Looking for a breakthrough in your personal habits and effectiveness?

Change your habits with Gretchen Rubin's "Better Than Before"

Read Gretchen Rubin’s “Better Than Before.” And you will be.

By Roy Harryman

All of us have experienced the back-and-forth of trying to make or break habits.

We want to start doing something good, stop doing something bad or both.

New Year’s resolutions are common times to attempt these things. I have yet to hear about someone actually making and then achieving one of these.

Once we get up the resolve to attempt a positive change, it seems the entire world conspires to break us down.

That’s why I picked up Gretchen Rubin’s “Better Than Before.” It’s not a new book. But it stands alone in its category.

In my experience, most self-help books oriented around habits generally end up saying, “Try harder.” And of course we all try harder for a week or so and then flame out.

Gretchen, on the other hand, brings some new insights into the process of changing. (Gretchen is from Kansas City. Yay! Points for a hometown author now living in the Big Apple.)


You must be you. But the best version.

A key is that we must recognize our individuality.

For example, there are numerous inspiring quotes about how people who get up early in the morning set the world on fire. Gretchen, however, contends that night owls cannot become morning people. Of course you don’t have to stay up until 3 a.m. But, in general, some people’s body clocks run faster at night and sluggishly in the morning. Don’t fight it. Make it work for you, she says.

In addition, we all have different motivations. She identifies four types of people:

  • Upholders respond to inner expectations and the expectation of others.

  • Questioners respond to inner expectations but resist the expectations of others.

  • Obligers respond to the expectations of others but resist their own personal expectations.

  • Rebels resist the expectations of others and themselves.

This was a breakthrough for me in understanding why some people can decide to train for and run a marathon all by themselves and others can’t seem do anything without a supportive group around them. It’s simply how we’re wired. An extremely athletic person may hate working out or jogging. But she may thrive in a softball league. It comes down to what motivates us and tugs at our heartstrings.

Understanding these motivators can also help us to protect ourselves from over-commitment (or lack of commitment). Upholders may have trouble saying no. Rebels have trouble saying yes. Knowledge of self is invaluable.

Gretchen’s book is so chock full of insights there’s no way I can do it justice here. Get it. Read it. But I can’t finish without a final word (from Gretchen).

Making decisions is exhausting. Habits should require no deliberation. “Am I going to get up at 6 a.m. or 6:30 p.m.? Can I have fries today? Should I go to the gym?” These inner conversations wear us down. Effective habits have no decision, no internal dialogue. You just do them.

So get the book.

Roy Harryman is the principle of Roy Harryman Marketing Communications, a firm that helps small business and non-profits communicate their unique value to customers and prospects.