Review: Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

I enjoyed both of Gretchen Rubin’s earlier books. I already wrote about how The Happiness Project inspired me to start my YA book club. So I was very eager to read her newest book, Better Than Before. And it did not disappoint.

This book is written in the same style as her other books. Rubin explores the principles of habit formation by using herself and her sister, Elizabeth, as the primary examples. While what you might take away from this book could be considered self help, it reads more like a blog. I enjoy hearing stories about Rubin and her family – especially as this is the third book I’ve read, I feel like I really know them. It’s like getting advice from an old friend.

During most of the book I found myself thinking, “Oh yeah, I do that.” There wasn’t too much that seemed profound, but listening to it did inspire me to examine my own life and think about habits I’d like to form.

The greatest insight was her identification of the Four Tendencies and how different types of people respond to habits. It was helpful to classify myself before reading (well actually listening) to the rest of the book, so that I could better understand why trying to form certain habits had or had not worked for me in the past. It was also interesting to classify my son (a questioner like me) and to try to classify my husband. Although I couldn’t figure him out, and when I told him about the tendencies, he thought they were stupid. Maybe he’s a rebel?

I enjoyed Rubin’s extensive references to Gary Taubes’ Why We Get Fat, which was the same book that inspired me to eat low carb for almost two years (a habit I want to get back into).

She also talks about rewards vs. treats which was interesting to read as a parent. We use rewards so often with children, but Rubin questions their effectiveness. Something that was very pertinent as Jim and I are thinking about changing our rules about iPad watching time for Christopher.

The last point that struck me was her discussion of goals or “finish lines” as she calls them and how they can be counterproductive unless you are a serial goal setter. Once the goal has passed people typically stop the habit because they lose motivation. This explains why I have been able to run each fall before doing a Turkey Trot with my sister and brother-in-law, but I find it very hard to keep running when I return from vacation. I need to suck it up and sign up for a winter race as well this year.

Rating: 4 Stars

This review was originally published on Mom’s Radius.

Better Than Before
Gretchen Rubin
Random House Audio
March 17, 2015

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 make change 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.

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