The last section of Gretchen Rubin’s book is titled ‘Unique Just Like Everyone Else.’ The first chapter in this section is tilted ‘Choose My Bale of Hay’ or ‘Clarity.’ I share these because they made me smile.
To be able to create Habits that work for us personally, we need clarity. Habits usually fail because we often work to someone else’s plan or expectations, or the habits we want to build do not reflect our own values. ‘Two kinds of clarity support habit formation: clarity of values and clarity of action.’ Or in other words, why we want to do something and how we intend to do it.
When deciding what habit to form we need first decide why we want to form that particular habit. A few months back I use to buy a 2 litre bottle of Pepsi cola a week, then the store had it on offer and I bought two bottles. It didn’t take long for me to find myself returning to the store and buying first one extra bottle and then two extra bottles a week. However Pepsi, and I am guessing it is the amount of sugar it contains, that has a negative effect on me, that is every day I drank the Pepsi I would spend the night going for a ‘pee’ every hour. For a while I couldn’t get enough of the sweet taste and grumbled loudly to anyone who would listen about my broken night sleep. Then I had a ‘eureka’ moment – stop the pepsi and get some sleep. That one thought was the ‘value’ that brought clarity to my action. I stopped buying it, but I still enjoyed the cold-fizzy taste and so now I buy carbonated water instead. I only ever drink pepsi if i am out for a meal somewhere knowing I will have to live with the consequences of my actions, but I accept that as it is.
Gretchen then goes on to explain about ‘red-herring’ habits. These are habits we loudly proclaim to everyone who will listen, and may even try them out, but time and time again they fail. One red-herring that I have, is chocolate. I am forever saying that I am going to give up eating chocolate, when in reality I am doing nothing of the sort. Although I now eat far less than I have ever done, when I go for my grocery shopping I always but a bar of my favourite chocolate and then come home and eat it – all! So I need to ask myself why I want to give up chocolate – clarity of values – and then decide if (a) I want to give it up and (b) what clarity of action will i take to so?
Clarity of Value – chocolate contains sugar and soya both of which have negative effects on me – see above!
Clarity of action – would be to give it up all together, but I know I am not going to do that, so I have to create a habit that reflects both my value and my action.
Habit: Only buy 1 reasonable sized bar of the best chocolate (usually I buy Green and Blacks) and wait for a time in my day when I can sit down and enjoy it all, because I am going to eat it all. I normally keep it for the evening of shopping day.
‘To achieve greater clarity Gretchen invokes a “bright-line rule”, a useful concept from law. A bright-line rule is a clearly defined rule or standard that eliminates any need for interpretation or decision making.’ She uses a good example for me in the book, observe the Sabbath day.
For me it means; attending church, not shopping, not eating out, not pursuing leisure activities such as sports, no Sunday newspapers, reading scripture, talking to my family, spending time with friends and having a nap, to name just a few things. This habit and it is now a part of me, my values and therefore my actions and I no longer have to think about keeping it.
Do you have any red-herring habits?
Are there any habits that like me, you feel are a part of who you are?
Are there any new habits you are now working on?