One of the hardest things to change about ourselves is the introduction of new and positive habits that stick and become lifestyle changes that work for us.

This can be easy to start but hard to keep doing over time and in recent months a number of my clients have talked about their frustration in maintaining habits that would be really good for them and a few habits they’d love to say goodbye to.

So this got me thinking and I went searching for some theories about how to successfully adopt new habits that stick. I came across the work of Gretchen Rubin who is an American author, blogger and speaker and writer on the subject of habits, happiness and human nature.

Gretchen Rubin believes that if we have habits that work for us we are more likely to be happy, healthy, productive and creative. Alternatively, if we have habits that don’t work for us life is much more of a struggle.

So the question is ‘How do we adopt a good habit?’

It would seem that it is very important to know your own nature and we are all different in how we respond to the idea of introducing rules by which we live our lives otherwise known as habits.

Gretchen believes that people fall into one of 4 categories of how they respond to the idea of habits/rules/requests/demands/expectations and whether they be driven by internal or external motivations.

She identifies 4 personality types;
  • The Upholder who responds readily to outer rules and inner rules
  • The Questioner who questions all rules but will follow rules if they make sense from a reasoned perspective
  • The Rebel who resists all rules both outer and inner rules alike
  • The Obliger who responds readily to outer rules but struggles to keep inner rules.
So Gretchen’s message to all of us is to get to know your personality style so you can play to your natural tendencies and set up the goal to maintain a habit by playing to your strengths.

So if you’re a Questioner then you probably need to take the time to understand why you’re doing things a particular way otherwise you may not be motivated to apply yourself for very long time. If you’re a Rebel then it needs to be driven by the choice you’ve made to pursue a goal as externally driven goals can be resisted and you’re strongest motivation is driven by present desire. For an Obliger the best way to set up a new habit involves creating systems of external accountability as you hate letting others down and like to be a good role model. As for the Upholder you don’t need deadlines as you thrive in an environment where the rules are clearly defined and strive to meet both internal and external expectations. Not surprisingly this is the one group who finds it easy to start and maintain habits over time.

So figure out the circumstances that will best help you get started and keep at it! The secret is self-knowledge and knowing your natural tendencies so you can find the best way to adopt a good habit and make sure it becomes a positive part of your lifestyle at work and/or home.

Thanks for reading my blog and I recommend you check out one of Gretchen’s YouTube videos to get a better idea of how to successfully adopt new habits.

The team of Psychologists at Attuned Psychology are skilled and experienced at helping you to identify and manage any anxiety conditions that may be impacting your life. Contact us if you would like to take the opportunity to learn more about anxiety and how to manage it more effectively.

Rachael Elliott

Clinical Psychogist

Attuned Life

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