Point of View

Point of View

Personality and Habit Change: Are You an Upholder, Obliger, Questioner, or Rebel?

By Ryan Howes

July/August 2015

A former law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, author Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving dozens of techniques and notions that purport to make people happier. Her 2009 book, The Happiness Project, spent two years on the New York Times bestseller list, even reaching number one.

So how do you follow up a project like that? Rubin decided to tackle another element of happiness: how to change habits that don’t serve you well and how to develop habits that help you achieve your goals. According to Rubin’s husband, her earlier books tried to answer the question “How do I become happier?” but her new title, Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, answers the question “No, seriously, how do I become happier?”

In her new book, Rubin explores the nature of habit and challenges some basic psychotherapy principles to propose that, rather than awareness and insight, many people just need more external motivation to make the changes they need in their lives. In the following conversation, she focuses on what she considers limitations of psychotherapy as a road map for change.


RH: How did you come to be interested in happiness research? Were you looking for a way out of your own depression?

Rubin: No, I wasn’t. In fact, I distinguish between happiness, ordinary unhappiness, and depression, because I believe that depression is its own category, in need of…

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