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

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Frank Lloyd Wright’s 10-Point Manifesto for His Apprentices.

taliesinEvery Wednesday is Tip Day — or List Day.
This Wednesday: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Manifesto for His Apprentices.

I’ve posted this before, but I’m posting it again, because I love personal manifestos — for instance, on the home pages of their blogs, Bob Sutton includes his 17 Things I Believe about work and Madame X lists My Rules about money (look in the right-hand column).

I read Frank Lloyd Wright’s Autobiography and found it very thought-provoking. In it, he includes a list of the “Fellowship Assets” that he outlined for the architecture apprentices he worked with at Taliesin, his summer home, studio, and school.

1. An honest ego in a healthy body.
2. An eye to see nature
3. A heart to feel nature
4. Courage to follow nature
5. The sense of proportion (humor)
6. Appreciation of work as idea and idea as work
7. Fertility of imagination
8. Capacity for faith and rebellion
9. Disregard for commonplace (inorganic) elegance
10. Instinctive cooperation

This list was interesting to me, because although it’s quite short, it packs in a lot of big ideas and strongly held views. It really started me thinking — to ask, “What does Wright mean by ‘inorganic’ or even ‘nature’?” “What’s an ‘honest ego’?” I particularly loved #5 — the inclusion of humor on this list, and the tying of humor to a sense of proportion. I’d never thought of humor as an expression of a sense of proportion, but I think that’s one reason that humor can be so helpful at difficult moments.

Writing a personal manifesto is a very interesting exercise; it really forces you to articulate your values. Have you ever written a manifesto for yourself? Was it a useful exercise?

I wrote my manifesto, though I should probably update it. Scroll down; my manifesto is below some other manifestos. I love manifestos! If you have one, post it please. They’re so fascinating.

I need to write my habits manifesto. That will be fun. But first I need to finish the book. If you want to hear when my book about habit-formation goes on sale, sign up here.

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I'm just about finished writing my next book, Better Than Before, about how we can make and break our habits. If you’d like to hear when the book goes on sale, sign up here.

Video: For Habits, Try the Strategy of Scheduling.

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 book describes the multiple strategies we can exploit to change our habits. To hear when this masterpiece goes on sale, sign up here.

Last week was the Strategy of Monitoring — one of my favorite strategies (yes, I do have favorites, I must confess.)

This week — the Strategy of Scheduling. Also another one of my favorites.

The Strategies of Monitoring and Scheduling, along with the Strategies of Foundation and Accountability, form the section of my book on the “Pillars of Habits.” These are big, bedrock strategies.

 

To read more about my Wednesday adventures with my daughter, check out Happier at Home, chapter on Parenthood.

You can also read more about Power Hour and the Four Tendencies in those posts.

How about you? Do you find that you stick to your habits better — especially when a habit is fairly new — if it’s actually entered into your schedule? It’s surprising to me how the simple act of making a note of something can make such a big difference.

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.

Are You Overlooking This Giant Influence on Your Habits?

contagiousIn Maxims and Reflections, Goethe wrote, “Tell me with whom you consort and I will tell you who you are; if I know how you spend your time, then I know what might become of you.”

As I was doing the initial research for my forthcoming masterpiece of a book, about habit-formation, I tended to focus on strategies that I use as an individual.

I realized, however, that while it’s easy to imagine myself operating in isolation,  in fact, other people’s actions and habits exert tremendous influence on me, as mine do on them.

All the strategies of habit-formation deserve to be—and have been—the subject of entire books, but the Strategy of Other People is the strategy that’s hardest to distill into a single chapter. Our influence on each other’s habits is a vast subject. And it’s one of the most powerful, sometimes almost irresistible, strategies.

For instance, my husband, in particular, makes a big difference to my habits. In a phenomenon known as “health concordance,” couples’ health habits and statuses tend to merge over time. One partner’s health behaviors—habits related to sleep, eating, exercise, doctor visits, use of alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana—influence those behaviors in a partner. If one partner has Type 2 diabetes, the other partner faces a significant increase in the risk of developing it, as well. If one partner gives up cigarettes or alcohol, the other is more likely to quit.

My husband’s unwavering commitment to exercise has helped me stay dedicated. I also caught his habit of reading multiple books at one time, and buying books even when I have a huge pile I haven’t read yet. (Before we were married, I read one book at a time, and never allowed myself to acquire more than five unread books).

Also, some of my habits bothered him so much that I gave them up. For some reason, he objected to my snacking in bed. The things we do for love.

To quote another great thinker, in Letters from a Stoic, Seneca advised, “Associate with people who are likely to improve you.” This turns out to be very effective, because we do so readily pick up habits — good and bad — from each other.

How about you? Can you think of times when you’ve caught a good or bad habit from someone around you? Or when someone has caught your habit? A few years ago, I dramatically changed my eating habits (that’s a story for another day, and an example of the Strategy of the Lightning Bolt,  but if you’re curious, check out Gary Taubes’s Why We Get Fat), and I’ve noticed that my change has led to changes in other people, as my habits rubbed off on them.

To hear when my book about habit-formation goes on sale, sign up here.

Revealed! Book Club Choices for June. Happy Reading.

BookspiledonshelvesBecause 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:

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon.

An outstanding children’s book:

 Jane-Emily by Patricia Clapp

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon.

An eccentric pick:

The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman

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? Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography; Dorothy Canfield Fisher’s Understood Betsy; and Wayne Koestenbaum’s Jackie Under My Skin. All so good.

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Before and After: “I Simply Decided I Wouldn’t Go Near My Computer Before 9 am or after 9 pm.”

HabitsRepeatFourI’m writing my next book, about how we make and break habts– 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 hear when the book goes on sale, sign up here.

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

I made a decision a couple of years ago that I did not like the feeling I had when wasting time on the computer. On mornings I didn’t need to get out early, I could find that I’d ‘lost’ over an hour just surfing, or on Facebook. The same would happen at night, when I’d find myself tired but past my sleepy need to go to bed because of having stayed too long on the computer, usually pointlessly, in ‘veg- out’ mode.

The new habit. I simply decided that I would not go near my computer before 9 a.m. or after 9 p.m.

Now, I can’t say that I never slip, but on the whole, I find I feel so much better, more relaxed, more in control of my day at its start, and of my rest, at its end, that when I have slipped I’m reminded very quickly of why I developed this habit in the first place. It’s also helped to keep things in proportion. As I don’t (yet) have a smartphone, my new habit means it can sometimes be 24 hours or more that I don’t see my email. I’m happier when I feel I’m choosing when to open my computer and deal with emails, and choosing how to spend my time.

This is a good example of a “bright-line rule,” a useful concept I learned in law school. A bright-line rule is a clearly defined rule or standard that eliminates any need for interpretation or decision-making; for example, observing the Sabbath, or using the New York Times’s Manual of Style and Usage to decide grammar questions, or never buying bottled water,  or making purchases only from a prepared list.

Habits are so helpful, in part, because habits eliminate decision-making. It’s draining to make decisions — even little decisions — and by setting bright-line rules, we make things easier for ourselves, and it’s easier to keep our good habits.

In my habit-formation scheme, a bright-line rule is an aspect of the Strategy of Clarity. The more specific I am about what action to take, the more likely I am to form a habit.

Do you use any bright-line rules to help yourself stick to some good habits?

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