profession (in an edgy way).

David recently published his dishy first novel, Supreme Ambitions. It’s the story of a woman who graduates from Yale Law School and wants to clerk on the Supreme Court. As a Yale Law School grad who clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, you can see why this intrigued me.

I was curious to hear how David manages his novel-writing habits, work habits, and health habits.

Gretchen: Do you have any habits that continually get in the way of your happiness?

David Lat: Procrastination. I postpone difficult, unpleasant, or challenging tasks until they can’t be postponed any longer. Running a widely read, commercial blog like Above the Law has been good for me because I can’t indulge my procrastination habit; I constantly need to be writing and editing. But procrastination was a major problem when I was trying to write my novel, Supreme Ambitions, which was a much more long-term project.

Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

I managed to pick up a healthy habit (walk at least 15 miles a week) and break an unhealthy one (excessive consumption of desserts and sweets) by forming a “resolution club” with three friends. We each had different resolutions we brought to the group. Every Monday, we’d check in with each other: did we keep our resolutions over the prior week? Those who failed to honor their resolutions had to pay $20 to the other group members — and also had the shame of acknowledging failure. [If you’d like a “starter kit” for launching a group of people who work on their habits together, click here.]

Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?  [Readers, to learn more about this framework, or to find your own Tendency, look here.]

I’m definitely an “Obliger.” When I was in school, I would do assignments to meet the expectations of my professors. When I worked as a law clerk and then a lawyer, I would complete projects to meet the expectations of my bosses. Now that I basically work for myself, running Above the Law and doing outside writing, I struggle more with getting things done. When I was working on Supreme Ambitions, I would have a hard time sitting down and producing pages. I didn’t start making real progress until, acknowledging my “Obliger” personality, I told my editor Jon that I would send him some pages every Monday. He didn’t have to read them immediately, but I committed to sending them to him every Monday, which at least kept me writing so I could meet Jon’s expectations.

Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits? (e.g. travel, parties)

Travel interferes with my healthy habit of going to group fitness classes at my gym. I’ve been traveling a lot over the past few months on book tour. I try to exercise in other ways while on the road, but I do miss my classes. What’s great about classes is that they occur at fixed times, and I make an “appointment” with my friend and workout buddy Jen to go to certain classes, ensuring that I actually go. But when I’m traveling, that’s not possible.

Do you embrace habits or resist them?

Generally I resist habits. I enjoy spontaneity, novelty, and excitement; I like every day to be different. So I have relatively few habits, since I associate habits with routine, and routine with a lack of freedom. But maybe I’m overlooking the way that good or healthy habits “free us” to be our better selves.