If you’ve spent any amount of time longer than approximately 30 seconds with me recently, I will have mentioned my latest obsession with podcasts, specifically the ‘Happier’ podcast by Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth Craft.
I came across Rubin after I read her book The Happiness Project and, although her personality is vastly different to mine, a lot of her ideas and strategies for building more happiness into your everyday life really resonated with me.
The Happier podcast features lots of tips to try at home, ways to know yourself better and the hosts are incredibly honest about their shortcomings as well as their successes. One of the biggest parts of it is how to build habits into your daily life, and how your personality makes this easier or harder to do.
Rubin has identified four personality types or ‘tendencies’ in her latest book Better Than Before, and they are based around how you respond to external and internal expectations. For example, an external expectation is something like a work deadline and an internal expectation could be a New Year’s resolution.
The four tendencies are upholder, obliger, questioner and rebel. If you want to find out which one you are she has a quiz on her blog.
I am a classic obliger: I find it very easy to meet external expectations but struggle with internal ones. I have numerous examples of this from both my professional and personal life, as well as my approach to studying, exercise and diet.
For example, when I was going for a promotion that involved putting together a portfolio of my work I simply couldn’t get around to it. My manager kept saying that I could work on it in my own time and just submit it whenever I wanted but I had to ask him to give me a specific deadline. I then found it easier to stick to the arbitrary deadline, because I didn’t want to appear to be the person that couldn’t do it.
Another example was getting a personal trainer when I wanted to get fit. The obligation of having to show up at a certain time to work out suited me perfectly. You couldn’t cancel on the day of your session without losing money and I never missed one. When I recommended it to a friend she wasn’t convinced, because her theory was that I wasn’t doing any kind of exercise that I didn’t already know how to do, so what was the point in paying for it. My answer to that was that even though I know the steps to get to where I wanted, I needed some kind of external accountability to get there. That is the overall philosophy for the obliger tendency.
I’ve started to look at everyone around me and try to understand their personality type, and I think it might (fingers crossed) be making me more empathetic to the way others approach tasks.
If you want to find out more about the four tendencies you can read Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin or listen to episode 13 of the Happier podcast for an overview on personality types and episodes 35-38 for a deeper look at each of them (or start from episode 1 and work the whole way through). I’m so interested in this and love discussing it with people and hearing how the different types work when making and breaking habits, so let me know what tendency you align with and how you make it work for you.