I was always intrigued by the idea that understanding myself and what drives me could positively impact my productivity, relationships, and overall happiness. There are so many different ways to categorize yourself, and a slew of online tests you can take to see what neat little box you fit in. Except I never felt that I quite fit in any of the assigned boxes. Every time I took the Myers Briggs test, for example, I got slightly different results. Some things were clear---I'm an introvert. But sometimes I got N and other times I got S, etc... And none of the descriptions of the types seemed exactly right to me.
Because I've been interested in adapting good habits, I was fascinated by Gretchen Rubin's "four tendencies" that purport to explain why people keep or don't keep habits and what strategies can help them. When thinking about how I work, I notice that I respond quickly to emails and requests, but tend to push aside the big-picture career-building stuff. I assumed, thus, that I was an "Obliger", described by Rubin as one who "meets outer expectations and resists inner expectations". But then again---I have kept a steady exercise habit for years, with no outside motivator, and there are definitely requests I get from others that I completely ignore---if ignoring it has no negative consequences for me. I figured it was yet another example of me not finding myself in any of the categories and not quite fitting in anywhere.
Then I took the quiz (linked above) and read more about the other types. It was a big Aha!-type moment for me to realize that I am not an Obliger at all, but a Questioner ("resists outer expectations, meets inner expectations"). Questioners also "question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense–essentially, they make all expectations into inner expectations". YES!!!
I do things when they make I see the rationale behind doing them and/or when there is a clear benefit to myself to doing them. Funny, because I'm sure G could've told me that in 2 seconds. I question
EVERYTHING and will not do it until he gives me a reason that makes
sense to me (he's always trying to get me to do things "his way" and I am SOOO resistant unless he outlines tangible benefits or evidence). Examples: throw away food after x days (I don't). use 409 vs. water to clean counters (only when they are greasy), fold the kids clothes to put in bins (never!) Tip 20% every time we go out to eat (I do), walk on the inside of the sidewalk when we are walking together (constant struggle, I don't see the point yet).
As a naturally conflict averse person, who gets major anxiety around interpersonal conflict in general, "avoids conflicts" is a HUGE benefit to me and I do almost anything to achieve that goal. I think this, in part, is what made me think I was an Obliger. But I don't meet all outer obligations. I'll definitely skip required things if they are useless and no one would notice that I'm missing (a question on the quiz). I do not actually put my own needs below those of others; I'm not a martyr (a typical Obliger trait). Having an "accountability partner" was never helpful for me (the standard Obliger strategy, I tried it last summer) because I didn't really care what she thought
about my lack of writing 1 hour/day (and I knew she didn't care one
At work, I respond to requests from others because 1) if I don't, they'll keep bugging me which is annoying and 2) my quick reply can get things moving, whether its for a patient or a colleague. I see the rationale and the benefit to me is the avoidance of more requests. I exercise because I know I feel good afterwards and I like feeling strong. Oh, and so I can eat more. In fact, I get myself out of bed at 5:30 by reminding myself of how great I feel afterwards, both mentally & physically. I usually go to bed early because I feel much better with sufficient sleep and can be more productive, patient, and healthier (I crave all kinds of things when sleep deprived!). I follow rules that make sense, and bend the ones that don't.
I'm just figuring out how to use this tendency to work on habits I've had trouble building. I need to convince myself that the activity is worthwhile. Its better if the benefit is more immediate and specific, not a vague "good for your career and promotion in 7 years" deal. Recently I've had several opportunities to talk about my work with others in and out of my institution. Truthfully? It was FUN. I loved talking about what I've done and what I want to do. I want to build collaborations and have more data to talk about. Just the act of discussing things with people has fired me up to really get moving on even the most tedious aspects of my job. When I'm floundering, I picture myself a year from now, presenting the findings to interested people and it actually helps. Its amazing to me, because I've been so blah about my work for a couple of years now, and I had no idea how to fix it.
The other area I'm trying (and still failing) to use this approach is with my eating habits. I think I just don't believe that avoiding xyz foods is necessarily better. And I don't get those miraculous bursts of energy from "clean eating" that others seem to get. I feel...the same...only hungry & deprived. And weight loss for me has been pretty arbitrary---I lost weight last fall/winter eating without watching my diet, and gained it back eating the exact same things as far as I know. When I was having issues with IBS last summer, I did the FODMAPs diet. Avoiding certain foods really helped, and I've never gone back (chick peas in my salad, stone fruits, cherries, apples---I miss them, but not enough to endure painful cramps for hours). I know that if I found some way that avoiding cheese puffs, fancy cheese and booze tangibly improved my current life, I could do it. Until then, the momentary pleasure wins out. Of course the answer is to never bring those items home. Last night G proudly brought home a 6 pack of fancy beers and a wedge of manchego.
Do you know your tendency? Does it help you make better habits? Tips for not eating that cheese and drinking that beer?