Ever wondered why it is that you have no trouble meeting deadlines at work but can’t get much traction with your personal projects and stuff you want to do at home?
Or why your daughter or husband seem to do the opposite of whatever it is you’ve asked them to do, no matter how much you plead?
You get so envious when you hear your friend (who are we kidding, when you see it on Facebook, more like) working on her new habits and new year’s resolutions. And you can’t even remember what yours were?
Yep. I hear you.
I’m trying to form a new habit: walking to end the workday.
It’s not going very well. Actually, it’s not going at all.
Some months ago, I had somehow converted my sunrise walks into a habit. This after weeks of strenuous debates with myself—never a fun thing—as I stand over the coffee machine trying to wake myself up.
Over time—I don’t know why or how—the morning cajoling ritual decreased in frequency and necessity. One day, I just realized I’ve been lacing up the shoes as automatically as I’ve been brushing my teeth and swirling the Listerine.
The walking-to-end-the-workday habit needs a bit of work, though. Relying on my powers of self-discipline at the end of the day isn’t going to work 😃.
If we can only crack the code, right? There’s got to be a code!
Like grandma’s recipe for that apple pie. If only we had it, then we can be sure the pie will turn out the same way, all the time.
Turns out, there is indeed a code. And Gretchen Rubin cracks it wide in her book, Better Than Before.
My biggest takeaway from Rubin’s latest book comes from the chapter around the four tendencies.
The “Four Tendencies” is the framework Rubin uses to explain how we deal with external expectations and internal expectations. She suggests that how we naturally react to these expectations drives how we form and stick to new habits.
Upholders respond readily to outer expectations and inner expectations. They wake up and think: “What’s on the schedule and the to-do list for today?”
Others can rely on Upholders, and Upholders can rely on themselves. They’re self-directed and have little trouble meeting commitments, keeping resolutions, or meeting deadlines.
Obligers meet outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations. They’re motivated by external accountability; they wake up and think, “What must I do today?” Because obligers excel at meeting external demands and deadlines and go to great lengths to meet their responsibilities, they make terrific colleagues, family members, and friends.
Questioners question all expectations, and they respond to an expectation only if they conclude that it makes sense. They’re motivated by reason, logic, and fairness. They wake up and think, “What needs to get done today, and why?”.
Questioners come in two flavors: some Questioners have an inclination to Uphold, and others have an inclination to Rebel.
Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike. They choose to act from a sense of choice, of freedom. Rebels wake up and think, “What do I want to do today?” They resist control, even self-control, and enjoy flouting rules and expectations.
Rebels work toward their own goals, in their own way, and while they refuse to do what they’re “supposed” to do, they can accomplish their won aims.
After reading this chapter a couple of times and taking the test provided at the back of the book, I’m convinced I am a Questioner, with the inclination to Rebel.
I doubt my mother would approve. Which is (probably) the point.
The differences in our individual tendencies are why someone’s habits don’t work for everyone across the board.
The more we understand ourselves–how we deal with internal and external expectations–the better we’ll be able to manage ourselves and come up with the strategy that works best for us.
It’s quite helpful too, to understand the tendencies of the people we’re working with or trying to help. We’ll have a better chance at framing our ideas, requests, or suggestions if we take into consideration, how the other person might hear those based on their tendencies.
A Questioner may present an Obliger with sound reasons for taking an action, but those logical arguments don’t matter nearly as much to an Obliger as external accountability.
I’ve got to come up with valid reasons why I’d want to lace up the walking shoes at 7 pm. And the reasons need to be what makes sense to me. General common sense (“Because walking is good for you, Lou”) isn’t going to be good enough.
At the moment, plonking myself in front of the TV and watching reruns of Inspector Lewis with a glass of Pinot Gris is winning.