Better Than Before Changed My Life

Today I’m sharing how a book by Gretchen Rubin called Better Than Before changed my life and how I got to meet Gretchen herself…

Better Than Before Changed My Life

Super Fan!

I’m a long-time fan of Gretchen Rubin. I first discovered her through her book, The Happiness Project. I went on to read Happier at Home and Better Than Before. I’m signed up to her newsletter and daily happiness quote emails and I regularly listen to the podcast she hosts alongside her sister Elizabeth Craft.

If you haven’t heard of her I really recommend trying out her podcast or one of her books ASAP! Especially if you want to do something to improve your life in 2018.

An Evening Adventure…

On Monday evening, after dark (so sometime after 3pm…thanks British Winter!), I took myself off on a little adventure. I travelled into London to see Gretchen Rubin speak about her newest book – The Four Tendencies. Gretchen explained the Four Tendencies and how they work together (or not!) and answered questions from the audience.

After Gretchen’s talk I joined the back of the queue to get my copy of The Four Tendencies signed. As I worked my way up the queue I knew I wouldn’t have long to talk and wondered what I should say. In the end I told her my name so she could sign my book, asked for a photo (which came out so blurry!) and then declared “Better Than Before Changed My Life!” I didn’t want to hold up the remaining queuers so made my way out after a very brief chat.

Gretchen Rubin and I

How Better Than Before Changed my Life

As I wandered back to the tube station to start the journey home I gave it a lot of thought. I knew the book had changed my life…but how specifically had it done so?

Better Than Before is all about how we can make good habits and break bad ones. In it, Gretchen shares strategies for how to change your habits to make your life better. I read it in the summer of 2016 just after our arrival back in the UK. My life was completely up in the air, upside down and turned inside out. And as I read about the strategy of the clean slate I realised I was in the perfect position to take advantage of this.

Much of what I read in the book resonated with me. I started to get a better understanding of why I was struggling to achieve goals that were so important to me and what I could do to help me reach my aspirations.

My name’s Katie and I’m an Obliger…

One of the first sections of the book talks about the Four Tendencies framework which groups people by their relationship with internal and external expectations. The Four Tendencies are:

  • Upholder,
  • Questioner,
  • Obliger and
  • Rebel

There’s a quiz you can do here to find out which tendency is yours.

I came out as an Obliger which I felt a bit disgruntled about. The definition of an Obliger is someone who meets outer expectations and resists inner expectations. Basically I’m great at doing things for other people but not for myself. It explains a lot!

Knowing my tendency and learning more about the strategies to build great habits has helped me immensely.

I’ve learnt to find some outer accountability to help me achieve my goals. Here are some examples:

  • I joined Slimming World to help me lose weight.

This was a combination of the clean slate strategy I noted above and also getting outer accountability. I volunteer as a helper at the group so someone else is depending on me to go! This means that even if I’ve had a lousy week I still button up my coat and go along as I don’t want to let anyone down!

I committed to posting a picture every day through January to confirm I’d done my daily practice. I ended up posting daily until around 60 days then at various milestones throughout the year.

  • When I wanted to increase my writing and be more serious about it I created this blog.

Committing to posting a couple of times a week got me that outer accountability I needed to sit at the laptop and get the words out.

  • For NaNoWriMo I declared my intention here on the blog and on social media.

I also committed to attending write in’s where I would be with other writers…interestingly some of my most productive writing time was at the write-in’s!

This is an interesting one because it’s something I do for myself and I don’t have anyone checking to see if I’ve done it. On the Happier podcast they’ve talked about little tricks Obligers can use to get outer accountability and I think I unknowingly used one (when I first started this habit before I read the book and knew I was an Obliger). The trick is to imagine your future self as an external source. I am doing my morning pages every day because my future self will be happier as a result!

Other strategies from the book that have worked for me

  • Pairing

I decided to pair my desire to walk more regularly with the school run. I now walk several times a week – either walking to school with my son and then home alone, or I drop him at school and then go for a walk before I jump back in the car to come home.

  • Treats

I set myself treats (rewards) throughout NaNoWriMo at milestone word counts.

  • Monitoring

I created trackers in my Bullet Journal to monitor my yoga practices and my daily self nurturing activities.

  • Scheduling

When I want to commit to a habit I add it as a recurring appointment in my calendar. I have one set at the moment to join in with a Year End Review Instagram challenge.

Have you read it?

I am sure if I thought long enough I’d be able to come up with plenty more ways that Better Than Before changed my life. I am looking forward to picking up more tips in The Four Tendencies book – especially in how my husband (a Rebel – resists outer and inner expectations – the trickiest tendency to understand) and I (an Obliger) can work better together!

If you haven’t read Better Than Before I would wholeheartedly recommend it!