Breaking and Changing Habits: A Review of Better Than Before

In Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives Gretchen Rubin, helps readers with adding, breaking and changing habits. The book starts with a look into self-discovery. Then builds on that self-knowledge to help you discover useful habit-building methods.

To accomplish this, Rubin divides the book into five sections: Self-Knowledge; Pillars of Habit; The Best Time to Begin; Desire, Ease, and Excuses; and Unique, Just Like Everyone Else.

Here are a few insights and strategies stood out to me.

Key Takeaways about Changing Habits.

The Four Tendencies 

Discover how you meet inner and outer expectations. This helps you discover the best way to build new habits.

Rubin explains that most people belong to one of these four groups: upholders, questioners, obligers and rebels. Upholders readily fulfill their inner and outer expectations. Questioners, however, meet expectations only after they question their expectations, They must also believe that those expectations are justified. Like upholders, obligers readily fulfill outer expectations, but inner expectations often go neglected. Rebels say “to hell with all expectations, I’ll choose what expectations I’ll fulfill.”

Find out where you fall in these tendencies. You’ll discover how to enhance strengths and avoid weaknesses. For example, obligers may need some type of external accountability to fulfill their internal expectations. If an obliger wants to start a meditation practice, a close friend that holds her accountable.

Scheduling makes activities automatic, which builds habits.
— Gretchen Rubin

Pencil in time to devote to changing habits. And you’ll create a predictable foundation to build new habits on.

 

Attach your habit to an external cue, such as the sun rising, getting in the car or the ringing of the alarm on your phone. Another tip, schedule new habits to coincide with older habits.

Watch out for loopholes.

Want to make and change habits? Check out Gretchen Rubin's book Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives.

Rubin warns that if we don’t plan for the loopholes, we may cave into them. She lists ten major categories of loopholes. My typical loopholes include the moral licensing, lack of control and “that doesn’t count”.

Moral licensing allows us to be bad because we’ve been oh so good. Lack of control loopholes surfaces when we deny having control over our impulses. For example, my car pulls into a local donut shop every time the hot donut sign flashes. “That doesn’t count” loopholes show up on vacation, during the holidays and after a grueling trip to the gym.

To change habits, pair bad habits with good ones.

Rubin also discusses pairing. Combine activities you want to do with the ones you don’t want to do. Rubin uses the example of watching certain television shows only while working out. Pairing bad habits with better ones also help with habit change. Instead of snacking in any setting, for example, limit snacking to the kitchen table.

I found Better Than Before an entertaining and educational read. Some people were put off by the stories about Rubin’s experiences and those of her friends and family, I think those examples emphasize that everyone is different. All of the advice isn’t universal. But most people will find at least one tip that will help them build new habits or break old ones.

I only discussed a few of the points addressed in the book. To learn more about Gretchen Rubin and her book visit her website at http://gretchenrubin.com/.