Tag Archives: resolutions

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.

9 Tips if You’re Making Work-Related New Year’s Resolutions.

The new year is here, and for many of us, that means new year’s resolutions. And many of us make resolutions related to our work lives.

Now Questioners, I know you object to the arbitrariness of the January 1 date; Obligers, I know you may have given up making resolutions because you’ve struggled in the past; and Rebels, I know you may not want to bind yourself in advance. But some people do want to make resolutions. (Don’t know where you fit in the “Four Tendencies” framework, i.e.,  if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel? Look here.)

For instance, some common work-related resolutions include “I want to broaden my horizons,” “I want to do a better job with record-keeping,” “I want to network,” “I want to find a mentor,” and “I want to expand my skills.”

One key to consistent progress is to make a behavior into a habit. Habits are freeing and energizing, because they save us from the difficult, draining business of making decisions and exercising our self-control.

Habits matter, because research shows that about 40% of everyday life is shaped by habits. If we have habits that work for us, we’re far more likely to be happier, healthier, and more productive.

In my book Better Than Before, I discuss the twenty-one different strategies that we can use to make or break our habits. I know, twenty-one sounds like a lot to manage — but it’s helpful that there are so many, because some of these strategies work for some people, and not others. But we all have a big menu from which to pick.

So how might you make a habit of actions that will help you succeed at work? Consider these strategies:

1. Use the Strategy of Clarity, and be specific about what you’re asking of yourself.

Resolutions like “network more” or “research new opportunities” are too vague. Put your resolution into the form of a concrete, measurable, manageable action, such as “Every month, go to at least two events with networking opportunities” or “Spend one hour every Friday afternoon updating my time sheets and expenses.” Being specific helps you figure out what to do, and it also makes it possible to…

2. Use the Strategy of Monitoring, and monitor your habit.

Monitoring is almost uncanny in its power. Research shows that simply by monitoring a behavior, we tend to do a much better job of it, whether that’s how fast we’re driving, how much we’re eating, how many cold calls we’re making, or how many instructional videos we’re watching. Keep track, and you’ll push yourself in the right direction.

3. Use the Strategy of Scheduling, and schedule time for your habit.

Something like “Research that company this week” is a goal that can keep getting pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. Even if it’s important, it’s just not urgent. So schedule a specific time for research, for learning, for following up, and give it a slot on your calendar. But it’s crucial to remember that…

4. Working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination.

When you schedule time to do certain work, you should do that work, and nothing else. No filing, no cleaning, no research, no checking emails. Do that work, or stare at the ceiling. Otherwise, you may work and work and work, and never get around to doing the very thing you set out to do.

5. Use the Strategy of Distinctions, and take time to think big.

In the rigors of everyday life, it can be hard to step back and see what matters most.  Where do you want to be in two years? How could you develop your skills to make your work more interesting and yourself more valuable? Some people prefer to do this kind of thinking alone, with just a pad of paper; others prefer to talk it out, with a few trusted co-workers or an old friend; others might hire a coach. Or…

6. Use the Strategy of Distinctions, and take time to think small.

Sometimes people get overwhelmed when they try to make grand plans or ask huge questions; it’s also useful to focus on small, manageable steps that you can incorporate into your life immediately.

7. Use the Strategy of Clarity, and ask yourself: Whom do you envy?

Envy is an uncomfortable emotion, but it’s instructive. If you envy someone, that person has something you wish you had. Do you envy your friend who gets to travel all the time—or the friend who never has to travel? Do you envy your co-worker who’s taking night class toward getting an MBA, or who gets to make lots of presentations? Envy can help show us how we want to grow and change.

8. Use the Strategy of Other People, and spend time with people who have the habits  that you want to emulate.

Studies show that we tend to pick up habits from the people around us, so choose your company wisely. If you know that some of your co-workers cultivate habits that help them succeed at work, go out of your way to spend time with them, and you’ll more easily pick up those habits, yourself.

9. Use the Strategy of the Four Tendencies and the Strategy of Accountability, if it works for you.

If you’re an Obliger — that is, if you readily meet other people’s expectations, but struggle to meet your expectations for yourself — the answer, the solution, the key element is external accountability. Rebels, on the other hand, often do worse when they’re being held accountable. Figure out your Tendency and plug in accountability as necessary.

The most important thing to remember about habit change? We must shape our habits to suit ourselves—our own nature, our own interests, our own strengths. When we understand ourselves, we can apply the twenty-one strategies with the greatest success, and we can also help other people to change their habits.

It’s not hard to change your habits, when you know what to do. And it matters. When we change our habits, we change our lives.

Podcast 97: Start Your Own Happiness Project, a Deep Dive into Break-Ups, and a Sweatpants Demerit.

It’s time for the next installment of  Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

We’re coming up on our Very VERY Special Episode — Episode 100! Hard to believe. For this episode, send us questions about anything, whether related to happiness or not. For instance, if you’ve wondered, “Why don’t Gretchen and Elizabeth ever have their parents come onto the show?” or “What was the brand of Gretchen’s hard-boiled egg-maker?” you can ask! (KRUPS, by the way.) Email us or call us at 774-277-9336.

To start the new year in a happier way, we’re doing a fun project on Instagram. Every day, for the month of January, Elizabeth and I will post a photo on Instagram of something that makes us happier (by giving us a boost, helping us stick to good habits, reminding us to feel grateful, etc.).  Join in! Use the hashtag #Happier2017 and tag us — I’m @gretchenrubin and Elizabeth is @lizcraft.

Try This at Home: Start your own happiness project. I wrote about my own “happiness project” in my book, The Happiness Project.

My Twelve Personal Commandments are here.

Email me if you want to see my happiness-project chart. If you want to take a look at the The Happiness Project One-Sentence Journal: A Five Year Record, it’s here.

If you’re curious to see Eliza’s Squarespace site for her podcast Eliza Starting at 16, it’s here.

Happiness Hack: Jane says, “To deal with unloading the dryer, I tell myself I only have to fold five items. That gets me started.”

Deep Dive: How to survive a break-up. Our fellow podcaster, Andrea Silenzi of the great podcast Why Oh Why, is dealing with a break-up. We talked about it first in episode 93, and Andrea came onto the show to give us an update.

Demerit: Elizabeth gives herself a demerit for wearing sweatpants every day.

Gold Star: Our mother decorates beautifully for Christmas. It’s a lot of work, but it adds so much to the holiday, because it’s so festive.

Don’t forget: Elizabeth’s young-adult book Flower is ready for pre-order!

If you want easy instructions about how to rate or review the podcast, look here.

Remember,  I’m doing 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 Squarespace. Start building your website and get your free trial today.  Go to Squarespace.com, and enter the offer code “happier” to get 10% off your first purchase.

Also check out Casper, the online retailer of premium mattresses. Pay a fraction of what you’d pay in the store, get free delivery, and returns within a 100 day period. Go to Casper.com and get $50 off a mattress purchase by using the promo code happier.

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #97

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Research shows that September Really IS the Other January.

I’ve written many times about how for me, September is the other January — a clean slate, a fresh start, a chance to use new pencils, fresh notebooks, and begin again.

In fact, in my book Happier at Home, I did a happiness project that stretched from September to May, to take advantage of September’s clean slate.

So I was fascinated to read a piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, “Now Is the Real New Year” by Anne Marie Chaker.

Some interesting points about why people make resolutions in September:

  • with the start of school, families get back into routines, and that helps people get organized and set goals
  • January is a tough time for resolutions, because of post-holiday exhaustion
  • summer efforts can get derailed because of vacation
  • September is one of the biggest months for enrolling in weight-loss programs, going to the gym, and cooking at home
  • people often change their hair style in September
  • people often take steps to change careers in September, and work on household budgets
  • September is now bigger than June as a time to get married; it’s second only to October

 

How about you? Do you feel like September is a time for a fresh start?

 

A Favorite Valentine’s Day Tradition that I Can’t Observe This Year.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’m on a trip to Chicago with my two daughters, so alas, I’m not able to keep one of my favorite resolutions.

As part of the happiness-boosting experiments I tried while writing The Happiness Project — or was it while writing Happier at Home? — I started the tradition of celebrating holiday breakfasts. For instance, for Valentine’s Day.

I’ve been doing this for several years now.

This resolution works alongside some of my other important family-related resolutions, like Be a treasure house of happy memories and Take time for projects.

Family traditions are an important way to build happy memories and to do fun family projects. Traditions make occasions feel special and exciting. They mark the passage of time in a happy way. They provide a sense of anticipation, security and continuity.

Studies show that family traditions support children’s social development and strengthen family cohesiveness. They provide the connection and predictability that people crave. I know that I enjoy a holiday more when I know exactly what we’re going to do, and when we’re going to do it.

Inspired by a friend, I now decorate for holiday breakfasts for all major and minor holidays.

Usually, for Valentine’s Day breakfast, I put out heart-shaped place-mats, heart-shaped paper plates, scattered some conversation-heart candies on the table and in a heart-shaped bowl, and put some heart-shaped window gels on the windows. My mother sends a little present to each girl, so they had something fun to unwrap. I dye the milk pink.

This is festive, and importantly, it’s easy. I re-use the same decorations every year, so I don’t have to spend money or do errands (except to pick up a little theme candy). I set the table the night before, so it’s not stressful. I have a very precise place in the kitchen where I store my holiday-breakfast decorations, so I don’t have to scramble to find anything. A big happiness boost, without much effort.

But this year, we’re traveling, which is very fun — but I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to do the usual holiday breakfast. That’s the thing about traditions; when we love them, we feel sad when they can’t be observed. (The image above is from a previous holiday breakfast.)

Maybe I’ll spring a heart-themed breakfast on my family at some other point.

Have you started any new traditions for your family?  (Yes, a “new tradition” is an oxymoron, but you know what I mean.)

HappierAtHomePaperbackIf you want more ideas about how to build more happiness at home, check out my book, Happier at Home. What a joy it was to write that book!