Four Fundamental Questions

Yesterday I was reading Gretchen Rubin’s amazing website, and came across a post she wrote on fundamental habits–the habits that make other habits easier to form. The four habits she named are:

  • getting enough sleep
  • getting some exercise
  • creating external order
  • managing eating and drinking

They seem outrageously obvious, right? In fact, as Rubin points out, the fundamental habits are often the ones that people are trying to build anyway. They’re tied together. It’s easier to exercise when I’ve had enough sleep, eaten well, am hydrated and my apartment isn’t a disaster zone. But it’s also easier to sleep when I’ve gotten some exercise and washed the dishes. 

I realized in reading Rubin’s list that these four habits (which I like to think I am usually pretty good at) are my canaries in the coal mine. They tell me when something is out of sync in my life. I started noticing my stress more last week when I realized that I was buying a lot of impulse chocolate to get through the workday. When I don’t have time for a run or to wash the dishes before bed, it’s a sign that my days are too full and something needs to give. I’m a wreck when I haven’t gotten enough sleep, so when I start staying up way later to get things done, that’s when something is very wrong. 

It was so obvious after reading Rubin’s post that these habits are essential not just to be happy but to function at all that I immediately wrote them down as questions to ask myself when I start to feel stressed or out of control. 

My Big Questions

  1. Have I gotten enough sleep? (For me, enough sleep means 8 hours minimum)
  2. Have I gotten some exercise? (Derby? Running? A walk around the block?)
  3. Is my world ordered? (I will always feel more stressed by a messy desk). 
  4. Is my eating and drinking aligned with my values? (Eating a lunch I had time to prepare at home is aligned with my values. Buying an Amy’s frozen meal while I’m at work isn’t. Neither are Sprouts whoopie pies.)

The next step is figuring out what to do when stress has already happened, which is when these habits would be the most helpful, but are also hardest to stop and fix in the moment. I don’t have an answer at this point. I’m hoping that awareness will be enough to help. 


  1. Well written post–presented well respected information and added personal insight to it in a concise manner. My answer is when those canaries are chirping, I feel I have to take my lumps now (whatever lumps or stress I am dodging) or the BIG stress will come, and I will really really hate myself. Been there, done that, don’t want to go back. bj

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s