I recently finished reading Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. I’m not good at finishing nonfiction books, especially of the “self-help” variety, so when I finally made up my mind to read it, after seeing several good reviews from trusted people, I ordered it on audio book from my library.
And that simple act has taught me so much about how to develop new, healthy habits. Or really any new habit.
Because to be honest, I’m terrible at forming new habits. I either forget to do it, or it gets down to the moment and just don’t feel motivated. It’s always frustrated me about myself, but none of the organizing books have been able to tell me how to make myself want to change enough to do it when the moment came.
Gretchen Rubin’s book helped me figure out the source of my problem. She splits people into various categories to help you understand how YOU form habits. Don’t think about how other people do it. Don’t worry about why you can’t do it like your sister, neighbor, or coworker. It turns out my personality type just needs external reinforcement to commit to changing a habit. While others can just decide to change in their own mind, put it on a to-do list, and then succeed, I just can’t. But as soon as I post it on Facebook, tell a coworker, or promise someone from church, I’m locked in. It will happen if I have to forsake everything else less important to achieve it.
And what I think is so important about this isn’t even the information itself, although that has totally changed my life. Instead, it’s learning what motivates you, how your mind works, and how to make things happen for your own personality and then to use that information to change and grow.
It’s the same with my nonfiction books. I wanted to read more nonfiction: specifically certain books I heard recommended and knew I would benefit from reading. But it wasn’t until I gave myself permission to work with myself and find a way that made it desirable and workable with my schedule that I managed to make it happen. Had I insisted on only reading books in hard copy and never branching out to listening to audio book, I never would have read such a life-changing book as Better Than Before.
And it turned out to be true, what Rubin says in her book, because losing weight and learning to eat healthier has been so much easier for me since I learned to include my community in the decision. What I would normally have kept a secret, I began talking about with everyone. Now people ask me how it’s going or raise an eyebrow if I reach for a cookie. (Or I imagine them raising an eyebrow, which is enough to stop me!)
Learning this about myself has completely changed how I approach goals and healthy habits.
I’ve also learned to use an app or a workout video with a set workout time, rather than just “going for a run” so that I have a set time within which I must work out, rather than something more nebulous. I no longer allow even minor dessert purchases since I know I’m not one of those people who can eat just a little. I have to abstain completely.
These are just a few tidbits I’ve picked up about myself in recent weeks. And they really work…for me.
So I want to encourage you: put down the diet and health books for a few minutes and look for some personality books. Learn more about yourself and what motivates you personally. If you don’t like to read nonfiction, try an audio book.