My current emphasis: how to make good habits and break bad ones (really)

Want to get the "Moment of Happiness"? A daily happiness quotation in your inbox. Sign up here close daily quote

Further Secrets of Adulthood — for Habits.

GardenSnail

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

This Wednesday: Further Secrets of Adulthood–for habits.

I collect axioms, paradoxes, maxims, teaching stories, proverbs, and aphorisms of all sorts, because I love to see complex ideas distilled into a few words.

For years, I’ve been writing my “Secrets of Adulthood,” which are the principles I’ve managed to grasp as I’ve become an adult.

Right now, I’m hard at work editing my next book, Before and After, about how we make and break habits — really.  This is the most fascinating subject ever — though it’s true, I say that about all my books.  (If you want to hear when Before and After goes on sale, sign up here.)

Many of my latest Secrets of Adulthood relate to habits:

  • We’re more like other people than we suppose, and less like other people than we suppose.
  • A slight delay is the easiest way; no delay is the easiest way.
  • Prioritize prioritizing.
  • Well begun is half done.
  • Don’t expect to be motivated by motivation.
  • Practice makes permanent.
  • Things often get harder before they get easier.
  • What we assume will be temporary often becomes permanent; what we assume is permanent often proves temporary.
  • There is no finish line.
  • It’s easier to keep up than to catch up.
  • By giving something up, we gain. (More true for Abstainers than Moderators.)
  • When we give more to ourselves, we can ask more from ourselves. Important for the Strategy of Treats.
  • We can’t make people change, but when we change, others change.
  • The biggest waste of time is to do well something that we need not do at all.
  • Make it easy to do right, and hard to go wrong. Strategy of Convenience.
  • Make sure the things we do to make ourselves feel better don’t make us feel worse.
  • To keep going, we sometimes need to allow ourselves to stop.
  • Working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination.
  • Most decisions don’t require extensive research.
  • Self-regard isn’t selfish.
  • Progress, not perfection.
  • Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. (cribbed from Voltaire)
  • The more we accept ourselves, and what’s right for us, the more other people accept us.
  • Nothing stays in Vegas.
  • Things look messier before they look tidier.
  • What we do every day matters more than what we do once in a while.
  • What’s best? Getting better.
  • Self-sacrifice can be self-indulgent.
  • Not choosing is a choice.
  • Everything counts.
  • Slow progress can be more frustrating than no progress.

 

What would you add?

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here. (You can ignore that RSS business.)

I've just finished writing my next book, Better Than Before, about how we can make and break our habits. If you'd like to pre-order the book, click here.

Revealed! Book Club Choices for April. Happy Reading.

stack-of-booksBecause 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, more specifically, habits:

Laurie Colwin, Family Happiness. This excellent novel is is a brilliant portrait of an Obliger in full Obliger-rebellion, if that interests you.

Buy from WORD; BN.comAmazon.

An outstanding young-adult book:

Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth. This is an outstanding book, which I planned to recommend next month; for this month, I intended to recommend Carol Ryrie Brink’s Andy Buckram’s Tin Men. And it’s out of print! Horrible. Try to get it from the library, so good.

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon.

An eccentric pick:

Journal of Eugene Delacroix.

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. I do provide slightly more context in the book club newsletter.

If you read last month’s recommendations…what did you think? Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit;William Pene du Bois’s The Twenty-One Balloons; and Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions.

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here. (You can ignore that RSS business.)

The Days Are Long, But the Years Are Short.

A thoughtful reader sent me the link to a conversation between Arianna Huffington and Sheryl Sandberg, about Arianna Huffington’s new book Thrive.  (To see an interview I did with Arianna Huffington, look here).

In the email, the reader said, “They talked about your story! 26 minutes in.

Well, it’s not 100% clear that, at minute 26, they were specifically referring to my story, The Years Are Short, but the description certainly fits. And of everything that I’ve ever written, that short video story — with its single sentence, “The days are long, but the years are short” — seems to resonate most deeply with people.

If you’ve never seen it, here’s my one-minute video, The Years Are Short:

 

Here’s the video of the conversation about Thrive, with the reference at minute 26:

 

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here. (You can ignore that RSS business.)

“No Matter How Mundane Some Action Might Appear, Keep at It Long Enough and It Becomes a Contemplative…Act.”

Murakami1_2677991b“No matter how mundane some action might appear, keep at it long enough and it becomes a contemplative, even meditative act.”

–Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Agree, disagree?

Yes, I’ve quoted from Murakami twice in a row, but I just couldn’t resist.

If you’re interested in habits,  you’ll find this book very interesting.

Also, this quotation reminded me of my own rule about adding “meditation” to the end of any activity that’s boring. If I’m impatient while waiting for the bus, tell myself I’m doing “Bus waiting meditation.” If I’m standing in a slow line at the drugstore, I’m doing “Waiting in line meditation.” Just saying these words makes me feel very spiritual and high-minded and wise.

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here. (You can ignore that RSS business.)

“I’ve Trained My Dog to Go Out at 6:30 am. His Habit Helped Me Change Mine.”

HabitsRepeatFourI’m writing my next book, Before and After, about how we make and break habits–an issue  very relevant to happiness. Each week, I’ll post a before-and-after story submitted by a reader, about how he or she successfully changed a habit. We can all learn from each other. If you’d like to share your story, contact me here. To be notified when the book is available for pre-order, sign up here.

This week’s story comes from someone who wants to stay anonymous.

I’ve trained my dog to go out at 6:30 a.m. His habit helped me change mine. I can’t really ignore 12 kg of cuteness whining in my ear, licking my hand and sitting on me back!

One of the most important habit-formation strategies is the Strategy of Accountability, and a dog is a very effective accountability partner. Dogs don’t care about excuses, they don’t tell you, “You deserve a day off,” they want to go out. And if they don’t get what they want, you pay the price.

For years, I felt accountable to our family schnauzer, Paddywhack. (“Knick-knack, paddywhack, give a dog a bone…”) In high school, when I was trying to stick to the habit of regular running, I always took Paddywhack with me. She leaped with joy every time I put on my running shoes, and her eagerness made it harder for me to skip a day, and strengthened my exercise habit.

In fact, one study—admittedly, by a pet health-care company—showed that dog owners get more exercise, and enjoy it more, than people who go to the gym; older people walk more regularly with a dog than when they walk with another person.

Have you found that having a dog helped you keep a good habit?

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here.