The invisible architecture of everyday

Photo by gdtography on


I *think I am generally pretty good with some of my habits, but I know when I am under stress, all I want are carbs and sweets. No matter how healthy I try to be otherwise, once I am bombarded by stress, I am usually a goner. For this reason, I am always looking for tweaks to improve how I deal with daily life and ways to improve my general efficiency and swap negative habits for positive ones.

“Surprisingly, stress doesn’t necessarily make us likely to indulge in bad habits; when we’re anxious or tired, we fall back on our habits, whether bad or good”.

“Better than Before, by Gretchen Rubin, Crown publishing – 2015.

Better than before is actually the book that inspired me to start this blog over. Over the holidays I read both Better than Before and The Four Tendencies. The former is actually the book that inspired me to start this blog over. Rubin seems to constantly attempt to improve herself, through learning, writing, and tweaking her habits. I can absolutely relate to and admire. The book is divided into very clear chapters like, self-knowledge, pillars of habits, the best time to begin, and about desire as well as how unique we all are, making us all rather similar. Plus, she also includes a copy of the tendencies quiz and a grand plethora of additional resources and sources, if you are so inclined to explore.

The takeaway

Doing what it takes to find happiness.

Better than Before is full of quotes and inspiration if you are looking to change your life, bit by bit. The biggest takeaway is that a habit is formed when it no longer requires decision from you. Next, in order to understand how best to change your habits it is important to understand your tendency. Through her research on Better she learned that what you do every day is more important than what you manage to do once in a while. Humans have to make millions of decisions every day, habits help reduce these decisions, thus reducing our stress.

Working to rely on the cruise control of habits

This process also reduces our need to practice self-control, as habits are recurrent behaviors that require minimal awareness on our part. Think about how often you brush your teeth. Children generally learn that they should brush their teeth twice a day, so as adults – it is something they don’t even consciously think about before they go to bed, for example. It is self-control that people complain about when they ‘fall of the wagon’ with a new habit or goal. Thus, by understanding how we individually deal with self-control, or not, we can find personalized ways for us to improve or strengthen our self-control; creating new habits. One of the most outstanding ways to build habits is to schedule in the good you want to do. Remember though, that small constant steps are better than occasional hefty ones.

Rubin does go into basic detail about the four tendencies in Better than Before, but does do a deep dive into each tendency in her book, The Four Tendencies and in her online course of the same name. It is not necessary to read the book and take the course to understand the tendencies better. The greatest benefit of either of the four tendencies resources is you can learn more about yourself, what might trigger you on your way to increased motivation and improved habits. I previously mentioned the tendencies, specifically in the post, ‘A long absence‘ from the end of December 2020. Specifically, Rubin states, “The most important thing is to know ourselves, and choose the strategies that work for us”.

The tendencies, in brief

For example, as an obliger, I need someone or something to be accountable to for myself because otherwise, I do my best work for others. Most of the population are actually obligers. Questioners need proof to be motivated to act, but may suffer from ‘analysis paralysis’, thus being overwhelmed by the data. I called upholders ‘unicorns’ in my post from December 2020. This is because they can inspire themselves and as well by others. However, they have a tendency to seem rather cold, rigid, and impatient. They also have trouble with ambiguity. Lastly, there are the rebels who do whatever they want, not whatever anyone else wants and sometimes they won’t even do what they want to do. They can seem difficult to work with and rather flighty. They work better with suggestions and may be motivated by love of others.

All in the family

While I was reading The Four Tendencies, learning more about each tendendency and how to act or react with them, I couldn’t help but consider which each member of my family would be.

My father is an incredible doer. There is a reason I always considered him a superhero – it wasn’t just because he is my father. He almost always accomplished what he set out to do. And if he doesn’t accomplish what he sets out to do, he learns from the situation to be better the next time. I think he is a

My mother is a bit trickier to pin down. I think she is either an obliger. She is really good at being there for other people. She was my dad’s right-hand, front of the house when they owned their own business together.

My sister and my husband, I think, are both rebels because they do what they want, they won’t do what you want them to do, and sometimes they won’t even do what they want to do. Although my husband may be an obliger like me.

My brother-in-law might be the hardest for me to pin down simply because I don’t know him that well since my husband and I live so far away. I would guess he is either a questioner or obliger, because I have witnessed him questioning politics and interpersonal happenings as well as be a really amazing friend, husband, father, manager – being there for others.

And, I have heard back from my mother, brother-in-law, and husband.

Here are their results:

  • Mother: questioner, to which she said – no kidding. In retrospect, I cannot tell if this makes sense to me. My mother loves to read and learn, but I guess I have never viewed that as questioning, because I like to do that too.
  • Husband: rebel – for the win!
  • Brother-in-law: obliger. I will take this partial win.

The essential seven

Rubin learned through her research that people generally seek to modify their lives to improve one or more of the following ‘essential seven’ areas of their lives:

  1. eat or drink with more purpose,
  2. get more exercise,
  3. be better or wiser with financial matters,
  4. relax more,
  5. procrastinate less,
  6. have a more organized life, and finally
  7. being more present in our relationships.

Here is a video that I found to really embody the positive aspects of Better than Before.

Have you read Better than Before, The Four Tendencies, or another of Gretchen Rubin’s books? What was your most memorable take away? Do you know which tendency you are? How has learning about the tendencies helped you in your personal life?

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