Last week, I had the immense thrill of meeting Gretchen Rubin in person. She came to our area as part of her book tour promoting Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives. I brought my husband, who wasn’t familiar with her work, so I know it’s not just my biased opinion that she is captivating and very gracious. If you get a chance to hear her speak, go for it. If not, her books are a reasonable substitute. The new podcast with Gretchen and her sister is also really funny.
Our event was structured as an interview, rather than a typical reading. The interviewer offered one of her own idiosyncratic habits for analysis. She said she kept clothes in her bathtub, both clean and dirty. This is a new one on me, but I instantly thought, “That’s my question! She’s definitely one of my people.” A habit like that doesn’t usually exist in a vacuum. I wondered how anyone could give a useful answer without touring the entire home and looking in the closets. But Gretchen Rubin did it.
The book is a tour de force. I don’t hesitate in saying that. I would rank it with Mindset by Carol Dweck, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, and The End of Overeating by Dr. David Kessler, in the category of research-based books that can’t help but change one’s outlook on life. The insight about the Four Tendencies probably could have supported its own book, but that’s just the first chapter.
I’m a Questioner, and my husband is an Upholder. (I think his mom and his daughter are also Upholders, which is really interesting because I suspect Upholders are trained that way, in a secret philosophical lineage). The book mentions that Obligers and Rebels often partner together, and I wonder whether Upholders and Questioners do, too. Our scores were fairly close: in the Upholder category, he scored 10 and I scored 7; in the Questioner category, he scored 7 and I scored 9. We were both weak in the other categories. [Take the quiz online if you’re curious]. We’ve already started trying to guess the tendencies of other people we know, which is useful, especially in the workplace.
Anyway, enough about us. This is about Better Than Before. This book is absolutely jam-packed with insight and anecdotes and strategies. There really is something for everyone. It’s comforting to read examples of other people’s habits and think, Whoa, at least I don’t have to tackle that! For anyone who has ever tried to make or break a habit, but can’t seem to do it, this is the book. I mean, THIS IS THE BOOK.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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