“Better Than Before – Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives” by Gretchen Rubin

Mar 31, 2015


Darice Keating

Darice is Executive Vice President at Pearson. In this role, she focuses on College/Career Readiness programs, and is currently working in partnership with ACT to bring to market a next generation college readiness assessment system. Outside of work, Darice enjoys spending time with family, reading, yoga, learning anything she can about photography, and participating on several school district committees focused on education reform. She also spends time attempting to train her one year old golden retriever, Georgia.

“Better Than Before – Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives” by Gretchen Rubin

It was with great anticipation that I volunteered to read Gretchen Rubin’s book “Better Than Before – Mastering the Habits of Everyday Lives.”

Like most of you, I regularly engage in self-talk with sentences similar to this: “I need to….(fill in the blank with your ‘list’). For me, the list included items such as exercising more consistently, clearing closets and clutter, and making more lists of things I need to do!

Author Gretchen Rubin’s book indicates she has engaged in similar self-talk. Recognizing that all of us have a habit to change, she writes, “Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life,” and acknowledges that habits allow us to alter destiny. Ms. Rubin states that most often we seek changes that fall into the “Essential Seven,” wanting to foster habits that will allow us to:

  1. Eat and drink more healthfully
  2. Exercise regularly (Thank you, Ms. Rubin! That’s first on my list!)
  3. Save, spend, and earn wisely
  4. Rest, relax and enjoy (I agree and would add “Feel less guilty about doing so.”)
  5. Accomplish more and stop procrastinating
  6. Simplify, clear, clean and organize (Yep, that’s on my “I need to….” list!)
  7. Engage more deeply in relationships

In addition to feeling the “Thank goodness it’s not just me” relief, I particularly enjoyed the analytic and thoughtful approach Ms. Rubin uses to discuss this subject. It isn’t a book that encourages ‘Just do it,’ but recognizes the differences of individuals in how we approach changing or creating a habit. Following research and observation, she has noted that almost everyone falls into four distinct groups:

  1. Upholders – respond readily to both outer expectations and inner expectations
  2. Questioners – question all expectations and will meet an expectation only if they believe it is justified
  3. Obligers – respond readily to outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations
  4. Rebels – resist all expectations

Throughout the text, Ms. Rubin is describing her habit-formation framework from the view of these four groups. The book is helpful in that it gave me a different perspective from which to create new habits. I plan to read the book a second time (and maybe a third or fourth) in order to confirm which of the four groups I function most frequently and continue to examine if my life reflects my values in a way that allows me to grow good habits and outgrow bad ones. I recommend “Better Than Before – Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives” as one of the books you must purchase at the IWLC conference!

Gretchen Rubin has authored several books, including “The Happiness Project” and “Happier at Home.” She started her career in law and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor before beginning her career in writing. I look forward to hearing her speak at IWLC in April. And just in case you’re interested, I de-cluttered three closets this weekend! High Five!