Better than Before – Gretchen Rubin

better than before

This is the first book I’ve read by Gretchen Rubin and it came highly recommended by my friend Brianna of Extraordinary Days. I’ve heard of the Happiness Project and given most of this project is about changing my life by developing good habits (and ditching some bad ones), I thought it would be a perfect January read.

It took me over two weeks. I have NEVER been stuck on a book like that before.

It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the message, because I did – more about that in a second – but I just feel like me and Gretchen Rubin? We are not friends. She is not of my tribe. I don’t think I could spend time with her without becoming rubbed the wrong way.

But Shannon! It’s Gretchen! Everyone loves Gretchen! I hear people collectively exclaiming. Yes, and I can see why – she has a pragmatic approach to collating a good life that I think works really well, but oh goodness, she just comes across so rigid and overbearing in this book. Even when she’s questioning whether she’s being overbearing in the text, she puts it down to her personality type and continues on. It’s her way or the highway, buster! She believes in her research so much that alternate views or methods MUST be wrong. Her writing is banal and to a formula and it was a hard slog to get to the end of the book.

That said, her methods of approaching habits, both forming new ones and letting those that don’t serve fall away, is brilliant. She outlines the four main personality types that dictate how we form and follow habits (I’m a questioner, with a bit of rebel), but then goes even deeper, looking at how individual traits can help or hinder good habits. She forms a map for people to follow when looking at how habits work, an elegant and comprehensive framework that you can tailor to yourself.

Some of the traits that resonated with me are being a lark, an abstainer, a procrastinator and a sprinter. There is no point in me attempting to form a habit of getting up early and working on a project a little bit every day, while having only one caffeinated beverage – it’s simply setting myself up for a loss.  This is the joy of Rubin’s book – she doesn’t ever say that being one way is worse or better than another, it just is. And because it is and we are, shaping habits according to our traits and tendencies will work a lot better than just taking a one size fits all approach.

Please don’t let the fact that I can’t stand Rubin’s prose style put you off reading this book. It’s full of practical advice to help you succeed. I doubt I will read any others of her books, because I really don’t want to feel like reading is a chore, but undoubtedly she has developed a helpful approach that many, myself included, will resonate with.

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