Thursday, February 18, 2016

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

I'm still listening to audio books on my commute, and I grabbed this at the library in a quick rush a few weeks ago.  It was interesting, and I learned a few things about habits and why it can be difficult for me to create a habit and stick to it.  

Gretchen Rubin is the author of The Happiness Project, and this woman is one organized person.  I can see that establishing a foundation of good habits would make your life less stressful and happier.  It's sticking to those habits, and the tools we use to do so, that is the emphasis of this book.

Gretchen says there are 4 types of personalities:  the upholder, the questioner, the obliger, and the rebel.  I can see that my man Bud is an upholder (someone who creates, plans, and carries out a habit to the nth degree), and I am an obliger.  I am someone who will stick to a habit if there is someone I need to be accountable to (and being accountable to myself isn't as important as this outside person) because I don't want to let them down. That was an eye-opener for me.  I thought, duh!  It's so obvious that I'm an obliger; that answers so many questions I've had about my failure to cultivate good habits that will benefit me and only me.  A questioner will create a habit only after questioning everything about it; a rebel will do what they want to do--if you tell them to do something, they won't.  

Gretchen also talks about all the ways we work around keeping habits; the tips and techniques that can fail, depending on which personality you are in the habit world.  The "power hour" is a great tip:  take one hour, and tackle that one thing you keep putting off.  Use only that hour to do it.  Another tip is to schedule, another is to recognize if having a "goal", or stopping point, is a good thing for you to have when forming a habit.  This was also an "aha" moment for me.  I've had goals on starting a running habit to train for races, and sure enough, after each big race, I decrease my running, until I've stopped completely.  So having a goal which creates a stop sign in my head is bad for me.  I have to figure out instead how I can continue my habit even after hitting those races.  

I have to say, this audio was an interesting way to pass my commuting time.  I did get a bit tired of Gretchen, though.  She's an upholder, and sticks to habits pretty darn well.  I felt sometimes that I could never form and stick to habits as well as Gretchen does.  I would have rather read this book so I could take notes.  Listening to it was interesting, but I think I missed out on being able to stop and make notes and underline parts of the book for reference.  

This is no hard science book, but more a book for the everyday person looking to work on cultivating a better life through habits.  It is true for me that having a schedule and forming habits that are life-long are good for me.  It gave me some food for thought.  

Rating:  6/10 for an interesting look at habits and how we succeed or fail at them.  I did tune out every once in a while, and I would have preferred a print copy to take notes.  I found myself getting impatient for the end of the audio because it seemed a bit repetitive after awhile. 

Available in hardcover, paperback, audio, and e-book.


  1. Well I am a rebel with conflicted urges to be an upholder and a horror of being an obliger, though I sometimes am. I wonder if anyone but an upholder could write such a book. Sorry for being snarky because it sounds like she has some good info in there and that you got benefits from it. The rebel in me just wanted to make fun of it!

    1. She did have some good information, but as an upholder author, it was hard to feel ok with not being an upholder. She made it sound easy to start and keep those habits. But I know it's not and more fall to the wayside than stick.

  2. I found the categories reasonably interesting -- I'm definitely an obliger, too -- but the book was pretty repetitive. Could have been a magazine article. And I found myself getting more and more irritated with Gretchen. Doesn't she ever let her hair down and have some fun?!

    1. I had a hard time staying focused listening to all of the different categories of "things". And yes, she needs to have some sugar!