Better Than Before

better than before jacketBetter Than Before: Mastering the Habit of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin

The author of The Happiness Project turns her attention to the way we shape our lives with habits, in both positive and negative ways. Rubin’s research shows that one method of creating good habits doesn’t work for everyone. There is a quiz to determine the reader’s tendency or personality type. I don’t seem to fit into her categories of Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, but many readers may find this helpful. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg is a more thought-provoking book about habit formation, but Rubin’s book is more practical, full of personal anecdotes about how the author and her extended family found that successfully making new habits can greatly affect their lives. One insight I learned from Better Than Before is that restarting a habit, such as exercise, can be more difficult than starting it in the first place. For more information about habits and happiness, visit the author’s website.

The Power of Habit

The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg

The sheer variety of topics covered in this books is astounding. We learn about how riots can be avoided, how Starbucks gives its employees the tools to succeed, how the Montgomery bus boycott was sustained, why Alcoholics Anonymous works for many people, and how market researchers can predict our future shopping and buying habits. I listened to the audiobook, narrated skillfully by Mike Chamberlain, and really enjoyed most of the book. There are two sections toward the end that were very disturbing to listen to: how a woman became a compulsive gambler and the steps the casino took to entice her, and how a man committed a terrible crime while asleep. The story about how a brain-damaged man gets through his day by habit was very interesting.

Charles Duhigg gives readers the tools to create new habits, and to attempt the more difficult task of changing an existing habit. If you have a habit you want to break, it’s best to substitute a new habit. Identify what cues trigger your habit, such as location, time of day, or mood, and try to figure out what your true reward is. For the author a mid-afternoon craving for a cookie actually turned out to be a desire to chat with his coworkers. Then substitute a new routine for the current one, which will result in a similar reward. Find out more at