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

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Story: Maybe I’m the One Who Should Do It.

This week’s video story: Maybe I’m the one who should do it.

 

Yes, it’s true, I’m in three children’s literature reading groups. How I love children’s and young-adult literature! If you love it too, join my book club, where I recommend a kidlit book each month (along with a happiness book and an eccentric pick).

How about you? Did you ever have a similar experience when you realized, afterward, what you should’ve done?

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Want to Make It Easier to Stick to Your Good Habits? Strengthen Your Foundation.

foundationWhile some experts advocate focusing on one healthy habit at a time, to avoid draining precious will-power reserves, other studies suggest that people who work on developing one positive habit often find it easier to improve in other areas, as well.

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

Certain habits, too, 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.

From what I’ve observed, people who get their basic Foundation habits under control find it easier to add additional good habits, even if those habits don’t seem relate.

Why? Because 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.

Of course, a major challenge with Foundation habits is that, ironically, they’re often the very habits that we’re trying to adopt. Yes, exercise would help us stick to good habits, but exercise is the habit that we need help with. Outer order contributes to inner calm, true, but having inner calm makes it much easier to create outer order.

Nevertheless, because of the important role they play in boosting self control, and their helpful spill-over effect on other habits, it seems to me that Foundation habits are a great place to start, with habit change, and deserve specially protection from encroachment. Foundation habits tend to reinforce each other; for instance, regular exercise improves people’s sleep quality.

Agree, disagree? Do you find that working on your Foundation makes it easier to stick to other habits? Or that neglecting them makes it harder to stick to those habits? Do you think Foundation habits that should be added to the list?

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“Most of Us Need Some Sort of Plan to Give Our Lives Coherence.”

fairbrother“Some people are born with the gift of being happy for the moment, but most of us need some sort of plan to give our lives coherence. And since human beings are mostly virtuous, we need to feel good and useful, that others are happy round us, that no one suffers through our doing. All this besides being warm and fed, and healthy, and occupied, and a dozen other luxuries. Small wonder that happiness is a fitful state.”

Nan Fairbrother, An English Year

“Some sort of plan to give our lives coherence”…this is one place where habits meet happiness. More to come in Before and After!

She also wrote, “ ”The happiness of others is almost completely unpredictable.”

Agree, disagree?

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Before and After: Use the Accountability of Weight Watchers and a Personal Trainer.

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.

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

As I was staring down the barrel of turning 50, I decided it was time to get up off the couch and get in shape. It had been years since I had exercised and truly watched what I ate. I just couldn’t be fat and fifty. Since there was nothing to do about turning 50, I decided to tackle the fat. For my 48th birthday I gave myself two gifts: a membership to Weight Watchers and a personal trainer at the gym. I need accountability, so having to answer to someone else was the push I needed to keep me headed in the right direction. Six years later, I still work out with a trainer and am probably the “fittest” I have ever been. Now, if only I could break the Diet Coke habit.

The Strategy of Accountability is one of the most effective strategies for habit-formation, and for Obligers, of course, external accountability is absolutely crucial.

But even for people who are Upholders, Questioners, or Rebels, accountability makes a big difference. We behave differently when we know that other people will know what we did, and if we know that there will be consequences.

Also, this reader drew on the Strategy of Thinking — when an idea, such as the idea of turning fifty, acts as a catalyst for change.

Have you found ways to hold yourself accountable? Have you ever been inspired to change a big habit because of an idea such as reaching a milestone birthday?

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Secret of Adulthood: Enthusiasm Makes Difficult Tasks Easy.

Further Secrets of Adulthood:

WhatMakesDifficultTasksEasy_124813

 

The more I think about happiness, the more I value enthusiasm.

Enthusiasm is a form of social courage – it’s safer to criticize and scoff than to praise and embrace — and I’ve decided that I’d rather be “enthusiastic” than “confident.”

I have a patron saint for enthusiasm. Can you guess it? Julia Child! (This post about Julia Child may be one of my favorite posts ever.)

It can seem cooler and smarter to be ironic, detached, or critical, and it’s certainly much easier and safer to adopt that sort of stance. But enthusiasm is more fun. Enthusiasm is generous, positive, energetic, and social. It’s outward-turning and engaged. It’s unselfconscious, warm-hearted, and kind of goofy. Like Julia Child!

Also, enthusiasm makes difficult tasks easy. One interesting question for self-knowledge is: What do you memorize without effort? That tells you something important about yourself. Do you effortlessly remember sports scores, song lyrics, scientific facts, vocabulary words, recipes, details about friends’ lives?

When I feel enthusiastic about some undertaking, it comes so, so, so much more easily to me. For instance, writing. My husband is great at writing, but I’m a writer, and he’s not — because I have endless enthusiasm for writing and revising, and he doesn’t.

How about you? Do you find that enthusiasm makes an otherwise difficult task easy?

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