Literary Mood Board: Better Than Before - Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives

Gretchen Rubin's Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives

First, an exclamation: can you believe it's June already?! I've always loved this month, but while I'd like to say that it means soaking up the sun, I'm afraid I'll have to wait a few months for San Francisco to gather its fog skirts and realize it should be warm out! (Have you ever heard that quote erroneously attributed to Mark Twain? "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." 😬) While it's not freezing outside like the Montana springs I grew up with, I do feel like I've been spending more time indoors, and have a stack of completed books to prove it!

As I inch toward my birthday, I've noticed that I'm (again) on a self-improvement kick that might be my new normal—proof in this reading list I shared! Up today is Gretchen Rubin's Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives. Rubin is great for questioning, and she provides a set of questions to help you understand your tendencies so you can adjust your habit-building around those. From "Am I a simplicity lover or an abundance lover?" to "What’s most satisfying to me: saving time, or money, or effort?" she gets to the heart of what makes each of us tick.

Another idea she focuses on is doing things now—not later. I know this isn't a new idea by any means, but this is something that I struggle with. I am a stellar procrastinator, if there ever was one! Rubin explains how we try to out-logic ourselves all the time, by justifying our choices so we feel better about putting things off. She also calls us out on the folly of it.

“I have a fantasy of what I’ll be like tomorrow: Future-Gretchen will spontaneously start a good new habit, with no planning and no effort necessary; it’s quite pleasant to think about how virtuous I’ll be, tomorrow. But there is no Future-Gretchen, only Now-Gretchen.”

This quote really hit me. This is exactly how I think, which is embarrassing now that I see it! Calling attention to the fact that we're putting the burden of effort on a version of ourselves that we don't even allow to exist is enlightening and super helpful. Once we know how we operate, we can start making changes.

If you checked out the reading list I shared above, you can see that I'm a big Gretchen Rubin fan. My interest in her writings are mainly because she takes herself as a case study, applies different modes of thinking and daily strategies, and reports back. She also takes the time to understand that what works for her doesn't work for everyone else, and she talks with others to discover what might work for them. The best thing she does, though, is simply help shine a light on life by making us more mindful about what's actually going on in our lives. Instead of leaving a stack of mail on the counter and walking away, as we always do, we realize that future-us isn't going to enjoy it any more than now-us is, so we might as well take care of it. While I've learned a lot about myself from this book, I've also come to better understand my family and friends and why they do what they do. If you're interested in how habits form, improving your habits, and understanding more about different types of people and their habits, pick up Better Than Before.

More thoughts on Gretchen Rubin's work:

Making Meaning: How to Get There

Make it for Yourself

Become Your Life's Narrator

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