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Better than Before


Apr. 6, 2015 New York Times

For a few months, Gretchen Rubin’s first book, the longstanding best seller “The Happiness Project,” perched on my bathroom radiator, its cartoonish yellow font in conversation with a stray rubber ducky. I read it in small ­doses, convinced with each sitting that I could go to sleep earlier, or discover a ­hobby, or make three new friends. I often forgot the specific advice shortly after reading it, but the sight of the little bluebird on the cover floating across the perpetually cloudless sky was frequently enough to give me a lift

“The Happiness Project” lays out life’s essential goals — “Boost Energy,” ­“Remember Love,” “Contemplate the Heavens.” Her new book, “Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives,” serves as a kind of detailed instruction manual on how to achieve them. Rubin was inspired to write it after a friend reported to her that she wanted to go running more but couldn’t get started, even though in high school she’d run track and never missed a practice. Another kind of person might be content to ease the friend’s guilt with some sisterly empathy: Who at our age has time for a daily run?

…Habits “are the invisible architecture of daily life,” she begins. “If we change our habits, we change our lives.” She then proceeds with her trademark bullet points and breezy anecdotes to address various vexing questions, chief among them: “Why is it that sometimes, though we’re very anxious — even desperate — to change a habit, we can’t?” and “Why do some people dread and resist habits, while others adopt them.

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