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. – Goodreads
Do I love Rubin’s writing and passion for researching topics like happiness and habits? Yes. Do I love personality tests and did I love defining myself into the roles she laid out in the book? Yes. Did I feel like I learned a lot about how to apply her research to my own life? Ehhh.
I wanted to love this book. As with all self-help books, I desperately wanted to read it and be struck with an aha! moment, suddenly armed with the necessary motivation and tools to change my habits. Did that happen? Not really, but I did close the cover with a better understanding of why people form the habits they do.
For starters, my favorite part of the book was the bit that explains how everyone is different. Just because I am alright with waking up every morning at 0445 (because I’m a Lark, she says) to go to the gym doesn’t mean that you will be alright with it. Some people habitually go to bed every night at the same time and love it, whereas other people (me) don’t. It has to do with your personality type and what motivates you.
For example, according to the book, I’m an Obliger, so I meet my outer expectations but resist my internal expectations. I depend on external accountability to get things done—meaning I’m great at deadlines, but terrible at internal things, like getting my car serviced. I’m a Lark (morning person). I’m a Sprinter, meaning I like deadlines and to work in short bursts. I’m an Overbuyer, a Simplicity Lover, and an Opener. I’m a Novelty Lover, Promotion-Focused, and Small Step Taker. So, what does this tell me (besides the fact that I realllllllly love putting labels to my tendencies)? It tells me what I value and what motivates me, according to Rubin.
She also covers the Pillars of Habits: monitoring, scheduling, foundation, and accountability. Trying to get more steps in? Use an UP band to track it by monitoring your progress. Tell people to hold yourself accountable. Schedule a walk into your every day routine. Figure out what works best for you—the foundation.
I’d like to use myself as an example here for a moment—not that I’m particularly good at forming habits, but just because I inadvertently used those four methods to actually create a habit for myself last year. Growing up, I was not an athletic child. Unless you counted walking to the pantry for a snack or turning pages in a book, I did not do athletic things. Thus, I figured, I hated exercise and continued to tell myself this. Fast forward to May 2014, when I decided I better get fit because I was an adult and what else was I supposed to do? Yes, the foundation wasn’t the best, until I learned one key thing: I hate cardio and I hate team sports, hence never participating in anything growing up. So, I started lifting, which I fell in love with. I scheduled my gym time into my week. My husband went with me, so he helped keep me accountable. And I monitored my progress using a bodybuilding app. Fast forward again, and I’ve been hitting the gym 4x a week for (almost) the past year. It’s a habit, and I get grumpy when I miss the gym. Without those four pillars, I don’t think I would have stuck with it. /ramble over/
Overall, the book was easy and quick to read. I really enjoyed it, if only to take personality quizzes and confirm what I already knew about forming habits. It did get me fired up to form some new habits, which is good. I rated this a 3.5/5 on Goodreads.
A huge thank you for Birchbox who sent this to me through their Birchbox Bloggers program in exchange for an honest review!