Aug 24, 2017

I Might Actually Be a Rebel

After comfortably settling into my personality labels a la Gretchen Rubin, I'm revisiting.

At the time I was pretty sure I was as cliché an obliger as I could be.  The habits and goals I consistently meet are people oriented: client deadlines, social events, favors for friends, workout routines that involve another human.

But I also had a few that didn't mesh, which I assumed were "obliger rebellion."  Things like growing resentful of my accountabilibuddies and the need to report in.  The occasional mental middle finger I give to someone before doing the exact opposite of what they suggest is good for me.  The extreme reluctance with which I even consider thinking about advice that's offered without me requesting it.

And I think I might be a self-created obliger.

If you've read the book or my excessive descriptions of them, you'll know rebels reject outer and inner obligations and look for novelty, choice, and freedom.  A lot of the strategies don't work for them, but one of the best is identity.

Once upon a time, I was as hugely flaky as many of my friends are now.  I remember having a big to-do with a friend about it and at some point deciding I didn't want that to be me anymore.  I also got frustrated with how few people show up to Meetup events and again, decided that wasn't going to be me.

I didn't "build" a habit of being reliable.  I just decided that I wasn't a flaky person and I stopped flaking.  Ever.  At our last meeting, my therapist suggested I cancel events when I overschedule myself and my whole being rejected this.  Not because I feel compelled to go or I can't stop myself from going but because I want to be the person who is true to their word more than I want to not be stressed out for a couple days ahead of time.

And I think a lot of the social obligations I feel are similarly self-created.  I decided not to be a flake, I decided to have integrity, I decided I wanted to be a badass business owner.  I will meet those deadlines, not because I'm scared of a client's reaction if I don't but because that's who I am.  Badasses get shit done.

In general, identity and integrity appeal very strongly to me.  I love goals and challenges and trying new things.  Following rules or strict routines?  Eh, not so much.

I'm excited about this discovery because it makes me feel more in control of my own choices.  No, a lot of the habit building strategies aren't going to work for me.  But it's not because I'm a failure or I have weak discipline.  It's because my brain doesn't work that way.

This also helps me because I think I was subconsciously thinking of myself as lacking discipline.  And the way you define yourself is the mold you end up fitting yourself into.  But if I remind myself that when I really care, I can and have accomplished a lot of things.

I haven't had alcohol in over a year and a half.  Have barely been tempted.  I quit biting my nails.  I haven't called Ryan a single cuss word in any of our arguments or disagreements.  I don't slam doors anymore.

None of these things happened with a period of consistent training.  They all happened because I decided to be a different person and I changed.

So that's my new approach.  I'm going to think hard about who I want to be and what actions are consistent with that person and then start doing them.  Wish me luck!  Or don't - that might make my strategy more effective.

I know I've talked the tendencies to death, but do you know yours?  Has knowing it changed how you approach habits in your daily life?

Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually


  1. This is interesting. I always tell K that I think I'll be more successful at something if the vast majority of people doubt me. I want his support, but I also need him to challenge me. When we started working together people were SO against it and they said we'd fight and hate every minute of it. I think that's half the reason we've worked so hard at making it a very enjoyable experience. Lol. I hate hearing the phrase, "I told you so."

  2. I feel like I want to be a rebel, or at least be like you where I can say 'nope I'm not doing this anymore' and be successful but I just cannot. I am so much an obliger. I have no internal motivation whatsoever, it's ridiculous. If I didn't have bills to pay, people to take care of, etc, I would lay like a lump on the couch for days and days. The ultimate lazy slug. I NEED someone else relying on me.

  3. I'm a questioner through and through. If there's not a good reason for me to do something, and especially if I didn't come up with that reason on my own, it's not getting done. The problem with being a questioner is that I can talk myself into or out of absolutely anything, which in my younger years I definitely used to my detriment. Nowadays I'm trying to use it only for good, but I still have the occasional "F it, no one can stop you from eating the rest of the pint. DO YOU, GIRLFRIEND. Make yo'self happy." - me to myself, more often than necessary.
    But the good thing is I can make habits I truly believe in happen pretty swiftly, often without intentionally trying to habit-build. As soon as I've had a thought a few times -- either that I want to start doing something or I wish I was a person who did X or I no longer want to be a person who does Y -- it becomes apparent that I have a desire for it and then it's typically pretty easy to nestle it into my life, depending on how big a change it really is and how much actual effort it requires.


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