Friday, August 14, 2015

This Time It’ll be ‘Better Than Before’

Several months back, my bestie Rachel told me about a book that had really resonated with her.  The book, entitled The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, accounts the author’s year-long journey “test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier.”

During that time, Rachel would forward me blog posts, podcasts and “Rubin-isms” that she found inspiring.  I have to be honest, they really did interest me; however, I was hesitant. I’ve never met a self-help book that didn’t initially intrigue me but, inevitably, my interest would usually wane after the first few chapters.  

Point in case, my Nana was inspired by Suze Orman and bought me her book “9 Steps to Financial Freedom.” I started out the gate strong and was super motivated. I even bought Quicken ® and spent hours inputting all our data.  But by the 4th step, I was done and way more interested in the allegations that Orman was a 55-year old virgin.  Now that is an unhappy thought.

But Rachel’s referral stayed with me and, finally, I requested The Happiness Project from my local library.  I read the first chapter and was hooked until the very last page.  Rubin’s easy-going writing style and realistic approach to changing your life for the happier resounded with me as much as it did Rachel and, to the contrary of Orman, this made me very happy so I ran out and bought my very own copy which is very rare for me.

When I was done reading, I wanted more and this is how I stumbled upon Rubin’s most recent book, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives.

According to Rubin’s website, “As observed in the review in the New York Times Sunday Book Review, 'The Happiness Project lays out life’s essential goals…Her new book, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, serves as a kind of detailed instruction manual on how to achieve them.’”

Also, the site states, “Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life. It takes work to make a habit, but once that habit is set, we can harness the energy of habits to build happier, stronger, more productive lives.”

Yeah (fist pump)!  For those of you who have followed my blog, you know it has been sporadic at best over the past few years.  So, among the many habits that I would like to strengthen…you guessed it… I want to be more dedicated to my writing.  My priorities include (once again): posting to my blog on a regular basis; attending my writing group consistently; and continuing to plug away on my big writing project.

However, it's not just about writing one time, it is about being consistent and writing every day...forever!

I know that being creative makes me happy but, my role as a mom who works full-time and my family’s busy social life, has caused my writing to suffer the most.  I had allowed my writing to be pushed to the bottom of my To Do list day after day, so I was desperate to find a manageable way to get myself back on track and Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives has given me the wherewithal to do so. 

On Rubin’s Blog, she posts, “Many experts suggest one-size-fits-all solutions for habit change — and boy, it would be great if there were one magical answer that helped everyone. But we’re all different, so different strategies work for different people.”

Ain’t that the truth?  I think that is why Rubin’s philosophy works so well for me personally because once you gain an understanding of certain Self-Knowledge – Tendencies and Distinctions – you have your own unique treasure map to forming good habits and, ironically, everyone’s map is different.  

According to Rubin, Tendencies fall into four categories: Upholder, Questioner, Obliger or Rebel.  Not surprisingly, I am an Upholder, a person who meets outer and inner expectations.  Also known as Type A personality perhaps?  If you want to find out your own tendency, please take the quiz.

However, Rubin also writes on her blog, “…it’s not enough to just know your Tendency; you must also recognize your Distinctions. (For instance, are you a Marathoner or Sprinter? Under-buyer or over-buyer? Finisher or Opener? Novelty-lover or Familiarity-lover?)"

Doesn't this just grab you?  Don't you want to know more?

Once you are able to identify your Tendencies and Distinctions, it is possible to start implementing the necessary strategies to modify your habits based on your personal predispositions to make or break practices.
Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives  has chapters that provide the framework entitled: Pillars of Habits; The Best Time to Begin; Desire, Ease, and Excuses; and Unique, Just like Everyone Else.

One topic that I really gravitated toward was the section of Foundation which was a carry-over from The Happiness Project.  Rubin substantiates that by getting enough sleep, moving your body every day, eating and drinking healthfully, and un-cluttering your life anybody can build resilient habits with good bones.

Believe it or not, I haven’t actually finished the book yet, but I am so inspired I just had to write about it and share my excitement.  I have been working hard to implement Rubin’s common sensibilities – you are reading this post aren’t you – and find myself so much happier.  I know that I will stumble upon "Loopholes" and "Distractions" (you will just have to read the book) but I’m hoping that Rubin’s survival skills will help me to stick with it and at the very least help to stay on the straight and narrow.

So don’t worry, be happy!

To learn more about Gretchen Rubin and what she is about, visit