On any given day, chances are you spend almost half your time performing behaviors you performed the day before. It’s not exactly Groundhog Day, but a lot of life is fairly routine — or habitual. And if each day is comprised of many habits put together, it makes sense that changing our habits, even small ones, can change our lives.
Which may be why you set, or considered setting, resolutions for change as 2021 rolled in. But, if you are anything like the rest of us, you have had a hard time keeping them. One way to increase your odds is to get to know yourself better and then use the quirks of your own personality to set yourself up for success. By better understanding your own values, interests and behavior patterns, you can reinvigorate your goals with a fresh shot of habit hacks.
Although many cultures have shared similar advice, the Ancient Greeks are generally credited with coining the aphorism of “know thyself.” We understand the idea to mean that there is real value in understanding your own character, strengths and weaknesses, and typical ways of behaving.
It’s what five-time New York Times best-selling author and 2021 WFF Leadership Conference keynote speaker, Gretchen Rubin, might call behavior tendencies
. By studying habits and happiness, she has learned that harnessing the power of habits can help us make positive changes in our lives in our own unique, sometimes oddball, ways.
“When we think about the activities and habits that are going to help us to be happier, healthier, more productive and more creative, we have to think about doing it in a way that’s right for us,” she recently told Conference attendees. “Something that works very well for one person might not work at all for someone else.”
Responding to expectations
Throughout her investigation of human nature, Rubin realized the power of asking one key question, “How do I respond to expectations?” Further research led her to discover four tendencies people most often manifest in dealing with inner and outer expectations. Understanding your own style can help you make better decisions, meet deadlines, change habits and meet your goals.
The Four Tendencies
Rubin explores her framework in two books about habit formation, Better Than Before
and The Four Tendencies
. You can use insights gained from the Four Tendencies Framework to shape your habits and create the behaviors that will help you become happier, healthier and more productive. See where you recognize yourself.
- Upholders readily meet outer and inner expectations. They want to know what others expect of them so they can deliver, and they treat their own expectations the same way. Their personal motto might be, “Discipline is my freedom,” according to Rubin.
Upholders can motivate themselves with to-do lists, calendars and planning ahead. But they may struggle in ambiguous or fluid situations where they must adapt quickly.
- Questioners want to know why. They question all expectations and want justification for doing something and then to customize it for maximum efficiency. Their motto is, “I’ll comply, if you convince me why.”
Questioners love to dig into an issue to find the best solution but have to be careful not to become paralyzed by excessive analysis.
- Obligers readily meet outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations. To do so, they need to create outer accountability. Their motto is, “You can count on me, and I’m counting on you to count on me.”
The largest group by far, obligers need external accountability systems to help them succeed. If you want to read more, start a book group. If you want to exercise more, sign up for a class. Obligers just have to be careful not to over-extend themselves and burn out in their zeal to do what’s expected of them.
- Rebels resist all expectations. They want to do what they want in their own way and in their own time. They can accomplish anything they want to do, but will bristle at being pinned down by others, or even by themselves. Their motto is, “You can’t make me, and neither can I.”
Rebels are often motivated to perform behaviors the feel reflect their identity. A rebel might work out because they see themselves as someone who respects their body, or complete a work project because they see themselves as someone others can count on. Rebels function best when they understand the consequences for their actions or inaction but the final choice up to them.
The year is still fairly young and there is still time to dust off and relaunch those New Year’s Resolutions (or set new ones) with support systems that better reflect how you uniquely answer the question, “How do I respond to expectations?” Understanding yourself better will help you create habits likely to make you happier, healthier, more productive and more creative.