Monday, April 25, 2016

Hacking My Brain [So What's an Obliger?]

Learning about the four tendencies as outlined in "Better Than Before" by Gretchen Rubin has offered me a new framework from which to think about my habit formation and how to get myself to do things on a regular basis. Like blogging for instance. I'm not a very good blogger. I have a tendency to forget about this thing for weeks at a time. Which means I never build up much of an audience. One of the keys to blog audience building is consistency. I occasionally flirt with the idea of just letting this thing fall by the wayside and not worrying about it anymore. However, I have things to say that I want to share, so I keep coming back to it.

What does being an Obliger have to do with any of this?

I'll repost the handy chart I made that gives you the four tendencies and their interactions with expectations.
As you can see from the chart, Obligers are the ones who do well with external expectation and poor with internal expectation. In short, I thrive when someone else expects me to do something and have a higher rate of failure when I, solo, expect me to do something. Case in point, blogging. I have attempted on several occasions to put myself on a self-imposed schedule for blogging in order to keep this blog up to date. Unfortunately, because of how I feel about internal expectation, which is to say I can disappoint me without there being really any consequences, that has not worked. On the flipside, I have no audience expecting me to come to them with pearls of wisdom (or even a possible witty comment) on a regular basis so that doesn't work either. No consequences, no one breathing down my neck to say that I should. Nothing. Now that we have defined the problem an obliger faces, how does one create a system of accountability by which one can do something like blogging without it being cumbersome and useless? I'm still working on this. There is a hashtag called #MondayBlogs on Twitter. In order to work on blog traffic, I want to participate in that as much as possible. Therefore, I need to have content to post. External activity helping to drive internal motivation. I want to blog. I just need some reason outside of myself to blog regularly. If I take part in #MondayBlogs, then I have to post a new blog post by Monday every week. Considering that Monday is currently my day off, that works out rather nicely. I can write the blog post before Monday. Edit it on Monday, and make sure that it gets posted to the interwebs by Monday afternoon in order to take part in the Monday blog traffic.

Let's look at another something I've done recently where I am running into what I call the 'Obliger Wall'. The Obliger Wall is the awareness that I want to do something, but my nature is working against me for some reason. My obliger nature is making it hard for me to create and hold onto the habit.

Recently, I started going to the gym, Planet Fitness. I've been trying to get my weight back under control for a while now and I'm more than a little disappointed in my progress. I actually started this journey last year only to end up 20lbs heavier over the course of a year than losing any real weight. Needless to say, this was a trend I really needed to head off before it got any worse. So gym membership, here I come. Problem: Going to the gym is not inherently something I feel inclined to do. I know why I need to. I feel the mild unhappiness with my body shape that prompts it, but I'm not exactly super motivated in spite of my shortcomings. In most cases, this is where I quit. I cancel the gym membership and I give up. Who cares if I look like a whale in a bathing suit but me, right? I'm falling back on the online option for group interaction in the Nerd Fitness Rebellion and Habitica (formerly HabitRPG). I've written about Nerd Fitness HERE and HabitRPG HERE. These are two of my favorite sites on the internet and they offer me a chance at accountability that I don't have in my regular life. Through my party occasionally asking me how things are going and opening up a daily battle log on Nerd Fitness, I've tried to set myself up for success. This is not to say that I get a lot of interaction from these places and no one is riding my coattails trying to get me to do anything, but the occasional how is this going, which requires me to formulate my thoughts into some kind of update (and feel bad if I haven't done anything toward my goal) has been very helpful. I'm in week four of going to the gym and seeing some positive improvement in my weight. So I guess it's working.

One thing I will point out though: Just because I'm an Obliger doesn't mean that I cannot work off of internal motivation. It simply means I have better success when I have external factors spurring me on. At the end of the day, no one cares if my books get finished, but me so the motivation has to come from within me. I don't have an agent or a publisher or even a favorite reader waiting for these things. It's all on me. If it sounds like I can't get myself to do things on my own without someone standing over me with a stick, that's just not true.

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