I've found that I snack less and concentrate better when I chew on a plastic stirrer - the kind that you get to stir your to-go coffee. I picked up this habit from my husband, who loves to chew on things. His favorite chew-toy is a plastic pen top, and gnawed pen tops and little bits of plastic litter our apartment.
Putting myself into categories is fun, and I think it also gives me insight into my own nature. When I see myself more clearly, I can more easily see ways that I might do things differently, to make myself happier. Categories can be unhelpful, however, when they become too all-defining, or when they become an excuse.
A person with 'oppositional conversational style' is a person who, in conversation, disagrees with and corrects whatever you say. He or she may do this in a friendly way, or a belligerent way, but this person frames remarks in opposition to whatever you venture.
Sometimes, counter-intuitively, it's easier to make a major change than a minor change. When a habit is changing very gradually, we may lose interest, give way under stress, or dismiss the change as insignificant. There's an excitement and an energy that comes from a big transformation, and that helps to create a habit.
A series of small but real accomplishments gives people the energy and confidence to continue. For instance, a person who wants to write a novel might resolve to write one sentence each day. Or a person who wants to start running might resolve to run for one minute.
Nature is impersonal, awe-inspiring, elegant, eternal. It's geometrically perfect. It's tiny and gigantic. You can travel far to be in a beautiful natural setting, or you can observe it in your backyard - or, in my case, in the trees lining New York City sidewalks, or in the clouds above skyscrapers.
Whenever I'm trying to decide how to spend my precious time, energy, or money, I ask myself a series of questions. 'Will this broaden or deepen my relationships?' 'Will this contribute to an atmosphere of growth in my life?' 'Is this a way to 'Be Gretchen?' and 'Will this help connect me to my past?'
Habit allows us to go from 'before' to 'after,' to make life easier and better. Habit is notorious - and rightly so - for its ability to direct our actions, even against our will; but by mindfully shaping our habits, we can harness the power of mindlessness as a sweeping force for serenity, energy, and growth.
In 'Before and After,' I identify the sixteen strategies that we can use to make or break our habits. Some are quite familiar, such as 'Monitoring,' 'Scheduling,' and 'Convenience.' Some took me a lot of effort to identify, such as 'Thinking,' 'Identity,' and 'Clarity.'