I love Jesus. I love my husband. And right after those men, I love efficiency and organization. So, when I saw Better Than Before being given away on Goodreads, I immediately registered. I had not read Gretchen Rubin’s other books, only because they had never appealed to me. But this book surely did.
A book about habits and how they streamline life? Sold.
Well, mostly sold. I suppose I did approach this Better Than Before with the slightest hesitation, only because Rubin isn’t issuing from a Christian worldview. It felt helpful to keep my guard up just a bit; this was proven necessary when the author wrote numerous times about mind-emptying meditation. (Note: Christians aren’t to meditate to empty their minds, but to fill them with Truth.) But other than a handful of questionable suggestions—mostly revolving around a person being their own permanent change agent—I found this book to be immensely insightful. As I read, I could feel the Lord using it to help me prioritize and reorganize necessary parts of my life that I have been approaching with sloppiness or a lack of enthusiasm. (Funny how those two things feed one another.)
Better Than Before is presented in five sections, which I found to be organized quite effectively. Rubin begins by helping the reader to reflect on the tendencies (how she responds to expectations) that are already ingrained in her. It turns out that I am a Questioner, Owl, Sprinter, Under-buyer, Simplicity-Lover, Opener, and Familiarity-Lover, who is prevention-focused and likes to take small steps (on a goal) instead of big ones. Though I already knew these things about myself, to have them congeal in front of my eyes into a portrait of ME was extremely helpful in recognizing habitual sin patterns and unhelpful (but not necessarily harmful) habits that I have allowed to persist over time. Knowing what I value allows me to determine if I even value the right things! From there, I can move to working on tweaking my habits to make my life more streamlined.
Rubin indicates at least a couple of times that the reason one creates habits to streamline her life is to make her more available for her family and to act on things that reflect her values. Though I suspect we value different things in many ways, I agree with her premise.
Next, Rubin walks through how to start a new habit—when to start it, how to maximize your ability to follow through and keep the habit, how to monitor your success (without obsessing), and even how to recover when (not if) you stumble. I feel that Rubin does a fantastic job of setting realistic expectations for the reader; she persistently addresses the typical strengths and pitfalls of each of the four Tendencies that she sets forth in the first section.
Generally, I found that Better Than Before has inspired me to evaluate my priorities and insure that I am living out my values each day. Though I believe that lasting change comes by the Spirit of God, I do believe it is my responsibility to insure that my life is one that glorifies the Lord. And for me, I believe Better Than Before has helped me do just that.
Soli Deo gloria,
*I received a free copy of this book through a Goodreads giveaway! In exchange, I have provided my honest opinion of Better Than Before.