Habits & “Better Than Before” by Gretchen Rubin

Better Than Before

I love reading. I am the daughter of a library technician (you shall feel her fire if you call her a li-bar-ian, ask me how I know!) and I grew up always reading, always writing. My sister Sally and I pretended the Funk & Wagnalls set were library books, so we crafted pockets and library cards, just like at Mum’s work.

Some kids were out being cool and stuff, my sister and I were making a library. And if we weren’t making a library, we were making our own radio show. Party on Wayne!

Mr S gifted me a Kindle Paperwhite for my 30th birthday totally yesterday a few years back and I was in love with digital reading. It is worth noting my about-face here, after working in a proper grown up indie bookshop for five years where e-books were abhorred… Now I’m all ‘Pfft! Too expensive! Can’t buy the title I want! COME AT ME, AMAZON!’

One of my favourite books has always been Gretchen Rubin’s ‘The Happiness Project’, and when a sample of her newest release ‘Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of our Everyday Lives’ hit my Kindle, I was hooked. Then my BFF, Weezy told me it was her latest Audible audiobook, I was all ‘I HAVE NEVER TRIED AUDIBLE, I BET IT IS LIFE CHANGING!’. So I signed up for Audible’s one month free trial, downloaded ‘Better than Before’ and began to obsessively listen to it whilst I was having my twenty minute paddock stroll in the mornings through the paddocks and whilst I dried the dishes of an evening.

Gretchen, you are lifechanging. Weezy and I have conversations that begin with ‘What would Gretchen do?’. Bumper sticker, anyone?

Gretchen created a framework for differentiating between different habit types. Go and check out the Rubin Tendencies here and take the quiz here. But in a nutshell:

  • 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 (myhusband is a Questioner)

  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike

  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves

I am a Questioner. I wondered if I was really a questioner… so I did the quiz. Playing exactly to my personality type.

Before I agreed to start writing with Sarah I asked her to do the quiz too. She’s an Obliger FYI.

In reality, I suppose the Rubin Tendencies are the modern equivalent of Myer-Briggs personality test, or Edward De Bono’s thinking hats, or any type of personality typecasting quiz. However, her delivery style is captivating and I really enjoyed the real world examples of her research. She freely admits that perhaps she can push her habits questioning on others – her self deprecating seems rare amongst those who make a lifetime of studying others. I think it’s easy to get caught up in the self importance and the particular linguistic style of what you are studying or writing about.

Rubin uses her willing sister, Elizabeth Craft as a guinea pig for a lot of her habit experiments, which often leads to hilarious results. Coupled with the podcast, Gretchen and Elizabeth are a formidable team. The podcast is my favourite when I don’t feel like listening to another audiobook, or I’m lying in bed trying to get to sleep. I have worked out that for my data-download’s sake it’s easier for me to download the podcast once than stream it fifteen times before I manage to listen to the rest of it!

The big take-home from this book for me was acceptance of your personality and finding ways to change it if you’re not happy about any aspect of it. For example, a friend was telling me that her sister said “Don’t say that! It makes me feel bad when you tell me you’re not spending any money this week!”. No one can make you feel anything – you choose to feel it for yourself. For some reason, it became clear to me that instead of feeling guilty about something I thought I wanted to do but hadn’t ever managed to do it, I could either decide to do it, commit fully and succeed, or decide that it wasn’t for me and move on.

This book also gave me interesting tips and techniques for how to cement and achieve new habits, like simply deciding that every morning I go for a walk. Even when I don’t want to, I like having exercised. I think that is why I’m enjoying being sponsored to review the Get Commando Fit program. As a Questioner, I’ve decided I agree with Commando Steve’s philosophy on nutrition and exercise, so I’m happy to follow the plan to most of a T. I get a meal plan to my inbox, I shop the meal plan, I follow the exercise plan (and it hurts). It’s all right in front of me, and I feel like if you just follow the plan, success will follow. Fingers crossed – and there will be proper posts about this! I’ve got a pre-baby pair of jeans waiting for me in my wardrobe. 

I can tell you logical reasons why I loved this book, but I really really loved it. I think it’s a great read to gain insights on your personality and has loads of great tools to help you make changes, should you see fit to. I think that’s it right there. It’s not a Self-Help This Book Will Make You Successful/Thin/Awesome, but a book that says ‘Here’s some ideas. Are they for you? Awesome. Not for you? Also awesome.’ I like that in a book. I like my books polite. Indeed.

Did you do the quiz? What’s your Gretchen Personality Type?

None of my views in this post were sponsored, nor did Gretchen sponsor me for giving her books mad props. I am sponsored to complete and review the Get Commando Fit program.

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