Wellness Read: a book all about habits just might change your life

When I met Connie Sobchak this summer at a party, she was freshly retired from teaching and I wondered how strange it must feel to suddenly be adrift from all the rhythm and schedules and order that a school provides. Some new habits might be warranted? She shared that she was currently reading a book about habits, and had recommended it to her bookclub, and that’s when I pounced! “Review it for the Wellness Almanac, please?”

Et voila! Very happy to share this guest post. Thanks Connie.

All About Habits

by Connie Sobchak

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Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday LivesGretchen Rubin, author.  Canada:  Doubleday Canada, 2015.  $29.95 (hardcover)

What if altering one’s life were as simple as opening a well stocked toolkit, selecting the right tool for the job and carrying out the alterations with a purpose?

The self-help book, Better Than Before-Mastering the Habits of our Everyday Lives provides the reader with this tool kit.

Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project and several other texts, has done the extensive job of gathering the tools one might need and it is the reader’s job to assess just which of these tools might work best.

Rubin starts by asserting that because habits are actions that we perform somewhat on autopilot, learning to master habits can free us to pursue other activities which might require more brain power.

The  very act of making a decision can be a huge time and energy waster and Rubin has researched many methods of training oneself to make habits out of everyday decisions such as what to eat and when to go to bed in order to be free to consider loftier goals.

She even suggest ways to break down those loftier goals into smaller habits so that the likelihood of following through will be much greater.

As with most self-help books, the key to making it work lies in the reader.

The first step is a process of identification, of noting one’s tendencies when it comes to meeting expectations – for expectations are the precursors to habit formation, she maintains.

These expectations might come from within or they might come from others – as in the case of being on time or accomplishing tasks, for example.


Rubin says that most people fall within four tendencies: Upholder, Questioner, Obliger and Rebel.

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Click on the image above to take Rubin’s online quiz and determine which you are.

She then goes on to provide several contexts through which readers can identify their own tendency.  Prepared with this knowledge, readers can then start the process of creating a plan for habit formation or habit eradication.

A further assertion of Rubin’s is that there are different solutions for different people when it comes to habits.

Just because a friend is able to follow a diet to the letter or never miss a workout, doesn’t mean that you will be able to do it, yet this is not a reason to give up.

Rubin provides many helpful ideas for those who have not been able to create the habits they seek.

The middle section of the book is devoted to delving further into different personality types and different situations in order to help the reader become clearer about which tool to use in order to become successful.

At times, Rubin’s tendency to capitalize and label can be a little overwhelming, but she certainly can not be faulted for not being thorough.

For me, the last chapter of the book summed up the possibilities inherent in the development of habits.

Rubin quotes William James, in Psychology:  Briefer Course:

There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising and going to bed every day and the beginning of every bit of work, are subjects of express volitional deliberation.  Full half the time of such a man goes to the deciding, or regretting, of matters which ought to be so ingrained in him as practically not to exist for his consciousness at all.

In an age where we are faced with so many choices, simplifying the decision making process by creating a habit is a very appealing idea.

Better Than Before gives readers a comprehensive toolkit with which to start working.


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