Resolutions are pointless, because we never stick to them… right? Wrong. [Book Review]

Habits. Is anyone good at making AND keeping them?

If you’re like me, you’ve tried New Year’s Resolutions. You’ve tried quitting bad habits cold turkey. You’ve tried cutting back, making rules, changing routines, and clearing out cabinets, but none of it really worked.

Habits are for other people, the ones to whom they come easily, right?

According to Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and the book I’m reviewing today, making and breaking habits comes down to who you are as a person – and everyone can do it.

cover of Gretchen Rubin's Better Than Before

Book Description

The author of the blockbuster New York Times bestsellers, The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, tackles the critical question: How do we change? 

Gretchen Rubin’s answer: through habits. Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life. It takes work to make a habit, but once that habit is set, we can harness the energy of habits to build happier, stronger, more productive lives.

So if habits are a key to change, then what we really need to know is: How do we change our habits?

Better than Before answers that question. It presents a practical, concrete framework to allow readers to understand their habits—and to change them for good. Infused with Rubin’s compelling voice, rigorous research, and easy humor, and packed with vivid stories of lives transformed, Better than Before explains the (sometimes counter-intuitive) core principles of habit formation.

Along the way, Rubin uses herself as guinea pig, tests her theories on family and friends, and answers readers’ most pressing questions—oddly, questions that other writers and researchers tend to ignore:

• Why do I find it tough to create a habit for something I love to do?
• Sometimes I can change a habit overnight, and sometimes I can’t change a habit, no matter how hard I try. Why?
• How quickly can I change a habit?
• What can I do to make sure I stick to a new habit?
• How can I help someone else change a habit?
• Why can I keep habits that benefit others, but can’t make habits that are just for me?

Whether readers want to get more sleep, stop checking their devices, maintain a healthy weight, or finish an important project, habits make change possible. Reading just a few chapters of Better Than Before will make readers eager to start work on their own habits—even before they’ve finished the book.

My Rating

I was skeptical about this book, because it sounds like all the others I’ve read before: a quick fix that won’t actually work. But after reading it, I feel like maybe I judged it too quickly.

The basis of this book is in the four personality types, or “Tendencies,” Rubin identified: Upholder, Questioner, Rebel, and Obliger. She says that once you know yourself – and she provides a quiz at the end of her book to identify your tendency – you can figure out what do to make or break your habits for good.

(For those who might be wondering, I took the quiz and found out that I am an Obliger.)

I can’t say if this is the best book for habit change, because I have only read it – I haven’t lived it. But I will. Starting January 1st, I’ll be going through all the tips for Obligers Rubin laid out in the book and making changes in my life. I’ll report back when I have results.

For now, I give this book five of five stars for making me think it just might work, and giving me a LOT of food for thought. I recommend it to anyone who wants to make or break a habit, who thinks they will never be able to hold onto New Year’s Resolutions, or who just love reading self-help books, like I do.
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Want more reviews? Check out all the other books I’ve reviewed in the last three years on my book review master list.