Identifying Your Habit Archetype

Like many other writers in the personal development field, I’ve been eagerly awaiting Gretchen Rubin’s new book Better Than BeforeIn fact, purchasing it was basically tax-deductible for me; I write every Monday about practices and habits, so a book all about how they’re formed would be essential to my work…right?

Even better, I recently had some minor surgery on my ankle which seems to benefit from clean, dry dressings and elevation which means I am basically chairbound for a while. The perfect excuse to do what I call “deep reading” and spend some uninterrupted time inside Gretchen’s amazing mind.


Well, I can’t say that I’ve sat down and read it cover to cover. Nor can I say that I’m terribly good at the whole “taking it easy” thing with my ankle – I mean, when you’ve gone from a full wrap down to basically a big band-aid it feels silly to keep sitting there. After all, surely the Doctors were talking about “most” people who have this procedure, not all people, and I’m not the rest of those people, right?

As it happens, the parts of the book I have read also talk about what “type” of person you are in terms of maintaining your practices. She divides them into four groups:

  1. Upholders: People who maintain habits purely for their own sake, both those expected of them by others and those generated internally.
  2. Obligers: People who want to do what is expected of them socially, but may not really be motivated intrinsically. For example, blogging on your own may not be important, but if you have a writing buddy to work with every week, you show up and write because they expect you to.
  3. Questioners: The other side of the coin from Obligers, the Questioners will only maintain the habits that internally make sense to them. If they go along with the crowd, that’s fine – but there has to be a reason. The fastest way to get a questioner to not do a thing is to answer their “Why?” with “Because that’s how it’s always been done.
  4. Rebels: These are the contrarians; the ones who will avoid doing things simply because it’s what’s expected, whether it makes sense or not.

If it seems that I’m writing these with some value judgment attached, please disregard the tone; all four have their advantages and disadvantages. Gretchen Rubin states in her book that she addresses many different techniques and methods for habit change, and it’s not all connected to this “sorting hat” of habit development.

I found myself musing, as I changed my ankle bandage, as to where I fit in. I think I’m more of a questioner, because I have proven that I can develop habits when motivated by what I consider hard data. But I also have been known to deliberately burn my bridges when I get to them simply because I see everyone else going across them. If everyone’s doing a thing, I’m usually suspicious that it’s more a matter of conformity than a good idea – even though this has proven to be a ridiculous personal flaw on more than one occasion.

So perhaps I am more rebellious…but if I wasn’t really just questioning, would I have dedicated a third of my blog to the question of how to develop practices?

About that time Natasha walked into the bedroom, saw the discarded cotton ankle wraps from the hospital and, being the helpful partner she is, picked them up to throw them away so I would have less walking to do. I smiled, because once again she had been my muse. For that moment, at least, clearly –

  • I was a rebel without a gauze.

For the record, I blame my father, my grandfather, my daughters, and my best friends for the direction this blog entry took. “Better Than Before is turning out to be an excellent read, and I heartily recommend it. Also, this week’s podcast will include an interview with HoopCurrents owner Traeonna, talking about flow, family, entrepreneurship, and all kinds of other neat things. Get the full interview by becoming a patron of Love Life Practice!

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