Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, has come out with a new book called Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of our Everyday Lives.
On this website, I talk a lot about developing contemplative habits, especially through photography. I’ve written about the book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Habits like curiosity, openness, and humility are much more abstract than losing ten pounds.
Rubin’s book intrigues me because she discovered that how we develop a habit depends on how we handle expectations in general. She examined the existing books on habits and came up with four very different ways (or tendencies) that people respond to expectations. Knowing which of the four tendencies you lean towards determines how you should go about creating a habit.
The four tendencies: upholders, questioners, obligers, and rebels.
* Upholders respond readily to both outer expectations and inner expectations. They don’t need deadlines or supervision; they keep themselves on track.
* Questioners question all expectations, and will meet an expectation only if it’s justified, so that it becomes an inner expectation. Questioners want to know why a task should be done this way—and whether it should be done at all.
* Obligers respond readily to outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations. They need deadlines, late fees, supervision, and accountability partners.
* Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike. They want to do a task their own way.
Via Habits Downloads. You can take the quiz here to determine which tendency you lean towards.
I am without doubt an upholder. I work best if guided by inner expectations. I don’t really like outer expectations at all, but if I agree to do something, then I will follow through.
What intrigues me is how we can apply this kind of knowledge to developing contemplative habits. For example, if we want to be more curious, how do we do it?
In my online workshop, Adventures in Seeing, I suggest the following.
1. Ask questions.
Remember your school days – who, what, when, where, why? Look at a person, thing, situation happening now in your life and ask those questions. Did you uncover anything new by looking at it from different angles? Act like a 3 year old again and drive someone crazy with your questions. They just might be flattered by your interest.
2. Don’t make assumptions.
This is one of The Four Agreements from Don Miguel Ruiz’s famous book and it has saved me on many occasions. When you notice an assumption, clarify it by asking questions. Dig deeper and uncover details you might have missed.
3. Notice your motives and reactions.
Get curious about yourself. You will get to know yourself better and not deny the parts of you that don’t always do the right thing. On the flip side, you’ll see your positive qualities as well. One of the greatest things I’ve learned is that I can’t label myself as kind, generous, peaceful, etc. I am kind (but sometimes I’m not). I am generous (but sometimes I’m not).
4. Notice your judgments and replace them with curiosity.
Take note of your judgments. How are they limiting your world? Notice especially when you are labeling something as good, bad, boring, ugly, uninteresting. Ask yourself why you consider it that way. Chances are there is no good reason.
How would upholders, questioners, obligers, and rebels work best with these practices?
For me, an upholder, I could set myself a goal of asking one good question a day, or learn one new subject or skill every week. I could write down my judgments as I notice them, and then write about how they are limiting me. As an upholder, setting an internal goal works best.
Questioners are already curious. So, maybe they don’t need to work on this habit as much as others or perhaps they could notice when their questions are actually judgments.
Obligers prefer to have external expectations so they might sign up for a course, like Adventures in Seeing, where there are structured assignments for developing curiosity. Or, they could have an accountability partner, with whom they could share what they’ve learned by being curious, or what their judgments are.
Rebels will question why curiosity even needs to be developed. They could read a book on curiosity or take a look at scientific research on curiosity and then decide for themselves.
If you take the quiz (or know immediately which type you are), please tell us in the comments which tendency you lean towards and how you best develop the curiosity habit.
I’ll be looking at the other habits as well with regard to these tendencies in future posts.
My Favourite Curiosity Links
* Lauren Bacon teaches how to ask the right questions.
* Todd Kashdan’s TED Talk on Becoming a Mad Scientist with your Life.
* The Ecstasy of Curiosity from Jason Silva at Shots of Awe
Also, my book recommendations on contemplative habits.