Hi everybody! I’m dropping by to do a quick review of the book that I just finished reading not five minutes ago: Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin*.
A disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.
After this book, I’m planning to check out Rubin’s other works because this one was so inspiring to me. She starts out saying that she’s interested in how habits form and how people manage to stick to some but fail miserably at others. She uses other people (usually her sister) as guinea pigs to test out her theories as she goes, and I feel that she learned a lot from this process.
Gretchen talks about four categories (“tendencies”) that classify most of us when it comes to meeting expectations: the Upholder, the Obliger, the Questioner, and the Rebel. Upholders meet all inner and outer expectations, Obligers meet outer expectations but resist inner, Questioners resist outer expectations but meet inner ones, and Rebels resist it all. She finds that Obligers and Questioners make up most of the general population with Upholders and Rebels making up a small percentage.
She breaks the book down into ways to develop habits, how to start new habits, ease and excuses, and some places where we stumble and fall. She talks about monitoring/keeping track of a task in order to make it stick, scheduling time for these activities, and having somebody hold us accountable in some way to get them done. She also claims that we do better at habits that help us sleep, move, eat/drink right, and uncluttered our living space.
Rubin claims that there are some common ways that people begin anew: clean slates, where a milestone of some sort (birthday, New Year’s, anniversary, summer, etc.) help inspire people to begin a new habit; and lightning bolts that suddenly strike and force people to make an abrupt change (pregnancy, death, etc.). I could really relate to the lightning bolt claim because I feel that I’ve made some sudden changes in my own habits since my mom’s death just 6 weeks ago.
Later, she talks about some of the ways people stick to and fail at making and keeping new habits. Like myself, Gretchen has to be an Abstainer in order to make changes last. She claims that she cannot just “have one bite” because one bite becomes the whole donut. She has to abstain from things that are bad for her 100%. Habits are easier to form when they’re convenient, but they’re also easier to keep if not keeping them becomes inconvenient. She recommends hiding the cues that tempt you into your old ways and distracting yourself from triggers. A lot of people fail because they create loopholes (“just one bite”) or set rewards for meeting their goal (“I’ll get an iPad if I stop smoking”) that can lead people to revert to their old ways once the reward is obtained. She does, however, allow for small treats–doing or having things you like at random times “just because”. She also found that it’s easier to pair disliked habits like chores with habits you enjoy, like walking the dog through the park (exercise–dislike) with listening to an audiobook (reading for pleasure–like).
In the final part of the book, she talks about clarifying your goals. You cannot set the goal of giving 110% to both work and family, so which one suffers? Make sure you are clear about what you intend to work on when setting your expectations of yourself. She also says that identity plays a large role: are you a person who “doesn’t eat fries” or that person who “always has a glass of wine”? If you have chosen to do or not do something, assume that identity. If you no longer want to eat fries, you’ll have more success if you become a person who just doesn’t eat them. Finally, how do others affect your habits? Do they tempt you away from them or support your endeavors? How can you deal with that?
This book is definitely a must-read. I usually read quite quickly and found it to take some time to get through, so expect to give this one some time and thought as you go.
Did you read this book? Tell me what you think in the comments!
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