Tag Archives: habit strategies

Fun with the Four Tendencies: Is Taylor Swift an Upholder?

I spend a lot of time thinking about my personality framework, the Four Tendencies. It’s an endlessly fascinating thing to study.

If you don’t know if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel — and why it matters — you can take the quick quiz here. (More than 640,000 people have taken the quiz.)

I’m always on the watch for Tendencies in the world. Now, we generally can’t judge people’s Tendency by what they do; we need to know how they think.

But sometimes patterns of behaviors are so consistent that they do suggest a Tendency.

My sister Elizabeth told me that she thinks that Taylor Swift is an Upholder. It’s not easy to tell, because of course a mega-star like Swift has a persona that’s carefully crafted for public consumption. However, judging from external factors, I agree, she sure looks like an Upholder.

She seems to meet outer expectations very patiently and professionally—not only those related to her extensive music and business responsibilities, but also involving time-consuming, inefficient tasks like going on press tours, handling paparazzi, and putting up with all the nonsense that super-stars must endure. She meets a very high level of expectations, with no visible sign of resentment or burn-out or frustration at inefficiency.

She has no trouble resisting the advice of her record label, and she also has no trouble following the advice of her record label. She doesn’t seem to feel pushed around by the press, social media, or her own team. In a cover profile in GQ magazine, Chuck Klosterman observed of Swift, “There is a perpetual sense that nothing about her career is accidental and that nothing about her life is unmediated. These are not unusual thoughts to have about young mainstream stars. But what’s different with Swift is her autonomy. There is no Svengali directing her career; there is no stage mother pushing her toward the spotlight. She is in total control of her own constructed reality.”

Plus Swift exhibits an extraordinary level of self-discipline, and she’s often criticized for being “unspontaneous.” Now, what Tendency does that sound like?

 I suspect that Upholders in the entertainment business, and in the arts, sometimes go out of their way to hide their Tendency—to present themselves as more wild and more hedonistic than they actually are.

Upholderness isn’t a very glamorous, edgy, or endearing quality. It doesn’t contribute to a fascinating biography or make good magazine copy. In her mega-hit song “Shake It Off,” Taylor Swift sings, “I stay up too late…I go on too many dates…At least that’s what people say.” Does she stay up too late? Hmmm. I wonder. 

What do you think?

In other news about the Four Tendencies, very soon I will be able to reveal the jacket for the book The Four Tendencies — I’m about to be able to take down that dull placeholder cover. Exciting! If you’re inclined to buy the book, it’s a big help to me if you pre-order (pre-orders help build buzz for a book among booksellers, the media, and the public). But only if you want to, of course!

What Healthy Treats Do You Give Yourself? (Note the “Healthy.”)

In my book Better Than Before, I describe the many strategies that we can use to change our habits. We all have our favorite strategies — but I think most of us would agree that the Strategy of Treats is the most fun strategy.

“Treats” may sound like a self-indulgent, frivolous strategy, but it’s not. Because forming good habits can be draining, treats can play an important role.

When we give ourselves treats, we feel energized, cared for, and contented, which boosts our self-command—and self-command helps us maintain our healthy habits.

Studies show that people who got a little treat, in the form of receiving a surprise gift or watching a funny video, gained in self-control. It’s a Secret of Adulthood: If I give more to myself, I can ask more from myself. Self-regard isn’t selfish.

When we don’t get any treats, we begin to feel burned-out, depleted, and resentful.  We start to feel deprived — and feeling deprived is a very bad frame of mind for good habits.

When we feel deprived, we feel entitled to put ourselves back in balance. We say, “I’ve earned this,” “I need this,” “I deserve this” and feel entitled to break our good habits.

So we need treats.

But it’s crucial to give ourselves healthy treats, because unhealthy treats are often bad for us. We don’t want to give ourselves something to feel better that just makes us ending up feeling worse. Like a costly splurge, an extra glass of wine, a big brownie.

All of us should have a long list of potential healthy treats. That way, when we think, “I need a treat,” we have ideas.

For something to be a treat, we have to think of it as a treat; we make something a treat by calling it a “treat.” When we notice our pleasure, and relish it, the experience becomes much more of a treat. Even something as humble as herbal tea or a box of freshly sharpened pencils can qualify as a treat.

For instance, once I realized how much I love beautiful smells, a whole new world of treats opened up to me. If I need a treat, I visit my “collection of smells” in my apartment or I stop by a perfume counter.

At the same time, it’s important not to call something a “treat” if it’s not really a treat. It may be good for you, and it may even feel good, but it’s not a treat if you don’t look forward to it with pleasure. So a yoga class could be a treat for someone, but it’s not a treat for me. I do it, and I’m glad I do it, but I don’t think, “Oh, yay, time for yoga!”

Sometimes, treats don’t look like treats. For example, to my surprise, many people consider ironing a “treat.”

Here are some other treats I’ve heard about:

  • crossword puzzles
  • looking at art books
  • shopping at a very expensive store (no possibility of buying, so just enjoy looking)
  • translating Latin
  • breaking codes
  • manicure (I never get manicures and dread them; the opposite of a treat for me)
  • visiting camping stores
  • online shopping (I heard from many people who enjoy online shopping with no plan to buy–they have fun filling their cart, then abandon it)
  • choosing plants and seed for the garden
  • video games and phone games
  • getting a massage
  • taking a bath, especially if with special bath salts
  • buying yourself flowers
  • visiting a special place (a park, sculpture, or museum)

 

If you want to hear me and Elizabeth talk about why you should treat yourself, listen to this episode of the Happier podcast.

And if you want to hear Donna and Tom of Parks and Recreation talk about their annual Treat Yo’ Self day, watch the hilarious clip here.

What healthy treats are on your list?

Want to Keep a New Year’s Resolution? How to Make It Right for YOU.

Many people make New Year’s resolutions, and many people get frustrated and abandon their New Year’s resolutions.

A common mistake? Setting up the resolution in the wrong way. We think we “should be able to” do it first thing in the morning, or we think we should imitate a resolution that works well for someone else.

But there’s no one, correct way. It’s just whatever works for us.

I know this, because I used to try to indulge moderately in sweets — but I’m an Abstainer. And I used to try to do difficult writing in the afternoon — but I’m a Lark. And I use to hold myself back from buying too much at one time — but I’m an Under-buyer. Etc. Now that I set up resolutions to suit my nature, I succeed much more often.

As you set up your resolutions, be sure to consider these distinctions, as outlined in the “Strategy of Distinctions” in my book Better Than Before, which is all about the multiple strategies we can exploit to change our habits.

Before you decide on the resolution you’ll make, consider…

-are you a Lark or Owl?

are you a Marathoner or Sprinter?

are you a Simplicity-lover or Abundance-lover?

are you a Finisher or Opener?

are you an Abstainer or Moderator?

-are you an Under-buyer or Over-buyer?

As you’re thinking about these distinctions, it can be helpful to ask, “When have I succeeded with this resolution in the past?” If there was a time when you exercised regularly, cooked frequently, got enough sleep, etc., that might hold clues for how you might be able to do a better job in the present.

When we know ourselves, we can set up a resolution in the way that’s right for us. It’s not that hard to keep our resolutions, and to change our habits — when we know what to do.

Podcast 85: Have Something to Look Forward To, Keep a “Bowl of Requirement,” and Request a Collection of Great Wedding Readings.

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

To take the survey that Laura Mayer mentions, go here.

Update: If you live near Seattle, please come to our live event! We’ll be recording an episode of the podcast live on stage at Seattle’s Town Hall on October 13, 7:30. Tickets are $25. More info and buy tickets here. Please come, bring your friends. We hope to sell t-shirts — cash only, if we do manage to pull it together.

Try This at Home: Have something to look forward to.

Happiness Hack: I love my travel “Bowl of Requirement,” the bowl where we keep everything important when we’re not at home.

Know Yourself Better: Have you ever been made angry or upset by a well-intentioned gift? The line I quote from Andy Warhol comes from The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again): “You can never predict what little things in the way somebody looks or talks or acts will set off peculiar emotional reactions in other people.”

Listener Question: Elizabeth asks, “How can I stick to my writing goal of writing a novel in November, with NaNoWriMo?” You can also read about this technique in Chris Baty’s No Plot? No Problem: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days. I write about my own experience of writing a novel in a month in The Happiness Project.  Want to take the quiz, to see which of the Four Tendencies describes you? It’s here.

 Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth hasn’t adjusted her sleep schedule for the school year.

If you want to watch that clip from the movie School of Rock, about demerits, it’s here at about 1:35.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: If you want to request the collection of people’s favorite wedding readings, click the button below.

Click here to get the Wedding Readings PDF now

If you want easy instructions about how to rate or review the podcast, look here.

Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page about the podcast. To join the conversation, check the schedule. 

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #85

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An Interesting Accountability Solution from a Fantasy Novel: the Booth of Promises.

I love fantasy fiction, and I recently discovered the work of Sharon Shinn. I’ve been reading my way through all her novels.

I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of her novel Unquiet Land, which is the new addition to her Elemental Blessings novels.

These days, everything reminds me of my Four Tendencies framework, and Unquiet Land was no exception. (Don’t know about the Four Tendencies? Find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel here.)

One key aspect of the Four Tendencies is understanding the role that accountability can play. For Obligers, outer accountability is crucial; for other Tendencies, it may not be needed, and for some people, may even be counter-productive.

But because Obliger is the largest Tendency, accountability is a very important strategy. And Unquiet Land features a great accountability solution.

In the country of Welce, people can go to the Plaza of Men to visit the booth of promises. “Here patrons could swear, before witnesses and for all eternity, that they would accomplish specific tasks, and their vows were recorded in books kept by the booth owner and his family.” The promissor can choose whether to make a public recording that anyone can ask to read, or a private one that’s not released until he or she gives permission or dies.

In beautiful script, the promise is written in a record book and on a heavy sheet of paper. Both copies are signed and can be sealed, and one copy is given to the promissor.

An interesting method of holding yourself to a promise! Using the strategies that I outline in Better Than Before, a person commits in writing (Strategy of Clarity), decides whether that promise is more powerful when public or private (Strategy of Distinctions), and is creating accountability (Strategy of Accountability). Plus, the promise is made as part of a formal, elaborate ritual, which gives it extra strength (Strategy of First Steps).

I wish we had something like a booth of promises — but of course, we probably do. I’m sure there’s an app that does the same thing!

If you want to read the first book in the Elemental Blessings set, get Troubled Waters. So good.

Do you think that you’d be better able to stick to a good habit if you made a promise in a booth of promises?