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

A NOTE TO THE READER Better Than Before tackles the question: How do we change ? One answer--by using habits. Habits are the invisible architecture of daily life. We repeat about 40 percent of our behavior almost daily, so our habits shape our existence, and our future. If we change our habits, we change our lives. But that observation just raises another question: Okay, then, how do we change our habits ? That's what this book seeks to answer. But while Better Than Before explores how to change your habits, it won't tell you what particular habits to form. It won't tell you to exercise first thing in the morning, or to eat dessert twice a week, or to clear out your office. (Well, actually, there is one area where I do say what habit I think is best. But only one.) The fact is, no one-size-fits-all solution exists. It's easy to dream that if we copy the habits of productive, creative people, we'll win similar success. But we each must cultivate the habits that work for us . Some people do better when they start small; others when they start big. Some people need to be held accountable; some defy account- ability. Some thrive when they give themselves an occasional break from their good habits; others when they never break the chain. No wonder habit formation is so hard. The most important thing is to know ourselves , and to choose the strategies that work for us. Before you begin, identify a few habits that you'd like to adopt, or changes you'd like to make. Then, as you read, consider what steps you want to try. You may even want to note today's date on your book's flyleaf, so you'll remember when you began the process of change. To help you shape your habits, I regularly post suggestions on my blog, and I've also created many resources to help you make your life better than before. But I hope that the most compelling inspiration is the book you hold in your hands. I see habits through the lens of my own experience, so this ac- count is colored by my particular personality and interests. "Well," you might think, "if everyone forms habits differently, why should I bother to read a book about what someone else did?" During my study of habits and happiness, I've noticed something surprising: I often learn more from one person's idiosyncratic experiences than I do from scientific studies or philosophical treatises. For this reason, Better Than Before is packed with individual examples of habit changes. You may not be tempted by Nutella, or travel too much for work, or struggle to keep a gratitude journal, but we can all learn from each other. It's simple to change habits, but it's not easy. I hope that reading Better Than Before will encourage you to harness the power of habits to make change in your own life. Whenever you read this, and wherever you are, you're in the right place to begin. IT'S NOT ENOUGH TO BEGIN Some habit-formation strategies are familiar and obvious--like Monitoring or Scheduling--but others took me more time to understand. As I studied habits, I slowly began to recognize the tremendous importance of the time of beginning. The most important step is the first step . All those old sayings are really true. Well begun is half done. Don't get it perfect, get it going. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Nothing is more exhausting than the task that's never started, and strangely, starting is often far harder than continuing . That first step is tough. Every action has an ignition cost: getting myself to the gym and changed into my gym clothes can be more challenging than actually working out. That's why good habits are a tremendous help: they make the starting process automatic. Without yet having a name for it, in fact, I'd invoked the power of the Strategy of First Steps as I was starting to write this book. I'd spent months reading and taking copious notes, and I had a giant doc­ument with a jumble of material about habits. This initial period of research for a book is always exhilarating, but eventually I have to begin the painstaking labor of actual analysis and writing. What was the most auspicious date to start? I asked myself. The first day of the week, or the month, or the year? Or my birthday? Or the start of the school year? Then I realized that I was beginning to invoke tomorrow logic. Nope. Begin now. I was ready. Take the first step. It's enough to begin. Now is an unpopular time to take a first step. Won't things be easier--for some not-quite-specified reason--in the future? I have a fantasy of what I'll be like tomorrow: Future-Gretchen will sponta­neously start a good new habit, with no planning and no effort neces­sary; it's quite pleasant to think about how virtuous I'll be, tomorrow . But there is no Future-Gretchen, only Now-Gretchen. A friend told me about how she used tomorrow logic: "I use a kind of magical thinking to procrastinate. I make up questionable rules like 'I can't start working at 10:10, I need to start on the hour' or 'It's already 4:00, it's too late to start working.' But the truth is that I should just start ." It's common to hear people say, "I'll start my new habit after the holidays are over/I've settled into my new job/my kids are a little older." Or worse, the double-remove: "I'll start my new habit once I'm back in shape." Tomorrow logic wastes time, and also it may allow us to deny that our current actions clash with our intentions. In an argument worthy of the White Queen, we tell ourselves, absolutely, I'm committed to reading aloud to my children, and I will read to them tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow--just not today. The same tendency can lead us to overcommit to responsibilities that take place in the comfortably distant future--but eventually the future arrives, and then we're stuck. My father-in-law has a mental habit to correct for that kind of tomorrow logic. He told me, "If I'm asked to do something--give a speech, attend an event--I always imagine that it's happening next week. It's too easy to agree to do something that's six months off, then the time comes, and I'm sorry I agreed to do it." When taking the first step toward a new habit, a key question from the Strategy of Distinctions is "Do I prefer to take small steps or big steps?" Many people succeed best when they keep their starting steps as small and manageable as possible; by doing so, they gain the habit of the habit, and the feeling of mastery. They begin their new yoga rou­tine by doing three poses, or start work on a big writing project by drafting a single sentence in a writing session. As an exercise zealot, I was pleased when my mother told me that she was trying to make a habit of going for a daily walk. "But I'm having trouble sticking to it," she told me. "How far are you going?" "Twice around Loose Park," she told me, "which is about two miles." "Try going just once around the park," I suggested. That worked. When she started smaller, she was able to form the habit. Small steps can be particularly helpful when we're trying to do something that seems overwhelming. If I can get myself to take that first small step, I usually find that I can keep going. I invoked this principle when I was prodding myself to master Scrivener, a writers' software program. Scrivener would help me organize my enormous trove of notes, but I dreaded starting: installing the software; syn­chronizing between my laptop and desktop computers; and most dif­ficult, figuring out how to use it. Each day gave me a new opportunity to push the task off until tomorrow. Tomorrow, I'd feel like dealing with it. "Start now ," I fi­nally thought. "Just take the first step." I started with the smallest possible step, which was to find the website where I could buy the software. Okay, I thought. I can do that. And then I did. I had a lot of hard work ahead of me--it's a Secret of Adulthood: things often get harder before they get easier--but I'd started. The next day, with a feeling of much greater confidence and calm, I watched the tutorial video. Then I created my document. And then--I started my book. However, some people do better when they push themselves more boldly; a big challenge holds their interest and helps them persist. A friend was determined to learn French, so he moved to France for six months. Along those lines, the Blast Start can be a helpful way to take a first step. The Blast Start is the opposite of taking the smallest possible first step because it requires a period of high commitment. It's demand­ing, but its intensity can energize a habit. For instance, after reading Chris Baty's book No Plot? No Problem! --which explains how to write a novel in a month--I wrote a novel in thirty days, as a way to spark my creativity. This kind of shock treatment can't be maintained for­ever, but it's fun and gives momentum to the habit. A twenty-one-day project, a detox, a cleanse, an ambitious goal, a boot camp--by tackling more instead of less for a certain period, I get a surge of energy and focus. (Not to mention bragging rights.) In particular, I love the retreat model. Three times, I've set aside a few days to work on a book during every waking hour, with breaks only for meals and for exer­cise. These periods of intensity help fuel my daily writing habit. However, a Blast Start is, by definition, unsustainable over the long term. It's very important to plan specifically how to shift from the intensity of the Blast Start into the habit that will continue indef­initely. There's no right way or wrong way, just whatever works. 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