Tag Archives: rules

Do You Love Manifestos as Much as I Do? Here’s My Habits Manifesto.

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

This Wednesday: My Manifesto for Habits, plus an assortment of other manifestos.

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. (To hear when the book goes on sale, sign up here.)

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, but they aren’t quite manifestos.

Voila, here’s my Habits Manifesto. What would you add (or subtract)?

You manage what you monitor.

You’re not very different from other people, but those differences are very important.

First things first.

Everything counts.

By giving something up, you may gain.

What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.

Self-regard isn’t selfish; when you give more to yourself, you can ask more from yourself.

Make it easy to do right and hard to go wrong.

There is no finish line.

Make sure that the things you do to feel better don’t make you feel worse.

Temporary often becomes permanent, and permanent often proves temporary.

You can’t make people change, but if you change, others may change.

I love manifestos, and anything even vaguely manifesto-like. If you love them, too, check out…

Frank Lloyd Wright’s 10-point manifesto for his apprentices

Bob Sutton’s manifesto about work

Madame X’s manifesto about money

Google’s manifesto about Ten things we know to be true

Mindy Kaling’s Voice Checklist for her writers’ room

Tolstoy’s 10 rules for life

Pope John XXIII’s daily decalogue

My manifesto for happiness

Have you ever written a manifesto for yourself? Or do you know of other good ones? I collect them.

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Take This Poll: Are You an Upholder, Questioner, Rebel, or Obliger?

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

These days, I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about my Four Categories related to rule-following (I still need a clever name for the set). For me, this scheme–of Upholders, Questioners, Rebels, and Obligers–sheds a real light on certain aspects of human nature and behavior.

I’m very curious to know the relative size of the four different categories, so I’m posting this poll. The results won’t be scientifically valid, but still, it will be interesting to see how the numbers fall.

If you don’t know your category, read the descriptions here and here. I myself an Upholder.

Based on your own experience, what categories do you expect to be largest and smallest? Or do you expect the four categories to be roughly equally well-represented? I have my own view—but won’t reveal it yet.

Four Personality Types: Which One Are You?

Assay:  Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how different people respond to rules–and I use “rules” broadly (see below for examples) to mean any kind of instruction to do or not do something.

I love to identify categories. Abstainers/moderators. Leopards/alchemists. Radiators/drains. And I now I can’t stop thinking about these four categories.

To see if you spot yourself in these categories, ask yourself:

How do I respond to an outer rule? A law, a traffic sign, a “request” from a spouse; a work deadline, an admonition from your doctor, an appointment with a trainer, social protocol?

How do I respond to an inner rule? A New Year’s resolution; a decision to exercise more; putting in work on a self-generated project (writing a novel, planting a garden).

With that in mind, consider whether any of these types rings a bell:

Upholder—accepts rules, whether from outside or inside. An upholder meets deadlines, follows doctor’s order, keeps a New Year’s resolution. I am an Upholder, 100%.

Questioner—questions rules and accepts them only if they make sense. They may choose to follow rules, or not, according to their judgment.

Rebel—flouts rules, from outside or inside. They resist control. Give a rebel a rule, and the rebel will want to do the very opposite thing.

Obliger—accepts outside rules, but doesn’t like to adopt self-imposed rules.

Some examples:

An upholder stops at a stop sign at 3:00 a.m. in a small deserted town; so does an obliger. A questioner decides whether it’s safe to stop. A rebel rolls through the stop sign at 3:00 p.m. in traffic.

An upholder can train with a trainer or exercise on her own; a questioner can do either if he thinks it makes sense; a rebel will do neither, because the fact that she has an appointment or an item on her to-do list makes her want to disobey; an obliger can meet a trainer, but can’t get to the gym on his own.

Of course, this is about your tendency. There’s a continuum, and no one accepts or resists all rules, and some people don’t fit easily into one of the four types–but I’ve been amazed at how often people immediately place themselves firmly into one camp. Do you recognize yourself? How does this evince itself?

Each type has its pros and cons.

I’ve just started thinking about this so welcome any thoughts, experiences, additions. I’m going to write more about it soon.

Re-Consider the Rules of Thumb You Use in Everyday Life.

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

My adventures in the lands of happiness research led me to the concept of heuristics. Heuristics are “rules of thumb,” the quick, common-sense principles people apply to solve a problem or make a decision. They aren’t “rules for living” that you consciously try to apply; rather, they’re deeply embedded, often unconscious, rules that you use to make decisions, answer a question, or decide a course of action.

Usually heuristics are useful, though sometimes they lead to cognitive bias. Take the availability heuristic: people predict the likelihood of an event based on how easily they can come up with an example. This is often helpful (is a tornado likely to hit Manhattan?), but sometimes people’s judgment is skewed because the vividness of examples makes an event seem more likely than it actually is. People become very worried about child abduction, say, when in fact, it’s a very rare occurrence.

I realized that I have my own idiosyncratic collection of “heuristics” for making decisions and setting priorities. Well, maybe these don’t fit the precise definition of “heuristics” — but they’re rules of thumb I apply when deciding what to think or how to act, mostly without quite realizing that I’m using them. They flicker through my brain so quickly that I had to make a real effort to detect them, but I identified a handful:

My children are my most important priority.
Exercise every day.
People don’t notice my mistakes and flaws as much as I think.
My husband is my top priority.
“Yes” comes right away; “no” never comes.
Get some work done every day.
Whenever possible, choose vegetables.
I know as much as most people.
Try to attend any party or event to which I’m invited.
My parents are almost always right.
Ubiquity is the new exclusivity.
If I’m not sure whether to include some text in my writing, cut it out.
When making a choice about what to do, choose work.
I’m too busy to do that.

Looking at these rules showed me something. Several of them were difficult to balance. How could my kids, my husband, and my work all be top priorities? Also, I was pretty sure that my husband operates under the heuristic of “Try to skip practically any event to which I’m invited.” That explained certain ongoing marital debates.

Some of my heuristics were unhelpful. “I don’t have time” ran through my head dozens of times each day. I’ve been working to change that heuristic to “I have plenty of time for the things that are important to me.”

I asked my friends if they had any personal heuristics, and I collected quite a few:
There’s no wrong decision.
Always say hello.
People in business, small or large, will take advantage of you if they can.
What would my mother do?
Actually, this is good news.
Say yes.
This is the fun part.
Do nothing, go nowhere.
Do everything all at once.

What heuristics are shaping your behavior? Though I may be mis-using the term. I mean – what are the rules of thumb that you apply to figure out what to think or do? Not what you WISH you thought (“Always take a moment to appreciate the sunshine”) but what you actually think (“Any parent who misses a school function has bad values”) — whether or not you actually agree with that thought! What springs to mind?

* At last, an answer. The CHICKEN did come before the EGG.

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Order your copy.
Read sample chapters.
Watch the one-minute book video.
Listen to a sample of the audiobook.