Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Better Than Before - Gretchen Rubin

I picked this book, Better than Before, up off the check-in cart at work, mainly because I had read Rubin's first two books about The Happiness Project.  And it languished on my 'to-read' shelf until it was almost time to go back to the library.  Then it was a race to read and absorb and, several pages of notes later, I finished.

"I should monitor whatever is essential to me. 
In that way, I ensure that my life reflects my values."

The first section deals with setting up yourself to succeed at the habits you are trying to establish.  Rubin recommends (1) Monitor, (2) Foundation, (3) Scheduling and (4) Accountability.

"How we schedule our days
is how we spend our lives." 

So much of what was in this first section dovetailed with what I am trying to set up for 2016 and really, my life.  She then goes into when would be the best time to begin a new habit.  Some of her suggestions are - 
  • First steps - one step of a project at a time (yes!)
  • Lightening Bolt - 'something' triggers you - big or small
  • Convenience - good habit/make it easier, bad habit/make it harder
  • "If/Then" strategy - "If I want X, then I need to do Y."
Then she goes into the 'exceptions' we tell ourselves we need to make which derails us from our purpose.

"A planned exception works best when it's made
for something memorable...A good test of a planned
exception is "How will I feel about the exception later."

Other 'loopholes' to our goals of a new habit are:
  • Moral - permission to do something 'bad' because we have been 'good'
  • Tomorrow - doing something 'bad' because tomorrow we will be 'good'
  • False Choice - can't do X because you are doing Y
  • Lack of Control - too hot or too cold, for example
  • Arranging to Fail - "...we make a change of seemingly harmless decisions that allow us covertly to engineer the very circumstances that we'll find irresistible."  For example, this doesn't count, I'm on vacation.
  • Questionable Assumptions - ie - going to work shortly, so I can't do X.
  • Concern for Others
  • Fake Self-Actualization - life is too short not to live a little
  • One-Coin - I haven't done project in so long-what's the point?  What's one more spoonful of sugar.
  • Strategy of Distraction - looking at Facebook rather than reading a book 
One of the most interesting things she says in the book is about 'Rewards or Finishing' and how they might actually be bad things.

"...striving toward a finish line, not building a habit."

"By finding my reward within the habit itself, with a reward that
takes me deeper into the habit."

"The reward for a good habit is the habit itself."

And I thought about my goal of losing weight.  So I lose weight.  But if I haven't changed my eating habits, then the weight will come right back.  I have to make my goal to eat better, more healthy and combine with exercise.  Then I have a good habit and the offshoot is weight loss and once I hit the weight I want, the habit continues, it doesn't stop because I've reached my goal.

Rubin also talks about 'rewards' in that "...a treat is a small pleasure or indulgence that we give to ourselves just because we want it."  We shouldn't be rewarding ourselves for 'doing' the habit or goal we are attempting to establish.

Some of the tips she gives to setting yourself up for success have been on my radar already.
  • Pairing - "...couple two activities, one that I need or want to do, and one that I don't particularly want to do, to get myself to accomplish them both."
I use this strategy already to a certain extent.  I will allow myself to work for a certain amount of time on a project I want, then I switch to something like doing the dishes, or another load of clothes, or cleaning a room.  Once the housework is done, then I can return to my 'play' for another amount of time.
  • Clarity - "The clearer I am about what I value, and what action I expect from myself - not what other people value, or expect from me - the more likely I am to stick to my habits."
This is my project in December, to see where I want to go and do.  To get 'my head on straight', so to speak.
  • Identity - Does the habit add to or take away from our identity.  "Our habits reflect our identity."
  • Other People - we pick up others' habits - good and bad.  So associate with those whose habits and values reflect my own.

"Those habits wouldn't make everyone happy,
but they make me very happy."

This is a book I wish I had lingered over a bit longer and will probably go back and reread a couple of times.

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