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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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“We are totally comfortable calling Gretchen Rubin’s new book, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, life-changing.”
—Better Homes & Gardens
“If anyone can help us stop procrastinating, start exercising or get organized, it’s Gretchen Rubin. The happiness guru takes a sledgehammer to old-fashioned notions about change.”
“It’s exciting to find a self-help book that’s not only full of eye-opening insight but also provides practical tips to help you procrastinate and stress less, exercise and eat more healthfully, and spend time on activities that matter. We’re really glad that Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, decided to investigate her affinity for habits, because in the process she’s come up with a great guide to help us lay the foundation of a more satisfying life. Best of all, Better Than Before is a really fun read—Rubin’s friendliness, candor, and humor mirror a lively conversation with a best friend.” —Apple iBooks
“The Happiness Project lays out life’s essential goals…Her new book, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, serves as a kind of detailed instruction manual on how to achieve them.” —New York Times Sunday Book Review
“In Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, Gretchen Rubin picks up where [William] James left off, integrating a wealth of insight from psychology, sociology, and anthropology in an illuminating field guide to harnessing the transformative power of habit in modern life.”
“Change can be good. Particularly if it helps us live longer, healthier, indeed, happier lives — the objective of Rubin’s latest project.”
“Author Gretchen Rubin says most people fall into one of four motivation types. Knowing yours is key to taking on new habits.”
“Gretchen Rubin… [is] lighthearted and inviting—full of insights that sound familiar and advice that sounds less like what you should do and more like what you want to do.... With her focus on taking first steps and creating early successes, this is a refreshing take on how to change stubborn patterns that limit what we can enjoy about our lives.” —Audiofile Magazine
“Do you have a bad habit you’re trying to shake, or a good one you wish you could cultivate? Gretchen Rubin is one of the most charming and erudite authors of her generation. Here, she uses her gifts to help you eat right, sleep well, stop procrastinating, and start enjoying all that life has to offer.”
—Susan Cain, New York Times bestselling author of Quiet
“Gretchen Rubin combines deep research and observations from her own life to explain how habits emerge and—more important—how they can change. It’s indispensable for anyone hoping to overhaul how they (almost unthinkingly) behave.”
—Charles Duhigg, New York Times bestselling author of The Power of Habit
“Filled with insights about our patterns of behavior, Better Than Before addresses one of life’s big and timeless questions: how can we transform ourselves? In a way that’s thought-provoking, surprising, and often funny, Gretchen Rubin provides us with the tools to build a life that truly reflects our goals and values.”
—Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post and New York Times bestselling author of Thrive
“Is there a habit in your life you’d like to change? If so, here’s your first step: Read this book. It’s loaded with practical, everyday tips and techniques that will guide you to success.”
—Dan Heath, New York Times bestselling coauthor of Made to Stick, Switch, and Decisive
“Almost everyone wants to be ‘better’—slimmer, smarter, better looking, more interesting, more productive—and we want to know we’re improving, we want the reinforcing evidence. Gretchen Rubin’s new masterpiece, Better Than Before, shows us how. Unlike other books on habits, Rubin’s book gives us the specific tools and a blueprint for getting back on track—the fast track.”
—Brian Wansink, Ph.D., New York Times bestselling author of Slim by Design and Mindless Eating
“With bold and original insights, Gretchen Rubin reveals the hidden truths about how to change our habits—from resisting junk food and hitting the gym to ending procrastination and saving money. Better Than Before is a gem, and the first habit you should form is reading a chapter every night.”
—Adam Grant, Wharton professor and New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take
“Gretchen Rubin’s superpower is curiosity. Luckily for us, she’s turned her passionate inquiry to the topic of making and mastering habits. Weaving together research, unforgettable examples, and her brilliant insight, Better Than Before is a force for real change. It rearranged what I thought I knew about my habits, and I’m better for it.”
—Brené Brown, New York Times bestselling author of Daring Greatly andThe Gifts of Imperfection
About the Author
Gretchen Rubin, a member of Oprah's SuperSoul 100, is one of the most thought-provoking and influential writers on the linked subjects of habits, happiness, and human nature. She’s the author of many books, including the blockbuster New York Times bestsellers, Happier at Home and The Happiness Project. Rubin has an enormous following, in print and online; her books have sold more than a million copies worldwide, in more than thirty languages, and on her popular daily blog, gretchenrubin.com, she reports on her adventures in pursuit of habits and happiness. Her podcast "Happier with Gretchen Rubin" was an iTunes "Best of 2015" pick. She was chosen for the 2016 Oprah Super Soul 100 list. Rubin started her career in law, and was clerking for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor when she realized she wanted to be a writer. She lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
Unfortunately, personal examples and anecdotes are (over)used for every point. I know way more about Gretchen's life, thoughts, and feelings than I want to... In fact, sometimes it felt like I was reading her personal diary (at one point she reminded herself of her Number One Commandment: "Be Gretchen"... Come on!) which was uncomfortable and a huge waste of time... so I ultimately had to scroll through pages at a time to just get back to the core messages that could help the READER work on their habits -- and not waste time on hearing how Gretchen and her friends and family were so successful in forming/maintaining their own habits.
Not sure if I'd recommend buying the book and wasting your time reading all of it or if I'd just recommend reading reviews and articles that cut through the cr*p and just explain her basic but very helpful habit forming frameworks, which are truly insightful and applicable to everyday life.
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.