We’ve all heard the phrase, “We are what we repeatedly do.” Often, we may feel like we have to do something dramatic like quit our jobs or move across the country in order to create real change in our lives. Taking those big steps can help us make the changes we want in our lives, but sometimes all we really need is to find small ways to shift our mindset. One way we can do this is by considering how the small choices we make every day shape our lives. And these small choices (also known as habits) can add up to help us grow and live more fulfilling lives.
In "Better Than Before," (Mavenly’s first book club read of 2017) Gretchen Rubin argues that better habits are essential for better lives. She said, “for a happy life, it’s important to cultivate an atmosphere of growth--the sense that we’re learning new things, getting stronger, forging new relationships, making things better, helping other people.” And the best way to cultivate this atmosphere of growth is through building intentional habits.
Here are just a few things we learned from Gretchen and her research about building better habits, and how our habits can shape our lives.
Begin With Self-Awareness
Self-awareness may seem like an obvious first step for changing something in our lives, but it is one that we may often overlook. When we talk about habits, we often assume that everyone can achieve the same things in the same way. If someone talks about something they want to change, it is natural to share our advice with them. But even if one way of doing things worked well for you, it doesn't mean it will work for your best friend. So, “know thyself,” and first gain some clarity on what you can do to set yourself up for success. For example, if you know that you are not a morning person and can’t function before 6 a.m., then don’t make yourself go to the gym with your friend at 5 a.m. just because that works for her. Give yourself permission to do what feels best for you, and you will be able to stick to that habit realistically in the long run.
Have A Good Foundation
It sounds counter-intuitive, but before we can work on changing a habit, we have to make sure we have a solid foundation of good, basic habits. These are the things like getting enough sleep, eating well, and drinking enough water. Yes, these are habits themselves, but if we don’t have these essentials in place, then we may struggle to establish other habits that lead up to our goals.
Other tools for creating a good foundation for habits? Scheduling and monitoring your time. If, like me, you already use a planner or agenda, then you may ask yourself why you need to think about scheduling more. I was honest with myself on this one, and realized that I was making lists and “planning,” but not always scheduling what I wanted to happen. One of my favorite tools for helping with organizing my time is the Day Designer planner, which makes it super easy to schedule activities in specific blocks. I found that using these blocks of time to schedule activities holds me accountable and forces me to be more realistic about what I can accomplish in a day.
“Deciding Not To Decide”
Another major game-changer I took away from this book is the concept of “deciding not to decide.” I love this phrase because it explains how daily decision making actually keeps us from having and doing the things we really want. Rubin suggests taking the “decision” factor out of the equation to form a habit. If you want to change a habit, decide to do it and then don’t leave room for discussion.
Know Your Tendency
When I read about Gretchen Rubin’s concept of the Four Tendencies, I couldn't help but compare them to the Five Love Languages. Just like the Love Languages, there is no wrong language or tendency, just unique ways of understanding ourselves and others. The Four Tendencies are the four most common ways that people respond to expectations. Specifically, they cover outer expectations (like from our manager at work) and inner expectations (something we tell ourselves we will do).
The Four Tendencies are Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Upholders are the people who don’t have trouble with following through with what others ask them to do, or what they resolve to do themselves. Obligers don’t have trouble meeting expectations from others, but they don’t always justify doing something for themselves. Questioners respond to expectations by questioning if it something is worthwhile (no matter who asks them to do something) and then once they decide it is worth it, they will do it. Rebels are people who dislike having expectations placed on them in any way, even if it is something they set for themselves.
We hope you enjoyed reading "Better Than Before" with us, and were able to find some tips and tricks to help you implement more intentional habits into your life.
Join us for our next book club discussion of "Yes Please" by (the one and only) Amy Poehler on March 14th on Facebook Live at 8 p.m. EST