Better Than Before

Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin

This book is about habit formation and what it takes to adopt and maintain good habits, and break bad habits and keep from relapsing. I found it incredibly useful. Rubin talks at length about how people’s different tendencies and personalities should change their approaches to habits. She breaks people into four groups in regards to how they approach habits and expectations from self and others: 1) Upholders, who like to follow rules, 2) Obligers, who follow through on commitments to others but not to themselves, 3) Questioners, who only do things that they can see a good reason for, and 4) Rebels, who resist all habits and expectations on principle. In habit formation, the name of the game seems to be self-knowledge: know yourself so that you can choose the strategies most likely to work for you. Rubin lays out all the tools you’d need to do that. I’m mostly an Upholder, which means that Rubin did not have to sell the notion of habits to me; I was already on board. When you have a good habit, that means you don’t have to think about doing the right thing, you just do it automatically, saving your willpower for tackling other problems.

Rubin tries to talk generically, so that her info is applicable to almost any habit that you might want to take up or drop. She ends up talking a lot about food, especially low-carb eating. Her particular personal habits and preoccupations are a little idiosyncratic, to say the least, but her voice is charming, and she’s usually just using her experiences to make points that are well-researched and reasonable.

Here are some of my habit advice takeaways from the book:

  • Avoid feeling deprived.
  • It’s often easier to abstain entirely than to consume moderately.
  • Anticipate and minimize temptation.
  • Habits, good and bad, have momentum and are self-reinforcing.
  • It’s ok to make exceptions to your habits, but only if you plan it ahead of time. If you decide at the last minute to break a habit, you’re in danger of dropping that habit altogether.
  • Schedule time for the things you value.
  • Make it convenient and easy to follow your good habits. And if you want to break a bad habit, put obstacles in your way to make it harder to do that thing.
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One thought on “Better Than Before

  1. “It’s often easier to abstain entirely than to consume moderately.”

    Now isn’t THAT the truth? I regularly try to kick the caffeine/energydrink habit and it is easier to go without than trying to have “just one” energydrink…

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