Are you familiar with Gretchen Rubin's book Better Than Before? In it, she talks about habit formation and what causes some people to keep habits more easily or readily than others.
It boils down to the Four Tendencies, she says.
(You can watch an expanded Facebook Live video on this topic—including visual aids, where we look at and learn from several published books in each genre!—here.)
The Four Tendencies are four approaches to life's commitments and habits based on our response to expectations, whether our own or others'. Each one of us falls into one of four categories, Gretchen says, and I'm finding that knowing which one you are can make all the difference in how you choose to go about writing and finishing your book.
So, which one are you?
- Upholder. If it's generally easy for you to make a commitment to yourself and keep it and make a commitment to someone else and keep it, you're probably an Upholder.
- Obliger. If you have an easier time meeting expectations other people set for you than meeting the expectations you set for yourself, you're likely an Obliger.
- Questioner. If something has to make sense or align with your personal values in order for you to do it, you're probably a Questioner.
- Rebel. If you don't like meeting expectations in any form or fashion, whether they're set by others or yourself, then you can bet you are a Rebel.
Can you see how knowing your tendency would be helpful when it comes to writing and finishing your book? Can you also see how knowing these tendencies exist can keep you from comparing your progress on your book to others' progress on their books?
The important thing is to know yourself and to plan your way forward accordingly.
If you're an Upholder, you'll likely have an easier time than the rest of the types committing to your book and seeing it through to completion. This is because, far more than the other types, Upholders are people of their word—whether that word is spoken to themselves or someone else.
To get started on your book, if you're an Upholder, I recommend you make a plan. This could take the form of:
- Deciding to spend a certain amount of time—two weeks? a month?—mapping out your book ideas and structure
- Committing to write a certain number of words per day
- Committing to write for a certain amount of time per day
- Creating mini deadlines for the completion of each chapter of your book
- Taking a class that gives you deadlines to meet or activities to complete by a certain time
Obligers often beat themselves up for breaking promises they've made to themselves—for not being Upholders, in other words. They're the ones who say they're going to get up at 5 a.m. each day to work on their book, and three weeks later, they still haven't done it.
I recommend that instead of beating yourself up for not being an Upholder, you work within the realities of who you are and how you best to respond to commitments and expectations. If you're an Obliger, you respond best to external expectations, so set yourself up for success by incorporating those external expectations into your work flow.
That likely means setting up an accountability structure for yourself and your book. This could include:
- Pairing up with a writing buddy
- Taking a class that provides you with assignments and deadlines
- Hiring a book coach who provides check-ins and guard rails for you to follow
- Asking someone in your life to hold you accountable to a specific micro goal
Questioners like to ask the question, "Why?" Why are we doing this? Why does it matter? Why should I trust you?
If you're a Questioner and you can't find satisfying answers to your "Why?" questions, you likely won't keep going on a commitment you've made.
This can impact your book on multiple levels. First, if you don't know your own reasons for writing your book, you won't have the intrinsic motivation you need to actually write it. And, second, if you're working with others to complete your book or seeking out information about the writing and publishing process, you'll need to be sure those other people can explain why their way matters. It has to make sense to you and align with your inner values or sense of rightness and fairness in order for you to take it on and see it through.
To move forward on your book if you're a Questioner, I recommend:
- Getting clear on your reasons for writing your book
- Assessing how those reasons align with your values and intentions for your life
- Working with partners—teachers, coaches, publishers—whose expertise you trust and who are willing and able to answer your questions along the way
- Researching best practices for publishing and marketing the kind of book you're writing
- Creating a plan or schedule that fits your book-writing life within the demands of the rest of your life
If you're a Rebel, you might find it challenging to gain momentum on your book. This is because you don't respond well to internal expectations you set for yourself, nor do you respond well to external expectations others might have of you. You're a Rebel, after all! You desire freedom from constraints.
And that's the heart of it, really. You desire freedom from constraints. The trick, for you, is learning to work with that desire in order to get where you want to go with your book.
Here's how that could look for you:
- Each day, ask yourself if you want to work on your book that day; if so, do it
- Make a list of different tasks you could complete for your book; when you sit down to work on your book, give yourself the freedom to choose whichever task on the list most appeals to you
- Decide you're going to write your book in your own way, even if—and especially if—it flouts convention
- Tie your commitment to working on your book to some other activity that feels like a treat you're giving yourself
To Learn More
As I mentioned at the start, you can learn more about the Four Tendencies in Gretchen Rubin's book Better Than Before.
Incidentally, the small section on the Four Tendencies in Better Than Before gained such traction with readers that Gretchen is now writing a whole book about the subject! The new book releases in September, and you can learn more and pre-order your copy here.
Gretchen also offers a great breakdown of each of the Four Tendencies, plus responds to listener questions about it, on her Happier podcast. You can access links to several of her podcast episodes on this subject here.
* This is not a sponsored post. Links are shared just for the joy of it.