A NOTE TO THE READER
Better Than Before tackles the question: How do we change ? One answer-by using habits.
Habits are the invisible architecture of daily life. We repeat about 40 percent of our behavior almost daily, so our habits shape our existence, and our future. If we change our habits, we change our lives.
But that observation just raises another question: Okay, then, how do we change our habits ? That's what this book seeks to answer.
But while Better Than Before explores how to change your habits, it won't tell you what particular habits to form. It won't tell you to exercise first thing in the morning, or to eat dessert twice a week, or to clear out your office. (Well, actually, there is one area where I do say what habit I think is best. But only one.)
The fact is, no one-size-fits-all solution exists. It's easy to dream that if we copy the habits of productive, creative people, we'll win similar success. But we each must cultivate the habits that work for us . Some people do better when they start small; others when they start big. Some people need to be held accountable; some defy account- ability. Some thrive when they give themselves an occasional break from their good habits; others when they never break the chain. No wonder habit formation is so hard.
The most important thing is to know ourselves , and to choose the strategies that work for us.
Before you begin, identify a few habits that you'd like to adopt, or changes you'd like to make. Then, as you read, consider what steps you want to try. You may even want to note today's date on your book's flyleaf, so you'll remember when you began the process of change.
To help you shape your habits, I regularly post suggestions on my blog, and I've also created many resources to help you make your life better than before. But I hope that the most compelling inspiration is the book you hold in your hands.
I see habits through the lens of my own experience, so this ac- count is colored by my particular personality and interests. "Well," you might think, "if everyone forms habits differently, why should I bother to read a book about what someone else did?"
During my study of habits and happiness, I've noticed something surprising: I often learn more from one person's idiosyncratic experiences than I do from scientific studies or philosophical treatises. For this reason, Better Than Before is packed with individual examples of habit changes. You may not be tempted by Nutella, or travel too much for work, or struggle to keep a gratitude journal, but we can all learn from each other.
It's simple to change habits, but it's not easy.
I hope that reading Better Than Before will encourage you to harness the power of habits to make change in your own life. Whenever you read this, and wherever you are, you're in the right place to begin.
IT'S NOT ENOUGH TO BEGIN
Some habit-formation strategies are familiar and obvious-like Monitoring or Scheduling-but others took me more time to understand. As I studied habits, I slowly began to recognize the tremendous importance of the time of beginning.
The most important step is the first step . All those old sayings are really true. Well begun is half done. Don't get it perfect, get it going. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Nothing is more exhausting than the task that's never started, and strangely, starting is often far harder than continuing .
That first step is tough. Every action has an ignition cost: getting myself to the gym and changed into my gym clothes can be more challenging than actually working out. That's why good habits are a tremendous help: they make the starting process automatic.
Without yet having a name for it, in fact, I'd invoked the power of the Strategy of First Steps as I was starting to write this book.
"We are totally comfortable calling Gretchen Rubin's new book, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, life-changing."
-Better Homes & Gardens
"If anyone can help us stop procrastinating, start exercising or get organized, it's Gretchen Rubin. The happiness guru takes a sledgehammer to old-fashioned notions about change."
"It's exciting to find a self-help book that's not only full of eye-opening insight but also provides practical tips to help you procrastinate and stress less, exercise and eat more healthfully, and spend time on activities that matter. We're really glad that Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, decided to investigate her affinity for habits, because in the process she's come up with a great guide to help us lay the foundation of a more satisfying life. Best of all, Better Than Before is a really fun read-Rubin's friendliness, candor, and humor mirror a lively conversation with a best friend." -Apple iBooks
"The Happiness Project lays out life's essential goals...Her new book, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, serves as a kind of detailed instruction manual on how to achieve them." -New York Times Sunday Book Review
"In Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, Gretchen Rubin picks up where [William] James left off, integrating a wealth of insight from psychology, sociology, and anthropology in an illuminating field guide to harnessing the transformative power of habit in modern life."
"Change can be good. Particularly if it helps us live longer, healthier, indeed, happier lives - the objective of Rubin's latest project."
"Author Gretchen Rubin says most people fall into one of four motivation types. Knowing yours is key to taking on new habits."
"Gretchen Rubin... [is] lighthearted and inviting-full of insights that sound familiar and advice that sounds less like what you should do and more like what you want to do.... With her focus on taking first steps and creating early successes, this is a refreshing take on how to change stubborn patterns that limit what we can enjoy about our lives." -Audiofile Magazine
"Do you have a bad habit you're trying to shake, or a good one you wish you could cultivate? Gretchen Rubin is one of the most charming and erudite authors of her generation. Here, she uses her gifts to help you eat right, sleep well, stop procrastinating, and start enjoying all that life has to offer."
-Susan Cain, New York Times bestselling author of Quiet
"Gretchen Rubin combines deep research and observations from her own life to explain how habits emerge and-more important-how they can change. It's indispensable for anyone hoping to overhaul how they (almost unthinkingly) behave."
-Charles Duhigg, New York Times bestselling author of The Power of Habit
"Filled with insights about our patterns of behavior, Better Than Before addresses one of life's big and timeless questions: how can we transform ourselves? In a way that's thought-provoking, surprising, and often funny, Gretchen Rubin provides us with the tools to build a life that truly reflects our goals and values."
-Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post and New York Times bestselling author of Thrive
"Is there a habit in your life you'd like to change? If so, here's your first step: Read this book. It's loaded with practical, everyday tips and techniques that will guide you to success."
-Dan Heath, New York Times bestselling coauthor of Made to Stick, Switch, and Decisive
"Almost everyone wants to be 'better'-slimmer, smarter, better looking, more interesting, more productive-and we want to know we're improving, we want the reinforcing evidence. Gretchen Rubin's new masterpiece, Better Than Before, shows us how. Unlike other books on habits, Rubin's book gives us the specific tools and a blueprint for getting back on track-the fast track."
Gretchen Rubin, a member of Oprah's SuperSoul 100, is one of the most thought-provoking and influential writers on the linked subjects of habits, happiness, and human nature. She's the author of many books, including the blockbuster New York Times bestsellers, Happier at Home and The Happiness Project. Rubin has an enormous following, in print and online; her books have sold more than a million copies worldwide, in more than thirty languages, and on her popular daily blog, gretchenrubin.com, she reports on her adventures in pursuit of habits and happiness. Her podcast "Happier with Gretchen Rubin" was an iTunes "Best of 2015" pick. She was chosen for the 2016 Oprah Super Soul 100 list. Rubin started her career in law, and was clerking for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor when she realized she wanted to be a writer. She lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters.