Book Review | Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin Better Than Before Book Review

[I received a copy of this book from its Canadian publisher Random House Canada. This does not affect my opinion of the book.]

I first mentioned this book on my blog when I shared my excitement for it in this post. As you may know, I’m trying to read more non-fiction this year as well as establish some new (positive) habits, so this book was really perfect for me. And though I’m not normally drawn to self-help type books, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives sure made an impact on me.

There was a lot to love in this book, but the things I loved most was how easy the book was to read, how well-rounded it was, and how personable it was. The thing that stops me from reading a lot of non-fiction most of the time is because I perceive it as dry and unapproachable. Well, Rubin isn’t a bestselling author for nothing; she really knows how to get her points across while being candid and rational. She provides real-life examples so readers can grasp her theories, but also ends the book with an extensive “suggestions for further reading” list so that interested individuals can dig deeper if they’d like.

One of the most illuminating parts of the book for me was Rubin’s classification of the four “tendencies.” According to Rubin, we can all be roughly categorized into four big groups: Upholders, Obligers, Questioners, and Rebels. The way we react to habits and habit formation is heavily influenced by our tendency. Thus, there really is no one-size-fits all approach when it comes to developing good habits and reducing bad habits. I found this so eye-opening because, when examining my own failure to stick to some good habits, I realized that one of the big reasons was the fact that I often need outer expectations to drive me. I have no troubles meeting deadlines set by others, but I have a harder time meeting deadlines that I set for myself. This tendency is different than, say, Upholders, who can successfully meet outer and inner expectations.

Throughout the book, Rubin offers several different strategies to encourage positive habit formation and tailors them to each tendency. She also gives examples of the ways we unknowingly sabotage good habits (hello, rewards!). By considering her points against my experience with my own habits, I was able to figure out which strategies might work for me and which ones wouldn’t. I’m sure Rubin wouldn’t mind me saying that, as she is fully aware and reiterates throughout the book that we are all unique, and that what may work for one person may not work for another.

It hasn’t been long enough for me to see if any of these strategies will stick with me for a long period of time, but I can confidently say that Better Than Before has motivated me to give them a try. Besides, the first step is always the hardest part, right? I’d say I’m well on my way to becoming better than before.

Verdict: A useful book that provides thought-provoking analysis and strategies. It skillfully tows the line between being easy to understand and not talking down to the reader while being incredibly informative. I particularly enjoyed the abundance of examples as well as anecdotes.

Read if: You’ve tried and failed at creating/ditching certain habits, would like to learn more about yourself, want to become better than before.

Have you read Better Than Before?  Do you have any habits you’d like to start? Are you a fan of Gretchen Rubin? (I think I’m going to have to read more from her!)

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23 thoughts on “Book Review | Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin

  1. joyousreads says:

    I’m not quite ready to leave my make-believe world, but from time to time – and when inspiration strikes, I find myself browsing the self-help shelves at Chapters. This one does sound like an enlightening book. Maybe in the not-so distant future…

  2. Naomi says:

    I am already a fan of Rubin’s Happiness books. She writes her books in a way that doesn’t feel as if you are reading a self-help book, but more of a non-fiction that might change your ideas about things and get you thinking about how to improve your life in small, easy ways that will stick. I will be reading this book… eventually. Hopefully sooner rather than later!

  3. Sarah's Book Shelves says:

    Oooh – I’m interested in the four types! Im not sure which one I’d be. Except that I love routines…they make me comfortable…I hate deviating from them. To a point that’s kind of annoying. Not sure what that makes me 🙂 I’ll be interested to see if any of this stuff works for you.

    • Karen @ One More Page... says:

      Hmm, well according to Rubin, those who don’t really need anyone to administer their habits and will just keep them anyway are upholders, whereas Questioners will only stick to habits if the logic of it makes sense. Obligers (like me!) do well sticking to tasks that are set by other people and sometimes have a hard time meeting their personal goals if it doesn’t affect other people. I think there’s a quiz you can take on Rubin’s website, too!

  4. Leah says:

    My boyfriend just started reading The Power of Habit, and now I’m really curious about how to two books compare. I guess there’s only one way to find out?

    I really like that this book acknowledges that there’s not one-size-fits-all solution for forming and maintaining positive habits. It sounds really useful.

  5. ebookclassics says:

    Very interesting! I think I operate on a similar level where I can meet goals for other people, but everything I want to do for myself I don’t get around to. Good luck with forming positive habits!

  6. The Paperback Princess says:

    I’m a HUGE fan of hers. You should listen to her Happier podcast – short and swee! I can’t wait to read this one – The Happiness Project had a huge effect on me, even now, years later I still refer to it. One of Rubin’s strengths is that she totally makes her work accessible so that everyone can read it – even folks that think they don’t like non-fiction!

  7. cubbieblue26 says:

    I am such a fan of The Happiness Project. I wasn’t quite as excited about her newest book, but I am getting more excited now that I’ve read your review 🙂

  8. DoingDewey says:

    I really enjoyed Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, but I haven’t read anything of hers since. Like you, I’m much better at meeting other people’s deadlines than my own, so I think this might be helpful for me too 🙂

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