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Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits--to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life Paperback – December 15, 2015
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New York Times Bestseller Washington Post Bestseller The author of the blockbuster New York Times bestsellers The Happiness Project and Happier at Home tackles the critical question How do we change Gretchen Rubin s answer through habits Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life It takes work to make a habit but once that habit is set we can harness the energy of habits to build happier stronger more productive lives So if habits are a key to change then what we really need to know is How do we change our habits Better than Before answers that question It presents a practical concrete framework to allow readers to understand their habits and to change them for good Infused with Rubin s compelling voice rigorous research and easy humor and packed with vivid stories of lives transformed Better than Before explains the sometimes counter intuitive core principles of habit formation Along the way Rubin uses herself as guinea pig tests her theories on family and friends and answers readers most pressing questions oddly questions that other writers and researchers tend to ignore Why do I find it tough to create a habit for something I love to do Sometimes I can change a habit overnight and sometimes I can t change a habit no matter how hard I try Why How quickly can I change a habit What can I do to make sure I stick to a new habit How can I help someone else change a habit Why can I keep habits that benefit others but can t make habits that are just for me Whether readers want to get more sleep stop checking their devices maintain a healthy weight or finish an important project habits makechange possible Reading just a few chapters of Better Than Before will make readers eager to start work on their own habits even before they ve finished the book From the Hardcover edition Most of us have a habit we d like to change and there s no shortage of expert advice But as we all know from tough expe
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First, Rubin attempts to break down people's personalities to ascertain what methods will work best for different people, which would be incredibly helpful if her framework of the Four Tendencies worked. For me, it fails because people don't easily fall into those 4 categories - I think it might be more correct to say that in some situations people need external commitment (Obliger), and in other situations those same people are going to reject any rules (Rebel). But I think its very, very unusual that one person is one "Tendency" in all situations and for this reason, her constant reference to the framework in many ways detracted instead of helped me think about habits and how I might apply the various strategies. As she notes herself, Rubin is a very unique person and I think the fact that she is an Upholder in all situations is probably the exception, not the rule.
My second critique is that because Rubin herself is so unique and as a person completely without vice, she isn't able to clearly demonstrate the power of habit. Her method of writing is to combine research with personal stories. In her Happiness books, I found that method to be very successful. Here, however, she can't use herself as a guinea pig because she has few major habits to change; somehow she does not struggle at all with food, sleep, alcohol, exercise, etc. in the way many people do. So instead she uses her strategies to change small habits, which didn't come across as very dramatic to me because they aren't as difficult to change. Had she been able to point to at least one major habit to change and demonstrated the process and the challenges and ultimate success of doing so, it would have been much more compelling. It is as not hard to set an alarm every day to make yourself meditate as it is to completely change your diet (for most people, that is. For her that somehow was not a struggle).
If you are really interested in habits, and you should be because habits are fascinating, I would start with the Power of Habit.
But mostly this: I identify as the Rebel/Questioner archetype (like to do things against the grain, and hate tasks that have no value or purpose). Time and time again, the Rebel is more or less described as a child: (p.75 "Scheduling makes us far more likely to convert an activity into a habit (well, except for Rebels). This is just wrong, the choice is what's important to me - if I make the choice then of course it's easier to stick to the schedule, especially since I'm less likely to forget.
It's almost as if Gretchen thinks of Rebels as akin to children throughout he book, or something like a childlike Questioner.
-- this ended up more berating and mean than originally intended. Just need to add that Gretchen is obviously a great writer considering her other works, but this was just too offensive and non-relatable to me.
I have to say that Better than Before did not affect me with the same impact as The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, but I think the answer to why is found within the first few chapters of the book, Rubin sets up Four Tendencies (find out which one you are here) and points out that each approaches habits differently. Your tendency describes how to respond to expectations. I happen to be a rare category - The Upholder - like Rubin. She says that this category has an easier time adopting habits, which I find true for myself.
Based on the Four Tendencies, Rubin outlines strategies and tips for creating new habits that will improve your life in the short-term and in the long-term. For example, as an Upholder, I am driven by task lists and my calendar, so if I determine a new habit I would like to form, If it is scheduled, it happens, so I should put a new habit on my task list or calendar in order to help myself form the habit.
I gave this a test run in connection with a habit I need to form but have been resisting. No, not exercise. No, not my diet. Money. I hate categorizing transactions for our monthly budget because I just find it so stressful as we approach the end of each budget amount! The stress of almost going over budget is so frustrating that I just avoid the task altogether. Then, I create a self-fulfilling prophecy because if I am not tracking where each budget category is at, I go over budget.
Following the habit formation advice most suited to my Upholder tendency, I added "Categorize transactions" to my calendar for every Tuesday and Friday. This way, I would get an email reminder (as opposed to my task list app, which isn't quite so pushy) that I could not delete until I had accomplished the task. I have been using this tactic for a few weeks now and it has really made a difference - getting in the habit of just facing the issue has made it less traumatic and more part of everyday life.
So, if you were a fan of The Happiness Project and/or Happier at Home, I would highly recommend picking up Better than Before. This book is all about practical steps to improve your life, but is really focused on the fact that our personalities are a major determining factor in how we operate on a daily basis. As a result, the strategies offered are not one-size-fits-all, so are more effective.
I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an unbiased review.