Are you better than before?
I have noticed and been impressed by people who seem to be handling quarantine well. They are making every effort to act normally and even adopt new, healthful habits.
Others are taking a different approach. They seem to have used this period as a license to let loose, let their hair down and indulge in some bad habits. Social media has noticed this trend, echoing the term “Quarantine 15”, referring to weight gained during this period.
Habits are a fascinating subject. GOOD habits seem to be hard to develop and sustain. Yet BAD habits are easy to pick up and hard to stop. Since behavioral finance is a large part of what we do, we study different ways to gently nudge clients in adopting good financial management habits and stop old self-defeating behaviors.
Right before the pandemic hit, I was given a copy of the book Better Than Before (Gretchen Rubin, 2015). She had another bestseller several years ago called The Happiness Project (Rubin, 2009). The title intrigued me, and I thought this might be just the book to read when we started Social Distancing. Below are some key points from her book:
- Why is it difficult to develop new habits? It’s not your imagination—developing new habits is difficult. However, she breaks them down the four different “tendencies”. These are similar to different personality types. This is important because what may have worked for your best friend may not work for you, and vice versa. She describes each tendency in detail, and how to make desired changes based on a person’s tendency.
- Who can help? The people you surround yourself with have a significant impact on your chances of success in developing a new habit. Rubin includes tips on how to address the subtle ways in which the people we love and are closest to may be unwittingly sabotaging our efforts.
- What are specific ways to approach changing habits? She outlines different approaches of what may work, depending on a person’s tendency. For example, some people may need to “abstain” from certain behaviors, which others may be able to “moderate”. She also addresses taking the first step, and the importance of momentum.
- When is the best time to begin a new habit? Oddly enough, now is a great time, because we are able to minimize the interference of others and we may have more time to devote to developing new habits. Rubin also explains why January 1st of each year is perhaps one of the worst times to start a new habit.
- How do systems of accountability and reward work? She outlines the importance of rewarding ourselves, as well as how and when. She also discusses systems of accountability and ties them back to the four tendencies.
While we are still in the midst of navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems one of the more positive things we can each focus on is our own habits and behaviors. So, whether you are looking to make some changes for yourself, want to help someone else, or you would simply like a gift for a graduate, this book is a good read.
Kristina Bolhouse CPA/PFS, CFP®
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