Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

IMG_0467“The fact is, no one-size-fits-all solution exists.  It’s easy to dream that if we copy the habits of productive, creative people, we’ll win similar success.  But we each must cultivate the habits that work for us.”

In Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin tackles the subject of habits, and how we can not only change them but understand them.  The key to change being knowing ourselves and understanding our habits.  The author presents a framework through which we can do this, starting with The Four Tendencies as described in the book:

Upholders – respond readily to both outer expectations and inner expectations.
Questioners – question all expectations, and will meet an expectation only if they believe it’s justified.
Obligers – respond readily to outer expectations, but struggle to meet inner expectations.
Rebels – resist all expectations, outer and inner alike.

By recognizing your tendency, you learn what may or may not work for you, which allows you to develop a foundation for success.  From there the author explores a variety of tools and topics related to habits, from strategies to excuses.  Better Than Before recognizes that everyone is different and what works for others, what is successful for them, may not yield results for you.

I developed a much better understanding of my own tendencies (a total Obliger), and traps I fall into when trying to develop habits that will benefit me.  A lightbulb went off for me several times while reading this book.  I recognized the excuses, and more importantly why certain methods I was using were absolutely not working for me and what I can do that will work for me.  That is what I truly appreciated about this book.  It doesn’t sell or promote one specific idea, but instead gives you the information and the tools you need in order to learn what strategies may work for you.

The book is very well researched and the author’s passion for the topic is evident.  Her voice, humour, stories, and examples make it not only an informative but an enjoyable read as well.  I would love to see a more condensed version of this book that would act as a pocket guide or quick reference as I know I will be re-visiting its ideas often.

If you struggle with making the changes you want in your life, or find yourself stuck in any way, I absolutely recommend you check out this book.  At the end of the day, the work is yours to do, and Better Than Before is a great place to start.

“Whenever you read this, and wherever you are, you’re in the right place to begin.”

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

BLOGThere are no longer any predetermined life paths.  Each of us is on our own.”

Modern Romance examines the benefits and challenges of dating in today’s technology centric world.  Along with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg, Aziz Ansari designed a research project consisting of interviews and focus groups from different cultures including the United States, France, Qatar, Tokyo and Buenos Aires.  He sets out to answer the question: with so many options and avenues to meet people, why is everyone so frustrated? Aziz Ansari provides historical comparisons, a thorough exploration of online dating, the benefits and drawbacks of technology, and examples of how it all differs across cultures.

Modern Romance offers a comprehensive study of the evolution of dating and the role of technology, both positive and negative.  Ansari takes an academic approach to the subject, and the book has a textbook style combined with Ansari’s trademark humour.  That in itself makes it very unique.  The topic is well researched and presented in a clear and organized way that is easy to read.  The book offers a lot of facts, statistics and research results along with valuable takeaways that may give the reader a better outlook on their approach to dating.  It is an educational and worthy read for anyone navigating the world of modern romance.

Favourite quote:We want something that’s very passionate, or boiling, from the get-go.  In the past, people weren’t looking for something boiling; they just needed some water.  Once they found it and committed to a life together, they did their best to heat things up.  Now, if things aren’t boiling, committing to marriage seems premature.”

Yoga Girl by Rachel Brathen

BLOG“Begin where you are.  Use what you have.  Do what you can.”

Rachel Brathen is a yoga teacher and motivational speaker who shares daily messages of inspiration through social media.  In Yoga Girl she takes us through her rebellious teen years, her struggles, how she came to embrace meditation and yoga, and how she was able to make a positive change in her life.  Throughout each chapter are healthy recipes, step by step yoga sequences as well as beautiful photos.

Yoga Girl is an inspirational and uplifting book.  Rachel not only shares her personal story but provides encouragement for others to move past their own struggles.  The main points being to be kind to yourself, find balance in life, trust your journey, and to not let fear hold you back.  The book is engaging, relatable and a really nice read.  The recipes, yoga postures and photos are a great addition and add to the overall message.  The structure of the book was a little awkward in spots where the “loving insights” section was inserted in the middle of the story section, which interrupted the flow of the book.  However, it does not take away from the content in any way.  Yoga Girl is inspirational and visually beautiful.

Favourite quote:  “The thing about life is, you get what you need.  Not what you want.  And everything happens at the right time.”

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

BLOG“The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”

Marie Kondo is a Japanese cleaning consultant who has developed a system for decluttering and organizing, which she has used to change the homes and lives of her many clients. The KonMari method tackles the task of decluttering by category. Rather than focusing on one room at a time or tidying little by little, you do it by category (clothes, books, etc.) and all at once. Marie Kondo believes that clutter masks the true source of disorganization and disorder, and by facing your stuff all at once you can let go of what has kept you in a state of clutter.
She also provides a list of the order in which to tackle each category, the easiest being clothing to start and eventually finishing up with sentimental items, which are usually the most difficult to discard. Ultimately you are choosing what you want to keep, not what you want to discard. The goal is to create the lifestyle you want by surrounding yourself with things that “spark joy.”

This book is smart, easy to read and as you would expect, well organized. I find the general task of decluttering to be quite overwhelming. Even with best intentions I was never able to get rid of things in a way that truly organized my space. The KonMari method of going through your items by category, compartmentalized and simplified the process for me. The really valuable part of this book is that it has the reader think about the kind of lifestyle they wish to create, and what the physical space needs to be in order to achieve that. It also provides advice for times when we are not sure wether to keep an item or not. The explanations given as to why we have a hard time letting go sometimes and why it is okay to do so are very helpful. Overall, I found the KonMari method to be effective and the book itself to be a good and enjoyable read.

Favourite quote: “Every object has a different role to play. Not all clothes come to you to be worn threadbare. It is the same with people. Not every person you meet in life will become a close friend or lover. Some you will find hard to get along with or impossible to like. But these people, too, teach you the precious lesson of who you do like, so that you will appreciate those special people even more.”