I think that question can be answered in a few different ways, depending on the framework used to approach the question.
I’ve read The Habit of Being several times — it’s a collection of Flannery O’Connor’s extraordinary letters. O’Connor is one of my favorite writers, but I can hardly bear to read her fiction; it makes my head explode.
On July 1, 1964, O’Connor (who was a devout Catholic) wrote to Janet McKane:
Do you know anything about St. Raphael besides his being an archangel? He leads you to the people you are supposed to meet…It’s a prayer I’ve said every day for many years.
A week later, she wrote McKane a follow-up letter, with the prayer, which reads in part: Continue reading
Because of my interest in habits, I read a lot of memoirs of addiction. I don’t tackle addiction in Better Than Before, but still, I find that I get a lot of insights from these accounts.
I recently finished an excellent new memoir, Sarah Hepola’s Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget.
I was particularly interested to see how she used loopholes to justify her drinking.
When we try to form and keep habits, we often search for loopholes, for justifications that will excuse us from keeping this particular habit in this particular situation. However, if we catch ourselves in the act of loophole-seeking, we can perhaps reject them.
From Further Secrets of Adulthood: If we’re too tired to do anything except watch TV or cruise the internet, go to sleep.
I have to admit, I struggle sometimes to remember this Secret of Adulthood. I don’t have trouble getting off the internet, but sometimes I watch TV because I feel too tired to read. Continue reading
In large part, because the lesson is: be very wary of using rewards to master habits!
Why? It sounds so sensible to reward yourself for sticking to a good habit. But it turns out that rewards are very, very tricky to use well.
Why? Continue reading
Of everything that I’ve considered and concluded about happiness and good habits, I think this phrase sums it up best. Continue reading
From Further Secrets of Adulthood.
I feel this way often. I need to schedule time to be unscheduled, I need to force myself to wander, I have to reassure myself that staring into space is as useful as staring into my laptop.
I guess the idea isn’t so much “laziness” as ”leisureliness.” Continue reading
Oddly, I’ll often take notes, or copy passages, where the meaning isn’t clear to me. Sometimes it takes me years (if ever) to understand the meaning of something that I knew was significant, but didn’t know why. And then, when I grasp it — so thrilling! Nothing makes me happier. Continue reading
It was very, very hard to grasp this pattern in human character, but I have to say, now that I’ve identified it, I constantly see it on display in the world. Those four categories (Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, Rebel) do capture something–something that strikes me as truly real. (Want to find out your Tendency? 65,000 people have taken this Quiz.)
I’m always trying to understand the Four Tendencies better, and looking for examples, and evidence comes to me when I least expect it. Continue reading
“They are the days of a long time ago, Laura,” Pa said. “Go to sleep, now.”
But Laura lay awake a little while, listening to Pa’s fiddle softly playing and to the lonely sound of the wind in the Big Woods. She looked at Pa sitting on the bench by the hearth, the firelight gleaming on his brown hair and beard and glistening on the honey-brown fiddle. She looked at Ma, gently rocking and knitting.
She thought to herself, “This is now.”
She was glad that the cosy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.
– Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House in the Big Woods (last paragraphs)
This is one of my favorite passages in all of literature. I think of it often, especially when I come home after a trip. “This is now.“ Continue reading