Four Questions To Ask Before You Try To Make Or Break A Habit

Everyone wants to quit their bad habits and start good ones instead, like a half-hour of exercise instead of sleeping in, or drinking water instead of soft drink. But more often than not, you'll stop halfway into your resolutions. The reason, Gretchen Rubin says, is poor self-assessment before you get started.

Rubin, author of habit-changing book Better Than Before, says self-knowledge is crucial before you change any habit, or try to change any behaviour. Her "Four Tendencies Theory" is pretty well known: "Upholders" are expectation-driven and feel an inner commitment to follow through with deadlines. "Questioners" are motivated by reason and need to fully understand the expectation and feel it’s justified. "Obligers" are people pleasers; they will do stuff for everyone else but not for themselves. Finally, "Rebels" resist expectations and work toward goals based on their own guidelines.

She has now expanded on the above with four more common distinctions that you need to identify about yourself. We've outlined them below:

  • Are you a morning person or a night owl?
  • How do you work? Are you a marathoner who prefers doing a little every day, or a springer who likes to finish when a deadline approaches?
  • Do you like simplicity, quietness, personal cubicles, minimalism etc.? Or do you like abundance, open offices, chatty coworkers, and so on?
  • Are you a finisher or an opener? If you're one, you need to work on the other qualities. Openers will have several projects ongoing. Finishers miss opportunities because they aren't seeing anything else when they're doing their current project.

Rubin has several other personality distinctions in her book. These all add up to tell you what kind of habit plan you are most likely to follow through on. And in case you aren't familiar with her Four Tendencies Theory, take the quiz to find out.

For Habits, The Strategy of Self-Knowledge [Gretchen Rubin]


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