Here’s My Habits Manifesto. What’s Yours?

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

This Wednesday: My Habits Manifesto.

Writing a personal manifesto is a great exercise for clarifying your thinking — and it’s also a creative, absorbing process. I’ve written my Twelve Personal Commandments, and I also collect Secrets of Adulthood, which aren’t manifestos, but related to the same impulse.

As I’ve been writing Better Than Before, my book about how we make and break habits, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about habit-formation.

I decided I should write my manifesto for habits. Earlier, I’d done a similar exercise, where I distilled each strategy of the book into one sentence, and I also made a list of Secrets of Adulthood for Habits.

Voila, here’s my Habits Manifesto.

What we do every day matters more than what we do once in a while.

Make it easy to do right and hard to go wrong.

Focus on actions, not outcomes.

By giving something up, we may gain.

Things often get harder before they get easier.

When we give more to ourselves, we can ask more from ourselves.

We’re not very different from other people, but those differences are very important.

It’s easier to change our surroundings than ourselves.

We can’t make people change, but when we change, others may change.

 We should make sure the things we do to feel better don’t make us feel worse.

 We manage what we monitor.

 Once we’re ready to begin, begin now.

Have you ever written your own manifesto? If you wrote a manifesto for habits, what would you add (or subtract)?

When I’m writing about a very big subject, I find it helpful to push myself to distill it. Trying to express an idea in very few words forces me to get very clear in my thinking.

In Books and Characters French and English, Lytton Strachey wrote, “Perhaps the best test of a man’s intelligence is his capacity for making a summary.” I’m not sure whether I agree with that, but I absolutely agree that making a summary is a great way to clarify thoughts.

To pre-order Better Than Before, click here.

  • Dianne Ochiltree

    Love your manifesto! Might add only one thing: big changes happen one choice at a time.

  • George Shetuni

    I would say that our surroundings have a big impact on our lives. Maybe the biggest. How we choose to spend the day, by work, rest or play is important. Finding the right surroundings to spend your day is hard but it’s the only chance one has at happiness.

  • Penelope Schmitt

    Love this, Gretchen. Having been away at a sewing retreat for several days–during which sewing, vacation mentality and great nearby seafood restaurants trumped morning walks and carb control (although I think I walked back and forth to the ironing board almost enough!), I would say that I have a single habit manifesto that seems to be my lifelong guide:

    When asked what monks did in the monastery, one replied: “Oh, we fall and we get up, we fall and we get up, we fall and . . . ”

    In other words, “just keep starting over” seems to be my manifesto. From your work I have learned some other ones to shoot for:
    * If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing EVERY day. That’s now my exercise mantra, and I am pretty good at it.
    * You measure what you monitor. This is powerful both with food and exercise. If I don’t keep track, I don’t retain control.
    * Spot those loopholes! I’m just climbing back through a whole tunnel of them into the habit world.

    I also agree with the post about making small changes and shifts. Flossing my teeth every day has gone from being a habit I just couldn’t seem to master, to one that I can’t stand to go without. It isn’t a huge change–takes a minute or less maybe? But it makes a difference to me daily, and reduces the misery of getting my teeth cleaned greatly!
    I am sure that making small changes in eating habits for the better or worse makes several pounds difference over time. “Changing the average” intake or exercise level really does shift one’s physical condition. If I am any indication, making changes at an age over 65 is actually a ‘game changer’ for one’s outlook and health. Don’t ever think it is ‘too late’ to be bothered.

    Finally USE A TIMER to keep yourself on task for that 15 minutes or half hour or hour every day that you commit to spend on some project or habit. You will be astonished at the results!

  • Pingback: Slow Sunday Links Get Me Every Time | Gets Me Every Time()

  • Pingback: Worth Reading: October 2014 - Mommy Sanest()

  • Pingback: Slow Sunday Links Get Me Every Time - KELLY MCAULEY()

  • Pingback: A Habits Manifesto - patternrecognition()

  • Pingback: I Love a Good Challenge – Zen Goals and Dreams()

  • Shelly W.

    Gretchen, I would love to have some pretty notecards or art prints (or similar) printed with these habits reminders and the loopholes. I am a visual person and would love to have some reminders posted in my home!