Forming Habits

forming good habits is not easy.  eating better, exercising more, remembering to wash my makeup off before passing out on saturday nights.  it's hard.  of course, bad habits are easy.  watch more tv?  eat more nachos?  don't track spending?  you got it!

i started reading gretchen rubin's newest book, better than before.  have you read it yet?  she's the same author of the happiness project and happier at home.  i generally like her books and her writing.  she can be pretty self aggrandizing with her constant mentions of all the reading and research she does (we get it, you're really smart and hardworking and research the crap out of your books.  move on.), but i ignore those parts.  anyway, the newest book is all about forming good habits - how to do it, when to start, why it's hard for people, etc etc.

the part i liked the best comes right in the beginning.  she described everyone as falling into one of four categories.  four tendencies, she calls them.  according to her research, people all respond to expectations in one of these four ways; expectations being both things others expect you to do like homework or stopping at a stop light, and things you expect of yourself, like eating salad for lunch or getting to bed on time.  she named the four:

upholder - you do everything.  things you expect of yourself, things others expect.  you like checking things off the list and you're going to finish the to do list no matter what.

questioner - you'll do it, but you have to have a reason.  you don't follow arbitrary rules without asking why they exist.  sometimes you can't make a decision because you feel like there's always more information out there.

obliger - you're only going to do something if you're accountable to someone else.  you don't like letting people down, so if you rsvp to something, you're going.  if your friend wants to go running, you show up, but you wouldn't go running on your own.

rebel - you do what you want, when you want.  the more someone tells you to do something, the more you resist.  habits make you feel fenced in.

"An upholder stops at a stop sign at 3:00 a.m. in a small deserted town; so does an obliger. A questioner decides whether it’s safe to stop. A rebel rolls through the stop sign at 3:00 p.m. in traffic.
An upholder can train with a trainer or exercise on her own; a questioner can do either if he thinks it makes sense; a rebel will do neither, because the fact that she has an appointment or an item on her to-do list makes her want to disobey; an obliger can meet a trainer, but can’t get to the gym on his own."

very few people fall into categories 1 or 4.  i fit, when it comes to habits and goals and expectations, pretty well into the obliger category.  it's why i post my goals online and why i only eat healthy if my friend megan is doing it with me and why i only walk so much because hawkeye needs to get outside.  i wouldn't do anything if someone wasn't counting on me to do it.  i do still need to have a good reason (questioner) but mostly, i'll do it if someone else wants me to.  it's why i have a hard time with self-imposed goals that no one else is tracking.  even when they're ones i really want to do.

i think it's a good thing to know about yourself, which tendency you are.  if you struggle as much as i do to form good habits, it's helpful to know which way to approach them to have the most success.

you can take the quiz here to find out which one you are, if you can't decide.  my answers were surprisingly more all over the board than i thought they would be, but in the end the answer was still obliger.  i accept it.  i'm going to work with it.  even if it means demanding that my loved ones keep tabs on me.

which one are you?

No comments