24. Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Everyday Life (Gretchen Rubin)


“Habits are the invisible architecture of daily life.  We repeat about 40 percent of our behaviour almost daily, so our habits shape our existence, and our future.  If we change our habits, we change our lives.”

Gretchen Rubin has become known for not only her own search for happiness but for helping others in their search for happiness.  The Happiness Project and Happiness at Home have become bestsellers and she is now promoting her new book, Better than Before.  I was privileged to meet Gretchen at an event hosted by Canadian Living earlier this month.  Her enthusiasm is contagious and I had looked forward to reading this new self-help book.

It is easy to relate to the challenges in forming habits.  Many of us struggle to sustain New Year’s resolution, lose that final baby weight and exercise routinely but Gretchen addresses this issue by helping the reader get to know themselves and offering helpful suggestions.  For me, it is like the Hawthorne effect – just thinking about habits and shining a light on some of my goals makes me focus and work towards success.

The book starts with chapters on self-knowlege – understanding your motivation and personality is key to working on your habits.  This is followed by the pillars of habits including monitoring, foundation, scheduling and accountability.  Each chapter is filled with personal examples or stories about her family or acquaintances.  She reviews the best time to begin including a chapters on first steps, a clean slate and the lightning bolt and then looks at both excuses and ways to sustain your habits.  These include abstaining (all or nothing – it always amazes me when colleagues can leave a bowl of chocolates on their desks without eating them all), convenience, inconvenience, safeguards, loophole spotting, distraction, reward, treats and pairing one positive task with something that might not be something you want to do.

Many of the ideas are common sense but it is great to have them all in one concise book as a reference to inspire action in changing habits.  One of my new habits is to listen to podcasts or books.  You will see that I have listened to two Terry Fallis books during my drives and I have also listened to Gretchen’s Happier podcast which she records along with her sister, Elizabeth Craft.  If you are looking to make changes, this will give you some simple ideas and provide motivation and inspiration.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

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