Tag Archives: progress

Do You Believe You Can Improve Human Nature Before You’ve Changed The System? And Vice Versa.

“Progress is not an illusion, it happens, but it is slow and invariably disappointing…Consequently two viewpoints are always tenable. The one, how can you improve human nature until you have changed the system? The other, what is the use of changing the system before you have improved human nature? They appeal to different individuals, and they probably show a tendency to alternate in point of time.”

–George Orwell, “Charles Dickens” in A Collection of Essays

This is one of my favorite essays by George Orwell, and that’s saying a lot.

I think about this quotation often, because I spend most of my time thinking about individual change. How steps can each of us take, in our own lives, to become happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative?

Which is not to say that I don’t think that the system should change — just that, for whatever reason, it’s the second question that interests me more.

How about you?

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. To see the inside, click here to watch a quick video I made. 

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?

What Habit Would Add the Most to Your Happiness? Does It Fall in These Five Categories?

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

This Wednesday: Do you want to foster habits in one of these five areas?

My current writing project is a book that will be called Before and After, about the most fascinating subject ever, the subject of habits. How do we make and break habits–really? (To be notified when the book goes on sale, sign up here.)

It was my interest in happiness that led me to the subject of habits, and of course, the study of habits is really the study of happiness. 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. Or not.

When I talk to people about their happiness challenges, they often point to hurdles related to a habit they want to make or break.

When I think about the habits that I wanted to cultivate, or talk to people about their happiness challenges, it seems as though just about every habit that people seek to make or break falls into the “Big Five”:

1. Eat and drink more healthfully

2. Exercise regularly

3. Rest and relax

4. Stop procrastinating, make consistent progress

 5. Organize, clear, and simplify

Does this ring true to you? Are there any habits that you try to foster that don’t fall into one of these categories?

The Big Five reflect the fact that we often feel both tired and wired. We feel exhausted, but also feel jacked up on adrenaline, caffeine, and sugar. We feel frantically busy, but also feel that we’re not spending enough time on the things that really matter. We want to use our time well, but we fritter away hours on activities that are neither particularly fun nor particularly productive.

I call these habit areas the “Big Five,” but I really want to come up with a catchier phrase. Any suggestions?

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If You Want More or Less of Something in Your Life, Measure It.

You know how when you become interested in an idea, it seems as though everything in the world relates to that idea? For example, for a long time, I kept remarking, in every possible context, “The days are long, but the years are short.” Everything reminded me of that idea.

A good friend of mine had a preoccupation of her own. She called it “the measurement problem” — the observation that measuring a value (or choosing not to measure it) changes the way we act on it. She’d quote Einstein: “‘Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.’” She explained to me, “If you want something to count in your life, it helps to figure out a way to count it.”

This idea struck me with such force that I made it one of my Secrets of Adulthood: “You manage what you measure.”

That’s one of the key reasons that my Resolutions Chart works so well. Setting myself a concrete task, and measuring each day whether I’m complying with it, makes me far more likely to stick to my resolution.

Difficult-to-measure resolutions like “Find more joy in life” or “Be present in the moment” are tougher to keep than “Once a week, make plans with friends” or “Don’t use my iPod when I’m walking to work.” It’s hard to tell if you’re getting more joy out of life, but it’s easy to score yourself on keeping a weekly outing with friends.

In my own case, with my workaholic tendencies, I realized that if I didn’t measure certain values in my life, I’d neglect them. It sounds ridiculous to make paradoxical resolutions like “Force myself to wander” or “Schedule time for play,” but if I don’t put these things on my calendar, and score myself on my Resolutions Chart, I just won’t do them. (If you’d like to take a look at my personal Resolutions Chart, email me at grubin at gretchenrubin dot com.)

Now, some people make the point that measuring isn’t necessarily a good thing. Measuring something stifles it, they argue, or it encourages you to focus on measurable aspects at the expense of more elusive ones, or the fact that you’re measuring an experience shows you’re not experiencing it deeply. After all, when you’re fully immersed in an experience, you don’t stop to measure it.

That’s true. So I suppose I’m talking about how to get to that point. How do you lose yourself in contemplation of the clouds if you’re listening to the audiobook of Freedom? How do you throw yourself into dancing at a club if you never step away from your computer? In my case, measurement allows me to make sure that such values don’t get pushed to the side – otherwise I’m too preoccupied with answering emails or taking notes, because these are tangible items that can crossed off my to-do list.

Even reading. Reading is my very favorite thing to do — in fact, if I’m honest with myself, it’s practically the only activity I really enjoy — and when I’m reading, I lose all track of time or sense of measurement. Nevertheless, one of my resolutions is “Find more time to read.” I measure my reading time to make sure that reading doesn’t get crowded out.

Maybe there’s something you’d like to change in your life — to get more of something good or less of something bad. Try this: figure out a very concrete way to measure and track it. By counting the things that count — and pushing yourself to find a way to count the things that seem as if they can’t be counted — you make sure they’re part of your life.

How about you? Have you found that measuring something has helped you manage to get more (or less) of it in your life? How did you measure?

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

* I love time-lapse photography, and was especially pleased to see this short video of time passing in New York City, where I live. New York City! It makes me happy every day. I love it.

* Sign up for the Moment of Happiness, and each weekday morning, you’ll get a happiness quotation in your email inbox. Sign up here or email me at grubin at gretchenrubin dot com.