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"Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives" by Gretchen Rubin

Explore key insights from "Better Than Before" by Gretchen Rubin on mastering life-changing habits.
"Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives" by Gretchen Rubin

"Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives" by Gretchen Rubin is a comprehensive guide on how to understand and harness the power of habits to improve one's life. Rubin explores how habits are formed, why they are integral to our well-being, and how we can change them. She emphasizes the individual nature of habit formation, arguing that understanding one's own tendencies is key to creating lasting habits.


Psychological Foundations and the Four Tendencies

At the heart of Rubin's analysis is her original framework of the Four Tendencies, which classifies people based on how they respond to expectations:

  1. Upholders respond well to both outer expectations and inner ones.
  2. Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense.
  3. Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves.
  4. Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike.

This categorization is pivotal because it dictates the strategies that individuals might find most effective in forming new habits. For instance, Obligers might need external accountability to meet their personal goals, whereas Rebels will likely shun conventional goal-setting techniques in favor of approaches that affirm their freedom and individuality.

Strategies for Habit Formation

Rubin introduces concrete strategies that can aid in habit formation, tailored to fit different tendencies. These include:

  • Monitoring: Keeping close track of one’s behavior to enhance self-regulation.
  • Foundation: Focusing on pivotal habits that reinforce others, such as sleep and exercise.
  • Scheduling: Establishing specific times for activities to make them automatic.
  • Accountability: Creating external consequences for failing to act on one’s intentions.

She emphasizes that these strategies do not exist in isolation but are most effective when they align with an individual's natural inclinations and lifestyle.

The Interplay of Habits and Happiness

Rubin argues that habits are a key component of happiness. By automating positive behaviors, individuals can reduce the mental effort needed to make healthy choices, leaving more energy for other pursuits and reducing stress. Moreover, successful habit formation often leads to improved self-esteem as individuals see themselves succeeding in making beneficial changes.

Tailoring Approaches to Individual Needs

One of the most compelling aspects of Rubin's philosophy is her insistence on the uniqueness of each individual’s habit formation process. She argues against a one-size-fits-all solution and advocates for a personalized approach that considers personal quirks and lifestyle. For example, she discusses the concept of "abstainers" vs. "moderators" in dealing with temptations, suggesting that knowing which category one falls into can significantly enhance the ability to maintain good habits.

Critique and Contributions

While Rubin’s framework is highly useful, some critics might argue that the Four Tendencies oversimplify complex human behaviors or that her strategies largely depend on self-awareness and motivation levels that can vary widely among individuals. However, her contribution lies in synthesizing a range of habit-related research into an accessible and applicable guide for personal development.

Rubin's work in "Better Than Before" offers robust insights into the mechanics of habit formation and modification. It stands out as a practical manual for those looking to make meaningful changes in their routines and behaviors, supported by a deep understanding of psychological tendencies. This book not only aids personal growth but also offers tools for leaders and managers to better understand and motivate their teams, making it a versatile resource in the realms of personal and professional development.

Key Takeaways and Insights

🌟 Know Thyself: Understand your tendency (Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, Rebel) to tailor habits that stick.
📘 Foundation Habits: Focus on key habits that will have the most impact on your life, like sleep, exercise, eating right, and uncluttering.
Scheduling: If it's on the calendar, it's more likely to get done. Schedule habits to ensure consistency.
🔍 Monitoring: Keep track of your behaviors to manage and improve them effectively.
🔄 Accountability: Share your goals with someone else; accountability can significantly boost your commitment.
🎯 First Steps: Start small and build gradually. The initial step is often the hardest.
🔄 Abstaining vs. Moderating: Know which strategy works best for you to avoid bad habits.
🔄 Convenience: Make good habits convenient and bad habits inconvenient.
🎈 Treats: Motivate yourself with healthy treats that do not conflict with your goals.
💡 Clarity: Clear out the ambiguities; knowing exactly what you need to do makes implementation easier.


This book is ideal for individuals looking to improve their productivity and well-being through better habits. It’s particularly useful for those who enjoy structured guidance and those curious about the psychological aspects of habit formation. Managers and leaders can also benefit from understanding different tendencies to better motivate their teams.

Alternative Books

  1. "Atomic Habits" by James Clear - Offers practical strategies for forming good habits, breaking bad ones, and mastering the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results.
  2. "The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg - Explores how habits work and how they can be transformed to profoundly impact businesses, communities, and lives.
  3. "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen R. Covey - Provides a holistic approach to personal and professional effectiveness by aligning oneself with principles of a character ethic.
  4. "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success" by Carol S. Dweck - Discusses how a simple yet profound shift in mindset can significantly affect all areas of life.
  5. "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us" by Daniel H. Pink - Investigates the transformation of motivation and how it can be harnessed to foster greater satisfaction in our lives and work.
About the author


Decoge is a tech enthusiast with a keen eye for the latest in technology and digital tools, writing reviews and tutorials that are not only informative but also accessible to a broad audience.

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