The One Question You Need to Answer to Create New Habits

“I will only have ONE cookie. “

5 minutes later: “Ok, maybe just one more.”

About a month ago I discovered Gretchen Rubin’s new Podcast Happier. Every episode she asks a question that will help you know yourself better. During one episode she asks us to consider whether we are “abstainers” or “moderators.” The question boils down to either resisting the temptation to have another cookie or mustering the self-control to moderate yourself and have only ONE cookie. I realized having an answer to this question is a simple way of improving the likelihood that you will achieve your goals.

Self-discipline is a muscle, but, for some, exercising that muscle just a little bit means losing grip on the situation altogether.

For abstainer, like me, having one cookie will most likely mean having 5 more because my willpower muscle has weakened from that first bite of cookie. It feels much easier to avoid cookies altogether than it would be to say no the second or third or fourth cookie.

If you are a moderator, like Gretchen, you find it easier to just say yes to one bite or one cookie than to stop thinking about the sweet deliciousness you are missing out on.

So, are you a moderator or an abstainer? How does this help you achieve your goals?

Half the battle to achieve your goal is having a game plan when things go wrong

If you’re a moderator:

  1. Write down activities that you would like to still enjoy in moderation but that are currently holding you back from achieving you goal. These should be activities that, if you avoided them completely, you would think about them constantly.
  2. Find a day of the week to loosen your grip on your willpower temporarily: having ONE dessert every Friday will allow you to get sugar out of your head for the rest of the week.
  3. Know your limits and hold yourself accountable: Set a limit on how many hours of TV you want to watch and schedule it in your calendar

If you’re an abstainer:

  1. For each habit you want to create or goal you want to achieve, make a list of all the activities you recognize may contribute to your downfall
  2. For every goal-preventing activity write down another activity that could substitute it while allowing you to feel satisfied:
Goal Negative Activity Alternative
Lose 10 pounds by June 10th Finishing every meal with some form of dessert Having one small fruit after each meal
  1. Keep a calendar so you can mark off each day you abstain from the negative activity. This allows you to see your progress and keeps you motivated. Every day should get easier!
  2. Most importantly: out of sight, out of mind. Keep temptation at bay by not having a tv in your bedroom, cookies in the pantry, leaving your cellphone in your purse during dinner or by installing a procrastination-prevention app on your computer!

These tips can help you redefine your goals and how you achieve them. Remember that often it takes small steps, small moderations or a few abstentions, to achieve your goals.

Please let me know if any of these tips work for you and how you are able to abstain or moderate in your life!

You and Only You

Life can seem like a competition. Everyone has an opinion on how often to exercise, what to eat, where to go, who to date and even where to work. We are fascinated by achievement and success but seldom do we pause to wonder whose timeline we are really on and whose expectations we are trying to meet. It seems that some struggle to receive the approval of others on their life choices, while the rest hide behind their own meaning of perfection. Being happy means being consistent with who you are. The problem is we often don’t understand our own values because we haven’t sat down to consider what those might be. Once we place our own values above the opinions of others we can start living a happy life. Only you can measure the success of your days because happiness is built on the small triumphs of the everyday. How do you measure success? A healthy breakfast? A full 8 hours of sleep? A great phone call with your best friend? Give yourself the permission to live in peace with how you spend your time and energy. Happiness is in your grasp already.