Tag Archives: change

Why Joining a Habits Group Can Help You Change Your Habits — and How to Start One.

One of the best ways to build good habits and happiness effectively – and also one of the most fun ways – is to join or start a group for people who want to change their habits.

I get a lot of requests for the starter kit, from people who want to launch a Better Than Before habits group, where people work on their habits together. Want one? Request it here.

These Better Than Before habits groups swap ideas, build enthusiasm, give energy and encouragement, and – probably most important – hold each other accountable. (Think AA and Weight Watchers.)

No surprise, many of these requests come from Obligers, who now see that external accountability is the key to sticking to their good habits — they want to form the group that will give them that crucial accountability. Which is a great idea.

Some solutions for accountability — like hiring a coach, working with a trainer, or taking a class — work extremely well, but they carry a cost; starting a habits group is free. And it’s fun.

Group members don’t have to be working toward the same aims; it’s enough that they hold each other accountable. My sister told me about her friend who’s in an accountability group where she’s being held accountable for working on a novel, while another member is being held accountable for getting massages, going to movies, etc. This may sound preposterous, but it’s actually brilliant — if you find it impossible to make time for yourself unless someone else holds you accountable, figure out a way to get that accountability!

Also, while accountability partners can also work well, pairs don’t offer the same stability of accountability. If your partner loses interest, gets distracted, or is absent for a time, your accountability vanishes.  With a group, you’re not as dependent on one person’s engagement.

If you’re part of a habits group, I’d love to hear about your experiences. What works, what doesn’t work? Are there resources I could provide that would be helpful?

For instance, I’ve been considering making a video that talks about groups, and why they’re so effective, and how to build them.

Sidenote: If you’re reading the book in any kind of group, and your group would like signed bookplates to make the books feel more personal, request them here (I’m so sorry–I can offer this for U.S. and Canada only, because of mailing costs). Or request a bookplate for yourself, or a gift, if you want.

Keep me posted about your group! I’m wildly interested to hear what everyone’s doing. Comment below or email me to let me know.

Determined to Keep Your 2016 New Year’s Resolutions? Here’s How.

I love making New Year’s resolutions. Yes, January 1 might be an arbitrary date, but I think it’s good that we all have a cue to ask ourselves, “What would I like to change about my life? How could it be better than before?”

Most of us have a list of things we’d like to do better — and very often, those things involve habits. Exercise, sleep, fun, eating, relaxing, and so on.

In my book Better Than Before, I list all twenty-one strategies that we can use to make or break the habits that shape our lives. All the strategies are powerful and effective, but some are more universal than others. Here are some of the most popular ones, to start you thinking.

1. Be specific.

Don’t resolve to “Eat more healthfully.” That’s too vague. What are you really asking of yourself? Resolve to “Eat breakfast,” “pack a lunch,” “stop eating fast food,” “cook dinner at home,” or “no more sugary soda.” That’s the Strategy of Clarity.

I did this with reading. I love to read, but I wasn’t spending enough time reading. So I resolved to “Quit reading a book I don’t like” (which changed my life), “Do ‘study’ reading on the weekend,” and I also monitor my reading — see below.

2. Monitor your resolution.

If we monitor something, we manage it much better. Just simply tracking how much you are — or aren’t — doing something will push you in the right direction. That’s the Strategy of Monitoring. With reading, I’ve started to post a photo on my Facebook page every Sunday night to show what books I’ve read that week. I find this very fun and satisfying, and I have to say, it also helps me push myself to find more time to read.

3. Figure out your Tendency.

There are Four Tendencies: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Take the quiz here.  This is the Strategy of the Four Tendencies.

4. Give yourself external accountability. 

Now that you know your Tendency, if you’re an Obliger, to keep a resolution, give yourself external accountability. This is key. Tell other people about your resolution, work out with a trainer, take a class, do something with a friend, hire a coach.

Or start a Better Than Before Habits Group, where people hold each other accountable. Everyone can be working on different resolutions — what matters is that they’re holding each other accountable. To get the “starter kit” for people launching an accountability group, request it here. This is the Strategy of Accountability.

Note: the Strategy of Accountability can also be helpful to Upholders and Questioners — but it’s often actually counter-productive for Rebels.

5. Treat yourself!

This is the most fun way to strengthen your resolutions. When we give ourselves healthy treats, we boost our self-command — which helps us keep our resolutions. When we give more to ourselves, we can ask more from ourselves. But make sure they’re healthy treats. Food and drink, shopping, and screen time are often unhealthy treats. This is the Strategy of Treats.

6. “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

Thank you, Voltaire.  If you break your resolution today, try again tomorrow.  Try to use your slip-up as a lesson in how to do better next time. Although some people assume that strong feelings of guilt or shame act as safeguards to help people stick to good habits, the opposite is true. People who feel less guilt and who show compassion toward themselves in the face of failure are better able to regain self-control, while people who feel deeply guilty and full of self-blame struggle more. This is the Strategy of Safeguards.

7. Sign up for the 21 Days, 21 Strategies for Habit Change.

To thank people who pre-order the paperback of Better Than Before, I’m giving them this email package for free. Each morning for twenty-one days, I’ll send you an email that describes a different strategy that you can harness to master your habits. If you’re determined to keep a New Year’s resolution this year, I hope you’ll get lots of ideas about how to do that.

What else? What are some strategies you’ve discovered, to help you stick to your New Year’s resolutions?

Eager to Change Your Habits? This Will Make It More Convenient.

I’m very excited to announce that Better Than Before: A Day-by-Day Journal has hit the shelves!

I really love this journal.

Many people have told me that once they read Better Than Before, they were eager to get cracking on their habits — so eager, in fact, that the process could seem a little overwhelming. So much to do, and to try.

That’s where the Journal comes in handy. By organizing your thoughts, it makes the process much easier.  The Journal will help you identify what habits you want to change, figure out what strategies to use, track your progress — and actually change your habits.

There’s  a lot of tips and information meant to make habit-change easier, plus room to write your own comments. Using the Journal will make it easier to apply the ideas and principles from Better Than Before to your own experience. It’s a companion book that will deepen your understanding.

Many people have told me that the “don’t break the chain” system works well for them, so the Journal’s “Habit Tracker” allows you to mark that chain as you go. (If you want to read more on this subject, it’s in Better Than Before, in the chapter on the Strategy of Starting.)

Don’t worry about starting on January 1. The Journal starts at “Week 1,” and you fill in the dates. So you can start at any point. Remember,  as the Habits Manifesto states, once we’re ready to begin, we should begin now.

One of the most powerful strategies is the Strategy of Convenience. By making it convenient — and pleasant — to keep track of how you’re doing, you make it easier on yourself to keep up with it.

The Better Than Before Journal a tool, and a resource, and it’s also meant to be a kind of memento! Your record of how you’re better than before.

It really is worth tackling our habits. After all, about forty percent of our daily lives is shaped by our habits. Habits shape our existence–and our future. If we change our habits, we can change our lives.

Order now from Amazon; Barnes & Noble; Indiebound

For you library fans and audio-fans…this isn’t that kind of book. For this, you need ye olde paper.

Have you ever used a journal — or any kind of record-making — to help you change your habits in the past? Was it a useful exercise?

Video: “I Can’t Stick to My Good Habit, Because I’ll Inconvenience Someone Else.”

In my latest (bestselling) book, Better Than Before, I identify the twenty-one strategies of habit-formation, and one is the Strategy of Loophole-Spotting.

I’m doing a video series in which I discuss the ten categories of loopholes. I love studying loopholes, because they’re so funny. And ingenious! We’re such great advocates for ourselves — in any situation, we can always think of some loophole to invoke.

Well, what is a “loophole?” When we try to form and keep habits, we often search for loopholes, for justifications that will excuse us from keeping this particular habit in this particular situation. However, if we catch ourselves in the act of loophole-seeking, we can perhaps reject them.

In Better Than Before, I describe all ten categories of loopholes; in this video series. I’ll describe them, one by one.

Sixth of ten loopholes: The Concern for Others Loophole. We tell ourselves that we need to break a good habit out of concern for someone else.

 

Other examples?

Other people’s feelings will be hurt if I don’t partake.

I can’t ask my partner to stay with the kids while I go to class.

At a business dinner, if everyone is drinking, it would seem weird if I didn’t drink. (Somewhat to my surprise, this loophole comes up a lot with drinking. Teenagers aren’t the only ones to feel peer pressure to drink, it seems.)

For some people, this loophole is a major challenge. Relationships are a key to happiness, and if a particular habit makes you feel very awkward about being out of sync in a social situation, or you worry that you’re hurting other people’s feelings or making them feel uncomfortable, this is a real factor in the formation of a habit.

By identifying the loophole, you can identify possible solutions. “Everyone else is drinking, so I’ll order a sparkling water, and no one will know what’s in my glass.” “Everyone else is ordering a drink, so I’ll order a glass of wine, but I won’t drink it, I’ll just leave it on the table.” “My grandmother gets upset if I don’t take seconds, so I’ll take a very small portion the first time, so she sees me go back for more.” “I’ll talk to my partner about whether this new habit is actually inconvenient, and if so, how we can work out a schedule that works for both of us.”

Sidenote: when you’re forming a new habit that feels awkward to others, give them time to adjust. Any change feels awkward at first. But if you keep starting and stopping, no gets used to a new pattern. For instance, a friend wanted to go for a run on weekend mornings, but her family complained that she wasn’t around to get the day started — so she immediately stopped. She started again, and stuck to it, and after the first few weekends went by, everyone got used to starting the day on their own.

Is this a loophole that you invoke? In what situations? I love studying loopholes! They’re so ingenious.

Video: “The Label Says This Snack is Healthy,” and Other Questionable Assumptions.

In my new (bestselling) book, Better Than Before, I identify the twenty-one strategies of habit-formation, and one is the Strategy of Loophole-Spotting.

I’m doing a video series in which I discuss the ten categories of loopholes. I love studying loopholes, because they’re so funny. And ingenious! We’re such great advocates for ourselves — in any situation, we can always think of some loophole to invoke.

Well, what is a “loophole?” When we try to form and keep habits, we often search for loopholes, for justifications that will excuse us from keeping this particular habit in this particular situation. However, if we catch ourselves in the act of loophole-seeking, we can perhaps reject them.

In Better Than Before, I describe all ten categories of loopholes; in this video series. I’ll describe them, one by one.

Fifth of ten loopholes: The Questionable Assumption Loophole. A very popular loophole! Consciously or unconsciously, we make assumptions that influence our habits—and often, not for the better. They often become less convincing under close scrutiny.

 

Dramatically changing my eating habits has allowed me to hit my goal weight, so now I can return to eating normally.

If I wait until I’m more in the mood to do it, I’ll do a better job.

It’s ridiculous to pay for a gym/a trainer/a home treadmill/a personal organizer/a financial advisor to help me with this behavior, when I could do it perfectly well for free on my own. (Especially if you’re an Obliger, forming those external systems of accountability are key.)

People who follow strict rules will inevitably fall off the wagon.

This will help me sleep.

If I indulge massively now, I’ll feel so disgusted with myself that it will be easy to be good.

Unless I can sweat for an hour, it’s not worth exercising.

 I’ll just have a few bites. (A reasonable assumption for Moderators but not Abstainers.)

 

How about you? What are some questionable assumptions you’ve made?

Note: Do you get the joke of the image?