After writing this blog every month for several years, I missed writing the February 2021 blog, and felt badly. I wondered why I missed a self-imposed deadline and why it mattered to me.
I found an answer while reading Getchen Rubin’s 2017 book, The Four Tendencies. Ms. Rubin has developed a system for understanding what motivates us.
The Four Tendencies distinguishes how people tend to respond to expectations, both:
• outer expectations (going to a doctor’s appointment, answering a request from a friend)
• inner expectations (practicing guitar, going for a daily run)
Your response determines your “Tendency.”
• “Upholders” respond readily to outer and inner expectations. They keep the work deadline, and the New Year’s resolution, fairly easily.
• “Questioners” question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense and meets their own inner standards — so they follow only inner expectations
• “Obligers” meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves. An Obliger journalist has no trouble writing when he has an editor, colleagues, and deadlines, but struggles to write a novel in his free time.
• “Rebels” resist all expectations, outer and inner alike. They want to do what they want, in their own way, and if you ask or tell them to do something, they’re likely to resist.
Of the Four Tendencies, her research shows that most people are either Questioners or Obligers — and Obliger is the largest Tendency of all (for both men and women). Of the Four Tendencies, Rebel is the smallest category, and Upholder is also a small category. Not many people are Rebels or Upholders.
To determine your tendency, Rubin has an online quiz at: happiercast.com/quiz.
I’m an Upholder, so I avoid making mistakes or letting people down—including myself. If I decide to do something, I will hold myself accountable and do it, even if I don’t enjoy doing it. I like rules and schedules, but I can get overwhelmed and then shut down. That may have happened last month.
As an upholder, I finalized my taxes early in February, I began planning my spring garden, hiked and biked, taught online classes, went to book club meetings, met with the Marin Master Gardeners Board, and did my painting homework for a new online watercolor class. But, honestly, most of my time was devoted to fun in the snow.
I skied with friends three days at a time over three weeks. During two of those trips, two different friends fell while skiing and landed in the hospital – one with a broken leg and the other with a broken pelvis. We’re all good skiers, so we tend to ski fast. After she fell, my girlfriend said, “I forgot that I’m not 30 years old anymore.” She’s now 68. And my other injured friend is 66. Seeing my friends in pain really shook me up.
It’s hard to admit, but our bones aren’t the same anymore. We don’t bounce off the ground. I don’t plan to stop skiing, but I am going to stick to the groomed runs, and I will slow down. I do feel some loss since I love speed. But I remind myself that I’ve skied fast in all kinds of conditions since I was a teenager…so I’ve had my share of fun.
Also, there are benefits to getting older. For example, I now have more time to ski and do lots of other fun activities. I just need to be more mindful of my body, whatever I’m doing. Aging teaches us so many lessons…
I hope you stay well and healthy. And, as soon as possible, please get your Covid shots!