Book Review: Better than Before

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September 11, 2017
better than before book review, naturopathic doctor toronto

September always feels like the second start of the new year to me (possibly because I spent over 2 decades in school). Back when I was in school, I would always try and create new habits based on what worked (or didn’t!) the year before, or what I wanted to achieve. Nothing has really changed in that regard, except now I help my clients form new habits – whether it be drinking more water, eliminating food that they know triggers them, or carving out some time for self care. 

I picked up the book ‘Better then Before‘ by Gretchen Rubin because I loved her book ‘The Happiness Project‘ and was excited to learn about her perspective on habits and how I could use this information in both my personal life and with my clients.

Content Breakdown

  1. Self-knowledge

  2. Pillars of habits

  3. The best time to begin

  4. Desire, ease, and excuses

  5. Unique, just like everyone else


This book is filled with great information! I wanted share a couple of ideas from each of the main sections that will help you start to cultivate your good habits. That said, some of the execution of these ideas change based on your tendency, so I would highly recommend that you read this book to determine your tendency and learn how to make habits work for you. 


Knowing ourselves is the key when it comes to creating successful habits. We each fall into four groups called the four tendencies (upholders, questioners, obligers, and rebels) which are based on how we face both inner and outer expectations (PS. For more info about the four tendencies, check out Gretchen’s newest book aptly named ‘The Four Tendencies‘). The books describes each of the tendencies, so you can get away with reading Better than Before first. 

Pillars of habits

Monitoring your actions will help with your self control. For instance, if you’re looking to change your diet it’s best to jot down what you’re eating in a food journal to build this habit and keep track of what you’re doing. Similarly, if you want to be more active during the day, purchase a fitness tracker to help keep track of your steps. 

Pair your habits with something else. For example, if you’re wanting to be more active – do a workout while you watch your favourite show, or go for a walk while you speak to a friend on the phone. 

The best time to begin

Taking small steps is better than taking no steps. If you want to craft the perfect morning routine which is actually like 5 different tasks (5 minutes of yoga, meditation, journalling, setting an intention for the day), start with one thing then build up. 

Desire, ease, and excuses

The less we indulge in something, the less we want it (ie. if you love cheese, but know that it doesn’t make you feel great 5 minutes later, stop indulging, otherwise you won’t stop). 

Habits form better when it’s convenient. For instance, if you want to start drinking more water, carry around a reusable water bottle. Also, make bad habits less convenient.  

Unique, just like everyone else

Use your language wisely. Switch “I can’t” with “I don’t.” Using “I don’t” makes people feel like they’re in control of their own actions. 

Overall Thoughts

This book really got me thinking about my own habits – I’m an obliger, and I have no problem meeting outer expectations, but often find it difficult to meet inner expectations. Accountability is a big requirement for me, and I find that when I share my habits with other people, it helps me keep on track. 

Going forward, I’m going to begin recommending this book to my clients. As a Naturopathic Doctor, I often suggest diet or lifestyle changes that will undoubtedly help my clients attain a optimal level of health. But it’s also important to help form a framework to make these new habits easy to integrate in their day to day lives. Plus, if my clients can identify their tendency, they can learn the best way to implement the new habits that I’ve prescribed.

If, like me, you view September as the next January, be sure to pick up this book to help you build the life that you want. And if you’re curious about which habits are best for you and will help you feel great, book an appointment with me!