Book Review: Better than Before

Gretchen Rubin’s book Better than Before gave me a radically new perspective on why I fail to develop habits and how to change that.  Her book organizes people into four groups, Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebel.  They are based on how you react to external expectation, i.e. what your boss wants of you vs internal expectation i.e. what you want you to do. You can take her quiz here to find out your type quickly before you pick up the book.

Better then Before is an easy read but it covers a lot! The book skips out on the judgement of which category is the best, no one is better than the other, and instead focuses on what you can do to help form new habits.  If you are a questioner, like my brother, making up your mind that you want to do something is going to be enough to get it done.  If you are an obliger, like my mother, having someone hold you accountable for your goals is going to help you. It doesn’t dive too deep into what you can do as a rebel, but never fear because Gretchen Rubin has a fantastic podcast that has episodes dedicated to each identity.  Even if you don’t want to pick up this book I would seriously suggest checking out her podcast. Her podcast focuses on how to increase your daily happiness and covers a variety of topics.

After I read this book and started listening to her podcast, I may have forced my entire family and a large number of friends to take this quiz to help us understand how we all work. I, of course, am a rebel, meaning I don’t respond well to external or internal expectation.  While Rebel is a more rare category it was nice to realize I wasn’t alone in my gut instinct to do the opposite of whatever someone else, or my internal voice, tells me to do.  Sharing this with my mom has helped her change how we interact when she wants me to do something.  My mom is an obliger and when she talks about someone telling her something she doesn’t want to do, my immediate instinct is to tell them to fuck off.  However, that advice isn’t useful to anyone to her and knowing her need to listen to external expectations has helped me be more patient and understanding when she needs to vent.  Vice versa, my mom knowing I am a rebel has changed how she asks me to do something. Instead of saying you should listen to this song, she jokingly tells me I’ll hate it.  While this reverse psychology is a little tongue and cheek, it helped us bond and feel a little more understanding of how we both work.

Better than Before is a good book to pick up if you are trying to understand yourself better and form new habits.  If you need a condensed version check out her quiz and podcast first.  Let me know what you think of this book and what type you are! It’s like a new, cooler, more accurate Myer’s Briggs.


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