What Brooke Shields Says about Habits: Soul Cycle, Sleep, and More

Interview: Brooke Shields.

Last week, Brooke Shields and I did a breakfast event together, to benefit a terrific organization, Room To Grow, which enriches the lives of children born into poverty during the critical first three years of life.

Brooke Shields is, of course, the super-famous actor, model — and also writer. I’d read her thought-provoking book about postpartum depression, Down Came the Rain, and I’m well into her brand-new book: There Was a Little Girl: the Real Story of My Mother and Me.

Naturally I couldn’t resist asking if she’d do an interview on my blog.

Gretchen: What’s a simple habit that consistently makes you happier?

Brooke Shields: Spin Class at Soul Cycle.

What’s something you know now about forming healthy habits that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

Sleep is more important than I ever realized.

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

Drinking beer.

Which habits are most important to you? (for heath, for creativity, for productivity, for leisure, etc.) 

Exercising and getting enough sleep are my most important things for a healthy lifestyle

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

Adding yoga to my routine while I was pregnant was a healthy habit I gained. Worrying about what other people though of me was an unhealthy habit I gave up after I had children and went to therapy.

Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

UPHOLDER!!

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

Travel makes it difficult, but I always pack my gym clothes with the intention of exercising.

Do you embrace habits or resist them?

I embrace them. I crave consistency and order.

Has another person ever had a big influence on your habits? 

My friend Stacey Griffiths from Soul Cycle, he motivates me like nobody I have ever met.

Do You Agree with These 7 Quotations about Habits?

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

This Wednesday: Do you agree with these 7 quotations about habits?

Whenever I read a book, I love to copy my favorite lines and passages into my giant trove of quotations. (If you love quotations too, sign up for my “Moment of Happiness,” a free daily quote.)

When doing my research for Better Than Before, my book about habit change, I naturally began to collect quotations about habits. Working those passages into the book was one of my favorite things to do.

Certain quotations, however, had a particularly strong influence over my thinking about habits.

1. “Every time you break the law you pay, and every time you obey the law you pay.” — John Gardner

I love this quotation, and almost made it the epigraph of the entire book. Gardner is a Rebel, and made that observation from his Rebel perspective, but it’s just as true for everyone. Nothing stays in Vegas; everything counts.

2. “The greatest of empires, is the empire over one’s self.” — Publilius Syrus

I made this quotation the epigraph of the book, instead. With habits, as with happiness, it all boils down to self-knowledge. When we truly know ourselves, we can master ourselves to create the lives that suit us best.

3. “A stumble may prevent a fall.” — English Proverb

With habits, it’s very important to think about safeguards, and to plan to fail. The idea that a little failure might actually be constructive  — that a stumble may prevent a fall — is very helpful idea to help to re-frame lapses.

4. “Researchers were surprised to find that people with strong self-control spent less time resisting desires than other people did. . . . people with good self-control mainly use it not for rescue in emergencies but rather to develop effective habits and routines in school and at work.”  — Roy Baumeister and John Tierney

This quotation lacks that aphoristic quality of the others, but it really sparked my thinking about habits, and why they’re so valuable. Auto-pilot! Habits help us escape the drain of making decisions and exercising willpower.

5. “The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

The issue of reward is extremely complicated in the field of habits. Rewards are very, very tricky to apply. But the one reward that never fails is the satisfaction of the good habits itself.

6. “One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.” — Iris Murdoch

We must have treats! More and more, I’m seeing that the idea of deprivation is an enormous challenge to good habits. When we start to feel deprived, we enter into the “I need it, I deserve it, I’ve earned it” cycle. Getting lots of healthy treats help ward that off. When we give more to ourselves, we can ask more of ourselves.

7. “If I consider my life honestly, I see that it is governed by a certain very small number of patterns of events which I take part in over and over again…when I see how very few of them there are, I begin to understand what huge effect these few patterns have on my life, on my capacity to live. If these few patterns are good for me, I can live well. If they are bad for me, I can’t.” — Christopher Alexander

This is a reminder of the central role of habits in our daily existence, and also a reminder of the very purpose of mastering habits: to live well.  It may take time and effort to change our habits, but in the end, they make our lives better.

Do you agree or disagree with these statements?

Do you have any habit-related quotes you love? Or any quotation at all, really. I do love quotations.

To pre-order Better Than Before, go here. If you’re inclined to buy the book, it really helps me if you pre-order it. Remember, you won’t be charged until the book ships, so don’t worry about that.

What Habits Are Best for Creativity?

When I tell people that I’ve been working on Better Than Before, my book about habit change, many people ask, “What habits are best for creativity? What habits help people think creatively — and also, actually produce?

Often, people make the case for adopting a particular habit by pointing to a renowned figure who practiced that habit, with great success. For instance…

Maybe we should live a life of quiet predictability, like Charles Darwin.

Or maybe we should indulge in boozy revelry, like Toulouse-Lautrec.

Maybe we should wake up early, like Haruki Murakami.

Or maybe we should work late into the night, like Tom Stoppard.

Maybe it’s okay to procrastinate endlessly, like William James.

Or maybe it’s better to work regular hours, like Anthony Trollope.

Should we work in silence, like Gustav Mahler?

Or amidst a bustle of activity, like Jane Austen?

Maybe it’s helpful to drink a lot of alcohol, like Fried­rich Schiller.

Or a lot of coffee, like Kierkegaard.

Are we better off produc­ing work for many hours a day, like H. L. Mencken?

Or maybe for just thirty minutes a day, like Gertrude Stein.

The sad fact is, there’s no magic formula, no one-size-fits-all solution—not for ourselves, and not for the peo­ple around us.

We won’t make ourselves more creative and productive by copying other people’s habits, even the habits of geniuses; we must know our own nature, and what habits serve us best.

In his fascinating book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, from which these examples are drawn, Mason Currey exhaustively examines the work habits of 161 writers, composers, artists, scientists, and philos­ophers.

These examples make one thing perfectly clear about creative habits: while brilliant people vary tre­mendously in the specific habits they follow, they all know very well what habits work for them, and they go to enormous lengths to maintain those habits.

I used to tell everyone that working slowly and steadily was the best way to produce creative work. Because that’s what works for me.

And I used to encourage everyone to get up early, to work in the morning. Because that’s what works for me.

And I used to say that it was better to work in a reasonably quiet, calm environment. Because that’s what works for me.

But as I worked on Better Than Before, it became increasingly clear to me that the opposite habits work better for some people.

I’m a Marathoner, but some people are Sprinters.

I’m a Lark, but some people are Owls.

I’m a Simplicity-Lover, but other people are Abundance-Lovers.

We have to think about ourselves. It’s helpful to ask, “When have I worked well in the past? What did my habits look like then – and how can I replicate them?” Maybe you work more creatively with a team – or by yourself. Maybe you need deadlines – or maybe you feel strangled by deadlines. Maybe you like working on several projects at once — or you prefer to focus on one project at a time.

With habits, as with happiness, the secret is to figure out ourselves. When we shape our habits to suit our own nature, our own interests, and our own values, we set ourselves up for success.

How about you? What habits contribute or detract from your creativity?

Daylight Saving Time: A Potential Way To Get an Extra Hour in Your Day.

For Better Than Before, when I talk to people about the habits they want to change, they often mention that they lack the time for a new habit.

To clear time to schedule a new morning habit, many people try waking up a bit earlier, but this can be tough for people who struggle to get out of bed.

One trick? Use the autumn end to Daylight Saving Time as a painless way to add an extra hour to the morning. (Obviously this only works if you live in a place that follows DST.) Getting up earlier is a great way to make time for something important to you.

We all love to “fall back” and to get that extra hour of sleep on Sunday morning. It’s a great boon to get a little extra sleep. In fact, car accidents and heart attacks are more common in the week after Daylight Saving Time starts, because losing that hour puts stress on people’s bodies.

But while you may love that extra hour of sleep, consider not sleeping in, but instead get up after your customary amount of sleep. Your body is getting up as usual, but the clock will say that you’re up an hour early.  And there’s a lot you can do with that hour–especially if the people around you are still sound asleep.

Remember, when it comes to habits, it’s easier to change your surroundings than to change yourself or other people. It’s easier to get in the habit of waking up earlier by getting up at the same time, when the clock changes, than to train yourself to get up earlier.

A reader commented: “A couple years ago I decided not to reset my clock at the end of daylight savings. I had thought of myself as a night owl, but suddenly had writing/exercise time.”

You could use that time to do something like exercise or work on a project–or maybe you want to use it for pure pleasure. I have a friend who wakes up early to read for fun.

The morning is a great time to form a regular habit, because self- control is high, there are fewer distractions, and it’s highly predictable.

Now, this system wouldn’t work for true “owls” who stay up late and sleep late. But for many people, it’s possible to make a very satisfying use of that hour.

NOTE: If you try this strategy, you must also go to sleep earlier! It’s so, so, so important to get enough sleep, and if you lose an hour in the morning, you need to gain that time in sleep. (Here are some tips for getting yourself to go to bed on time.)

The question is: where would you rather have the hour? At the end of the day, or at the start of the day?

Most people would use those slots in very different ways.  The hour of 6:00-7:00 am looks very different from the hour of 11:00-mindnight. Which hour would contribute the most to your happiness?

If you suddenly had an extra hour in your day, how would you use it? Have you ever used this method–or any other–to shift your waking time?

Revealed! Book Club Choices for November.

Because nothing boosts happiness more than a great book, each month, I suggest:

· one outstanding book about happiness or habits

· one outstanding work of children’s or young-adult literature–I have a crazy passion for kidlit

· one eccentric pick–a widely admired and excellent book that I love, yes, but one that may not appeal to everyone

Shop at the wonderful Brooklyn indie WORD, BN.com, Amazon (I’m an affiliate of all three), or your favorite local bookstore. Or visit the library! Drumroll…

An outstanding book about happiness or habits:

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon.

An outstanding children’s book:

The Animal Family, by Randall Jarrell

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon.

An eccentric pick:

A River Runs Through It, by Norman Maclean

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon.

Some readers have said that they wished that I’d describe and make the case for my book choices, instead of just providing links.

I’ve noticed that many times, when someone describes a book to me, I want to read it less. And often, weirdly, the better a book is, the worse it sounds.

Nevertheless, because so many readers have requested it, I’ve decided to give a bit more context for these choices in the book-club newsletter. So if you’d like to know more about why I made these selections, check there. To get that free monthly book-club newsletter, and to make sure you don’ t miss any recommendations, sign up here.

In any event, I assure you that, for all the books I choose, I love them; I’ve read them at least twice if not many times; and they’re widely admired.

If you read last month’s recommendations…what did you think? Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking; Spyri’s Heidi; and Agassi’s Open. So good!

Also, in book-related news, I can’t help mentioning that Better Than Before, my book about how we change our habits, is now available for pre-order.

If you’re inclined to buy it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d pre-order.

Pre-orders build support for a book, by creating buzz among booksellers, the media, and the publisher. Pre-orders really matterBuy from your favorite indie (Rainy Day Books is my fabulous hometown indie), tell your library you’d like to read it, or go here: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, iBooks.

End of commercial. Happy November, and happy reading.