Making and Keeping Habits


What habit would you like to quit? (eating when I’m not hungry)

What habit would you like to start? (closing the laptop earlier in the evenings)

The exact things that help you maintain a habit are likely different than what helps someone else, due much to your personality type. So says Gretchen Rubin in Better Than Before. And I believe her.


Gretchen explains these “Four Tendencies” that greatly affect how we live our everyday lives. Which one are you?

[Take the quiz here]

  1. Upholder—responds readily to both outer expectations and inner expectations
  2. Questioner—questions all expectations, and will meet an expectation only if they believe it’s justified
  3. Obliger—responds readily to outer expectations but struggles to meet inner expectations
  4. Rebel—resists all expectations, outer and inner alike

Your intrinsic motivations and subsequent habit formations will differ according to your type. Gretchen explains,

“For an Upholder, a habit that’s a source of control might have special appeal; for a Questioner, curiosity; for an Obliger, cooperation; for a Rebel, challenge.”

Once you know your type, you can get better strategize to keep your habits.

I’m an Upholder (but can lapse into the other types; no one is all or nothing). That means I typically schedule out my day and try to stick to the plan. I like checking off a to-do list. I want to meet your expectations of me, but I also want to meet my own expectations for myself.

Knowing this, I can make schedules for my habits (exercise on Monday/Wednesday/Friday) and for the most part, stick to them.

But if your personality type is different—say, you’re a rebel—you don’t want to be told exactly what you’ll be doing today. Making a set schedule for yourself everyday would drive you crazy. Your habit formations need to work differently.

Thus, “Self-Knowledge” is the first section in Better Than Before for creating a structure in your everyday life. Subsequent sections include:

  • Pillars of Habits
    Monitoring your habits; Laying a foundation; Scheduling; Accountability
  • The Best Time to Begin
    Taking first steps; Starting with a clean slate; Making lighting bolt changes
  • Desire, Ease, and Excuses
    Abstaining vs. moderating; Making it convenient; Setting up safeguards; Rewarding
  • Unique, Just Like Everyone Else
    Making it specific; Creating a new identity; Influence from/on others

I love having strong habits because it takes less self-control. Less decision-making.

Once a habit is firmly established, you no longer have to think about it; you just do it.

So to change my habit of eating when I’m not hungry, I’m following Gretchen’s suggestions for setting up an “if/then” habit. If I start to head for a snack, I’ll first ask if I’m just bored instead and then distract myself for 10 minutes to see. Often if I’ll just engage in something else, I forget (temporarily at least) about the food lure.

To change my habit of staying on the computer too much, I’m going to use sunlight as a cue. When the sun goes down, I’ll put down my computer for the night, too, making it at least inconvenient to pull back out and use. (Similar to brushing your teeth after supper; it’s amazing how that cuts down on late-night snacking for me.) It turns out that convenience is a key factor in keeping habits.

There are many specific tips in this book, but also—and perhaps more importantly—there are many foundational ideas about why things work for us (or not), based on our type.

With this extra knowledge, we can better keep our habits in place. Not perfectly, but more reliably. As Gretchen says, “It’s simple to change habits, but it’s not easy.” But easy or not, it’s definitely possible.

Here is Gretchen’s “Better Than Before Habits Manifesto.” [You can download the The Habits Manifesto here.] We can all learn something from these as well.

The Habits Manifesto  by Gretchen Rubin

  • What we do every day matters more than what we do once in a while.
  • Make it easy to do right and hard to go wrong.
  • Focus on actions, not outcomes.
  • By giving something up, we may gain.
  • Things often get harder before they get easier.
  • When we give more to ourselves, we can ask more from ourselves.
  • We’re not very different from other people, but those differences are very important.
  • It’s easier to change our surroundings than ourselves.
  • We can’t make people change, but when we change, others may change.
  • We should make sure the things we do to feel better don’t make us feel worse.
  • We manage what we monitor.
  • Once we’re ready to begin, begin now.

* * *

What’s a habit you’re glad you have? Do you have a habit you’re trying to change in 2016? Please share in the comments.

Read Gretchen’s blog here. And listen to her podcasts here.


My thanks to Blogging for Books
for the review copy of this book

20 thoughts on “Making and Keeping Habits

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      No surprises to me either, Linda. 🙂 And Downton Abbey—I’m so enjoying this final season, even though I’m sad at the end of each hour to know we’re one hour closer to the final show. I’ll miss it.

  1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Interesting. Never thought about habits that way. Thought only nuns wore them, but I guess I do, too.

    And when you stop groaning…

    Seriously, at this point in life I couldn’t even begin to classify myself. I have to adapt to the daily awful just to make something of each 24-hour period, and that means that everything I once thought a habit is fluid, and I need to be able to accept that.

    What works, works. What doesn’t, means more pain, more frustration, and often a big hit to morale.

    It changes every day, and sometimes more often than that.

  2. Barbara H.

    According to the quiz I am a questioner – but I do see myself in the other types as well. I think a lot depends on what the habit is – I do like to keep commitments to others as well as myself but how I feel about it and whether I’ll make it in the first place depends a lot on what it is. I think I’d get more from the tips than the types in the book – some of those you’ve listed look very helpful. I agree about brushing teeth being a motivator not not to eat. 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, I think we all have a little of all the types in us. Different situations can bring out different things in us. The book really is more oriented toward the tips than types…but because of the interest in the types, Gretchen is working on a separate book now exclusively about that. I’ll probably have to read that one, too, when it comes out.

  3. floyd

    Interesting. I’ve never given it much thought. I’ve had to become by necessity more of a rebel due to business. I like to check things off lists too, but a daily curve ball is just part of the deal. I’ve tried to change my perspective on it and leave the frustrations behind as much as possible.

    If we’re moving and shaking things are going to crumble!

    This one is going to leave me thinking for awhile.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I couldn’t do what you do, Floyd. There’s a reason I chose accounting even back in the day. ha. I hope I’ve gotten a little better at handling those daily curve balls, but some among us are better equipped to do it than others. Thankful for those like you who can roll with those punches more easily. And super thankful to be married to one like that! 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for pointing me toward Glynnis’s site. I don’t think she’s sharing from this book, but her points go right along with it. Lots of good information here at the beginning of the year! My January has started a little rough with some physical issues, so having some good habits in place already has come in handy. And now I have good incentive to start even more. Hope your 2016 is off to a great start, Jennifer.

  4. June

    I’m an Obliger/Upholder {no big surprise there, lol} Very interesting stuff, Lisa! Creating an inconvenience would be a good way for me to stick with new habits, too. As far as what habit I need to break, I’ve gotten into the bad habit of ignoring self-care. But my body seems to be doing a good job in breaking me of this habit in 2016! Have a great weekend!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, sometimes our bodies themselves are the best motivators to create better habits. We do well to listen. 🙂 Hope you have been able to get in some self-care this weekend, June. Blessings to you.

  5. Ceil

    Hi Lisa! It’s always fun to see what my tendencies are, I don’t seem to very self-reflective. So I am an ‘obliger’ and ‘questioner’. Like you said, we all slide around into all of these places at different times. I think it’s wonderful that you are an ‘upholder’. So balanced!

    I have a good habit of planning out the next day too. It helps me organize my time. I do realize that it doesn’t always work out the way I think it will, and I’m getting better at just adjusting instead of getting disappointed.

    The habit to change? Overeating!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Adjusting to those “interruptions” is such a great skill, Ceil. I’m still working on that. 🙂 But it does help to realize that God is usually behind them, and to trust his agenda more than my own. That habit of overeating is a common one for many of us!

  6. Beverley

    Good post Lisa. I am glad that you enjoyed the book. I am an Obliger, I have to make myself do things that benefit me and no one else. As for lists, I may make them, but I usually end up losing them or I get to the end of the day and have no idea where I actually left the list. I am better just getting on with it, whatever it is.

    I am working on two habits at the moment; The 10 hour food rule – only eating within 10 hours of my days, And going to sleep by 10.30pm, which means I have to off the digital stuff earlier. They are works in progress.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      “just getting on with it” – I’d do well to adopt that attitude more often. I can spend a long time making a list, when I might have accomplished something of value if I’d just done one thing on it instead. 🙂 Both your 2 habits are admirable. Hope they’re going well.

  7. Jean Wise

    I don;t think we realize how powerful habits are and how difficult they are to change. I knew we were “sister” since i love your two habits to break and I am an upholder too. And I think her focus on actions, not outcomes is great advice for me to follow. will try that today.

  8. David

    I need to work through this book. I didn’t do the quiz but I think I’m an obliger – very good at meeting other people’s needs. I’d love to learn how to break bad habits and make new good ones.

    This and the seven days soul pampering can help me launch into 2017!

    Thank you

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      This really is an excellent book on habits, both making new ones and breaking old ones. I keep referring back to it for tips on how to make a habit stick. We’re about to start a new memory challenge soon with Do Not Depart, so I’m looking back at this book again for ideas on how to establish good habits for memorizing. It’ll be a short chapter; you’ll see it on the blog next week if you’re interested.

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