A fan of self-help literature, I look forward to each year’s crop of inspirational and motivational books. Right now, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives is at the top of my Favorites List.
New York Times best-selling author Gretchen Rubin has expertly woven research, anecdotes, and personal insights in this excellent study of habit formation. She does not provide a one-size-fits-all approach or prescribe specific habits. Instead, she explores how to develop sustainable habits that will help us achieve our own versions of Everyday Life in Utopia (a chapter title suggested by her daughter Eleanor).
Rubin starts by outlining The Four Tendencies—Upholder, Obliger, Questioner, Rebel—and then suggests appropriate strategies in the Pillars of Habits section. While the concepts of Monitoring, Foundation, Scheduling, and Accountability are not new, they are presented using a lively, conversational style aimed at increasing self-knowledge.
I paid special attention to the following strategies:
Foundation Four – Begin with habits that help us sleep, move, eat and drink right, and unclutter. These habits will serve as the foundation for forming other good habits.
Power Hour – To deal with the small, one-time tasks (e.g. creating a photo album) that Rubin kept putting off, she decided once a week, for one hour, she would work on these chores.
Clean Slate – Fresh starts such as a new apartment, job or school and changes in personal relationships wipe the slate clean and can help us launch a new habit with less effort. But a clean slate can also disrupt good habits or break positive routines.
Lightning Bolt – While this is a very effective strategy, it cannot be invoked. A new idea triggered by an inspirational book, milestone birthday, pregnancy or another event can instantly transform habits.
Blast Start – When small steps are not working, a blast start can help us take the first step. This kind of shock treatment cannot be maintained, but it can give momentum to a new project.
Bright-Line Rule – A clearly defined rule or standard that eliminates any need for decision-making can help us achieve greater clarity. E.g. Answering every email within 24 hours.
Throughout the book, Gretchen Rubin shares her own successes and challenges along with those of family members, friends, and blog followers. Intrigued and inspired by the low-carb diet she adopted and the ripple effect it created within her circle, I picked up a copy of Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It by Gary Taubes.
And I couldn’t resist classifying myself: I am an Upholder, Abstainer, Marathoner, Finisher, and Owl.
Where to find Gretchen Rubin…