Gretchen Rubin

The Happiness Project

What Appeals to You?

Ditch Day, Catch-Up Day, or Mandatory Vacation Day?

Posted Nov 13, 2014

Research shows that people who use language that emphasizes that they’re acting by their own choice and exercising control (“I don’t,” “I choose to,” “I’m going to,” or “I don’t want to”) stick to their habits better than people who use language that undermines their self-efficacy (“I can’t,” “I’m not allowed to,” or “I’m supposed to”). There’s a real difference between “I don’t” and “I can’t.”

For instance, I don’t eat sugar; I can eat sugar, but I don’t. In fact, I love not eating sugar!

Also, in my own mind, I try to replace “I have to” with “I get to” whenever possible. “I get to go the library today.” “I get to go to a parent coffee tomorrow.”

The very words we choose to characterize our habits can make them seem more or less appealing. “Engagement time” sounds more interesting than “email time.” “Playing the piano” sounds more fun than “practicing the piano.” And what sounds more attractive, a “personal retreat day” or a “catch-up day” or a “ditch day” or a “mandatory vacation day”? (People of different Tendencies might choose different terms.)

Would a person rather “take a dance class” or “exercise”? Some people like the word “quit,” as in “I’ve quit caffeine”; some are put off by its overtones of addiction. A woman told me, “I try not to use the words ‘forever’ and ‘never,’ but I like the word ‘permanent.’ ”

Do you make choices about the vocabulary you use, to help you master your habits?

To read more about this, check out Better Than Before, my book about when and why we change our habits. You can pre-order here – and if you’re inclined to buy the book, it really helps me if you pre-order. Don’t worry, you won’t be charged until it ships.

Also ...

Would you like a free, personalized, signed bookplate for your copy of The Happiness Project or Happier at Home? Or, if you have the e-book or the audio-book, a signature card? One card is "Paradoxes of Happiness," the other is "Tips for Happiness in Your New Home." Or would you like these for a friend? Request as many as you want, here. Alas, because of mailing costs, I can now mail only to the U.S. and Canada--so sorry about that. If you're looking for great resources and blogs to explore on the broad subject of happiness, check out the list on Accessible Psychology. Lots of helpful links.

Tags: change, habits, language, words

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