Monday, 9 May 2016


Gretchen Rubin's Better Than Before was- dare I say- a letdown in comparison to her book The Happiness Project. Mind you, I didn't particularly love that book either. It was forgettable, repetitive, and quite frankly mundane. However, Better Than Before, just leaves me a little baffled. I am someone who likes happy, neat endings. Tied up in a perfectly done bow. And with this, I wasn't really sure if I walked away with a better understanding of why I create habits, and more importantly how should I sustain them (which I think was the point of this book?)
Rubin does offer some helpful classifications of people who form habits. Quite simply put, there are people who: can meet external and internal expectations, meet the expectations of others but cannot make healthy habits for the sake of themselves, those who only set goals for themselves and hate external deadlines, and then there are the rebels- those who do neither, and frankly find the challenge in doing what people expect them not do.
And I think that's the most I got out of this book. To tell you the truth, I don't think I can classify myself into any of these categories. I'm a little bit of both. I do things largely for myself and my sanity, but when really driven I am a person who aims to please. Then again, make me mad, and I will do exactly the opposite of what you want me to do.
What made this book really hard to digest is there are just so many factors, so many probabilities, and options. I don't think anyone can be summarized into one type of person but even so, there were no real helpful strategies I can remember from the book (and I only just returned it today).
What I do remember, however, is this: Rubin wants to be more mindful and so sets the alarm clock to do meditation in the morning. She keeps up this routine and it seems like she is forming a habit. But then the end of the book she questions herself as to whether she really enjoys doing this habit (even if it a healthy one...which she constantly encourages). And then gives it up? I'm not sure. I honestly cannot remember.
She also suggests other things. Including going on a low-carb diet and how working out does not result in losing weight. She also uses a plethora of references, quoting psychiatrists, philosophers, and I wouldn't even be surprised if she included something from the cat. I started to wonder whether there was any cohesiveness in the book or if she just weaved a whole bunch of people's theories together.
I know I learned a few things but I just do not remember. What it did make me realize is that it is easier to pick up a bad habit (watching 5 hours of Netflix) versus developing a healthy one (going to the gym). One requires little attention and effort, while the other is less convenient. And it's about making that habit part of your daily routine that will enable you to practice this habit over and over again. It is about NOT making a decision. (We don't decided whether to brush our teeth or not...we just DO).
How one actually does that...well that's another topic. One clarified, perhaps, in a different book.

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