Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives

Posted April 1, 2015 in Self-Insight, What We're Reading

By: Gretchen Rubin

Review by: Julie Melaschenko

The Premise: Gretchen Rubin’s highly anticipated book Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives is her latest installment in a series of self-help books that focus on improving our lives through general happiness. In Better Than Before, Rubin addresses our habits – those activities that make up our day – from the ones we might want to improve, like our eating or drinking habits, to those we might want to get rid of, such as smoking or checking email after hours. Whether good or bad, it’s these habits that we consciously create or have stumbled upon over time that go a long way to shaping our overall feelings of purpose, accomplishment and happiness.What Rubin has undertaken in this book is to really examine habits and she starts with the biggest piece of the puzzle – ourselves. She believes that self-knowledge is key to any change, and has established Four Tendencies “in how people respond to habits”. Once you know if you are an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger or Rebel, you’ll be better prepared for the rest of the book’s valuable insights. Once a Tendency is established, Rubin explains what makes up a habit and how we can change one through Monitoring, Scheduling or Accountability; she outlines the barriers to starting – do you need a ‘clean slate’ like January 1st or is it more random, like a ‘lightning bolt’? And most interestingly, the section on ‘Desire, Ease and Excuses’ provides concrete strategies for making and keeping real changes in our lives.

The Bottom-line: I am a big fan of Gretchen Rubin – I have always appreciated her well-researched and approachable, common-sense style. She is the type of author who lives and breathes her research long before it ever becomes printed, but she spares her reader endless stats and lengthy footnotes. Her first-person accounts of her trials with the concepts in the books add to the realistic and actionable tone. I learned a lot with this book. I am an Obliger and an Abstainer. It is much easier for me to drop a bad habit ‘cold turkey’ than to try to wean it out. I also like a ‘clean slate’, but I admit I have used the ‘tomorrow’ loophole where I think, “I’ll start tomorrow”, and then tomorrow never comes. But often, a ‘lightning bolt’ strikes and I make a big change and never look back, and that success feels great! What the book provided was a new way of looking at habits as something that could be actively improved. Understanding the underlying personal connection to each activity and how to manage your traits and tendencies really emphasized that change is possible.

Roundtable Rating: This book is a great catalyst for any personal change or improvement you’ve been thinking about at home or at the office.


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