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Reading "Better Than Before" as a Rebel

Gretchen Rubin's habit creating handbook hits a little different as a rebel

By Jolene PoulinPublished 2 months ago 4 min read
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Gretchen Rubin's "Better Than Before" taken in front of my bookshelf

Being a rebel is hard. If you don't know what that means, or you don't know if you're a rebel, I suggest you pause here, take the "Four Tendencies Quiz" here, and then come back. The quiz takes three minutes to take and revealed so much about me to myself.

So you're a rebel. Or maybe you're not, odds are you're an obliger or a questioner. But if you're a rebel, you know just how hard it is to make new habits. Rebels resist inner and outer expectations and mostly do things out of the need to be authentically themselves. This makes starting new tasks really difficult.

Gretchen has tons of great strategies for starting a new habit, such as centering them around your foundation (sleep, move, eat and drink right, unclutter), scheduling a habit, or tacking a new habit onto an existing one. These strategies mostly work for the other tendencies and she'll even mention in her book when a strategy isn't geared towards rebels. And that's most of them.

So you would not believe how happy I was when I finally came a cross a strategy that was adapted to rebels. I was so happy, I texted my mom about it. You can ask her.

This strategy is the strategy of Identity. Since rebels find purpose in doing things that are authentic to their true selves, attaching a habit to their identity means they're much more likely to stick to it. That is, it isn't really a habit, but an aspect of who they are as a person.

I read this and immediately started writing down different aspects of my identity. I'm pescatarian, meaning the only animal proteins I eat are fish and eggs. This could also be framed as a habit to not eat meat.

I'm a musician. Or, I have a habit of playing the piano or guitar.

I'm a programmer. Or, I have a habit of working on coding projects (this is also my job).

I'm early to events. Or, I have a habit of showing up early to things.

I'm a writer. Or, I have a habit of writing daily, if not at least weekly.

And one I'm trying to make a permanent part of my identity: I'm a gym girl. Or, I have a habit of regularly working out.

Setting things out as parts of my identity helps me connect to the activity. And I do most of these things because they align with my values or my personality. This makes them easy to do.

There are plenty of other good tidbits in this book. To save you the time of looking for them yourself, here are a few of my favourites:

"Our habits are our destiny." -p.8

"Rebels choose to act from a sense of choice, of freedom." -p.23

"...it's easier to demand more of ourselves when we're giving more to ourselves." -p.83

"To keep going, I sometimes need to allow myself to stop." -p.190

"The aim is not to break bad habits, but to outgrow them." -p.261

These are just a few of my favourites, all taken from the copy of the book you see in the picture at the top of this article.

I read this book as part of a book club where we all read a different book of Gretchen's and we'll compare notes when everyone has finished. So this gave me a lot of insight into my questioner peers, but there are sadly few ways for a rebel to form a new habit. I'll cling to the strategy of Identity, though.

Nonetheless, I now know a lot more about habit formation and I'm willing to try some of the other techniques when I'm struggling to become a gym girl. I know rebels don't respond much to Accountability, but I consider myself to be a good daughter, so if I make a plan to workout with my mom, I'm more likely to stick to it so I don't let her down. And you can bet I'll be waiting to harness that Lightning Bolt moment when (if) it strikes.

It was also nice to know that I'm basically impervious to loopholes because I don't feel the need to justify breaking a habit in favour of something I'd rather be doing. I'm also very good at the strategy of Treats because if I want something, I'll likely do the activity or get myself the item. This gives me a little extra pep in my step to carry on with the good habits I do have.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Gretchen has a friendly and inviting tone and calls herself out on her bad habits or over-zealous information-sharing tendencies. I have multiple stickie notes sticking out the sides of the book and a page full of quotes I'll refer back to. Not to mention my new favourite strategy of Identity to help me make new habits and keep them.

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About the Creator

Jolene Poulin

I'm an amateur writer with an interest in fiction and general story telling.

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