Habit forming and meeting expectations: what’s your tendency?

Below is a link to Gretchen Rubin’s Tendency Quiz.  The purpose of the quiz is to give people insight into how they respond to expectations and therefore make habit forming (or breaking) more successful.  

Rubin’s four types of tendencies are:

Questioners (question all outer expectations before deciding which ones to turn into  inner expectations)

Obligers (find it easier to meet others’ expectations than own expectations)

Upholders (respond to others and own expectations)

Rebels (resist both inner and outer expectations)

So, for example if you are a questioner, you will only respond well to an expectation that you truly believe is beneficial. Don’t waste your time trying to form a habit that someone else suggested if  you don’t think it’s worthwhile.

If you are an obliger, you will do best if held accountable by someone else (a deadline for a project imposed by others, an exercise partner expecting you to show up, etc). You’re better off involving other people in your goals- announce your intentions, ask them to check in with you.

If you are an upholder,  then I guess you are all set; you will meet your own and others’ expectations almost all of the time! You don’t want to let anyone down, including yourself. Perhaps you need a break?

And rebels need freedom. They need to wake up and decide what they will do. In order for a rebel to begin a new habit, they must have chosen it and decided it is what they want, not a rigid expectation from anyone, themselves included. Here is a very short video dedicated to understanding the rebel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jli-sW5LP-Q

Here’s the quiz to determine which tendency you favor:


Thinking Outside the Bento Box

20150318_160202Many years ago, for three years, I lived in Texas with my husband. Texas seemed to own the sky and it would sometimes open up into a display of light and sound that left us shaking. While driving anywhere, we could somehow see both our destination and forever, the endless road, a straight shot for eternity.

Both of us, having been born and raised in the Northeast, were homesick for our home land, the hills and trees; I longed for New England to contain me again, to give me just the vision in front of me and the sense that I was here but not there. I missed the twists and turns of the road and knowing what was around the next corner only because it was familiar, but not because I could actually see it. It felt more segmented, and much less vast than Texas.

And now sometimes when I feel like the weather has contained me too much, the snow covered sidewalks have shut me out, or more accurately shut me in, I find myself thinking of wide open spaces with no walls and no boundaries of an angry winter. I long for warmth and fluidity, and the bursting forth of spring, plants breaking ground, remnants of winter disappearing under the sun.

One season tiptoes into the next, haltingly, bleeding into the other, like mixing paint, some of this and some of that until the change is clear, the season defined. Still we call them by separate names. They are winter and then spring. One and then the other. Words, like walls, organizing our year, our lives. It is a relief when one turns fully into the other, when it becomes  this and not that.

This brings me to the popularity of the Bento Box with its built in compartments and my theory of why we love these. Originating as the Japanese lunch box, the Bento Box offers us a variety of foods, carefully placed in a single portion, each item separated by the walls of the container. No food touches the other.

How easy it is to compartmentalize with a Bento Box! In fact, you can’t not compartmentalize with it. And it looks so appealing and neat and special.

20150318_160117(1)Similarly, but much less tangibly, I came across a Life Box in a book recently. A diagram intended to help us balance our time and energy, it was divided into nine sections: family, work, contribution, friends, relationship, leisure, hobby, personal growth and alone time.  At first glance the life box made sense but then I thought of how many of my areas permeate other areas and how my life is just not nearly as segmented as that.

Sometimes my leisure includes family and my alone time includes contribution or work and a hobby leads to personal growth and so on.  So much of life runs together and really can’t be separated, and I’m not sure I’d really want it to be, though I suppose for some that would be simpler in a way. It would certainly allow you to deal with just one area at a time and to “shut out” the other areas in order to focus on the one.

With a Bento Box it’s been done for you, all separate and tidy and clear and contained. It has boundaries. Clarity. You know what’s there, you see it. There are no spaces that continue on or corners around which you can’t see or things running into each other. It’s just this thing, this material object of convenience, but metaphorically it’s more.

It’s how we imagine we might arrange our lives, or even just some days, if we could, but mostly we know we wouldn’t want to because we can’t be contained, not really; so we appreciate the little things that give us the feeling of containment, or the illusion if you will. The tree lined streets and the Bento Box and sometimes we may even crave the snow banks. But simultaneously, I think, we also want the openness of the sky and the prairie and all the vastness to hold that which we cannot contain.

The Moth Story Slam : live storytelling

Are you a writer, a storyteller, or a playwright looking to showcase your work? Or maybe you are someone who would enjoy hearing a variety of true stories told live on stage? An evening at the Moth may be just perfect for you.  http://themoth.org/   In case you aren’t familiar with it, it’s an open mic forum in which speakers tell five minute true stories on stage without scripts or notes. stock-photo-8991028-red-curtain-stage

I guess what led me to the Moth (besides that I’ve enjoyed listening to Moth Radio hour) is that I figured it’s a writerly thing to do and a challenging, fun, inspiring way to develop some outside interest in my book-in-progress.

Essentially, each five minute moth story is a mini-memoir. I’ve heard and read all about the drudgery of book promotion, even if you are fortunate enough to get picked up by a publisher, and I figured this sounded like a pleasant way to attract interest. Besides, I knew that raising my comfort level with telling a story, rather than just writing it, would be a good skill to develop. I ran into other writers who were there for the same purpose. This excerpt from a New York Times article about the Moth convinced me it might be a good idea:

“A lot of my best clients, I’m finding at the Moth,” Mr. Chromy said. At events, he said, half the people telling stories already have representation, and other agents and publishers are usually there looking for talent.

People who can win over a live, if half-drunk, audience have skills beyond writing, he said. “If you are able to do a good reading, you probably have a facility for self-promotion,” Mr. Chromy explained. “Publishers are looking for that, too. Everybody says they’re going to be a great promoter, but a lot of people freeze up.”

 It does not come natural to me, generally, to be speaking to large audiences. Or even small ones. Heck, I can get tongue tied ordering a coffee if I feel rushed. But if I have prepared a piece of work that I am very satisfied with, or passionate about, and it feels authentic and worthwhile to me, then I think of it as a gift I am delivering to the audience, and then there is no stopping me. If my story is powerful enough, it carries me.

So I was super- excited-beyond- happy-ecstatic-to win! I actually came in first place! I was surprised, but truth be told, not hugely surprised. I was hopeful. I knew it was possible. Why not? Someone has to win and I had been incubating my story for, well, I don’t know, forty years or so? At least four years in an intentional way.

I planned to win. I mean planned.

During the week leading up to the event, I lived and breathed the Moth 24-7. Well maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it was on my mind.

I spent about half my time on preparing and rehearsing the story. The other half of my time was spent on mental preparation; I read the book Feel the Fear and do it anyway by Susan Jeffers. I watched approximately thirty-five moth stories on YouTube for inspiration, tamed fearful thoughts, focused on the empowering ones, meditation; any form of training the brain that I knew to be effective, I used. I got ready.

And then the night. Tickets always sell out. When you get there early, you sit with the very loud music and a whole lot of people around, right up until it is time to begin the stories.


My idea of preparing right beforehand is sitting quietly in a room alone and doing some yogic breathing. No such option here. Sink or swim baby. This is the venue. But once it’s time for storytellers to take the stage, the music stops. The audience falls silent. And ten lucky people get their names chosen from the hat.
I was the eighth story teller to go on stage. I knew to expect the bright light shining upon me-the one that took me by surprise my first time. I knew the MC would adjust the microphone for me. I knew not to think about what I did with my hands.

All those pesky details that we were encouraged to hyper focus on in public speaking classes in school? Watch your hands. Stand this way not that. Lean in, lean out. Forget about it. Why do we have to make things so complicated? Here’s my off-the-cuff, simplified instruction: Know your subject. Love your subject. Believe in it. And if you don’t believe in it, then find a new subject. Then go for it.

I knew it went well. Definitely not perfectly. Certainly room for improvement. As soon as I finished, I knew what I wanted to do differently next time. But I was thinking there’d be a next time. And I was pretty satisfied.

The judges give out the scores for each speaker just a few minutes after each story, so once I got my score, I was pretty sure I was in the lead with just two more story tellers to go after mine. As a writer, it feels a bit strange to get a score and then to hope it is the best score, which means of course that you hope all the other fabulous, sincere, creative storytellers do worse. That was weird. I don’t typically compete. They were all good! Writers and storytellers support each other!

But if it had to be just one of us, well, I wanted to go to the GrandSLAM. The anticipation of it all had me wondering for a brief moment if I should have just kept my writing a quiet activity instead of bursting forth into the world of competitive storytelling. I mean it’s a little out of my comfort zone. It’s kind of scary.

But then I remembered the author’s words from the fear book: If you aren’t feeling fear you aren’t growing.

I guess I am having a bit of a growth spurt.

I did it.

And there is all that psychology about how girls play it small and don’t do enough healthy bragging, so I’m going to make up for all my girlhood years of not bragging right here and now and set an example for girls:

I WON!!!! I FREAKIN’ WON! And I am THRILLED! I was GOOD! Really GOOD! I WON I WON I WON! And I am SO happy about it!!

Okay, I’m done. Not positive how healthy that was, but it felt good.

(Quite honestly, looking back, it occurs to me that I can’t really remember much that I should have been bragging about in my girlhood, but anyway. Now I can. I’m a late bloomer, what can I say?)

And I am grateful. Because I got the chance to do this! I live near a city that hosts this event and I had the time and the support and my name got picked and I actually had this opportunity. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Which reminds me, there was this tiny older woman who moved to the U.S. from another country(I forget where) several years ago with her husband; she hadn’t wanted to move but knew it was for the best and so here she was. Her story trailed off into randomness a bit and she was a little difficult to understand, but she had something to say dammit and we live in a place where we get to do this. She wasn’t going to miss the opportunity. She was enjoying herself. And she was genuinely happy for me when I won. I was standing next to her on the stage at the end when they called my name and she took my hands and was just beaming. And I loved her.

The day following this event, I woke up happy but drained. It had been a late night and the days leading up to it had taken all my energy to prepare. I had the overwhelming urge to do nothing but organize my Tupperware drawer and reflect on the event.  But that night was my writing group meeting, which turned out to be a good thing. Because once the party’s over, it’s back to the keyboard. Writers must write.

So in a couple months or so I will compete against nine other winners (from nine other Story Slams) in the GrandSLAM championship. It will be a bigger venue, with a larger audience. I’m not really sure what happens after that. I’m taking it one step at a time.

The Moth is a fun event for audience members as well. You can order a drink and a snack and sit back and take in the stories. This takes place in cities all around the U.S. http://themoth.org/events

But perhaps you too have a story you’d like to share? Humor, tragedy, mishap? It’s all material. People want to hear it! Maybe I’ll see you on the stage. It could happen.