Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Better than Before

What are you reading these days? I just finished reading Better Than Before and loved it! I really enjoy Gretchen Rubin's writing style and the research and personal examples that she puts into her books. I've read both The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, and The Happiness Project is one of my favorite books! I love books about the brain, personality, and even self-help books if they also cover personality types and tendencies.

This is a book all about habits: how to make them and also how we tend to break them. What I appreciated about this book is that Gretchen Rubin doesn't give you a long list of habits you should implement into your life; a major point of her book is figuring out what works for you. She spends the first part of the book discussing just that; that in order to make a habit, you need to know yourself and set yourself up for success. If you're just not a morning person, don't try to make a habit of getting up at 5 AM to do run 5 miles, tackle the laundry, or read historical nonfiction. More than likely you're not going to be able to make a habit out of that, and it will only frustrate you.

In addition to these personality distinctions, Gretchen Rubin also discusses four tendencies that people have when it comes to responding to expectations: upholders, questioners, obligers, and rebels. This was one of my favorite chapters of the books, because I found it so fascinating and accurate. I'm definitely an upholder: I respond pretty easily to both outer and inner expectations, I have a strong instinct for self-preservation, I need clear rules and expectations given to me, and I can establish a habit pretty easily because I find it so gratifying to maintain it/cross it off my list. Understanding your tendency is important because you can use it to your benefit as you establish and keep habits.

The book also talks about various tips and tricks for establishing a good habit. Pairing an activity you perhaps don't enjoy as much with something you do enjoy makes it easier to turn into a habit. I've started listening to podcasts when I exercise, and now I've found that I want to get out of the house and go exercise because I want to listen to the next episode of my podcast! Scheduling an activity makes it an automatic part of your day, which in time becomes a habit. I am big on scheduling and working off a to-do list, so if I have "exercise" on my to-do list for the day, more than likely it's happening. I have the luxury of deciding when in my day I'm going to exercise, but not whether I'm going to exercise.

The beauty of a habit is that you can "decide not to decide". Once a habit is in place, it becomes automatic and requires no decision or self-control to continue it. I automatically put my seat belt on, make my bed every morning, wash my face every night, send a thank you note for each gift I receive, etc. At some point I did need both self-control and willpower to begin those habits, but now it's like they're on auto-pilot. The longer we continue on with a habit, the more that habit is strengthened and protected. For someone who tends to struggle with self-control, this is very freeing to me. I can summon just enough self-control to establish a habit because I love that it will eventually become second nature to me. 

In the book Gretchen shares one quote from John Gardner that has really stayed with me: "Every time you break the law you pay, and every time you obey the law you pay." It costs time, energy, effort, and maybe even money to keep a good habit, but not keeping that same good habit also has its own cost. It's helped frame the way I think about the habits that I'm working on developing. 

This book was absolutely fascinating and also very practical, and I highly recommend it! It's given me a fresh perspective on habits and a new energy in pursuing them.

Disclosure: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review. All opinions are 100% my own, and I really loved this book!


  1. I want to read this! I loved your review !

  2. Looks like a fun read! Thanks for the recommendation!

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