Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Hacking my Brain [The Four Tendencies]

As a writer, I do a fair bit of reading. Some of it I even find useful for more than just allowing me to procrastinate about doing more important things. One writer I find very interesting (interesting enough that I also subscribe to her podcast) is Gretchen Rubin. Gretchen is a lawyer turned writer who specifically deals with habits and how to create a happier life. I first read her book, The Happiness Project, on a plane returning from New York with my mother. I bought it in the airport when the dramatic YA novel I had been reading ran out. It was a sixteen dollar book at the magazine kiosk, but I didn't regret it. That book, in short, is about a year long experiment Gretchen did on herself in order to create a happier life. It started from a place of stagnation and dissatisfaction and moved toward making real strides to improve her circumstances without necessarily changing much of anything. To me, this was a novel idea. In my own mind, though I had never said it out loud, I considered happiness a product of things that happened to me as opposed to something that I could affect and control. This may be an unintended side product of my interactions with a bunch of therapists over the years who have emphasized how much my condition (Severe depression/Schizophrenia/Social Anxiety/Aspergers) is not my fault and just the reality of faulty brain chemistry. In a way, that set me up as the victim. After reading The Happiness Project, I decided maybe just blaming bad luck and poor genetics wasn't enough.

I liked the book so much I lent it out on multiple occasions and that's my it isn't on my bookshelf right now. I lent it out and never got it back. Oh well, as I always say with books, they are enriching someone's life wherever they are, so no hard feelings.

In my pursuit of improving my life, I started seeing a therapist who fully believes my life is under my control. The worst of the faulty brain chemistry has been corrected through medication and now I'm enjoying a happier and more fulfilled life thanks to someone believing it was possible for me. However, that's not enough. I recently started embarking on changing my life a little further by tackling my habits. Gretchen wrote another wonderful book called Better than Before about the science and strategies of habit formation. Of course, I had to read it and see what I could glean for the use in my own journey of habit formation. The first thing I learned was that just as there are different personalities, there are different tendencies when it comes to habit formation. I put together a handy little chart to be able to tell them apart.
Now as you can see, you can be one of four. I am actually an Obliger. I thought I might be an Upholder, but from looking at how I handle projects and inner expectations like food logging and portion control, I realize I have a real problem dealing with expectations I set for myself. Is it impossible for me to do the right thing if I don't have external expectations or someone hounding me? No, but things go much more smoothly for me when I consider that I have someone else I am influencing, impressing, or just accountable to. The biggest question is what does this mean for my writing? I am generally capable of finishing a writing task without someone breathing down my neck or a real deadline other than the one that I set on the calendar. On the flipside, I do so much better on things like NaNoWriMo because it gives me a lot of external accountability. Others are looking at my progress bar going: Has it turned purple yet? They're asking me about whether or not I'm writing today. All stuff that makes me feel like 'Ah man, I really need to be writing today'. I'm going to think on this some more and see if there are ways to create external accountability to get things done more quickly. It would be awesome if I could find a system to get me writing more with fewer days off. Look for that to be upcoming. I also have a progress report due on where we are in creating the next two books: Wielding His Scythe and Blades of Fate.

If you would like to check out Gretchen Rubin, try her blog/website at gretchenrubin.com. You can also find her podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin, through her website. If you want to find out your tendency, take the quiz found here.

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