When Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project spoke at World Domination Summit this past summer, she said that the key to happiness is to be more of who we are. In order to know who we are, she suggests that we ask ourselves a few key questions. Try writing down your answers to the following questions.
Gretchen says that when someone has something you want, that’s very useful information about who you want to be. Rather than focusing on the negative aspect of envy or the judgment you might put on yourself for feeling that way, focus on being grateful for this additional information about what you value and care about.
Anything we try to hide is a big red flag. The lie is a disconnect between your behavior and your values.
It is a sad fact about happiness that when you say to adults, “What would you do for fun?” many adults are truly mystified. HINT: If you don’t know the answer, answer this - What did you do for fun when you were 10 years old?
Think of something you find very tempting - chocolate, cigarettes, sex, alcohol, Cheetos, shopping - whatever.
Gretchen says there are two types of people - abstainers and moderators. To avoid temptation, abstainers have to go cold turkey. They can’t even get started with a bag of potato chips or they’ll eat the whole bag. Moderators, on the other hand, can eat just one square of dark chocolate and be happy, and if they abstain completely, they get totally cranky. Moderators feel rebellious if they’re not allowed to have just a little bit.
Since part of what makes people unhappy is trying to resist temptation, it helps to know whether you’re an abstainer or a moderator. If you know yourself and your own nature - and you OWN it - you’re much better prepared to handle temptation. In other words, just accept your own nature and act accordingly.
When you are trying to change a habit, you’re trying to impose an expectation upon yourself. But there are two kinds of expectations - outer expectations (work deadlines, a request from a sweetheart) and inner expectations (what you desire for yourself.)
Gretchen explains that there are 4 categories of expectations:
These people respond well to both outer and inner expectations without much fuss. They just do as they’re told, whether their motivations come from internal or external expectations. These are your classic “goody two shoes,” who follow rules pretty blindly. If a sign is posted, they will obey it. If they set a New Year’s Resolution, they’ll just do it.
Upholders are motivated by fulfillment. They feel good when they meet expectations. They hate to be blamed or let people down. They want to know the rules, and they’re great rule followers, but they’re unhappy if they don’t know what is expected of them. They’re good self-starters. If they make up their minds to do something, they do it. But the dark side is that if upholders don’t know what’s expected of them - if things are ambiguous, they feel paralyzed. There’s a grinding quality, a relentlessness, to upholders. They need to stay within their comfort zones to feel happy, and that includes knowing what is expected of them.
These people question all expectations, whether internal or external. In order to change a behavior, they must be persuaded. If their questions are answered to their own satisfaction, they can be persuaded to meet an expectation. If the motivations for change don’t make sense to them, forget it!
Questioners can have either upholder tendencies or rebel tendencies, but most lean one way or another.
Questioners wake up in the morning and think “What needs to get done today?” They want to know why they should do something. The questioner is saying, “Why are we doing this at all?” They love information and research. If they accept an expectation, they’re good at fulfilling it. They endorse everything internally if they sign on. But their upside is also their downside. If you don’t get a questioner on board, they’re not going to meet expectations. It’s hard for them to act if they feel they don’t have enough information. This can make them seem totally arbitrary.
These people resist all expectations, inner or outer. A rebel wants to do what a rebel wants to do. If you set an expectation for a rebel and tell them to do something, they’ll actually go out of their way to disobey you and fail to meet the expectation, just to prove a point. The upside of the rebels is that they’re willing to think and behave outside the box. They can be creative nonconformists who push the envelope. But they can be incredibly frustrating! Gretchen says rebels can be manipulated by challenging them and suggesting that they CAN’T do something. Tell a rebel she can’t do something and she’ll be all, “Well, I’ll show you. Ha!”
Tell a rebel, “I don’t think your team can get that done by Friday!” Then watch them be ready by Wednesday.
Although rebels are not motivated by following the rules, rebels may occasionally (and shockingly) choose to do something purely out of love for you - not because you asked them to do it, but because they love you. But not always. So don’t get your hopes up.
These people readily meet outer expectations but have a hard time meeting inner expectations. So they’ll go out of their way to please others, but they do at the expense of what is in their own best interests. These are the typical “people pleasers” who sell themselves out for the approval of others.
Obligers wake up and think “What do I HAVE to do today?” They are motivated by external accountability. They’re great to have around - great team members, great friends, great family. They hate to make mistakes. They bear the brunt of it on themselves. They hate being people pleasers but they can’t stand to let someone down. An obliger needs to build in external accountability for inner expectations. So if they’ve made a New Years Resolution, they need to tell everyone by blogging about their intentions, for example. Then they’re motivated to please those they’ve promised, even though they’re really serving themselves. Obligers are not good self-starters. They need deadlines, coaches, late fees, check ins. They’re also very susceptible to burn out. Everyone else takes advantage of the obligers. So if you’re in a relationship with an obliger, be mindful of that.
Certain combinations of people and jobs work better together. Rebels are almost always married to obligers. Upholders must be in relationships with upholders or questioners with upholder tendencies. Otherwise, it’s a disaster in the making!
In the end, we can only build a happy life on the foundation of our own true nature. To learn to understand yourself is the adventure of a life - to love ourselves, to accept ourselves, and to live in accordance with your true nature.
I’m definitely a questioner with upholder tendencies. What about you? Did you learn anything from answering these questions? Tell us who you are in the comments!
Trying to be myself,
Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, the New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself, and the host of the hit National Public Television special Heal Yourself: Mind Over Medicine (link). Lissa blogs at LissaRankin.com, teaches teleclasses (link) with luminaries like Martha Beck, Rachel Naomi Remen, Amy Ahlers, and Tosha Silver, and has sparked a movement to revolutionize health care at HealHealthCareNow.com. She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, a lover of dancing, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area.
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