I had the worst habit of biting my fingernails. I bit the nails, the skin around my nails, and I kept biting anyway when my fingers bled. I finally stopped when I was 20, and I semi-jokingly say that I’ve been “sober” for the last 13 years. I wasn’t sure what caused me to just stop one day, but once I did, I stopped cold turkey.
I just read Gretchen Rubin’s latest book Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives to get a little more insight into my good and bad habits. I’m always interested in improving myself, and maybe, like the nail biting habit, I could stop my other bad habits like indulging in ice cream and carbs and improve on my good habits like going running even though I don’t enjoy it.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed is her mixture of personal stories with her research. She did this before with her previous books, The Happiness Project and Happier at Home and I find her writing much more approachable than other self-improvement/better living books that focus solely on the facts. It’s kind of like, yes, tell me all about how I can improve, but also, tell me all about you! I love it, but I know some people can find it off-putting, or distracting. (Ha, it’s kind of like how I started my review!)
So, how do you master a habit? One of the first things she suggests is first getting to know yourself and she puts us into what she calls The Four Tendencies. I’m an Upholder and which means I respond to both outer and inner expectations of myself. I think I stopped biting my nails because I finally set an inner expectation for myself and just stopped (or started, depending on how you read it).
I was little skeptical about boxing everyone into four categories, but I actually laughed out loud when I read the section on Questioners because there is a particular line about January 1st that my husband has said to me almost word for word when I talk about my resolutions for an upcoming year.
Once you’ve figured out your Tendency, from there, you can break it down into what she calls Distinctions. Then you build upon your habits once you know what makes you tick, like if you are a familiarity lover or a novelty lover. I also liked what she called the “Essential Seven” which are basically what we want to foster in our lives like eating healthfully or engaging in deeper relationships. This helps to tie in the reasons you want to create a habit.
While I enjoyed the methods she had, it was a bit much as far as all the different labels she listed to apply a habit. The Four Tendencies, The Essential Seven, Distinctions, Pillars of Habits, and so on. It sounded like too much business jargon for me, though it didn’t deter me from enjoying the book otherwise.
I recommend reading this book if you’re looking to make some changes in your life. I think her advice is accessible and now it’s just a matter of applying the strategies she suggests to improve myself. While the methods aren’t all new, I think when you look at it with the perspective of your personality, it can be an awesome shift in your paradigm.
Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. All opinions are my own.