Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Birchbox Book Club | Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

One of my reoccurring New Year's Resolutions is to read one book a month. This month it was Better Than Before Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin. It's the Birchbox book of the month. I have read several of BB's other book picks and have enjoyed their selections, so it was fun to be able to read and review this.

Better Than Before is a self-help, pop psych book about how to start, shape, grow, and keep habits. I can be a bit wary of the pop psych genre being trained as a psychologist, but there are enough personal examples that it makes it not read overly authoritative. In fact, the biggest message is that not one size fits all when it comes to habit formation. It was interesting to hear her reactions when she was testing out her new habit theories on friends and family and when worked for her didn't work for them.

It's super easy to read. I had a few long commutes this past month and having this with me actually made it not so bad. I found it interesting to think how her different principles applied to myself and my friends, and how to think of those differences not as better or worse but as what they are differences. There is actually a little section about the tendencies and distinctions. I thought I would list mine out. If you read the book, leave your answers in the comments! I almost wish there was a little quiz...

The tendencies are her overarching philosophy on habit formation. She breaks people down into four categories: Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebel. She refers to these archetypes throughout the book to give strategies a different perspective for the types and describe how some strategies work well for one type of person but might backfire for another. I am definitely an Upholder, but no offense, to the author Gretchen, who is also a fellow Upholder-I am not as overbearing...And as a side note, who doesn't like pets, games, or music? Preston is a Questioner, I have met many Obligers, and my sister is, no doubt, a Rebel.

The distinctions are your preferences for activities, habits, projects, etc. Knowing how you operate can help you know how to best frame your habits to be successful.

No matter how badly I want to be a lark, I am an owl. My prime time is 10pm and later. I think I would love a super late night shift but that isn't really how the world works. 

This one was a little harder for me to answer. I would have to say I am more of a sprinter. I like being against a deadline and setting a lot of time to focus on one thing. What tripped me up was that I seem to like my productivity bursts right when I am first assigned or decide on a project and then right before it's due. I guess the excitement of a new thing and the completion of it makes it easier for me to work.

I am sure you all could guess this one-overbuyer. Honestly, I am proud of my overbuyer-ness. If I need something, I am not afraid to pick it up, and I am always prepared for anything. I am pretty good at not going too crazy. Like for the typical exercise example, I wouldn't shell out huge expenses before a commitment like a gym or a treadmill, but I would buy a new outfit and some dumbbells to jump-start. 

This one was another hard one to decide. The line that put me over the abundance lover edge was the example of a full pantry. It probably goes hand-in-hand with my overbuying. I also really liked her point on how to use your preference to your advantage-if you are a simplicity lover to save money you might cut down on something, but if you are an abundance lover you might consider making more money by starting a side gig. 

I'm a finisher. I like to see things through to completion, but like I mentioned in the sprinter question, I like to start new projects too. I think what got me is her story about her husband opening all the bags of granola instead of finishing them-Preston does this too, and it drives me crazy. 

Familiarity lover. I like to feel super comfortable and know what I am expecting. Whenever I start a new habit,  I research it to death and once I get used to something I stick to it. 

Promotion focused. I strive for achievement and gains-to mastery. I never really thought of this being a dichotomy, but it makes sense-adding a good habit is the same as decreasing a bad habit. It's all about perspective.

I want to go with medium here? Several medium steps along the way. I like having big goals and to see progress, but I try to be realistic to not get overwhelmed or feel like I let myself down.

If you are trying to resurrect your New Year's Resolutions or keep wondering why you have a hard time keeping habits, check this book out. Even to just feel like you aren't alone in having trouble with it. She goes through quite a few different strategies and how to best use them to your advantage with a lot of anecdotes from herself, her family, and comments from readers of her blog. I have heard a bit about her other books like The Happiness Project, and I think I will have to give that one a shot.

If you read Better Than Before, let me know your thoughts-and your tendency!

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