Video: For Habits, the Strategy of Accountability.

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 hear when it goes on sale, sign up here.

I identify four strategies that are so essential that I call them the “Pillars of Habits”: Monitoring, Accountability, Scheduling, and the strategy I discussed in the last video, the Strategy of Foundation.

Today I’m going to talk about the Strategy of Accountability.

 

I can’t emphasize enough: Accountability is helpful to many people, but if you’re an Obliger – and there’s a good chance you are, because it’s one of the largest categories — you must develop systems of external accountability. This is the answer for habit-formation! This will work for you!

Don’t know what an Obliger is? Look here.

If you want a copy of the “Resolutions Chart” that I mention, email me here.

How about you? Do you find that Accountability helps you stick to your good habits?

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Do You Love Numbered Lists? Here Are Some Lists to Help with Your Habits.

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

This Wednesday: a round-up of numbered lists to help you shape your habits.

As I’ve mentioned many times, I’m working on a book called Better than Before, about how we make or break habits — which is an intensely fascinating subject. (To hear when the book goes on sale, sign up here.)

With habits, and happiness, and everything else, I’ve always been attracted to organizing information according to numbered lists — this process helps me think clearly and remember better.

Slight tangent: I get a tremendous kick out of the numbered lists that pop up throughout Buddhism: the Triple Refuge, the Noble Eightfold Path, the Four Noble Truths, the Eight Auspicious Symbols. It was surprising to me that Buddhism, with its emphasis on gateless gates and transcending the bounds of rational thinking, has so many of these numbered lists. I love them, but still, it seems incongruous. There’s a koan to be written about it, that’s for sure. Like, “Use numbers to throw away enumeration.”

Here are some numbered lists that are useful for habit-formation — presented, of course, in a numbered list:

1. The Four Tendencies

When it comes to making a habits, it’s crucial to know how you tend to respond to expectations: both outer expectations (a deadline, a “request” from a sweetheart) and inner expectations (write a novel in your free time, keep a New Year’s resolution).

Your response to expectations may sound slightly obscure, but it turns out to be very, very important.

In a nutshell:

  1. Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations (I’m an Upholder, 100%)
  2. Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense (myhusband is a Questioner)
  3. Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike
  4. Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves

If you’d like to see me discuss each category in  a video, you can watch: for Upholders, watch here; Questioners, here;  Rebels, here, and Obligers, here.

 

2. The Foundation Four

It’s a Secret of Adulthood: Good habits foster good habits. Change fosters change.

Certain habits seem to be particularly important; they serve as the Foundation for other habits. I always remind myself, “First things first.” That is, pay attention to the obvious before worrying about more subtle concerns.

Foundation habits keep us from getting too physically taxed or mentally frazzled, and then, because we have more energy and self-control, we follow our healthy habits more easily.

From my observation, the four Foundation habits are:

The Strategy of Foundation holds that when you’re trying to change some habits, think about strengthening your Foundation.

3. The Essential Seven

When I think about the habits that I wanted to cultivate, or talk to people about their happiness challenges, it seems as though just about every habit that people seek to make or break falls into the “Big Five”:

1. Eat and drink more healthfully (give up sugar, eat more vegetables, drink less alcohol)

2. Exercise regularly

3. Save, spend, and earn wisely (save regularly, pay down debt, donate to worthy causes, make purchases that contribute to happiness or habits, stay current with expense reports)

4. Rest, relax, and enjoy (pursue a hobby instead of cruising the internet, enjoy the moment, stop checking email, get enough sleep, spend less time in the car, take time for myself)

5. Stop procrastinating, accomplish more (practice an instrument, set aside two hours daily for uninterrupted work, learn a language, maintain a blog, keep a gratitude journal)

6. Simplify, clear, clean, and organize (make the bed every day, file regularly, put keys away in the same place, recycle, give away unused clothing)

7. Engage more deeply—with other people, with God, with yourself, with the world (call family members, read the Bible every day, volunteer, spend time with friends, observe the Sabbath, spend time alone in nature)

4. The Ten Categories of Loopholes. I love this list; loopholes are hilarious.

When we try to form and keep habits, we often search for loopholes, for justifications that will excuse us from keeping this particular habit in this particular situation. However, if we catch ourselves in the act of loophole-seeking, we can perhaps reject them.

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 — “I walked into this bakery to buy a bottle of water”

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

7. Questionable assumption loophole — “the label says it’s healthy”

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?”

How about you? Do you like reading or making numbered lists? It gives an illusion of control — an illusion, perhaps, but a helpful illusion.

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Revealed! Book Club Choices for July. Happy Reading.

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

I’ll post these recommendations here, or to make sure you don’t miss them, sign up for the monthly Book Club newsletter.

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:

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon.

An outstanding children’s book:

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert O’Brien

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon.

An eccentric pick:

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon.

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. So I won’t describe these books, but I love all the books I recommend; I’ve read them at least twice if not many times; and they’re widely loved. If you want a little more explanation of why I picked these books, I do provide slightly more context in the book club newsletter.

If you read last month’s recommendations…what did you think? Daily Rituals; Jane-Emily; and The Design of Everyday Things. All so good.

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Drumroll, Please…Announcing the Title of My Forthcoming Book on Habits.

I may have mentioned that I’ve been struggling to find a new title for my forthcoming book on habits. At last, I have a title, and it’s better than before. In fact, it’s…Better than Before!

Better than Before: Making and Breaking Our Everyday Habits to Be Happier, Stronger, and More Productive (Really).

The subtitle may change a bit, but that’s the idea.

I hope you like the title, but if you don’t — please, don’t tell me. Done is done, and nothing suits everyone. We must beware the power of the negativity bias.

If you’d like to hear when Better than Before goes on sale, sign up here.

It’s such a relief to have that settled. I’m just about done editing, too. Next hurdle: the cover. Yikes. Getting a great cover is so important, and so tough. Wish me luck.

This milestone reminds me to say thank you, dear readers, as always, for your thoughtful comments here on the blog. My understanding of the subject is much deeper than it would have been if I hadn’t heard from so many of you, on so many different aspects of your habit-formation experiences.

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“Truly to Enjoy Bodily Warmth, Some Small Part of You Must Be Cold.”

“Truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast.  Nothing exists in itself.  If you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more.”

–Herman Melville, Moby Dick

This explains one of the joys of camping.

Agree, disagree?

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