There are two things in life that I will never get enough of: 1) video montages/articles about Kate (Winslet) & Leo(nardo DiCaprio)’s best friendship and 2) audio books. My latest in-transit “read” has been Gretchen Rubin’s “Better Than Before“, in which she outlines the what, why, and how behind creating and maintaining daily, lifelong habits.
When describing Rubin to my partner/spouse/long-term boyfriend, Marc, I put it this way…”She reminds me of THAT student in class. The one who always had her hand up first. The one the teacher even grew tired of.” The differences between my and Rubin’s way of being seemed to wear on me at first. Also, she is not a professional researcher or psychologist; she is a lawyer by training and writer, so her while observations pull from research, she is basically calling on her own experience.
After naming what rubbed me the wrong way and gently placing these things on “Katie’s Shelf of Quick Judgment”, I was able to more clearly hear some of the pearls she really has to offer.
Where Rubin and I really began to bond was over the idea of values.
“In the chaos of everyday life, it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters, and I can use my habits to make sure that my life reflects my values.”
If you’ve ever worked with me, you know how I feel about core values. In short, “Katie + Core Vales 4eva.” Whether we’re struggling with anxiety, depression, transition, grief, or simply uncertainty of life, the work is to connect to what has meaning for us and to move in that direction. So easy.
JK. If living were this formulaic, we would not have to figure out the connections between what we value, how we feel, and the actions we take/choices we make. Somedays, we crave this way of operating (I’m lookin at you Monday…) Other days, we take advantage of the opportunity this figuring out opens up to us: we explore where we’ve come from and what we’re tethered to, beginning to understand ourselves and our communities more deeply.
When we do the work of exploring ourselves the values become clearer and we become ready to chart a course. This where Rubin and her habit groupies can really help. If you’re like me, you might think “but habits seem so lifeless!” And truly, for some of us, hopping on the habit train doesn’t work in our favor. For others, cultivating routines and rituals may actually help us connect more to our life.
“Habits make change possible by freeing us from decision making and from using self-control…once the habit is in place, we can effortlessly do the things we want to do.” – Gretchen Rubin
Daily habits (whether it’s working out for 10 minutes or writing for two hours) require intention and commitment. And while helping us say “yes” to what matters to us, they also allow us to say “nope!” to the stuff that really doesn’t serve us or our community.
For example, for years I ran a few miles every morning. I had started this practice in college when I truly enjoyed waking up and getting outside before the world came alive. I continued to enjoy it into my mid-late twenties and so kept with the habit wherever I (geographically) found myself. But gradually, it stopped being something that I enjoyed or that gave me energy. Then, it became something that hurt and I began to resent; my knees were in so much pain and I felt I was dragging myself to the pavement every morning when what I really wanted to do was get a good stretch, read, and take a quiet moment before the day began. Moral of the story: I was continuing a habit that was not serving me and in fact, was robbing me of time, energy, and some physical health.
When I decided to quit the habit, so to speak, it felt very uncomfortable…for about 3 days. Then, it felt really, really good. Makes sense. Some form of goodness surfaces when we listen and respond to ourselves in truth. I didn’t know that I was following Rubin’s protocol at the time, but I did understand that a shift had been made to become more conscious about where my values were showing up in my day.
If you’re looking to learn a little more about habits check out Rubin’s blog or her podcast.