Better Than Before

I’m not going to lie. It was a struggle to read this book. I do love Gretchen Rubin but sometimes I don’t want to think about all my flaws. I want to be imperfect and lazy, and not all uptight and no fun.

On the other hand I do like scientific research in relation to real life. I wish we were born with an instruction manual. Books like these are the next best thing. They make life easier.

How we schedule our days is how we spend our lives.

One part of the book that almost caused me to stop reading was the Four Tendencies concept. I did not agree with it, and I was worried that if I couldn’t get on board with it, that I would disagree with the whole book.

Turns out that you can read the rest of the book without agreeing with this idea. It does crop up but it doesn’t wreck the book.

I also disagreed with her four foundations:

  • Sleep (fine)
  • Move (fine)
  • Eat and drink right (not convinced that this is a deal breaker)
  • Unclutter (really? A foundation? No)

You know Gretchen is kind of a nerd, and there is a cheesy element to this book. At the same time, though, it is like getting the school nerd to do your homework. All the research is there. Just my habits don’t always align with what Gretchen suggests. Again, not a deal breaker.

The key ideas that I liked from the book (which aren’t necessarily new ideas, but I like being reminded of them) are:

Self-control is a crucial aspect of our lives. People with better self-control (or self-regulation, self-discipline, or willpower) are happier and healthier.…. Yet one study suggests that when we try to use self-control to resist temptation, we succeed only about half the time […] And that’s why habits matter so much. With habits, we conserve our self-control.

Why do habits matter? For me, it is this:

When we’re anxious or tired, we fall back on our habits, whether bad or good… For this reason, it’s all the more important to try to shape habits mindfully, so that when we fall back on them at times of stress, we’re following activities that make our situation better, not worse.

For good and bad, habits are the invisible architecture of daily life.

When we change our habits, we change our lives.

We can use decision making to choose the habits we want to form, we can use willpower to get the habit started; then — and this is the best part — we can allow the extraordinary power of habit to take over. We take our hands off the wheel of decision, our foot off the gas of willpower, and rely on the cruise control of habits.

That’s the promise of habit.

See also Brain Pickings.