Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives

Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives

by Gretchen Rubin

Better Than Before equips you with the necessary tools to develop and sustain habits that will transform your life for the better. Delving into the psychology of habit formation, you'll learn how to make effective decisions that lead to better habits and break the bad ones. With the help of the practical strategies presented in this book, you can cultivate a healthier and more fulfilling life while also achieving success.

Summary Notes

Determining Your Tendency

The Four Tendencies Framework is a tool that helps individuals understand their beliefs and how they respond to expectations. The framework divides people into four categories: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels.

Upholders are individuals who readily meet both inner and outer expectations. They are self-motivated, dependable, and adhere to both internal and external rules.

Questioners, on the other hand, question both outer and inner expectations and will only meet them if they believe they are justified.

Obligers respond readily to outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations. They may struggle with self-motivation and need external accountability to stay on track.

Finally, Rebels resist both outer and inner expectations, often wanting to do things in their own way and on their own terms.

When trying to form a new habit, it's important to understand how an individual responds to expectations, both inner and outer. This way, they can tailor their habits to their natural tendencies, saving themselves from wasting energy on unproductive approaches.

For example, Obligers might find it helpful to create external accountability through a partner or coach when forming new habits, while Upholders may need to learn to be flexible and not hold themselves to such rigid expectations.

Actions to take

Utilizing the Pillars of Habits

William James, a famous American philosopher and psychologist, once noted that a person's life is a collection of habits that ultimately shape their destiny. The habits we develop over time can be incredibly powerful, impacting our overall well-being, success, and happiness. However, not all habits are beneficial, and some may even hinder our progress. That's where the Pillars of Habits come in.

The Pillars of Habit is a set of four strategies that can be utilized to ensure that our habits are organized for our benefit and help us reach our goals. These strategies include Monitoring, Foundation, Scheduling, and Accountability.

The first strategy, Monitoring, emphasizes the importance of accurately tracking our habits. Accurate monitoring helps us determine whether a habit is worth the time, money, or energy it consumes. By measuring our progress, we become more self-aware, which ultimately strengthens our self-control. However, it's important to note that there's no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to monitoring habits. The most effective tracking tool or strategy depends on our Tendency.

The second strategy, Foundation, involves focusing on foundational habits that directly strengthen self-control. These habits, such as getting enough sleep, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy diet, reinforce each other and serve as a strong foundation for the formation of other good habits. By prioritizing these foundational habits, individuals can create a strong base from which to build and maintain positive habits that align with their values and goals.

The third strategy, Scheduling, emphasizes the importance of setting a consistent schedule for our habits. This means establishing a specific time and place for our habits and sticking to that schedule as much as possible. However, keep in mind that this strategy may not work for everyone. For example, rebels may find the idea of a strict schedule too confining and may benefit more from a more flexible approach.

The fourth and final strategy, Accountability, emphasizes the need to hold ourselves accountable for our habits. This may involve finding an accountability partner or group, publicly committing to our habits, or establishing consequences for not sticking to our habits. This strategy is particularly important for Obligers, who may struggle to hold themselves accountable without external pressure.

To ensure the effectiveness of these strategies, it's essential to take into account our specific Tendency. For example, while the Scheduling strategy works for most people, it may not work for Rebels, who may benefit more from a more flexible approach. Similarly, the Accountability strategy is essential for Obligers but may not be as effective for other personality types.

By utilizing the Pillars of Habits, we can establish beneficial habits that support our goals and ultimately shape our destinies. Accurate monitoring, a strong foundation, a consistent schedule, and accountability all play critical roles in developing and maintaining positive habits.

Actions to take

Taking Small Steps to Achieve a Goal Successfully

Taking small steps towards a goal is a powerful approach to achieving success. By taking small steps, you are less likely to become overwhelmed, and you can gradually build up your confidence and momentum. Each step you take brings you closer to your goal, and each small success can help you stay motivated and committed.

When achieving a certain goal or building a new habit, the first step is often the most difficult. It can be challenging to get started and easy to put off taking that initial leap. However, this first step is the most important because it sets the tone for the rest of your journey and can determine your level of commitment to your goal.

Actions to take

Abstaining From Pleasure

The desire to make our lives easier and more pleasurable can sometimes conflict with the need to establish good habits. To address this, a strategy called "abstaining" can be utilized.

Abstaining from pleasure doesn't mean giving up everything we enjoy. It simply means exercising self-control and refraining from certain behaviors or indulgences in moderation, which helps us stay focused on our goals. It can also help us develop self-discipline and mindfulness, and become more aware of our actions.

Although abstaining may seem counterintuitive and not suitable for everyone, it can be helpful for certain individuals. People who find it easier to stick to an all-or-nothing approach benefit from abstaining, while those who prefer a more moderate approach benefit from just being "moderators."

Actions to take

The Importance of Clarity

Habit formation is a process that requires clarity of values and clarity of action. When someone has a clear understanding of what they value and what actions they need to take to align with those values, they are more likely to form and maintain healthy habits.

Clarity of values means having a clear understanding of what is important to you and what you prioritize in your life. This includes identifying your goals, aspirations, and beliefs. When you know what you value, you can make decisions that align with those values and create habits that support them.

Meanwhile, clarity of action means having a clear plan for how you will implement your values into your daily life. This includes identifying the specific actions you need to take to achieve your goals and create healthy habits. When you have a clear plan, you are more likely to follow through with your actions and form long-term habits.

When you see the connection between your habits and the values they serve, it becomes easier to stick to those habits. For example, if you value your health, you may create a habit of exercising daily. When you recognize that this habit supports your value of health, you are more likely to continue doing it.

Clarity is also important in identifying false choices and red-herring habits. False choices are when you believe you have to choose between two options when, in reality, there are other options available. Red-herring habits are habits that do not align with your values and goals but distract you from pursuing them. Clarity helps you identify these distractions and focus on the habits that truly matter.

Finally, clarity helps you identify hidden bad habits and unnecessary self-justification. When you have a clear understanding of what you value and the actions that align with those values, it becomes easier to recognize when you are engaging in negative habits or justifying behavior that does not align with your values. This self-awareness allows you to make adjustments and form healthy habits that truly support your values and goals.

Actions to take

Don’t just read. Act.
Read comprehensive summaries and discover carefully compiled action lists for active learning