Tag Archives: habit strategies

Podcast 126: Look for an Under-Used Area of Your Home, Dealing with Perfectionism, and Clear Instructions about How to Rate and Review a Podcast.

Update:  Congratulations to Elizabeth and Sarah, who are about to hit a milestone for their podcast “Happier in Hollywood” — tomorrow is their tenth episode. Teaser: in that episode, they interview the brilliant host of “Side Hustle School,Chris Guillebeau. Who is a Rebel, if you’re curious.

Try This at Home: Look for an under-used area of your home. Create your own “nook” like my daughter Eleanor or a “Cozy Club” like Elizabeth and Emilie. We mention the try-this-at-home tip from episode 72, of having room of your own.


gretchen rubin

**Stay tuned for the promised photos of the Cozy Corner — I thought our mother had the photo, but in her own recent efforts to clear space, she sent the photo to Elizabeth, and Elizabeth needs to find it. So hope to update with that soon!

Happiness Hack: When listener Korrine realized that she often cut her laps short when she was walking a one-mile loop, she switched to walking around a lake in a 2.7 mile circuit — no way to cut it short. She’s using several of the habit-formation strategies that I discuss in Better Than Before.

Happiness Stumbling Block: Perfectionism — a very common stumbling block.

If you want to read more about satisficers and maximizers, read here.

Send in your anti-perfectionist mantras! Here are some good ones:

  • “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
  • “Sometimes there are many right choices.”
  • “Don’t get it perfect, get it going.”
  • “There’s no wrong answer here.”
  • “Don’t spend your time rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”
  • “Enjoy the fun of failure.” (I write about this last one in The Happiness Project.)

 

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth gives herself a demerit for not rating or reviewing other podcasts — even though we ask for people to rate and review our podcast all the time. She (and I) simply didn’t know how to do it. Turns out that it’s easy! For written directions, scroll down here.

1pixgretchen rubin recording podcast

Gretchen’s Gold Star: In related news, I give a gold star to all the listeners who have so generously rated and reviewed us already. We so appreciate it — it really does help new listeners discover the show.


Three Resources:

  1. Want a new podcast to listen to, with the same vibe as Happier? The Onward Project is the family of podcasts that I’ve launched, for podcasts that are about “your life–made better.” Check out these great shows: Side Hustle School and Radical Candor and Happier in Hollywood.
  2. I’ve announced my book tour schedule, and I’d love to see a lot of “Happier” listeners at events. Info here.
  3. If you want to pre-order my book The Four Tendencies (and it’s a big help to me, if you do), go here.

If you want easy instructions about how to rate or review the podcast, look here. Remember, it really helps us if you do rate or review the podcast — it helps other listeners discover us.

I do weekly live videos on my Facebook Page to continue the conversation from the podcast — usually on Tuesdays at 3:00 pm ET. To join the conversation, check the schedule.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

Check out Smith and Noble, the solution for beautiful window treatments. Go to smithandnoble.com/happier for 20% off window treatments and free in-home or on-phone design consultations and free professional measuring.

Also check out Texture. Get access to all your favorite magazines — including back issues and bonus video content — in one super-convenient place. Try the app Texture for free by going to Texture.com/happier.

Also check out ThirdLove, the lingerie brand that uses real women’s measurements to design better-fitting bras. Try one of their bestselling bras for free, for 30 days, by visiting ThirdLove.com/happier.

We love hearing from listeners:

 

To sign up for my free monthly newsletter, text me at 66866 and enter the word (surprise) “happier.“ Or click here.

If you enjoyed the podcast, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Click here to tell your friends on Twitter.

Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

How to Subscribe

If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really.  To listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen to the award-winning Happier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much!

Want a new podcast to listen to, with the same vibe as Happier? The Onward Project is the family of podcasts that I’ve launched, for podcasts that are about “your life–made better.” Check out these great shows: Side Hustle School and Radical Candor and Happier in Hollywood.

HAPPIER listening!

Want to Change an Important Habit? Tips for Upholders, Questioners, Obligers & Rebels.

Do you want to make a significant change in your life? Or help someone else to make an important change?

Often, this means changing a habit (get more sleep, quit sugar, exercise regularly, spend more time in nature, put down devices). Habits are like the invisible architecture of daily life — research suggests that about 40% of our existence is shaped by our habits.

In my book Better Than Before, I identify the 21 strategies that we can use to make or break our habits. (Want to see the whole list? Scroll to the bottom of this post.)

Sometimes people get a bit freaked out that there are so many strategies to choose from — but it’s helpful that so many strategies exist. Because some strategies work very well for some people, and not for others, and some strategies are available to us at some times in our lives, but not at other times.

The most important point? There is no magic, one-size-fits-all solution to changing habits. It turns out that it’s not that hard to change your habits—when you do it in the way that’s right for you.

To change your habits, it’s crucial to identify your Tendency.

Yes, I’m obsessed with my Four Tendencies framework. It explains so much! The world is much less puzzling and frustrating to me now that I understand the Four Tendencies. (Order my new book, The Four Tendencies here.)

When you know if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, you’re better able to set yourself up for success. And if you’re trying to help other people to change their habits, you’re more effective.

Don’t know your Tendency? Take the quiz here.

Note: While many strategies work for just about everybody (Convenience, Inconvenience, Foundation, Clean Slate, Lightning Bolt), some strategies that work very well for one Tendency can actually be counter-productive for another.

UPHOLDER

Strategy of Scheduling (most important for Upholders)

The Strategy of Scheduling is a powerful tool for Upholders. They love to keep a schedule and march through every item. Whatever appears on the calendar—go to the gym on Monday and Thursday, write 1,000 words every day, goof off—gets done. They can make time for every person and activity they value, by putting it on the calendar.

Strategy of Clarity

When Upholders know clearly what’s expected, they can generally meet that expectations. Very, very important to remember: Upholders can meet inner expectations, but only when those inner expectations are articulated.

 

Strategy of Monitoring

Upholders do well with the Strategy of Monitoring, because they tend to love to-do lists with items to check off. Monitoring plays to this inclination: “I intend to walk 10,000 steps today, and look, my monitor says I hit that number.”

Strategy of Pairing

Upholders can make good use of the Strategy of Pairing, because it’s easy for them to enforce the pairing rule on themselves. If an Upholder gets himself to go to the gym by pairing, “I can only shave on a day when I’ve gone to the gym,” he won’t have any trouble holding himself to that pairing.

Note: Because Upholders can take advantage of just about every strategy, anyone who touts a scheme or device that’s meant to help people form good habits will have some success—because Upholders will tend to uphold, no matter what.

QUESTIONER

Strategy of Clarity (most important for Questioners)

The Strategy of Clarity is crucial for Questioners. They want to know exactly what they’re doing, and why. They won’t meet an expectation if they don’t understand the reason, so they must receive robust answers to their questions. They also must clearly see and trust the authority and expertise of the person asking them to meet that expectation.

Strategy of Monitoring

The Strategy of Monitoring is a good fit for Questioners; Questioners’ love of data means they enjoy self-monitoring. They might wear a device to track the number of steps they take; use an app to track when they take their medication, or chart what time they go to bed.

Strategy of Distinctions

The Strategy of Distinctions may resonate with Questioners, because it emphasizes that a habit should be tweaked very specifically to suit an individual’s character and idiosyncrasies—something that appeals to Questioners, who love customization. They can sometimes be convinced to try something “as an experiment.” “Why don’t you try this, you’ll find out if it works for you, and if not, you can try something else.”

Strategy of Loophole-Spotting

The Strategy of Loophole-Spotting is particularly important for Questioners, because it addresses a common stumbling block for Questioners: the invoking of loopholes to justify breaking a good habit. “I should exercise.” “But it’s too cold outside.” “Do my workout inside.” “But I have too much work and that takes precedence over exercise.”

OBLIGER

Strategy of Accountability (most important for Obligers)

All Four Tendencies (even, under certain circumstances, Rebels) find accountability to be useful for developing habits, but Obligers absolutely require structures of external accountability. They need oversight, deadlines, and consequences, and the involvement of accountability partners, such as coaches, accountability groups, trainers, health navigators, friends, or their own children. Obligers often feel a powerful sense of obligation to be good role models. They can often do something for someone else that they can’t do for themselves: “Once my baby was born, I had to quit smoking.”

Strategy of Monitoring

Monitoring supports accountability, and the more Obligers monitor their behavior, the more easily accountability will attach.

Strategy of Other People

Because of the weight imposed by outer expectations, Obligers—and the people around Obligers—must take careful note of the influence of other people, for good or ill.

Strategy of Treats

All of us should use the Strategy of Treats; when we give more to ourselves, we can ask more from ourselves. Because Obligers may fall into Obliger-rebellion when they feel burned out or exploited, it’s important that they get treats as a way to energize themselves. Remember, a treat is different from a reward! Rewards are very, very tricky to use correctly. Stick with treats!

REBEL

Strategy of Identity (most important for Rebels)

For Rebels, the most effective habit-change strategy is the Strategy of Identity. Because Rebels place great value on being true to themselves, they can embrace a habit if they view it as a way to express their identity.

 Strategy of Clarity

The Strategy of Clarity works for Rebels, because it focuses on why a habit might have personal value for them. The more Rebels think about what they want, and why they want it, the more effectively they pursue it.

Strategy of Convenience

Instead of trying to commit to scheduling a habit, Rebels often do habit-behaviors as soon as they feel like it.

Strategy of Other People

The Strategy of Other People is also a useful strategy for Rebels to consider; Rebels love doing things differently from other people. They do an obscure kind of yoga, run barefoot, exercise late at night.

Note: Rebels tend to resist if you ask or tell them to do anything. It’s very important—but challenging—to avoid setting off their spirit of resistance. Also, many of the 21 strategies that work well for other Tendencies typically don’t work for Rebels: for instance, Strategies of Scheduling, Accountability, Monitoring, or Rewards.

From Better Than Before: The 21 Strategies for Habit Change

  1. The Four Tendencies (subject of my forthcoming book, The Four Tendencies)
  2. Distinctions (what works for other people may not work for you)
  3. Monitoring
  4. Foundation
  5. Scheduling (this is often counter-productive for Rebels)
  6. Accountability (Obligers! This is YOUR STRATEGY)
  7. First Steps (be on the look out for opportunities to harness this powerful strategy)
  8. Clean Slate (this strategy is powerful, but only available at certain times)
  9. Lightning Bolt (it’s frustrating–this is a strategy that happens to you; you can’t invoke it)
  10. Abstaining (this strategy works extremely well for some people, and not at all for others)
  11. Convenience (this is the most universal strategy)
  12. Inconvenience (twin of Convenience)
  13. Safeguards
  14. Loophole-Spotting (this strategy is hilarious to study)
  15. Distractions
  16. Reward (beware! this is a very, very tricky strategy to apply effectively)
  17. Treats (this is definitely the most fun strategy to follow)
  18. Pairing
  19. Clarity
  20. Identity (it took me a long time to realize the power of this strategy)
  21. Other People (never overlook this strategy)

Fun with the Four Tendencies: Is Taylor Swift an Upholder?

I spend a lot of time thinking about my personality framework, the Four Tendencies. It’s an endlessly fascinating thing to study.

If you don’t know if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel — and why it matters — you can take the quick quiz here. (More than 640,000 people have taken the quiz.)

I’m always on the watch for Tendencies in the world. Now, we generally can’t judge people’s Tendency by what they do; we need to know how they think.

But sometimes patterns of behaviors are so consistent that they do suggest a Tendency.

My sister Elizabeth told me that she thinks that Taylor Swift is an Upholder. It’s not easy to tell, because of course a mega-star like Swift has a persona that’s carefully crafted for public consumption. However, judging from external factors, I agree, she sure looks like an Upholder.

She seems to meet outer expectations very patiently and professionally—not only those related to her extensive music and business responsibilities, but also involving time-consuming, inefficient tasks like going on press tours, handling paparazzi, and putting up with all the nonsense that super-stars must endure. She meets a very high level of expectations, with no visible sign of resentment or burn-out or frustration at inefficiency.

She has no trouble resisting the advice of her record label, and she also has no trouble following the advice of her record label. She doesn’t seem to feel pushed around by the press, social media, or her own team. In a cover profile in GQ magazine, Chuck Klosterman observed of Swift, “There is a perpetual sense that nothing about her career is accidental and that nothing about her life is unmediated. These are not unusual thoughts to have about young mainstream stars. But what’s different with Swift is her autonomy. There is no Svengali directing her career; there is no stage mother pushing her toward the spotlight. She is in total control of her own constructed reality.”

Plus Swift exhibits an extraordinary level of self-discipline, and she’s often criticized for being “unspontaneous.” Now, what Tendency does that sound like?

 I suspect that Upholders in the entertainment business, and in the arts, sometimes go out of their way to hide their Tendency—to present themselves as more wild and more hedonistic than they actually are.

Upholderness isn’t a very glamorous, edgy, or endearing quality. It doesn’t contribute to a fascinating biography or make good magazine copy. In her mega-hit song “Shake It Off,” Taylor Swift sings, “I stay up too late…I go on too many dates…At least that’s what people say.” Does she stay up too late? Hmmm. I wonder. 

What do you think?

In other news about the Four Tendencies, very soon I will be able to reveal the jacket for the book The Four Tendencies — I’m about to be able to take down that dull placeholder cover. Exciting! If you’re inclined to buy the book, it’s a big help to me if you pre-order (pre-orders help build buzz for a book among booksellers, the media, and the public). But only if you want to, of course!

What Healthy Treats Do You Give Yourself? (Note the “Healthy.”)

In my book Better Than Before, I describe the many strategies that we can use to change our habits. We all have our favorite strategies — but I think most of us would agree that the Strategy of Treats is the most fun strategy.

“Treats” may sound like a self-indulgent, frivolous strategy, but it’s not. Because forming good habits can be draining, treats can play an important role.

When we give ourselves treats, we feel energized, cared for, and contented, which boosts our self-command—and self-command helps us maintain our healthy habits.

Studies show that people who got a little treat, in the form of receiving a surprise gift or watching a funny video, gained in self-control. It’s a Secret of Adulthood: If I give more to myself, I can ask more from myself. Self-regard isn’t selfish.

When we don’t get any treats, we begin to feel burned-out, depleted, and resentful.  We start to feel deprived — and feeling deprived is a very bad frame of mind for good habits.

When we feel deprived, we feel entitled to put ourselves back in balance. We say, “I’ve earned this,” “I need this,” “I deserve this” and feel entitled to break our good habits.

So we need treats.

But it’s crucial to give ourselves healthy treats, because unhealthy treats are often bad for us. We don’t want to give ourselves something to feel better that just makes us ending up feeling worse. Like a costly splurge, an extra glass of wine, a big brownie.

All of us should have a long list of potential healthy treats. That way, when we think, “I need a treat,” we have ideas.

For something to be a treat, we have to think of it as a treat; we make something a treat by calling it a “treat.” When we notice our pleasure, and relish it, the experience becomes much more of a treat. Even something as humble as herbal tea or a box of freshly sharpened pencils can qualify as a treat.

For instance, once I realized how much I love beautiful smells, a whole new world of treats opened up to me. If I need a treat, I visit my “collection of smells” in my apartment or I stop by a perfume counter.

At the same time, it’s important not to call something a “treat” if it’s not really a treat. It may be good for you, and it may even feel good, but it’s not a treat if you don’t look forward to it with pleasure. So a yoga class could be a treat for someone, but it’s not a treat for me. I do it, and I’m glad I do it, but I don’t think, “Oh, yay, time for yoga!”

Sometimes, treats don’t look like treats. For example, to my surprise, many people consider ironing a “treat.”

Here are some other treats I’ve heard about:

  • crossword puzzles
  • looking at art books
  • shopping at a very expensive store (no possibility of buying, so just enjoy looking)
  • translating Latin
  • breaking codes
  • manicure (I never get manicures and dread them; the opposite of a treat for me)
  • visiting camping stores
  • online shopping (I heard from many people who enjoy online shopping with no plan to buy–they have fun filling their cart, then abandon it)
  • choosing plants and seed for the garden
  • video games and phone games
  • getting a massage
  • taking a bath, especially if with special bath salts
  • buying yourself flowers
  • visiting a special place (a park, sculpture, or museum)

 

If you want to hear me and Elizabeth talk about why you should treat yourself, listen to this episode of the Happier podcast.

And if you want to hear Donna and Tom of Parks and Recreation talk about their annual Treat Yo’ Self day, watch the hilarious clip here.

What healthy treats are on your list?

Want to Keep a New Year’s Resolution? How to Make It Right for YOU.

Many people make New Year’s resolutions, and many people get frustrated and abandon their New Year’s resolutions.

A common mistake? Setting up the resolution in the wrong way. We think we “should be able to” do it first thing in the morning, or we think we should imitate a resolution that works well for someone else.

But there’s no one, correct way. It’s just whatever works for us.

I know this, because I used to try to indulge moderately in sweets — but I’m an Abstainer. And I used to try to do difficult writing in the afternoon — but I’m a Lark. And I use to hold myself back from buying too much at one time — but I’m an Under-buyer. Etc. Now that I set up resolutions to suit my nature, I succeed much more often.

As you set up your resolutions, be sure to consider these distinctions, as outlined in the “Strategy of Distinctions” in my book Better Than Before, which is all about the multiple strategies we can exploit to change our habits.

Before you decide on the resolution you’ll make, consider…

-are you a Lark or Owl?

are you a Marathoner or Sprinter?

are you a Simplicity-lover or Abundance-lover?

are you a Finisher or Opener?

are you an Abstainer or Moderator?

-are you an Under-buyer or Over-buyer?

As you’re thinking about these distinctions, it can be helpful to ask, “When have I succeeded with this resolution in the past?” If there was a time when you exercised regularly, cooked frequently, got enough sleep, etc., that might hold clues for how you might be able to do a better job in the present.

When we know ourselves, we can set up a resolution in the way that’s right for us. It’s not that hard to keep our resolutions, and to change our habits — when we know what to do.