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Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin - 3 Big Ideas

Updated: Apr 9, 2019

Find out:

  • How to fit habits to your individual personality

  • The four pillars of habits

  • How rewards can be dangerous to habit formation…

Right after this awesome intro:


Habits are awesome. Keep us healthy and striving and sharp and capable all while saving decision making and energy. But why is it so hard for some of us to keep habits?

Well it’s because, Gretchen Rubin says, that habits aren’t one size fits all. They need to be individualized.

And it gets better.

So, what are 3 Things We Can Use from this book?

3 Things You Can Use

1. The Four Tendencies


That is what it’s all about.

How do you respond to inner and outer expectations? The expectations of yourself on yourself and the expectations of others and the world around you… respectively…


You are an upholder if you can’t help but meet the expectations of others (outer) as well as your own.

Habit formation will be much more streamlined for you and lots of the strategies to follow will work.


If things have to make sense to you in order for you to do them, no matter what others expect, then you are a questioner.

So, no new year’s resolutions because, “its an arbitrary day, I’ll resolve when necessary.”

Or you may say something like, “This due date doesn’t make sense to the company, this shouldn’t be due until a week from then.”

You fit all expectations through your inner expectations and if they don’t fit, you don’t do it. Certain strategies will be effective for you and you’ll find out which ones in the next section…


If you are an obliger, you put others’ expectations ahead of your own. You are a people pleaser. That’s easy to understand. It’s that simple.


Pretty sure you can guess this one.

If you’re a rebel, there is no chance you’re doing anything anyone expects you to do and you see routine as being “boxed in.”

You resist all expectations, inner and outer. You find yourself saying, “Well I was going to do that but then you asked me to…”

Your habits will need to be tempered with a lot of mindset tricks and accessories.

Beyond the tendencies and your responses to expectations, there are other personality distinctions that may affect your habit preferences, that you may want to consider:

Morning lark or night owl?

Does buying things help you to stick to your habits or should you avoid buying things because they don’t make a difference to your level of commitment?

Do you like to work in a quiet place or in a coffee shop with a bustle of activity?

Are you a coffee person or an alcohol person?

Like long stretches of work or small pockets of work?

Once you know your type along with your particular distinctions, you can form habits to your personality.

What a cool idea.

Now fit the most effective strategies to your tendency.

2. The Four Pillars of Habit Formation


“We manage what we monitor.”

Dieters who kept a food journal 6-7 days a week lost twice as much weight as people who did so once a week or not at all.

When we see our results and progress over time, we keep our goal top of mind. That alone, helps us to stay in control, as well as the fact that we can’t otherwise fool ourselves anymore.


Habits require self-control, especially during formation but also sometimes when we’re off - for whatever reason.

Gretchen suggests we form the foundation habits first before we take on other habits, because the foundation habits strengthen our self-control and capability.

We are responsible for figuring out how to optimize these habits, but they are self-explanatory.


  • Sleep

  • Movement

  • Eating and drinking right

  • Uncluttering

This will keep our minds right and our bodies healthy and therefore we will be better prepared and more capable in creating and upholding other habits.




To hold yourself accountable you can hire a coach, or just get yourself an accountability partner. You can join an accountability group or even start a family. Having a family is great for accountability *wink*

If other people holding you accountable doesn’t work, you can try the anti-charity approach:

Pick a deadline. If you haven’t met your goal by that deadline, you must donate a previously decided amount to a charity that funds something you dislike. Like eugenics.

Upholders need very little help in the habits department and can pretty much get by with a weak investment in the pillars - and just a schedule.

Questioners may find they can rely less on being accountable to others but see the other pillars as very useful.

Obligers will find accountability essential.

Rebels will struggle with a schedule and with being held accountable. They must put all they can into monitoring their goals and maintaining a healthy foundation.

So now, you know everything about habits, huh?

You might think so… but here’s a shock:

3. Rewards Are no Bueno

You may want to hold on to your seats for this one.

Take a bunch of kids and give them markers. Tell half the kids they get a reward for coloring and leave the other half to color away on their own.

Run the exercise, break for lunch and then start again, this time with no instructions to either group. Almost none of the kids who were rewarded for coloring before will choose to color. But plenty of the kids from the group who colored for no reward will choose to color.

“Rewards have very complex consequences”

A reward teaches that you aren’t doing this activity for its own sake – but only to earn a reward. You associate the activity itself with “imposition, deprivation or suffering.” This is well documented.

And, just to mention it, the ones who were rewarded for coloring put less effort into their drawings.

This is all about a difference in motivation. Outer motivation is less effective than inner motivation. Outer motivation is carrots and sticks, inner motivation is intrinsic <<< It can be, challenge, curiosity, control, fantasy, cooperation, competition or recognition – and as implied, is more effective.

As applied to the types: Upholders are generally more motivated by control, questioners by curiosity, obligers by cooperation and rebels by challenge.

And similar to rewards, finish lines mess you up.

A finish line tells us that success has been reached.

I’ll write every morning for a week, and then I won’t. How bout I eat a healthy lunch every day until March, and then I won’t.  I’ll stop drinking for a month.

Watch out for rewards and finish lines. If they’re necessary, use mental notes to keep yourself from making negative associations with the behavior itself.

The reward is the behavior along with its consequences.

Reap what you sow. Don’t sow and then eat cake to reward yourself for sowing.


Understand how you meet expectations and craft your habits accordingly

Take advantage of the four pillars of habits in accordance with your tendency.

Be careful of rewards and finish lines because they don’t have a good effect if habit formation is your goal.

This was a cool and creative book. I like her style too.

Style-wise, most of the people who write these books are like, “I’m better than you and here’s why.” But she’s like, “Yeah I’m better than you but you can be too.”

That’s nice.

She has a quiz online to test for your tendency – so I’ll link that up below.

This book was a suggestion!

If you’d like to leave a suggestion for a book for us to do next, leave it as a comment!

Oh and…

Subscribe if you haven’t already so you don’t miss next week’s video! And-

We’ll see you next week!


Want to Read it?

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(These links give me a little bump if you decide to use them. Thank you!)

Gretchen Rubin's 4 Tendencies Quiz


Music from and Youtube Audio Library

Images from

"30 days" bit from The Simpsons

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