Friday, July 21, 2017

2017 Reading Quest 20

Book:  Better Than Before.
Author: Gretchen Rubin

Info: Copyright 2015: Farmington Hills, MI:  Thorndike Press

Rating (on a scale of 1-4 stars):  ✮ 1/2

Where Acquired:  Library check out.

What it's about:  Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project presents her detailed study of habits.  Through her studies, she's developed her own brand of the personality assessment known as the "four tendencies."  Rubin explores the relationship between these tendencies and how habits are made or broken.

Favorite Quotes: 

"There's no magic formula--not for ourselves and not for the people around us.  We won't make ourselves more creative and productive by copying other people's habits, even the habits of geniuses, we must know our own nature, and what habits serve us best." - p. 83

"Many strategies help us change our habits, and four strategies tower above the others:  Monitoring, Foundation, Scheduling, and Accountability.  They're so ubiquitous and familiar that it's easy to take them for granted--but they're invaluable." - p 85

"Research suggests that when we have conflicting goals, we don't manage ourselves well.  We become anxious and paralyzed, and most often we end up doing nothing." - p. 370

"When we do stumble, it's important not to judge ourselves harshly.  Although some people assume that strong feelings of guilt or shame act as safeguards to help people stick to good habits, the opposite is true.  People who feel less guilt and who show compassion toward themselves in the face of failure are better able to regain self-control, while people who feel deeply guilty and full of self-blame struggle more." p. 275

What I liked:
  • The four tendencies framework was interesting.
  • No aside boxes.
  • It was well written as far as grammar and mechanics goes.
  • The tips and strategies for dealing with habits was helpful.
What I didn’t like: 
  • The author starts out the book by saying that she wasn't going to tell the reader what habits to cultivate, yet spends most of the book telling us what habits to cultivate (and not cultivate).
  • Rubin makes some very sweeping statements that just aren't true, and some that are just plain ridiculous.  For example, she asserts on page 117 that exercise doesn't promote weight loss.  No, exercise alone doesn't promote weight loss (but it does promote fitness and health); it must be coupled with a balanced, healthy, sustainable diet.   Also, on pages 120 and 121, she arrogantly assumes that people who want to form the habit of drinking more water are wasting their time.  Says who, other than her?  She just said earlier that everyone's habit formation doesn't look the same.  Maybe people are trying to drink more water to substitute for drinking less of something unhealthy like soft drinks or alcohol.   She also contradicts these statements when she confesses that she exercises and eats low carb because she was concerned about her weight and that she consumes mass quantities of diet soda instead of water.  Mighty convenient, don't you think?
  • Yes, Gretchen, we know you're an upholder and better than everyone else.  You don't have to remind us in every chapter.
  • Speaking of arrogance, the attitude of this book borders on downright insulting.  In one such barb on page 128, Rubin cites a study about outer order contributing to inner calm and creativity.  She was going along fine until she inserted this little nugget, "I love to throw in research--it's more convincing to people if I can cite a study."  Do what?
  • Look, I'm working hard at not being too harsh with this book, but she asked for it.  It gets much worse...and personal.  I was dealing well with the condescending attitude of Rubin's writing until I came across this little ditty on page 400,  "We can get locked into identities that aren't good for us; 'a workaholic,' 'a perfectionist,' 'a Southerner...'  **record scratch** HOLD UP! WTH?!  Since when is being a Southerner an identity that isn't good for someone?  What WAS her point?  Oh, she's messed in her Easter bonnet now!

  • My first try at this book was the audio version, which the author read herself.  Oy vey!  I couldn't stomach the snide attitude that came through, so I decided to trudge through the large print version. 
  • Some chapter numbers would be nice.
  • This book suffers from the same problem as The Happiness Project: Rubin quotes a lot of research, but cites no sources for it.  She gives suggestions for further reading, so I guess that's something.

I didn't know what the word dilettante meant until I read this book.  Rubin has a lot of interesting and informative acquired knowledge, but not a lot of wisdom as to how to relay her ideas without sounding like a jackass!  (There's that ghetto thug again). 

So why did I read the book?  I'd read her book The Happiness Project and enjoyed it.  The review is here if you're interested.  I also enjoy her podcast Happier.  I think the problem is that unlike her podcast, this book doesn't have the buffer of another person's perspective.  Her sister, Elizabeth, is the co-host of Happier. Her laid back, accepting attitude tempers Rubin's air of vast superiority and make listening more enjoyable.

I really like Gretchen Rubin's ideas.  But the book was less about the reader becoming better than before and more about Gretchen letting us know she was better than everyone else.

OK, I think the horse is dead now.  On to the next book.

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