Ever since reading THIS book (and THIS one too), I have been sold that a good life thrives on the foundation of our daily habits. Habits are the building blocks that make up our days and lives. I have good habits that I rely on, such as: eating breakfast daily, getting 8+ hours of sleep every night, not watching television, & exercising before the day begins. At the same time, I am very aware that I am being held back by many of my bad habits such as: reading too many blogs, looking at my phone too much, and not being able to give up my morning coffee to name a few. Just as I can see the positive effects my good habits have on my life, the bad ones also have a negative effect.
Because of this fascination, I was chomping at the bit to read Gretchen Rubin’s newest book, “Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives”. You may have already picked up that I am a bit of a Gretchen Rubin groupie. I really relate to her because we are wired very similarly. Every time she shares one of her idiosyncrasies, I always want to say “Me too, Gretchen!” I loved her book “The Happiness Project” from several years ago. Her new podcast “Happier with Gretchen Rubin”, is on my weekly must-listen rotation. I could tell from listening to her podcast that this book was going to provide me with a framework to help me address the pesky habits I am having a hard time dealing with.
While The Power of Habit was a mind-blowing when it came to the influence of habits in our lives, and Daily Rituals underscored how renowned artists harnessed this power to create their body of work, this book is all about helping you figure out what makes you tick so you can select strategies for implementing good habits and breaking bad ones.
In Better Than Before, Rubin points out that the key to establishing good habits and breaking bad habits has to do entirely with finding the right approach for your personality type. She spends the beginning of the book outlining different personality types and preferences. Her theory is that the more you know yourself and your quirks, the more likely you are to set up a habit strategy that works for YOU. Some of these are easy to identify with, others require some reflection.
Her biggest breakthrough concept has to do with identifying the 4 different habit tendencies. According to Rubin, the Four Tendencies categorize how people tend to respond to expectations (inner expectations and outer expectations):
Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations (I’m an Upholder, 100%)
Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense–essentially, they make all expectations into inner expectations
Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves
Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike
The reason this is so important, is so you can set yourself up for success. Depending on your tendency, you are either going to respond to an expectation or not. For example, an Obliger responds to outer expectations. For them, getting up to work out by themselves every morning will be a challenge. But, if they have to meet a friend at a specific time to exercise, then they will follow-through. If you are a Questioner that wants to eat in a more healthful way, you may need to dive into some research to get a full understanding so that you can truly embrace the habit.
Identifying others’ tendencies is also important so that you can understand them better. You may be frustrated by the fact that your friend refuses to participate in your recommendations of things that work for you, but then you realize she is probably a Rebel. It helps not take things so personally. She can’t help it.
I knew immediately from reading this chapter that I am an Upholder. Upholders want to know the expectations, and once it is clear, just do it. Upholders are fascinated by cultivating personal habits, and are also good at setting aside time for themselves as sacred. If you know me, you will know this is true. I often go to bed before my kids because my sleep is very important to me. I think I do have a bit of Questioner though. I sometimes resist following the rules if I don’t agree with them or they do not make sense to me.
The book goes into detail with all of the tendencies and gives many examples and scenarios for each one. Rubin also talks about the downsides to each tendency. In my case, as an Upholder, one of the downsides is rigidness. So basically, a hard time changing courses when I see the clear path. If you would like to know what Tendency you are, Gretchen Rubin’s website has a handy little QUIZ you can take.
After the Four Tendencies, she also gets into other areas that are good to know about yourself so that setting yourself up for successful habits-making or breaking is easier. Who doesn’t like to answer questions like these? Here are some of my favorites:
Am I a Lark or an Owl? Me: Lark!
Am I an UnderBuyer or Overbuyer? Me: Underbuyer!
Am I a Simplicity Lover or Abundance Lover? Me: Simplicity Lover!
Am I a Familiarity Lover or Novelty Lover? Me: Novelty Lover!
See, isn’t that fun?? Once you really have a handle on your tendency and preferences, you are at a great point to start figuring out how you can best implement good habits. This is just the very beginning of the book. The rest of it is spent identifying good strategies for habit-setting as well as loopholes to watch out for.
I very much agreed with her chapter on setting up a good foundation for habits. Probably because they are the areas that I already am extra enthusiastic (nerdy) about. In her words:
From my observation, habits in four areas do most to boost feelings of self-control, and in this way strengthen the Foundation of all our habits. We do well to begin by tackling the habits that help us to:
3. eat and drink right
It makes sense that a good sense of well-being is a fantastic place to start. Go Gretchen!
Overall, I really enjoyed the book. It has helped me really take a look at my current habits and is helping me brainstorm some strategies for the pesky bad habits I am trying to address. Being such an avid listener of the Happier podcast, I felt like I already knew the Four Tendencies very well, and many of the strategies. I would recommend this book to anyone trying to figure out how to incorporate more good habits as well as get rid of the bad ones. However, if you are not likely to pick up the book, try out the podcast! You will learn so much. And please feel free to chat with me about it because as you can tell, habits are my jam.
What about you..have you seen the power of habit in your life? What habits are you trying to address?