It takes 30 days to form a habit. Or so the productivity gurus tell us.
In 2011 I made art every day for a year. On January 1st, 2012, I stopped dead. I had to rebuild my daily habit from scratch. Why hadn't I formed a habit over 365 days?
Gretchen Rubin's new book, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives has the answer to this and many other questions about our desire to form new habits and the different ways we approach it - with more or less success.
Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project
I don’t know about you, but as an artist, most stuff I read about forming habits, just doesn’t seem to apply to me. Not surprisingly, artists and other creatives tend not to fit into typical moulds. This book is perfect for us because it tackles why there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for making important changes in our lives.
I haven't read Gretchen's other books, The Happiness Project and Happier at Home (both New York Times bestsellers), but in interviews, she's friendly and accessible. (She certainly was when I approached her for a review copy of her book!)
Despite this, I was expecting a productivity-style, how-to, with seven steps to achieving goals. So I was relieved to find that instead Better Than Before isn't that at all; While the book sticks to a logical, underlying structure, it reads as a thoughtful reflection on what habits mean for our lives, and how we can best put them to work for us.
Gretchen's style is honest and conversational. She shares personal anecdotes, and those gleaned from friends and family. She opens a window onto HER world; let's us in on the bare-bones process of researching the book, and how she gradually discovered she is
Finding YOUR Way to Effectively Build Habits
The keystone of the book is Gretchen's definition of four kinds of habit builders: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers and Rebels.
You can find out your type by doing the quiz on Gretchen's site - an advantage when it comes to devising a habit-building strategy. But you'll get a much broader insight from reading the book, including:
Along with a host of tools to get our habits into place, Gretchen encourages us to consider factors such as:
As well as whether we prefer:
Gretchen relates all the strategies back to the basic habit-building types, so we see which will work most effectively for us - and why the same approach won't necessaries suit our family and friends.
For me, some of the most interesting insights came towards the end of the book where Gretchen looks at how our notions of identity affect our habit building, and how two or more people's habits interact with each other.
Four Habit Profiles
than she thought. And how this led her to discover that we don't all form habits the same way.
"The fact is, no one-size-fits-all solution exists. It’s easy to dream that if we copy the habits of productive, creative people, we’ll win similar success. But we each must cultivate the habits that work for us."
Instead of insisting that we do things her way, Gretchen encourages us to reflect on what OUR way might look like.
We get a chance to mix and match strategies to successfully build positive habits.
"...more like other people, and less like other people"
Refine Your Habit-Building Approach
FREE coaching for the Daily Art Habit
If your attempts at building creative habits have been less than successful in the past, give Better Than Before a whirl.
I'd be surprised if the book doesn't give you at least one new approach to try.
At the very minimum, you'll come away with a deepened understanding of your own behaviour - which can only be good.
You'll be pleased to know that I did manage to re-establish my daily art practice post-365, and it's now solidly embedded in my weekly routine.
For those of you keen to form the habit of a daily - or almost-daily - creative practice, I’m giving away FREE COACHING weeks on Coach.me to the first three people to email me with I WANT TO ESTABLISH A DAILY CREATIVE HABIT in the subject line. Don't miss out!