Book Review: Better Than Before

Habits. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, we all have some. Some habits we want to cultivate, others drive us crazy trying to quit. How do you build a life where you can embrace the healthy habits in your life, and send the negative ones far, far away?

Gretchen Rubin, New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness Project, tackles these important questions and more in her latest novel, Better than Before. After reading The Happiness Project and loving it (—> read my review here!), I was excited to check out her newest novel as well.

Better than before

Her latest read definitely didn’t disappoint and I really enjoyed reading through her story, thinking about my own life and habits throughout. I learned that about 40% of our daily behavior in life is repeated! I was surprised at first when I read that statistic, but then I thought about how that was true in my own life. Sure, I repeat a lot of habits without even thinking about them – I have a habit of rolling out of bed and heading straight for the pot of coffee in the kitchen. I have a habit of exercising regularly. I have a habit of vacuuming at least once a week. I have a habit of scrolling through Instagram and Facebook before falling asleep (—> Bad habit, I know!)

As I read through her novel, I found myself asking questions of my own life – what habits did I want to cultivate? To shape? To change? Toss out the window? Some habits we can keep without even thinking about them. Take a shower every day? Yes. Let the dog out? Of course. Other habits require more focus and a heightened sense of effort. I love when she writes, “Habit makes it dangerously easy to become numb to our own existence.” Without focusing on our habits, we can get so caught up in repeating the same activities day in and day out; our lives can even begin to feel mundane and boring.

Towards the end, Gretchen reminds her readers that rarely are picture-perfect transformations achieved when starting new habits. It’s easy to forget this, and become discouraged when we didn’t follow through on the new habit 100% of the time, or quit a negative habit cold turkey. Sometimes I think I have to literally change my entire life when starting a new habit; I tend to jump into things too quickly sometimes and think I have to be 150% committed to something. While high expectations are great, perfection is unattainable for any of us. Habits are behaviors or routines that are repeated again and again. The habit started because you made a series of intentional choices at the beginning to engage in a behavior, until you were doing it unconsciously and it became a habit. But the thing about forming these habits is that it does take time. You have to make choices to go to the gym over and over until it’s part of your routine; you have to make choices to set your alarm earlier so you have time to walk the dog in the morning until it’s not even an option for you to not get up at 5 a.m., or 6 a.m. (whatever the case may be for you!). When thinking about new habits we want to start, it’s easy to forget that it does take time. It takes time to cultivate and shape new behaviors. On the other hand, it may take time as well to stop bad habits. When you decide to replace a bad habit with a new one (i.e. eat an apple for a snack instead of apple pie), you might mess up along the way. You might choose the apple 6 times, and the apple pie 4 times. But you know what? You’re thinking about it, working towards something. And choosing an apple 6 times for your snack is 6 more times than you were eating an apple before!

So as I read this book, one major takeaway I had was this: the process of forming habits or replacing habits with others is just that – a process. I love Gretchen’s advice on this as she says, “Usually we end up in a place that’s better than before. And that’s enough.” I’ve always loved the mantra, “Progress, not perfection,” which goes along perfectly with the following quote which I’ve come to love.


If you’re focusing on  making progress in life and actively working towards continuing healthy habits and cultivating new ones, then you’re living with intention. You’re living your life in such a way that shows you have a desire to be better than before. And when you live with this intention, your life will never be numb.

Let’s Chat!

  • Have you read “Better than Before” yet? What did you think?
  • What healthy habits do you have in life?
  • What tips have you used to start/stop a habit in your life?

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