Cover image for Better than before : mastering the habits of our everyday lives
Title:
Better than before : mastering the habits of our everyday lives
Author:
Rubin, Gretchen.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Crown Publishers, [2015]
Physical Description:
xii, 298 pages ; 25 cm
Summary:
"Habits are the invisible architecture of our lives. Rubin provides an analytical and scientific framework from which to understand these habits--as well as change them for good. Infused with her compelling voice and funny stories, she illustrates the core principles of habit formation with dozens of strategies that she uses herself and tests out on others. Rubin provides tools to help readers better understand themselves, and presents a clear, practical menu of strategies so readers can take an individualized approach. She tackles each strategy herself and in doing so shows us the importance of knowing ourselves and our own habit tendencies. Armed with self-knowledge, we can pursue habits in ways that will truly work for us, not against us. Going to the gym can be as easy, effortless, and automatic as putting on a seatbelt. We can file expense reports, take time for fun, or pass up that piece of carrot cake without having to decide. With a foundation of good habits, we can build a life that reflects our values and goals"--
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780385348614
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

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.


Author Notes

Gretchen Craft Rubin was editor in chief of the Yale Law Journal. She clerked on the Supreme Court under Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and served as counsel to FCC Chairman Reed Hundt. An adjunct professor at Yale, she currently lives in Manhattan.

(Publisher Provided) Gretchen 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 writes on the linked subjects of habits, happiness, and human nature on her daily blog as well as in books. Her books include Happier at Home, The Happiness Project, and Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Bestseller Rubin (The Happiness Project) returns with this fun and informative self-help tome on the ways we unthinkingly shape our lives with habits. As she shows, habits affect our lives in both positive and negative ways. By acquiring positive habits and eliminating negative ones, we can increase our overall happiness. "How we schedule our days is how we spend our lives," Rubin asserts. The subtitle calls to mind Julia Child's cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking, suggesting a goal similar to Child's: to collect all the available information on the subject and break it down into components for readers to apply to their own lives. Writing that "we can build our habits only on the foundation of our own nature," Rubin goes on to identify four tendencies, or personality types, in relation to habit-formation: upholder, questioner, obliger, and rebel. Her style is clear, and her voice is accessible yet mildly egg-headed. Using quotations from William James and Samuel Johnson, citations of current research, and personal anecdotes, Rubin comes across as a quirky, know-it-all friend who really, really wants to help you improve your life. Agent: Christy Fletcher, Fletcher and Co. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

Starred Review. Author Rubin (The Happiness Project) believes that through altering habits people change their lives and that there is no one-size-fits-all method to making desired alterations. Habit change is more successful, says Rubin, if individuals choose strategies that coincide with their tendencies to respond negatively or positively to outer and inner expectations. The author then explains approaches for the upholder, the rebel, the questioner, and the obliger, by which each type can best tackle foundation habits (e.g., sleeping, moving, uncluttering, and eating/drinking healthfully). VERDICT This is a fascinating study of the human mind and the process of change, interspersed with psychological facts and real-life examples. One of the best books available on the subject. (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

The Fateful Tendencies We Bring into the World The Four Tendencies It is only when you meet someone of a different culture from yourself that you begin to realise what your own beliefs really are. --George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier I knew exactly where my extended investigation of habits would begin. For years, I've kept a list of my "Secrets of Adulthood," which are the lessons I've learned with time and experience. Some are serious, such as "Just because something is fun for someone else doesn't mean it's fun for me," and some are goofy, such as "Food tastes better when I eat with my hands." One of my most important Secrets of Adulthood, however, is: "I'm more like other people, and less like other people, than I suppose." While I'm not much different from other people, those differences are very important. For this reason, the same habit strategies don't work for everyone. If we know ourselves, we're able to manage ourselves better, and if we're trying to work with others, it helps to understand them. So I would start with self-knowledge, by identifying how my nature affects my habits. Figuring that out, however, isn't easy. As novelist John Updike observed, "Surprisingly few clues are ever offered us as to what kind of people we are." In my research, I'd looked for a good framework to explain differences in how people respond to habits, but to my surprise, none existed. Was I the only one who wondered why some people adopt habits much more, or less, readily than other people? Or why some people dread habits? Or why some people are able to keep certain habits, in certain situations, but not others? I couldn't figure out the pattern--then one afternoon, eureka. The answer didn't emerge from my library research, but from my preoccupation with the question my friend had asked me. I'd been pondering, yet again, her simple observation: she'd never missed practice for her high school track team, but she can't make herself go running now. Why? As my idea hit, I felt the same excitement that Archimedes must have felt when he stepped into his bath. Suddenly I grasped it. The first and most important habits question is: "How does a person respond to an expectation?" When we try to form a new habit, we set an expectation for ourselves. Therefore, it's crucial to understand how we respond to expectations. We face two kinds of expectations: outer expectations (meet work deadlines, observe traffic regulations) and inner expectations (stop napping, keep a New Year's resolution). From my observation, just about everyone falls into one of four distinct groups: Upholders respond readily to both outer expectations and inner expectations. Questioners question all expectations, and will meet an expectation only if they believe it's justified. Obligers respond readily to outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations (my friend on the track team). Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike. As I struggled to find a name for this framework, one of my favorite passages, from Sigmund Freud's "The Theme of the Three Caskets," floated into my head. Freud explains that the names of the three goddesses of fate mean "the accidental within the decrees of destiny," "the inevitable," and "the fateful tendencies each one of us brings into the world." The fateful tendencies each one of us brings into the world. I decided to name my framework the "Four Tendencies." (The "Four Fateful Tendencies," though accurate, sounded a little melodramatic.) As I developed the framework of the Four Tendencies, I truly felt as though I were discovering the Periodic Table of the Elements--the elements of character. I wasn't making up a system; I was uncovering a law of nature. Or perhaps I'd created a habits Sorting Hat. Our Tendency colors the way we see the world and therefore has enormous consequences for our habits. Of course, these are tendencies, but I've found, to a degree that surprises me, that most people do fall squarely into one camp, and once I identified the Tendencies, I got a kick from hearing the people within a given Tendency make the same kinds of comments, over and over. Questioners, for example, often remark on how much they hate to wait in line. UPHOLDERS Upholders respond readily to outer expectations and inner expectations. They wake up and think: "What's on the schedule and the to-do list for today?" They want to know what's expected of them, and to meet those expectations. They avoid making mistakes or letting people down--including themselves. Others can rely on Upholders, and Upholders can rely on themselves. They're self-directed and have little trouble meeting commitments, keeping resolutions, or meeting deadlines (they often finish early). They want to understand the rules, and often they search for the rules beyond the rules--as in the case of art or ethics. One friend with an Upholder wife told me, "If something is on the schedule, my wife is going to do it. When we were in Thailand, we'd planned to visit a certain temple, and we went--even though she got food poisoning the night before and was throwing up on our way there." Because Upholders feel a real obligation to meet their expectations for themselves, they have a strong instinct for self-preservation, and this helps protect them from their tendency to meet others' expectations. "I need a lot of time for myself," an Upholder friend told me, "to exercise, to kick around new ideas for work, to listen to music. If people ask me to do things that interfere, it's easy for me to tell them 'no.' " However, Upholders may struggle in situations where expectations aren't clear or the rules aren't established. They may feel compelled to meet expectations, even ones that seem pointless. They may feel uneasy when they know they're breaking the rules, even unnecessary rules, unless they work out a powerful justification to do so. This is my Tendency. I'm an Upholder. My Upholder Tendency sometimes makes me overly concerned with following the rules. Years ago, when I pulled out my laptop to work in a coffee shop, the barista told me, "You can't use a laptop in here." Now every time I go to a new coffee shop, I worry about whether I can use my laptop. There's a relentless quality to Upholders, too. I'm sure it's tiresome for Jamie--sometimes, it's even tiresome for me--to hear my alarm go off every morning at 6:00. I have an Upholder friend who estimates that she skips going to the gym only about six times a year. "How does your family feel about that?" I asked. "Well, my husband used to complain. Now he's used to it." Although I love being an Upholder, I see its dark side, too--the gold-star seeking, the hoop jumping, the sometimes mindless rule following. When I figured out that I was an Upholder, I understood why I'd been drawn to the study of habits. We Upholders find it relatively easy to cultivate habits--it's not easy, but it's easier than for many other people--and we embrace them because we find them gratifying. But the fact that even habit-loving Upholders must struggle to foster good habits shows how challenging it is to form habits. QUESTIONERS Questioners question all expectations, and they respond to an expectation only if they conclude that it makes sense. They're motivated by reason, logic, and fairness. They wake up and think, "What needs to get done today, and why?" They decide for themselves whether a course of action is a good idea, and they resist doing anything that seems to lack sound purpose. Essentially, they turn all expectations into inner expectations. As one Questioner wrote on my blog: "I refuse to follow arbitrary rules (I jaywalk, as long as there are no cars coming, and I'll go through a red light if it's the middle of the night, and there's no other traffic in sight) but rules that I find based in morality/ethics/reason are very compelling." A friend said, "Why don't I take my vitamins? My doctor tells me I should, but usually I don't." She's a Questioner, so I asked, "Do you believe that you need to take vitamins?" "Well, no," she answered, after a pause, "as a matter of fact, I don't." "I bet you'd take them if you thought they mattered." Questioners resist rules for rules' sake. A reader posted on my blog: "My son's school principal said that kids were expected to tuck in their shirts. When I expressed surprise at this seemingly arbitrary rule, the principal said that the school had many rules just for the sake of teaching children to follow rules. That's a dumb reason to ask anyone, including children, to follow a rule. If we know of such rules we should seek and destroy them, to make the world a better place." Because Questioners like to make well-considered decisions and come to their own conclusions, they're very intellectually engaged, and they're often willing to do exhaustive research. If they decide there's sufficient basis for an expectation, they'll follow it; if not, they won't. Another Questioner said, "My wife is annoyed with me, because she really wants us both to track our spending. But we're not in debt, we spend within our means, so I don't think that getting that information is worth the hassle. So I won't do it." Questioners resist anything that seems arbitrary; for instance, Questioners often remark, "I can keep a resolution if I think it's important, but I wouldn't make a New Year's resolution, because January first is a meaningless date." At times, the Questioner's appetite for information and justification can become overwhelming. "My mother makes me insane," one reader reported, "because she expects me to need tons of information the way she does. She constantly asks questions that I didn't ask, wouldn't ask, and generally don't think I need to know the answers to." Questioners themselves sometimes wish they could accept expectations without probing them so relentlessly. A Questioner told me ruefully, "I suffer from analysis paralysis. I always want to have one more piece of information." Questioners are motivated by sound reasons--or at least what they believe to be sound reasons. In fact, Questioners can sometimes seem like crackpots, because they may reject expert opinion in favor of their own conclusions. They ignore those who say, "Why do you think you know more about cancer than your doctor?" or "Everyone prepares the report one way, why do you insist on your own crazy format?" Questioners come in two flavors: some Questioners have an inclination to Uphold, and others have an inclination to Rebel (like being "Virgo with Scorpio rising"). My husband, Jamie, questions everything, but it's not too hard to persuade him to uphold. As an Upholder, I doubt I could be married happily to someone who wasn't an Upholder or a Questioner/Upholder. Which is a sobering thought. If Questioners believe that a particular habit is worthwhile, they'll stick to it--but only if they're satisfied about the habit's usefulness. OBLIGERS Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet inner expectations. They're motivated by external accountability; they wake up and think, "What must I do today?" Because Obligers excel at meeting external demands and deadlines, and go to great lengths to meet their responsibilities, they make terrific colleagues, family members, and friends--which I know firsthand, because my mother and my sister are both Obligers. Because Obligers resist inner expectations, it's difficult for them to self-motivate--to work on a PhD thesis, to attend networking events, to get their car serviced. Obligers depend on external accountability, with consequences such as deadlines, late fees, or the fear of letting other people down. One Obliger wrote on my blog, "I don't feel a sense of accountability to my calendar, just to the people associated with the appointments. If the entry is just 'go for a jog' I'm not likely to do it." Another Obliger summarized: "Promises made to yourself can be broken. It's the promises made to others that should never be broken." Obligers need external accountability even for activities that they want to do. An Obliger told me, "I never made time to read, so I joined a book group where you're really expected to read the book." Behavior that Obligers sometimes attribute to self-sacrifice--"Why do I always make time for other people's priorities at the expense of my own priorities?"--is often better explained as need for accountability. Obligers find ingenious ways to create external accountability. One Obliger explained, "I wanted to go to basketball games, but I never went. I bought season tickets with my brother, and now I go, because he's annoyed if I don't show." Another said, "If I want to clean out my closet this weekend, I call a charity now, to come and pick up my donations on Monday." Another Obliger said, with regret, "I signed up for a photography course, because I knew I needed assignments and deadlines. I took several classes, then thought, 'I love it, so I don't need to take a class.' Guess how many photos I've taken since? One." Next semester, he's taking a class. The need to be a role model often prompts Obligers to keep good habits. One Obliger friend eats vegetables only when his children can see him, and another told me, "I knew I'd never practice piano, so I waited until my kids could take lessons--and now we do it together, and I have to practice, because if I don't, they won't." Obligers can sometimes do things for the sake of others that they couldn't do for themselves. Several Obligers told me, practically in the same words, "If it weren't for the children, I'd still be stuck in a bad marriage. I had to get the divorce for my kids." The weight of outer expectations can make Obligers susceptible to burnout, because they have trouble telling people "no." An Obliger explained, "I drop everything to proofread my colleagues' reports, but I'm terrible about making time to finish my own reports." Obligers may find it difficult to form a habit, because often we undertake habits for our own benefit, and Obligers do things more easily for others than for themselves. For them, the key is external accountability. REBELS Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike. They choose to act from a sense of choice, of freedom. Rebels wake up and think, "What do I want to do today?" They resist control, even self-control, and enjoy flouting rules and expectations. Rebels work toward their own goals, in their own way, and while they refuse to do what they're "supposed" to do, they can accomplish their own aims. One Rebel told me, "My master's thesis was ten pages shorter than recommended, and I convinced the department to add an unconventional adviser to my panel. So I got it done and did well on it--but on my terms." Excerpted from Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

A Note to the Readerp. xi
Decide Not to Decide: Introductionp. 1
Self-Knowledge
The Fateful Tendencies We Bring into the World the Four Tendenciesp. 15
Different Solutions for Different People: Distinctionsp. 31
Pillars of Habits
We Manage What We Monitor: Monitoringp. 45
First Things First: Foundationp. 58
If It's On The Calendar, It Happens: Schedulingp. 74
Someone's Watching: Accountabilityp. 91
The Best Time to Begin
It's Enough to Begin: First Stepsp. 103
Temporary Becomes Permanent: Clean Slatep. 115
Data Point of One: Lightning Boltp. 122
Desire, Ease, and Excuses
Free From French Fries: Abstainingp. 135
It's Hard To Make Things Easier: Conveniencep. 144
Change My Surroundings, Not Myself: Inconveniencep. 154
A Stumble May Prevent a Fall: Safeguardsp. 160
Nothing Stays In Vegas: Loophole-Spottingp. 170
Wait Fifteen Minutes: Distractionp. 183
No Finish Line: Rewardp. 191
Just Because: Treatsp. 201
Sitting Is The New Smoking: Pairingp. 211
Unique, Just Like Everyone Else
Choose My Bale of Hay: Clarityp. 223
I'm The Fussy One: Identityp. 236
Not Everyone Is Like Me: Other Peoplep. 245
Everyday Life in Utopia: Conclusionp. 257
Acknowledgmentsp. 265
Quiz: The Four Tendenciesp. 267
Resources to Requestp. 271
Start a Better than Before Habits Groupp. 273
Suggestions for Further Readingp. 275
Notesp. 279