Several people I know are doing a 90-day personal challenge. Every day for 90 days they commit to do one action that they want to change or develop in their life—exercise, avoid sugar, work less.
I’m very clear on where I want to develop better habits—meditation, exercise and writing. For the past 90 days, times two, I’ve tried to get started on my own 90-day challenge. The key word in this sentence is “tried.” For me, it ‘s been more do not than do (to paraphrase Yoda).
I have a tendency to waste time, allowing hours to a drifting, unconscious mind. There are hours every day where I could be more productive, more contemplative, more creative, and more physically vital. It always comes back to that bedeviling concept—discipline—a philosophy and a way of being that for the most part has eluded me for years.
Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, does a masterful job of exploring the development of beneficial habits. (Better Than Before, Rubin, Gretchen. New York City, Broadway Books, 2015).
She writes about what she calls, The Four Tendencies, to describe how different people respond to expectations. Upholders respond to all outer expectations and internal expectations. Questioners question all expectations, outer or inner, and will only meet those they believe justified. Obligers respond to outer expectations but struggle with meeting internal expectations. Rebels resist all expectations.
I’ve known for years that I’m always more committed to change when an external expectation is made of me. One year I ran four sprint triathlons after years of lethargic exercise avoidance. I trained with a group led by a professional triathlon athlete. I also hired other coaches. By telling others I would be there, I showed up and did the work.
However, Obliger is not my only tendency. I also have a very strong Rebel tendency. (I’ve joked that I resist all discipline, even self-discipline. Look where that’s got me.) When I think of finding an accountability partner to give me the external expectation (I do so hate that word—accountability.), my Rebel tendency says “No way, José”.
As with many things I’m pondering, my wife provides solutions. Cathy is definitely an Upholder—it needs to be done, it’s done. She is disciplined about one form of flexibility exercise that’s she’s followed for over 20 years—Gyrotonics. (I know, I’d never heard of it either.) Her dream has been to own her own Gyrotonics Tower and has been saving money to buy one for her 70th birthday. We installed it yesterday.
Here’s where my Obliger tendency will kick in. First, Cathy will be down in our new Gyrotonics room (it’s large enough to deserve it’s own room) and will expect me to join her. Secondly, we just spent a lot of money to get it. Even my Rebel tendency recognizes it’s way too expensive to serve as a coat rack.
Now, with exercise discipline handled, I just have to figure out how to add the habits of meditation and writing.
Having a tendency to get it done,