Friday, June 19, 2015

Making life a little Better Than Before

I have always been a sucker for a good self help book. The idea of being my best at whatever stage of life I'm in as always been a natural draw for me. Whether its because I am a firstborn or just how I'm wired I have read a lot of self help books! Books on how to be the best student I could be while in school. Relationship books while dating and then on to marriage books after the wedding. I own LOTS of parenting books with three young boys in the house. Currently, I am at a stage where I want to focus on just being a better "me." I want to find the best routines and rhythms for my daily life to bring out the most productivity and the most joy.
   A couple weeks back I had started "Habits: The Mother's Secret to Success" by Charlotte Mason, as I have loved the concepts she had for early education. This volume stresses how important is for mothers to intentionally and as naturally as possible instill good habits in her children's every day lives. Mason asks you to think back on the habits your parents lived out in front of you and what you were taught was normal, expected behavior as a child. She reminds you that so much of who you are and what you do each day, without even thinking bout it, are habits engrained from you in childhood. It is so much easier for a parent to put a little work in at the beginning to teach your child the proper way to act, then to have to try and correct bad behavior later on. So, I got to thinking about the power of habits and my children-how I needed to be more intentional about teaching them good habits and how I needed to be more aware of the habits I was living out in front of them.

In a happy coincidence, I was offered the chance to review
I had heard great things about Gretchen's first book, The Happiness Project and was actually partially done reading her second book, Happier at Home. I love her writing style-very well researched and thoroughly informative while somehow still presenting her subject in a warm, engaging tone. Since I was already on the trail of thought on habits, this was the perfect book to come along!
  I really enjoyed reading this book-it was very relevant to what I am trying to work towards in my life right now and it was a fun read! The problem I have with many self help type books is that the author finds a method that works well for them for whatever the "issue" of said book is about and then proceeds to tell you how if you do exactly what they did, you'll be set. It seems a lot of times, these books don't take into account different personality types and lifestyle differences and how that affects the "issue" and the motivation and method the reader needs to apply. I really appreciated Gretchen's researched and balanced approach to the topic of "habits". She begins the book by informing the reader the first thing that is needed is to self evaluate and decided which of four tendencies do you naturally fall into-Upholder, Questioner, Obliger or Rebel. She then goes on to explain how each of these "type casts" affects how a person reacts to habits. I think I found I am high percentage "Obliger"-someone who easily meets others expectations but can have a hard time living up to your own expectations. Gretchen then expounds some more on personality attribute differences-such as morning bird or night owl, overspender or underspender, etc. I found the helpful information in identifying and capitalizing on your specific personality traits very handy.

   The next section of the book Gretchen entitles "Pillars of Habits."  We learn how by being aware and tracking our natural tendencies in something we want to make a "better habit" helps us pinpoint our weakness and see our progress. I appreciated the personal examples given and was even able to relate directly to one. Gretchen explained how most the time, we are told to use cash rather than cards when it comes to spend, so that we can easily track where are money goes and will be less likely to overspend. I have found that to not be true in my life. I do better to do my spending on a debit card and be able to track my purchases on my bank statement. Despite popular wisdom, this method works better for me and it was reassuring to be told I wasn't necessarily making a bad choice by doing what worked well for me personally.
 How to best go about starting a desired habit is covered next in the book. Basically, do it now! Don't wait until tomorrow or it may never happen. Though, Gretchen does give examples of "natural" turning points in life that make for good launching pads, such as a move, a new job, etc. She then gives ideas for how to best schedule good habits into our lives so they are actually made into reality. I liked the type she gave on scheduling your least favorite task for early in the day so you can get it out of the way and have the most will power to tackle it. Gretchen also explains how accountability is a great help in making sure your habits actually materialize. She reminds us that depending on which of the four tendencies we fall into, we will probably have a different level of need for accountability.

 The next section of the book does a great job covering more of the "nitty gritty" details of making good habits happen long term. More extensive advice on when and how to go about taking the baby steps needed to get a habit off the ground. Hashing out whether or not you should abstain all together or moderately indulge in a "bad habit." The power of convenience and how it influences our habit follow through. Realistic safeguards to brainstorm to protect your new habits from crumbling. And my favorite point of this section, the idea that we should give ourselves permission for daily "treats"-little things that bring personal joy, just because!

   To tie the book up, Gretchen explains how we need to really make a habit our own if it's going to stick. We need to be able to clarify our motivation and not get stuck in bad habits because it's "who we are" or what someone else wants for us. Being aware of our personal tendencies and motivational factors will greatly bolster the success of our forming new habits.

 I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review, but I for sure would have picked this book up off the shelf as a personal pick! After reading it, I came away with a much more informed, effective approach to actually making my life more efficient and more enjoyable! I loved that this book wasn't just about making me "better", but rather making a better ME. I am excited to instill this ideas and make my life Better Than Before.


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