The Secret Weapon to Help You Stick to Your Good Habits.

It’s been so satisfying to have Better Than Before out in the world. (And, I must admit, also very satisfying that it’s a bestseller.)

It’s fascinating to me to hear how people respond to it — what ideas they find most helpful or most surprising, and how they use the habit strategies themselves.

In particular, many people have asked me for the starter kit, for people who want to launch a Better Than Before habits group, where people work on their habits together.

It’s clear to me why so many people want it. For many, many people, the secret weapon of habit-change is outer accountability.

In Better Than Before, I identify the “Four Tendencies“: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Your Tendency makes a big difference when it comes to how you can most easily change your habits. (To take the quiz to identify your Tendency, go here.)

The biggest group? Obliger. Obligers readily meet outer expectations, like work deadlines, but struggle to meet inner expectations, like a New Year’s resolution.

Like my friend who never missed track practice in high school, but can’t get herself to go running now.

Understand the Patterns in Your Behavior

For Obligers, it’s often a huge revelation to understand the pattern of their behavior: When they have external accountability, they follow through. When they don’t have it, they struggle.

And, once Obligers understand that external accountability is the key to sticking to their good habits, they often want to figure out ways to give themselves that crucial accountability. Which is a great idea.

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 habits group.

Some solutions to getting 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.

Consider a Habits Change Group

For this reason, I created a “starter kit” for starting a Better Than Before habits change group. If you’d like the starter kit, email me at gretchenrubin1 at gretchenrubin dot com.

Better Than Before habits groups swap ideas, build enthusiasm, give energy and encouragement, and —  most important — provide accountability. (Think AA and Weight Watchers.)

People in the group don’t have to be working on the same habits; it’s enough that they hold each other accountable. One person might need accountability to write a novel; another, to get a massage; another, to give up fast food.

Track Your Habits

Another tool that I created to help people stick to their good habits is the Better Than Before Day-by-Day Journal. It has writing prompts to help guide you through ways to strengthen your habits, and helps you track your habits — I particularly like its “don’t break the chain” feature, because that approach works for so many people.

If you do form a habits group, you could use the Journal to help kick off discussion and to help people report back accurately. I don’t know about you, but if I don’t write something down, I forget it immediately.

Accountability can be useful for most people, but it’s true that for some people (Rebels) it can be counter-productive, and for some people (Obligers), it’s essential. This is a good example of something from my Habits Manifesto: We’re not much different from other people, but those differences are very important.

Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life. Research shows that they shape about 40% of our daily experiences, so if we have habits that work for us, we’re far more likely to be happier, healthier, and more productive.

Change our habits, change our lives.

“How Does One Find One’s Identity?” What’s Your Answer?

“How does one find one’s identity? My answer would be through work and through love, and both imply giving rather than getting. Each requires discipline, self-mastery, and a kind of selflessness, and they are each lifetime challenges.”

–May Sarton, Recovering: A Journal 1978-1979

Yes, another quotation from May Sarton. I’m slowly working my way through all her journals.

Do you agree? That we find our identity through work and love?

Secrets of Adulthood: If You Can’t Find Something, Clean Up. Agree, Disagree?

From Further Secrets of AdulthoodIf you can’t find something, clean up.

This is one of the Secrets of Adulthood that sounds too easy to be true, but over and over, I’ve proven its value to myself.

If I can’t find something, I clean up — and I almost always find what I was looking for, plus some things that I wanted to find, that I didn’t even know I’d lost.

It continues to amaze me, every day, the degree to which (for most people) outer order contributes to inner calm and inner self-command. More than it should!

Losing your keys is no big deal. But it sure feels like a big deal.

In The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, I wrote a lot about clearing clutter. And then in Better Than Before, it came up again! There’s something so enervating about disorder.

How about you? Do you have any easy tricks for staying on top of order and disorder?

Podcast 37: Meet a Work Deadline, but Can’t Go Running on Your Own? You May be an Obliger.

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

Update:  Elizabeth and I reminisce about the trip we took together when I recorded a Super Soul Sunday episode with Oprah! Yes, I’m going to be on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday on November 8, 7:00 pm EST/PT on the OWN channel (find your station here). Please watch. I’ll be live-tweeting while it airs.

OprahElizabethandGretchenSelfieHotel

Boy, Elizabeth and I had fun on that adventure.  But I have to admit, I can hardly remember anything from the interview; it was such an out-of-body experience. So I’ll be curious to see if I remember it, once I watch it.

Today is the third in the series of four episodes that we’re devoting to the Four Tendencies.  In last week’s episode, we talked about the Upholder Tendency; this week, it’s Obliger.

To find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel,
take the Four Tendencies quiz here.

Try This at Home: If you’re an Obliger, or you’re around an Obliger (which you surely are), help the Obliger to figure out a system of outer accountability so the Obliger can meet an inner expectation.

If you want to start a group for people who are holding each other accountable, get the starter kit here.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Obligers:  How to identify and take advantage of the strengths, and counter-balance the weaknesses, of the Tendency.

Striking Pattern of Obligers: Obliger-rebellion. Obligers will meet, meet, meet, meet expectations — and then suddenly, they snap, and refuse to meet an expectation. This can be a symbolic, small act, or a hugely explosive act.

Listener Question: “I’m an Obliger, and I find that disturbing. I should be my own priority. Is it possible to move from Obliger to Upholder?”

Gretchen’s Demerit: After years of feeling bad about the fact that I don’t work very productively when I travel, I decided — hey, no more demerits, I’m going to use that time to read for fun.

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Adam suggested, “No more unkind voices.”

Call for comments, questions, observations!

We’re spending four weeks talking about my Four Tendencies framework for human nature. One more week to go — Rebels! We’ve already had many thought-provoking responses, but we want more.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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Happier with Gretchen Rubin #37 - Listen at Happiercast.com/37

We love hearing from listeners

Tell us — Did you help an Obliger (whether that’s you or someone else) to come up with a system of external accountability? If so, how?

If you’re intrigued by the Four Tendencies, and want to be notified when my handbook on the subject hits the shelves, text me at 66866 and enter the word “tendencies,” I’ll add you to a list to be notified when it’s ready.

There are lots of ways to share your responses or questions:

 

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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 toHappier 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!

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5 Things Oprah Taught Me about How to Give a Good Interview.

One of the biggest thrills in my professional life was being interviewed by Oprah herself, for her amazing Super Soul Sunday series. Yowza!

The interview airs on November 8, at 7 p.m EST/PT on OWN (find your station here.) Please watch. I’ll be live-tweeting while it airs.

Doing the interview was exciting on many levels, but among other things, I learned a lot about the interview process. Oprah is the master, and it’s always a rare privilege to learn from a true master.

1. Oprah was extremely prepared and referred to my work several times.

This is an obvious point for an interviewer, but still it was a good reminder of how important that is, to the interviewee.

2. She really listened — it felt like a real conversation, a real exchange.

I know from experience that when doing an interview, it’s all too easy to refer to a list of questions, and to move to the next question no matter how someone answers.

3. She talked herself.

There’s a tricky balance for interviewers — you don’t want to talk too much yourself, but perhaps counter-intuitively, if you talk too little, an interview can fall flat.

4. She made me feel like I surprised and intrigued her.

When I’m interviewing someone, I want to have a moment of genuine connection and learning. That often means surprising or puzzling another person. Oprah has heard it all, and she’s read my books, yet she made me feel like I was saying things that genuinely intrigued her.

5. She was in control.

The first time I went on the Today show, to talk about my book Power Money Fame Sex, to be interviewed by Matt Lauer, I was so nervous. An established writer said, “Don’t worry about this interview. He’s the best at that job, and he’s the best prepared — this will be one of your easiest interviews.” And that was true. (You can watch the 2000 interview here. I can’t bear to watch, so have never actually seen it!)

Same thing with Oprah. A friend who had been on Super Soul Sunday said, “Relax. Oprah is the master, she’s the best, so just think about being yourself and answering from the heart. Don’t feel like you have to be in charge of the conversation.” And that was true. I really enjoyed the conversation — so much, that I forgot to be nervous.

I was also a lot calmer, because my sister Elizabeth was with me — that made the whole adventure much more relaxed and fun. Here we are taking a selfie before leaving the hotel to go to the recording. Note Elizabeth’s excellent hair — no hair or make-up for me yet.

I hope you’ll watch! Sunday, November 8, OprahElizabethandGretchenSelfieHotelOWN channel, at 7:00 ET/PT. Be sure to join me on Twitter during the show.