Podcast Episode #217: Gretchen Rubin – Happy, Healthy Habits

Diane Sanfilippo Featured, paleo, Podcast Episodes 2 Comments

Topics: Balanced Bites Podcast | Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe
1. Updates from Diane [2:11] 2. Introducing our guest, Gretchen Rubin [3:13] 3. The Four Tendencies [7:42] 4. Exploring Diane’s tendency [16:14] 5. Using the knowledge of tendencies applied to nutritional changes [23:47] 6. Abstainers and Moderators [28:47] 7. Fundamentally changing your tendency [37.:7] 8. The Rebel tendency [41:02] 9. How to push ourselves without punishing ourselves [50:25] 10. How to monitor for habit without negative impact [56:59] 11. When a Questioner drops a routine [1:04:10]

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Balance Bites: Episode #217: Gretchen Rubin – Happy, Healthy Habits

You’re listening to the Balanced Bites podcast episode 217.

Welcome to the Balanced Bites podcast with Diane Sanfilippo and Liz Wolfe. Diane is a certified nutrition consultant, and the New York Times bestselling author of Practical Paleo, The 21-Day Sugar Detox, and co-author of Mediterranean Paleo Cooking. Liz is a nutritional therapy practitioner, and the best-selling author of Eat the Yolks and The Purely Primal Skincare Guide. Together, Diane and Liz answer your questions, interview leading health and wellness experts, and share their take on modern paleo living with their friendly and balanced approach. Remember our disclaimer: The materials and content within this podcast are intended as general information only, and are not to be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Diane Sanfilippo: Hey everyone! Welcome back to the show. Before we get into my super fun, partly self-indulgent, amazingly informational interview with Gretchen Rubin, I just wanted to give you guys a couple of quick updates on things that are going on around here. Before I do that, let’s hear a word from one of our sponsors.

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1. Updates from Diane [2:11]

Diane Sanfilippo: Ok, so today I have one update for you guys, because we have a 21-Day Sugar Detox kicking off in December, but we have a slight change of schedule to the timing of that detox. Typically, we kick off the first Monday of every month, but I’m going to be shifting things up just a little bit, because it seems that if we were to start everyone on December 7th, you’d be running through Christmas on your 21-Day Sugar Detox. We don’t typically like to do that, so we’ll be kicking off the December group on Monday, November 30th.

Now, I wanted to tell you about it now, because if you order your books and the program from the website at 21DaySugarDetox.com, you’ll be set up with plenty of time to prepare and plan before the 21DSD. You’ll be able to go right through to before Christmas, take off for that week there, and if you do want to start in again with the New Year detox, that one will kick off on Monday January 4th, 2016.

Let’s get into my interview with Gretchen Rubin.

2. Introducing our guest, Gretchen Rubin [3:13]

Diane Sanfilippo: Gretchen Rubin is one of the most thought provoking and influential writers on habits and happiness. Her newest book, Better Than Before, is about how we can change our habits. Her books, The Happiness Project and Happier At Home, were both instant New York Times’ bestsellers, and the Happiness Project spent more than 2 years on the bestseller list, including at number one.

Her books have sold more than 2 million copies in 30 languages. On her blog, she writes about her adventures as she test drives ideas from contemporary science and ancient wisdom about building good habits and a happier life. She also does that, I’ll say, on her podcast every week; Happier. Welcome, Gretchen!

Gretchen Rubin: Thank you! I’m very happy to be talking to you today.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} I think a bunch of folks who listen to this show, perhaps, and myself were maybe first introduced to you through Robb Wolf’s podcast not long ago, which I think you did maybe right after Better Than Before came out?

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah, excellent. That’s great.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, cool. So I’m psyched, because after 4 years of doing this podcast, I’m starting to interview lots of folks kind of outside this specific nutrition and health realm, and I know that you have a little bit of a tie-in with Gary Taubs low-carb, high-fat thing.

Gretchen Rubin: Yes.

Diane Sanfilippo: So a couple of our listeners had questions about that. But for people who don’t know who you are, do you want to just give a really quick background? Not a huge long story, because I’d rather have us chat about questions and all that good stuff. But how you became a writer, and how you ended up studying happiness and habits?

Gretchen Rubin: Well I started my career in law, and I was actually clerking for Justice Sandra Day O’Conner when I decided that I really wanted to be a writer. So I went to law school and did the whole law thing, and then started over from zero to become a writer. And my most well known book, when it came out, was The Happiness Project. Which was actually like my 5th book, I think. Or maybe my 4th book. And I got into that, into The Happiness Project basically just from something in my own life. I was finishing up my biography of John F. Kennedy, and I was on a bus, and I thought; well, what do I want from life anyway? I want to be happy. But I realized I didn’t spend any time thinking about whether I was happy or how I could be happier.

So I started researching it just for myself, but what I found and have continued to find ever since, is that it is just the most enormously fascinating, rich subject to think about it, which is how do we build lives that are happier, healthier, and more productive? And that quickly leads you down to, how do you know yourself? Because it turns out the most important thing, if you want to build a life that’s happy, healthy, and productive, is that you have to build it around your own nature; your own values, your own temperament. So this self knowledge and how to build that life really has been preoccupying me for many years now.

And I became interested in habits because when I talk to people; and I’m sure you’ve experienced this; when I talk to people about a big happiness challenge that they were facing, very often it had to do with a problem with a habit. My habit is that I feel guilty all the time because I’m eating a bunch of junk. Or I feel lousy and exhausted because I’m just so tired all the time. And that’s really about eating habits, sleeping habits, there are a million different habits that once you lock them down can make a big difference. Because research shows that about 40% of everyday life is shaped by habits, so if we have habits that work for us, it’s just going to be a lot easier to have a happy, healthy, productive life.

Diane Sanfilippo: It’s so relevant to what we talk about all the time, because people ask us so often on this show how they can make changes, or how they can influence others to make changes in their lives.

Gretchen Rubin: Mm-hmm.

Diane Sanfilippo: It’s kind of like; well, {laughs} there’s so much too it. There’s not just one answer. I think what you’ve outlined in Better Than Before; and I have to admit, I haven’t read your past books because Better Than Before is my first introduction to you, and I’m just obsessed with it.

Gretchen Rubin: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: Because I’m really obsessed with that self knowledge and self awareness. Because I do think, like you said, it is kind of the key to unlocking; figuring ourselves out, and then figuring out; how do we get there? It’s like, we have this idea that we want to go from point A to point Z, but {laughs} how do we get there? And figuring out what our tendencies are and how to best support ourselves. And I have a personal experiment going on right now that I’m going to talk to you a little bit about.

Gretchen Rubin: Good.

3. The Four Tendencies [7:42]

Diane Sanfilippo: Why don’t you outline what the four tendencies are really quickly that you talk about in Better Than Before, and I’ve been listening to your series on the podcast, and I’m so annoyed that the Rebel hasn’t come up yet, because I’m trying to figure out if I actually am that or not.

Gretchen Rubin: Ooh.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. So I’m excited about that. But why don’t you tell folks what the 4 tendencies are, just as a little framework?

Gretchen Rubin: Ok. In Better Than Before, I identify 21 strategies that we can use to make or break our habits; and you use the same ones whether you’re making or breaking them. But the most important thing that you can do is you can begin by really thinking very hard about what’s true for you. Because the fact that something works for you, Diane, might mean that it would work for me, Gretchen; but it might not. So you really have to think about understanding ourselves so we can set ourselves up for success.

And as I was beginning to go deeper and deeper into the habits research, I was struck by the fact that no one ever talks about the fact that some people have a higher affinity for forming habits than other people. And some have very low affinity for forming habits, or they seem to be able to do it sometimes, but not other times. And some people really love habits, and then some people really resist habits. So how do you take all that into account? How do you take into account patterns; like how do people respond to New Years’ resolutions and things.

So I came up with the 4 tendencies. And there’s a quiz on my site for people who can’t tell what they are just from a quick definition on http://gretchenrubin.com/. But most people can categorize themselves pretty quickly. And it has to do with how you deal with an expectation. So, an outer expectation, like a work deadline or a request from a spouse; or an inner expectation, which is your own desire to keep a New Years’ resolution, your own desire to get back into playing guitar. So there’s Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels.

Upholders readily meet outer and inner expectations alike. So they keep a work deadline, they keep a New Years’ resolution without much fuss. They like to know what’s expected of them, but what they expect of themselves is just as important.

Then there are Questioners. Questioners question all expectations. They’ll do something if they’re convinced it makes sense, so they hate anything irrational or arbitrary. Their first question is always, why am I listening to you anyway? So they make everything an inner expectation, because if they don’t buy into it, they won’t keep it. But if they do buy into it, they will absolutely meet an expectation.

Then Obligers. Obligers readily meet outer expectations, but they struggle to meet inner expectations. And I really got an insight into this tendency; which, by the way, is the largest tendency, it’s the one that contains the most people. When a friend of mine said; well the weird thing is, I would love to exercise, and I know I would be happier if I exercised, and when I was in high school I was on the track team. And I never missed track practice; but I can’t go running now. Why? Well, after months and months and months of brain melting pondering, I realized what it is is that when she had a team and a coach waiting for her; when she had outer accountability, she had no trouble doing it. But when it was only her own inner expectation that she go running, then she was unable to do it.

The final one, and it sounds like you're thinking about whether this is your tendency, is the Rebel tendency. And Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike. They want to do what they want to do when they want to do it in their own way. If you ask or tell them to do something, they’re very likely to resist. And they often really struggle even to tell themselves what to do. They don’t want to tell themselves what to do. So those are the 4 tendencies.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: Which make a big difference when you’re thinking about how to change your own habit or how to help somebody else change a habit, because they really see the world in different ways.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, and I think what’s relevant about this, as well; it applies to all of us in every area of our lives, hugely in relationships.

Gretchen Rubin: Yes.

Diane Sanfilippo: That’s something that when; I listened to the audio book because I’m an audio person, and when I heard you go in depth in your podcast episode about Upholders; I was like, that’s my husband.

Gretchen Rubin: Ahh.

Diane Sanfilippo: So, now I know why I have to be; and this is so many people, but I really need to be extremely delicate with feedback, and trying not to make it something that’s critical because that’s his tendency; he works so hard to do everything right and put the dish away just the right way {laughs}, and yeah I think that was so interesting.

It’s also really interesting when we look at nutrition and dietary changes, as you mentioned, especially in the form of something like a challenge or a 30 day; I have a 21-Day Sugar Detox for example. And there are people who come into the program, and not that this is a bad thing, but almost blindly just follow it. Like, ok it’s there, I oblige. {laughs} Those are your rules.

The Questioners are definitely the toughest sometimes. They come in and if there is a rule, as you’re saying, that seems kind of arbitrary, it’s like; mmm, I don’t know about explaining this to you because it’s a rule because it’s a rule. {laughs} So that becomes a struggle.

For people listening, it’s definitely one of those things where, if you’re trying to figure out why do nutrition challenges not work for you, this is the perfect explanation. If you’re a Questioner and you’re just not jiving with the rationale, it’s like; well you’re trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, trying to follow someone else’s rules.

Gretchen Rubin: And it’s interesting about Questioners with something like that, is one of the things that’s very noticeable about Questioners is they often customize.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: They will; you’ll be like, oh you’re absolutely, positively supposed to do it this way, and they’re like; mmm, but I decided to tweak it so it’s just right for me. And you’re right; something like; why 21? Why not 23? Why not 14? That kind of thing really bothers them.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: But once they’re convinced.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

Gretchen Rubin: They have to know why 21? Why figure? Why am I listening to you? What’s your authority, what’s your research? And the thing about it, it can be perceived to be undermining or like to be a challenge.

Diane Sanfilippo: Mm-hmm.

Gretchen Rubin: When in fact they just need to get there.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yep.

Gretchen Rubin: And then once they get there, they can be absolutely faithful to it. But they need to have that sense of inner buy-in in order to be able to follow through with some kind of behavior like that.

Diane Sanfilippo: What’s cool about that, too, is learning about that from my perspective as someone who created a program is that I can now see those questions in a different way.

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: And I can understand it; and I also teach people about business and entrepreneurship as well, so when I’m working with other nutritionists or coaches, etc., I have to remind them that; especially with social media and the internet, when someone types a question, sometimes the person who they’re typing it to feels on the defensive.

Gretchen Rubin: Yep.

Diane Sanfilippo: Because that person is asking so many questions. And I always remind people; assume it’s really just a question at face value. A lot of people now know to type “just curious” or something so they lighten it, you know what I mean?

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: They’ll add that levity. But they do ask those questions, and it is our responsibility to just answer it without feeling like there’s an inquisition going on, and then we understand. I’ve seen it happen over and over, where people get their answer, and then as you said, ok their bought in. They’re good to go, and then that does happen, so I think that’s just a really interesting way to look at things and to understand ourselves.

Gretchen Rubin: And I think you bring up a really important point, which is; when you understand how other people are behaving, and it’s just part of their nature, then you don’t take it personally. It’s not that they’re attacking you; they act this way with everybody.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: They’re doing this to you; they did this to their teacher when they were in high school, they do it to their spouse when they’re at home. This is just who they are; it’s not personal. And with Rebels; somebody said to me, oh I have so much less conflict in my marriage.

Diane Sanfilippo: Mm-hmm.

Gretchen Rubin: Because I used to think; I would ask him to do something, and he wouldn’t do it, and that was like; because our marriage was in trouble. And now I look around and I’m like; if anybody asks him to do something he won’t do it.

Diane Sanfilippo: Right.

Gretchen Rubin: That’s just who he is. It might bug me, but there’s nothing personal about it. It’s just their nature. And so then I think there’s a lot more forbearance, because you can just feel like that’s just where they’re coming from, so let me meet them where they are and not feel attacked or not feel like this person is being unhelpful or difficult or uncooperative, or slackerly.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

Gretchen Rubin: We just need to set up a circumstance that this person can succeed.

4. Exploring Diane’s tendency [16:14]

Diane Sanfilippo: I found myself; I don’t know if it was before I started listening to your book or after; but I found myself, when asking a question, for example, of my husband, I was kind of explaining ahead of time. Or after I would ask the question, I would say; I’m asking, I’m not questioning. I would ask him a question, then say, I’m just asking because I want to know why, but I’m not questioning it meaning I’m not doubting it, if that makes sense?

Gretchen Rubin: Mmm. Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: So here’s why I can’t really figure out where I fall; because I can’t predict how I’m going to respond to an expectation. {laughs} It’s like Russian roulette over here. I’m insanely productive sometimes. {laughs} So sometimes I respond.

Gretchen Rubin: When are you not? When are you not productive?

Diane Sanfilippo: I can’t even tell you! {laughs} When I don’t feel like it. I know.

Gretchen Rubin: If somebody said to you; hey, would you unload the dishwasher, what would you do?

Diane Sanfilippo: I think it depends. I think it depends on the scenario. If I’m busy doing something, I’m not going to get up and do it then. Typically I’ll do it when I’m ready or if I’m standing right there. {laughs} But I don’t know how often I’m asked to do that. I usually will volunteer.

Gretchen Rubin: If you’re in a store, and there’s a sign that says 5 garments in a dressing room, what do you think about that?

Diane Sanfilippo: Well if I’m holding more than that, I follow it. If no one is there; no, I don’t follow it. {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: Mmm. Ok.

Diane Sanfilippo: So I’m definitely not an Upholder.

Gretchen Rubin: You’re not an Upholder.

Diane Sanfilippo: For sure I’m not an Upholder.

Gretchen Rubin: No, you could be a Questioner, you could be an Obliger, you could be a Rebel. So we’re narrowing it down here.

Diane Sanfilippo: I think, with the Questioner, I’ve been thinking about this. Once I trust somebody, or have decided that I trust them, I’m cool. I don’t keep asking questions. But then I know that you’ve said a Questioner; once they have their answer, they’re good to go.

Gretchen Rubin: Mm-hmm.

Diane Sanfilippo: Again, this is totally self indulgent because I’m trying to figure this out. But I think when it comes down to it, I do wake up, like, what do I want to do today, and that’s part of why I work for myself.

Gretchen Rubin: Right.

Diane Sanfilippo: Because having a boss is like shackles. {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: Right. And your description of yourself; I think I could get to it if we had enough time, but we don’t want to do this.

Diane Sanfilippo: Totally.

Gretchen Rubin: Put you through the motions. But I will say this, and I will say I think this really brings up the issue; which is that this is a tiny, tiny, tiny thin slice of a person’s nature.

Diane Sanfilippo: Mm-hmm.

Gretchen Rubin: It’s now they respond to an expectation. And it will look completely different when it’s mixed up with other things. Like, a very considerate thoughtful, loving Rebel, is going to look very different from a Rebel who is not very considerate.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

Gretchen Rubin: The things that they will chose to do will be very different. They’re doing it because that’s what they choose, but they choose to do things out of love for others to a much greater degree. Any other people; eh, not so much.

How ambitious are you? People who are very ambitious look different than people who are not ambitious. How controlling are you? How creative are you? How smart are you? Questioners, Questioners who are really intelligent look one way, but I think a lot of times when you run into crack pots…

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: I think a lot of times they are Questioners who really aren’t that smart. And so they kind of fall prey to a lot of bad information, because they have that questioning attitude, but they’re not really processing tons of really high level information. So I think what it could be is because you’re confused because you’re like; in a way I look like this, but it’s so mixed in with other things.

For instance, I have a friend who is super, super smart, super analytical, but she’s an Obliger. And so she asks questions all the time, and she’s enormously curious and extremely educated to the nth degree, but if you say, how does she feel about an expectation? Well she readily meets outer expectations but she struggles to meet inner expectations. So some people might think; oh, she looks like a Questioner because there’s all this analysis and all these excel spreadsheets floating around. But that’s coming from a different part of her personality.

As to the expectation; what are you like?

Diane Sanfilippo: Right.

Gretchen Rubin: And you can’t look at somebody from the outside and know what they are. Because people often say to me; oh, so-and-so, so-and-so, what are they? I’m like, I don’t know!

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: Because you could do anything, it just depends on how you feel about it. So you mentioned low-carb earlier; well I’m crazy low-carb faithful. And I do it as an Upholder. I love it. To me, I do exactly; I follow the rules very precisely, and I love that. That’s very satisfying to me. That’s my hobby. Everybody needs a hobby.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: But I have a friend, I have a good friend who is a Rebel, and he eats exactly the same way. But he comes at it a different way. He’s like, I’m not going to believe all this ridiculous stuff that the government is trying to tell us about nutrition, and I’m not going to be convinced by the food companies who are trying to propagandize us, and I’ve got my own way of eating, and this is the cool way that only the insiders know. He has this whole different way of doing it. Now, from the outside, you would say, well these two people are exactly alike! But we’re doing things for such different reasons.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, that’s a really good point. I think also sometimes when I get a ton of questions from people about why bacon isn’t unhealthy; or, you know, every little detail of minutia. I’m like, I cannot. I can’t get into it! Because that’s the person who wants every little piece.

Gretchen Rubin: {laughs} Yes.

Diane Sanfilippo: And I’m just like, I’m not that interested in having that conversation.

Gretchen Rubin: Here’s a book; go read the book.

Diane Sanfilippo: Honestly, yeah.

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: And it’s not that I didn’t have those same curiosities in the beginning, but once I’ve kind of figured it out. Like you’re saying, as an Upholder, once you’ve bought into whatever it is, that can be a Questioner too; once you’ve bought in.

Gretchen Rubin: It could be an Upholder, a Questioner, and an Obliger. They could all do that.

Diane Sanfilippo: Ok, so once you’ve bought in, you’re not continuing to question, necessarily. You’re in it, it’s good, you’re not doubting yourself continually. The people who see the latest headline about red meat, or fat, or something and then they kind of have a freak out. I just want to be like; everybody calm down. You made this decision under some kind of information and education at that point; but maybe they didn’t. Maybe they were obliging something without excess information. I don’t know; I find it very fascinating.

Gretchen Rubin: And then way this often comes up, is sometimes Questioners will say to me; oh, well I’ve been trying to follow XYZ diet, and I haven’t been able to keep it, why? And I’ll say, well, do you believe in that? And they’re often like, eh, no not so much.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: One person says; why can’t I take my vitamins? And I’m like, do you think you need to take vitamins? And she’s like, nah. I don’t think you really need to take vitamins. And I’m like; well there’s your answer, obviously you're not going to do it!

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

Gretchen Rubin: Maybe an Obliger would if it’s like; oh, my doctor is going to check when I go in next week, I better take my vitamins. But you know, for a Questioner, they really do have to get to that place of believing. And that might mean constantly, constantly, constantly challenging the idea. I do high intensity strength training, and my trainer said there is somebody he’s been training for 2 years, and every single time it’s like, why are we doing it this way.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: Why; and he said, it’s just part of his process.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

Gretchen Rubin: If he’s going to do it, he needs to constantly be reassuring himself, this is an effective, efficient way for me to be exercising. It’s like, it’s ok. He comes every week, you know. If that’s what it takes for him to feel confident and that this is the right thing for him, so be it. Fine.

5. Using the knowledge of tendencies applied to nutritional changes [23{47]

Diane Sanfilippo: So, we’ve had a bunch of questions about {laughs} not all from Questioners, about how people can use this framework to apply it to themselves when it comes to making nutritional changes, and I think you’re talking about that right now where, if somebody learns that they’re a Questioner and they haven’t really gone through their due diligence; maybe they did at first. Maybe they answered the few preliminary questions they needed for that initial buy-in, but then for the longer term commitment, there are more questions that they have deep down that they haven’t found the answers to. So maybe that becomes how you find a way to stick to something longer term based on that tendency. But I’m curious; it seems like with each of them, there’s a strategy that you can employ, or multiple strategies that you can employ to make yourself, I guess, accountable in some way whether it’s to yourself or somebody else.

Gretchen Rubin: Well, you’re exactly right. For each one, there are things I would emphasize would be particularly useful. For instance, exactly with Questioners; it’s like, you can’t just stop at the first couple of research articles, or the first couple of pages of a website. You’ve got to really satisfy yourself that this is the way to do it. And here’s something else about Questioners; one of the other 21 strategies is the strategy of loophole spotting.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: Which is that we’re all these amazing advocates for ourselves, and if we’re explaining; oh, just this one time! I’m totally committed to eating healthfully, but just this one time, I’m off the hook, because I’ve been so good up until now, I deserve to be bad today.

Diane Sanfilippo: We call that a Treat Yoself on this show. {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah, yeah and, or I’m going to be so good tomorrow, it doesn’t matter what I do today. Or other people’s feelings are going to be hurt if I don’t have a piece of birthday cake. Or you only live once! So I think Questioners, because they really are good at thinking of justifications, they might be particularly prone to loopholes. And the answer for that is to really stop yourself. There are 10 categories of loopholes; and I love studying loopholes because they’re so hilarious. 10 categories, and really stop yourself and say, ok well the label says it’s healthy. Is this really healthy? Well I worked out today so it doesn’t matter if I eat this. Ok, really? Is that the way to think about it? Let’s stop and think about it? Is that the right way to evaluate your behavior?

And here’s one of the most dangerous loopholes, and it works every single time for everybody, and Questioners particularly love this loophole, and I love it, the one coin loophole. And it comes from an ancient teaching story, which goes like this. Does one coin make a man rich? No, you would not say that one coin makes a man rich. But give a man a coin, and give a man another going, and give a man another coin, and at some point you have to say that a man is rich because one coin made him so.

And the way this comes up with habits is you can always say to yourself; ah, man, what’s one brownie? Oh, gosh, what’s one trip to the gym? That’s not going to make any difference? Why should I wear my helmet today? What are the chances I’m going to get into an accident today? And it’s absolutely true. And that is the thing; in the context of a whole life, one cupcake, one trip to the gym, one time wearing your helmet, whatever. It is inconsequential. So it always works; but the problem is, the only way you have healthy habits, the only way you have the habit of healthy eating, the only way you have the habit of exercising, the way you have the habit of wearing the helmet is if you do it over and over and over.

So you have to think; this is the called the story of the growing heap. You can’t focus on the one coin; you have to focus on the growing heap. And I think Questioners are often like; well, but look. Oh my gosh, yeah sure I’m committed to eating low-carb, but here I am, I’m out with my friends; what is one bowl of spaghetti going to do for me? It’s not going to make any difference. True, true. But you’ve got to challenge that loophole, and say the only way I’m going to make a change is each time; one coin by one coin by one coin. So I think that’s something a Questioner should think about, is not allowing that justification instinct to work against them; have it work for you. Don’t let it undermine you. But because you’re so good at it…

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} So good at finding them. That’s a great analogy; I’m going to use that one. I’ve used one of a long road trip, or a destination. So our whole journey of whether it’s our life, or a weight loss journey, or a journey back to health. We have tons of listeners who have autoimmune conditions, so similarly to your sister having type 1 diabetes, but lots of autoimmune conditions that have even more sort of daily health challenges, not that managing insulin isn’t a huge one. But lots of other aches and pains and big struggles. But I talk about it being a long road trip, and how many stops do you want to take on your way from, for example, New Jersey to Florida, which is a road trip I’ve taken. The more stops you take, the longer it takes you to get there. And if you just drive straight through with fewer stops, then you’ll get there much sooner. So it’s kind of the same concept there.

6. Abstainers and Moderators [28:47]

Gretchen Rubin: So can we do a sidebar and talk about Abstainer/Moderator, because I feel like that is so relevant.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yes! That is huge. That is huge, because people have asked about that too when it comes to ways of eating, right? That’s a huge one.

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah. I would love to hear your experience as a nutritionist, because this is something that I hear about from people all the time. So Abstainer/Moderator is kind of a completely different thing. So put the four tendencies out of your head.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: They say there’s two kind of people; the kind who like to divide people into two kinds of people, and the kind who don’t, and I do. So here’s a whole new framework; are you an Abstainer or a Moderator when it comes to facing a strong temptation. Not a weak temptation; a strong temptation.

So, Abstainers are people like me. We’re all or nothing people. We can say no and have none, but once we start we go all the way. You know, I never ate half a dish of ice cream in my life; I can’t have one cookie, I’m going to have 5 cookies. I can have none, but I find it very hard to stop once I’ve started.

Now Moderators are just very different. Moderators get kind of panicky and rebellious if they’re told they can never have something. They do better when they have it sometimes, they have a little bit. And when I figured out about Abstainer/Moderators, it made clear to me something that had always puzzled me; which is what is up with the people who can keep a bar of fine chocolate just squirreled away in a drawer, and then once a day they have one square of fine chocolate. To me, the whole day would be shadowed by the knowledge

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: That this half eaten chocolate bar is sitting in the desk drawer. But what I’ve found is that for an Abstainer, it’s easier to have none. Now, people say to me; oh, it’s easy for you because you have so much self control. I’m like; no! I don’t have enough self control to be moderate.

Diane Sanfilippo: Mm-hmm.

Gretchen Rubin: I do better when I have none. My sister’s strong temptation is French fries, and she gave up French fries. And I said to her; and she’s one of those people who always wants to say yes to herself. And I said, well how can you say no to yourself when it comes to French fries? And she said, well now I tell myself that I’m free from French fries. And that’s how I feel about being an Abstainer. All that noise, all that 2, 3, now, later, I deserve it! Oh, it’s for free! Oh I’m in a conference room for 3 hours and there’s a box of cookies! It all just goes away. All that noise just went away, because I just don’t eat it. And it’s like, I can sit now with a giant tub of Halloween candy, bite-sized candy bars, my most, the thing that I most loved, and it doesn’t even bother me. I don’t even notice it, because I never eat it, I don’t eat it, I abstain from it.

But this doesn’t work for everyone. Some people are moderators, and you might be a moderator about potato chips and salty things, but an abstainer about sweet things. Or you might be a moderator about wine, where as your spouse has to be an abstainer about wine, not because they’re an alcoholic, but just because… You know, a friend of mine said, it’s no wine or 4 glasses of wine, there’s no one glass of wine for me.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: And I just think this is an area where a lot of people tell each other that they’re doing it wrong. People constantly say to me as an Abstainer; it’s too rigid, it’s not healthy, you should learn to manage yourself. And I’m like; this is what works for me! This is what’s easy for me. This makes me happy. Why should I have to eat a brownie once a week to probe that I can, because I can’t! It’s easier for me to have none. But for moderators it’s easy to have a little bit sometimes. That’s what works for them.

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Diane Sanfilippo: I think this information; we have tons of listeners who actually work in this field, so lots of other nutritionists, coaches, etc. and I think knowing this about ourselves and about our potential clients is so powerful because I actually think that {laughs} I think I’m an Abstainer, as well, except I think I want those moments where I don’t have to abstain. Because I’m the same way; sometimes, I can have the one brownie if that’s all that exists in my vicinity, then it’s just one. But if there’s a whole tray…

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: I don’t really know {laughs} I can’t moderate it. I definitely think about it. But then, there are times where I will say; well if I’m following this plan right now and I’m really going to stick to it, then I will ignore. There will be chocolate in the pantry for weeks on end. So it’s like {laughs} I’m constantly trying to categorize myself, and I’m like, I don’t know what I’m going to do this week! {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: And there’s ways to do that. You don’t have to be a total Abstainer. You can be mostly an Abstainer. Another thing that can work really well is pairing, and the strategy with pairing is when you tie two things together. So you say something like; I can only watch Game of Thrones if I’m on the treadmill. Those two things only go together. So I talked to a guy who only ate croissants after he took an exam.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: And this is good, because it’s like, you’re not going to take more exams in order to eat croissants. It was sort of a nice thing about taking exams, he got a croissant. And it wasn’t a reward; it’s just like, those two things go together. And somebody else said they could get Cinnabon when they were in the Newark Airport.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: Only in the Newark airport. It’s like, you’re not going to go out of your way to go to the Newark Airport.

Diane Sanfilippo: No you're not.

Gretchen Rubin: So you get it. So that’s a way of limiting. Or what you can do, and this is probably the one that most people do, or most effective, is to anticipate. Because the thing about losing self control is part of what’s distressing about it is that we don’t like to feel out of control of ourselves. But if you anticipate something, and you’re mindfully making an exception. You’re saying to yourself, I’m committed to eating a certain way, but next week it’s my birthday, we’re going to go to my favorite restaurant, they make my very favorite dessert, I’m going to look forward to that, I’m going to plan for that, I’m going to eat that, I’m going to enjoy that, and I’m going to look back at that with pleasure.

But if you walk in to me, and be like; oh yeah, I’m totally committed to my eating plan! And then you say something like, oh you only live once! I can’t not take advantage of their special dessert, and then you eat it, and then you walk out, and you’re like oh man! I did it again. That’s a bad feeling. But anticipating it means that you have just mindfully made an exception. And you can do that.

Now, for me, I don’t make exceptions. Because that’s easier for me. But most people do. I have a friend who is a super low-carb eater, but he went to Montana, he was staying at a place that was famous for its pies, and he had pie policy. Pie policy was he could have one piece of pie at every meal; at every single meal, but it was only pie, no whipped cream, no ice cream. He couldn’t buy a pie and take it back to his hotel room, and he couldn’t take it back to New York with him. So while he was there, he had a giant amount of pie. But it was totally on his terms, and he came back and I was like, so were you craving pie?

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: He was like, no. First of all, I had a lot of pie, and it was special. I was in Montana, I was at the special pie place; I’m back in my apartment in New York. It’s like, it’s not on my mind. And I thought that was good, because that was an important part of the vacation for him, he really wanted to enjoy that as part of his experience. Fine, you’re a grownup, you can do what you want, you make your rules. But he made the rules so that when he came back, he could slide right back into his old habits, and it was very kind of cabined, and so he was able to step out of it when he wanted to. But then he could step right back in.

And sometimes, if you just lose your sense of self control, that’s when it gets harder to get back in the saddle. That’s when I think people start feeling defeated, and they start saying things to themselves like; I have no willpower, I have no self control, I can’t do this, I always fail. And that’s hard. That’s really discouraging; we’ve all had that. So you want to set yourself up for success.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, I think that’s probably the key to all of this and the self awareness; and not beating ourselves up for whatever, if we discover that we are one tendency or another; we have one way or another of doing things all the time, instead of trying to fight it, I know this is what you talk about a lot on your podcast, instead of fighting it, work with yourself.

7. Fundamentally changing your tendency [37.:7]

Diane Sanfilippo: So one of the questions we had from Instagram was from, I don’t know what her name is, The Square Peg on Instagram. {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: And I know what you have to say about this based on your podcast this week, which I listened to while I put my makeup on, it’s a fun little thing for me. She says, “I’d like to ask Gretchen if she thinks it’s possible to fundamentally change your type,” I think she means your tendency, “to make yourself happier? Or do we have to use our deep rooted type and the corresponding strategies to best help ourselves?”

Gretchen Rubin: You know, I really do believe that these tendencies are hard wired. I think they’re deep, pervasive parts of our nature, and they are not going to change. Unless it’s an extremely transformative and catastrophic situation.

Diane Sanfilippo: Mmm.

Gretchen Rubin: Even then, I’m not sure. I’m still trying to figure it out. But basically in the main, you do not change. The thing is, I don’t think you have to change.

Diane Sanfilippo: Mm-hmm.

Gretchen Rubin: Sometimes people say something like, well I’m an Obliger but I want to learn to be an Upholder. I’m like, well don’t worry about it!

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: I mean, change your circumstances, change your surroundings, change your situation, and you’ll get exactly where you want to go. Same difference. So why worry about some deep inner process which is probably impossible, and certainly very difficult and time consuming, instead just take the short easy way, which is figure out how to counter balance the negative tendencies and you’ll get there. So if you’re an Obliger, and your frustrated because you’re not able to meet an inner expectation, like eating right; just think of every possible way that you can to give yourself external accountability. And you will find that your tendency will kick in and you will be acting the way you want.

Diane Sanfilippo: Mm-hmm.

Gretchen Rubin: And that’s what; and sometimes people say, well which is the best tendency?

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: Which tendency is the happiest, healthiest, and most productive. And the fact is, when you look; all these tendencies have people that are really successful, and also big losers, or really happy or really unhappy.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} Big losers.

Gretchen Rubin: And what the pattern is, the people do best when they figure out themselves and they figure out the tricks and the strategies to offset the negatives. So there are a lot of Obligers who I don’t think even know they’re Obligers, because they’ve unconsciously created external accountability for everything that they want to do. So they’re not even aware of it, you know?

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

Gretchen Rubin: And so they’re effortlessly doing all the things that they expect from themselves. A lot of times this is what happens with exercise; you have an exercise buddy. Like my mom exercised with our next door neighbor for years. And she didn’t; it wasn’t like a huge thing. It was like, we’re going, I’m going for a walk with Jennifer today. And then out they would go.

Diane Sanfilippo: Right, she never thought of it.

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah, she wasn’t like; oh, look at me exercising my self control! You know what I mean? It was like, oh, I’m going with Jennifer.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

Gretchen Rubin: Ok, Jennifer moves away, what happens? My mother doesn’t walk for 2 years, you know, because she didn’t realize that that was the key thing.

Diane Sanfilippo: Mm-hmm.

Gretchen Rubin: But it wasn’t hard when she set it up properly. So I think sometimes people want to change themselves, which is hard, but instead of thinking, well how can I change the situation, which is far easier. I mean, there is a lot of low hanging fruit that we can all do to make it easier for ourselves to stick to our habits. And so I really think that’s the way to proceed.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, and with any, whether it’s a nutrition change or a challenge, what have you, I think once we put it through the filter of what tends to work best for us, we can find a way to make it work, even if it is someone else has written these rules, when you put it through your own filter.

8. The Rebel tendency [41:02]

Diane Sanfilippo: So, ok here’s one more self indulgent part. So, because I have not yet heard the episode that has not come out yet.

Gretchen Rubin: Ah!

Diane Sanfilippo: If you're a Rebel tendency, I know you’ve talked about, just because you’re a Rebel doesn’t mean you’re not productive or get things done. But what tends to be the best framework for supporting that tendency in upholding something {laughs}. Because the way I feel about it is, sometimes I will do things because I am super determined to just do it, sometimes there is a deadline, though I say I can’t stand deadlines, I’m definitely a Sprinter. I know you’ve got the Marathoner and the Sprinter.

Gretchen Rubin: {laughs} Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: And my publisher will give me a deadline, and if it’s arbitrary. If I’m like, give me a deadline so that I’ll do this, {laughs} it totally doesn’t work! But then when the deadline is real, then I know, the book is going to print, Diane, you cannot delay. That’s a real one. Same thing with this nutrition thing I’m doing right now. I’m a nutritionist, right? I can write a plan, I know what to eat, I don’t have trouble with that. But I have a goal right now, I wanted to see if I could change my body fat composition so I decided to employ the help of a coach myself. She’s given me a plan, and I’m really following it.

Gretchen Rubin: Hmm.

Diane Sanfilippo: But that was a decision that I was like, I’m going to do this and I’m going to follow this plan from this person. But, you know what I mean? So anyways.

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah, how does a Rebel, what does a Rebel do.

Diane Sanfilippo: What’s a Rebel to do, Gretchen?

Gretchen Rubin: Well it’s interesting that you say this, because when I wrote Better Than Before, I didn’t think Rebels would really care.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: Because I’m like, well they do what they want to do, and they don’t like habits so they’re not interested in what I have to say on this. But it turns out Rebels really do, because a lot of times they do feel frustrated. Because on the one hand they want something for themselves, but on the other hand, the minute an expectation attaches, they resist. And so that can cause them a lot of frustration. And I’ve talked to a million Rebels about this, because it’s such a fascinating subject.

This is what works for Rebels, in the main. First of all, the most important values for the Rebel are choice, freedom, and expression of the authentic self. That is what is paramount to Rebels.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yes!

Gretchen Rubin: So you always want to be bringing that back; this is what you want. This is what you choose. This is what works for you. This is how you express yourself. So for instance, let’s say somebody wants to exercise, right. If it was an Obliger, you might be like “join a class, work out with a friend, pay for a class where you’re going to be charged triple if you don’t show,” whatever, like that.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: A Questioner might be like, ohh let’s do a lot of research, what’s the most effective, efficient way to do it, blah, blah, blah. For a Rebel, it would be most effective to be like; you know what, I’m a youthful, vigorous, sexy person.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughing}

Gretchen Rubin: And I don’t feel like I’m projecting that.

Diane Sanfilippo: Ok, this is me.

Gretchen Rubin: Because I haven’t been exercising, I haven’t been eating right. So I’m not myself; I’m not the self that I want to be. So I feel like working out. And you know, I feel like today, I feel like doing it. And you tap into that, and the minute you have it, you can express the feeling.

Diane Sanfilippo: Ok.

Gretchen Rubin: Now, also, Rebels like a lot of choice. So a Rebel would not join a gym, like a strength training gym where it’s like all you do is strength training.

Diane Sanfilippo: Mmm.

Gretchen Rubin: Join a big gym with tons of choices, so they’re like; what do I feel like doing today? Choosing. Also, Rebels tend to like to do things different from other people. So you might want to pick something that’s pretty esoteric.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughing}

Gretchen Rubin: Because that would be very satisfying to the Rebel self. They like to do things in their own way. The love a challenge, so maybe it’s a challenge. Now, here’s another thing about Rebels. Rebels really resist when somebody says, I bet you can’t do that. So, if you’re working with a Rebel, and this can feel manipulative so take that into account, but if you say, well I don’t think you can. I don’t think you can run a marathon, man. You’re in such bad shape man, there’s no way you’re going to run a marathon. I’ll show you! And I was talking to a woman who wanted her husband to quit smoking, and he was a Rebel. So I went through all the different things; identity, and choice, and freedom, oh it’s people ordering you around, you can’t smoke here, you can’t smoke here. And then she said what worked in the end was her teenage son saying; oh a guy your age could never quit smoking. He was like, I’ll show you. And he quit.

Diane Sanfilippo: Interesting.

Gretchen Rubin: So again, it could be the identity of, I’m a young healthy person, or not being chained. If they perceive something as being chained. So if you think of smoking as being; ohh, I’m an outlaw and a renegade! There are all these rules, but I’m going to ignore them. Watch me smoke despite what everybody is saying; then that feels cool to a Rebel. But if you say to a Rebel; man, you know what, they’ve got you right where they want you. You’re addicted, you’re just pouring money every single day into the pockets of Big Tobacco.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: They’ve got you right where they want you, and you can’t quit now. You’ve been smoking for so long, you’re chained. Well that to a Rebel is terrifying, right, because it’s everything they don’t like. Being chained, being trapped, being forced into an identity, being exploited. And so you really want to think about it, because here’s the thing about Rebels. A lot of strategies that work great for everybody else do not work for Rebels. The strategy of accountability; absolutely key for Obligers, helpful for Questioners and Upholders, absolutely can be counterproductive for a Rebel. Monitoring; everybody does well with monitoring, except Rebels, because they don’t like that. Scheduling! Oh my gosh.

Diane Sanfilippo: Oh my gosh. {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: If they put something down, it’s like; I don’t want to do that. You can’t make me. Even if it’s me telling myself what to do; I don’t want to do that. So a lot of the kind of classic things that the experts recommend; one Rebel emailed me this morning, and is like, oh my gosh, to-do list is like the death mill for me. The minute something goes on the to-do list, I am not going to do it.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} I think I like them, and then I inevitably, I look at yesterdays and I’m like, oh I didn’t do what was on that list. I have a business coach right now, and he cracked me up because he was like, well here’s what we do, and they have their days scheduled from the moment they wake up.

Gretchen Rubin: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: And I was like, oh that’s cute. {laughs} I was like, nice try. If there’s anything other than a personal training appointment or like a manicure on my schedule {laughs}.

Gretchen Rubin: But here’s the important thing; Rebels can do whatever they want to do. So you’re an extremely successful person. If you’re a Rebel, maybe you’re not even a Rebel, but we’re just assuming. The thing about Rebels they can do anything they want to do. So if that’s what they want, then they can do what it takes. So a lot of times it is for them to connect with the idea that that’s what they want.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

Gretchen Rubin: If you want to be a leader in your field, then you’re going to have to show up to this meeting on time, or you’re going to have to hand in this manuscript on time. Because if it isn’t handed in on time, then it’s not going to get published.

Diane Sanfilippo: Right.

Gretchen Rubin: So you’re going to lose this thing that you want this thing that’s going to help you. So you’re going to do something that kind of offends your Rebel sensibility, because really that’s what you want. And there are tons of Rebels who are hugely successful. Because that’s what they want; they want to be hugely successful!

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. I think that totally makes sense, and when you talked about the idea of freedom and choice, that’s kind of the core of everything that I do. I know, from a very young age, my mom used to say, do whatever makes you happy. And I don’t know if she was just saying it because she realized I would anyway {laughs}.

Gretchen Rubin: {laughing}

Diane Sanfilippo: Or that was her supportive nature, you know?

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah. Interesting. Because how to be the parent of Rebel children; well that’s very smart.

Diane Sanfilippo: I feel like they did a great job. I’m like, you know I think a lot of parents; they would think that saying that would leave the child to become complacent and sort of not amount to anything, you know? And that’s not what happened.

Gretchen Rubin: And often Rebels love a challenge. They like to do things in their own way. And here’s the weird thing; Rebels are often attracted to lots of regulations and lots of rules and lots of expectations, because in a way it gives them something to resist.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: They kind of peter out on their own. It’s like they need the force that they get from resisting. So maybe you have a to-do list, and you think to yourself, well look I’m not doing anything on my to-do list. But having your to-do list makes you feel like; ah-ha! I’m going to do all these other things. Where as if there was no to-do list, you might stay on the couch all day. You know, so sometimes these expectations can be helpful for Rebels. I’ve heard from a lot of Rebels, interestingly, in the clergy, in religious orders. High level of expectation. But that satisfies their Rebel need to flout expectations.

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9. How to push ourselves without punishing ourselves [50:25]

Diane Sanfilippo: So interesting. So we have a question here about, “How can we simultaneously push ourselves to get outside of our comfort zones and try new things,” which I know you’ve talked about this a bunch on your podcast, like going to parties and things like that, “While also not punishing ourselves with feelings of guilt when we try and embrace more downtime and peace.” She says, “This is a balance I struggle with and I know I need both pieces of the puzzle to feel happy.”

Gretchen Rubin: Well, I think this perfectly encapsulates one of the very central tensions within a happy life. Which is, on the one hand, you want to accept yourself. And on the other hand, you want to expect more from yourself. And only you can know. What are the true boundaries of your nature, that you really can’t go outside of with any kind of success or authenticity? And where are the places where you really should push yourself, and it really is going to expand your sense of yourself and your sense of possibility. And I think that there’s no easy answer to that.

I think it’s something you have to be thinking about all the time and really questioning yourself. I feel like I don’t want to do this, but should I expect more from myself in this, or is this really something that is just not me? Because we all have things where, you know, that’s just not me. It’s not going to work, it’s not going to stick. It’s contrary to my nature.

A good example is public speaking. I think there are some people who are just never going to get there. It’s just not something that they’re ever going to feel comfortable with. But then for a lot of people, they can get comfortable with it. You know? So it’s like, well do you want to push yourself to do that, or do you want to say; really, my time and energy is better spent on other things that are more in keeping with my nature. But it’s very hard. As the question points out; it’s like, I feel like I need some restorative solitude and I want to sit on the couch and read, but at what point is that good and restorative and I should do it, and at what point is that, I really should push myself to go out the door? And only we can judge for ourselves.

Diane Sanfilippo: yeah, I think sometimes it’s just doing it, and then did that yield the desired happiness result or not?

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: I deal with this a lot with folks who are asking me about the entrepreneur side; actually, a lot of people asked, am I interviewing you for Balanced Bites or my entrepreneur podcast, and I was like, no this is for Balanced Bites, but I feel like there are tons of people who they want to be an entrepreneur, and they want to run their own business; things like public speaking are fairly inevitable. Especially as a nutritionist and a coach for most of them. Of course, there are some who can have private practice, but for a lot of people private practice will never yield the income that they really want. You can’t exchange your time for dollars; that just doesn’t go anywhere. It burns you out.

So that’s a question I always have for people; I just think you have to do things, and you either get comfortable with it and figure out it’s not as big of a deal as you thought it was, or maybe you start doing it and you realize it’s totally not for you. Do you think there are some personality types that are just not cut out for certain things? I’m starting to wonder if there are just certain personalities that are really not cut out for being entrepreneurs, or do they become different types of entrepreneurs? You know what I mean?

Gretchen Rubin: I think that you can get to many different places, but you just might take a different road there. And you might emphasize different paths in your career, or you might different solutions than somebody else would find. But I think if it’s too contrary to your nature; if it’s fundamentally contrary to your deepest, truest nature, you probably aren’t going to be able to handle it.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, a certain amount of resistance might be ok, and then you hit the point where you’re like; I’m pushing a boulder up a hill.

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah. Yeah. And public speaking I think is something where very commonly people are really freaked out about it, and then they do it and they realize it’s not that hard. That is a good thing to push yourself, because in the end for most people it does get a lot easier, and even fun. Though people, you know, can’t imagine that. I know a lot of people for whom that’s true.

But here’s the thing, and you bring up entrepreneurs, I think this is really important point to make for Obliger entrepreneurs. If you’re an Obliger, as we talked about, you need outer accountability to meet an inner expectation. So that’s why you might want to work with a coach, or have an accountability group, or figure out a way to get a client so that you have to have a deliverable, or whatever. But so here’s a common mistake that entrepreneurs; that Obligers make, and it would be particularly dangerous for entrepreneurs. Sometimes they think; oh well if I got rid of my outer expectation, then I would meet my inner expectation. Because it’s really my constant meeting with outer expectations that’s standing in the way of me fulfilling my dreams. So if I would just quit my job, then I would have time to start my business.

Now, if you’re an Obliger, that is not necessarily true. You need outer accountability to start that business, to have to keep yourself on track. I think you might have much more time and energy if you quit that job, so that might be a reason to do it, but don’t assume that just getting rid of outer expectations is going to then mean that inner expectations will automatically be met. Because over and over, I’ve talked to people where that is not the case. That doesn’t happen. You have to have the outer accountability kick in some way. And it’s easy, there’s all different kinds of ways to do it, but you just have to make sure that you set that up, because just the fact that there’s no outer expectations doesn’t mean; oh, now I’ll have no trouble sticking to that.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, I love that. I’m going to take that as something to talk about on my next episode of Build a Badass Business, which is my other podcast, because I’m completely insane and decided to have two podcasts.

Gretchen Rubin: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: Totally insane. But yeah, because I’m constantly trying to figure out. I feel like in the career path that I’ve had, and the success that I’ve had in everything I do I feel very much like an anomaly, and it’s really hard for me to teach other people how to have whatever the success is that they want, because I just feel like the things that I do and the way that I am; people are like, they’re like I don’t know how you do that, and I’m like, I don’t either. I can’t really put it into words. It’s not like, here’s the book that I read that inspired me to do this, and then I did this, and there’s some kind of order or method to the madness. But I don’t want to get too far off track on my crazy way.

10. How to monitor for habit without negative impact [56:59]

Diane Sanfilippo: So, I want to run to couple more questions that we have from Instagram, because I want to make sure that our listeners are feeling indulged here, as well. So, let’s see; we had one, this is obviously relevant to everybody. This is from Food with Cindy; “if monitoring is so important to developing a new habit, when it comes to nutrition, how can we monitor it without having a negative effect, like counting calories, stepping on a scale, etc. What are some less destructive ways to monitor?” I don’t know if you’ve got insights here or what you think.

Gretchen Rubin: Well, I mean I personally don’t believe in calories, that’s where I come from. And the research is…

Diane Sanfilippo: Is that before you read Gary Taub’s book, or after?

Gretchen Rubin: It’s a consequence.

Diane Sanfilippo: Ok.

Gretchen Rubin: So that’s my personal bias on that. And then research does suggest that people who weigh themselves every day do a better job of maintaining their weight, so I’ll just throw that out there. But I take her larger point, and it’s interesting, because there are all kinds of apps and things that can help you monitor. But here’s a weird thing that somebody pointed out, and I thought this was so true. Those apps; if you have processed food, it’s very easy, it’s like it’s super quick.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: Like, the bar code on there and it zips it right in there, it’s super easy. But let’s say you have a homemade vegetable frittata, then you’re like; man, how do I? What was in there, and how much, and how many serving sizes did I have? It almost creates this, it makes it so much easier to keep track of stuff that’s highly processed than it is for the stuff that you cook yourself in your own house. So that can be a danger with monitoring, using apps. I thought that was fascinating.

I mean, the fact about monitoring is, no matter what it is, we tend to do a better job if we monitor it. And that’s everything from what we spend, to how much exercise we get, to how often we lose our temper. There’s something about just monitoring a behavior; even if people aren’t trying to consciously change, it tends to move them in the right direction because they’re just so much more mindful about what they’re doing.

So I think for you; it sounds like this is a person who’s had a lot of experiences with negative consequences of monitoring, is to really say; well, you know, where is this helpful for me, and where does it kind of drag me down.

Diane Sanfilippo: Mm-hmm.

Gretchen Rubin: Because absolutely everybody is different, and you don’t want to do something that’s meant to be helpful that actually is going to obstruct your path. And so to think; maybe it’s just a notebook where you write down Cobb salad, and you don’t get into the whole gigantic little bit.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. So I was going say, maybe on a macro level.

Gretchen Rubin: Yes, yes.

Diane Sanfilippo: It’s like, not eating sugary things is really like, that’s really the most important thing. It’s not how many calories or how many grams of sugar did it have.

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah, yeah. I think you’re exactly right. Keep it at a very broad level. Because what’s important is not that you’re writing down it was 4 tablespoons of whatever, it’s that you're saying to yourself; I realize that I’m eating this. And what’s it really helpful for is for people who have mindless eating, where it’s like; oh yeah, I totally forgot about that time today where I walked into the kitchen at work and there was that box of donuts and I ate two donuts. I totally forgot about that.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: If you’re not paying attention; we’re so surrounded by food now, and food cues, and being told; you should eat in the car, you should eat in the subway. I went to get my hair cut, and they had food in the hair salon!

Diane Sanfilippo: It’s everywhere.

Gretchen Rubin: I’m like; man, can I go someplace without seeing a chocolate chip cookie? So I think part of it is just the discipline of saying; oh, I see that I am now eating something. Or, oh, it’s 10 o'clock at night. I have to register the fact that I’m eating something, even though I’m going to bed in 20 minutes, or you know, even though I want my habit to be that I don’t eat after dinner, here I am writing it down.

So, some people, probably Questioners, love the nitty gritty. Love really getting into it. But I think from this question, find the way where you can get the benefit of monitoring the mindfulness and the keeping track and understanding yourself better, seeing patterns, but if you feel like some of it is making you crazy, respect that about yourself.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, I think that’s the macro versus micro level of it. And what I find too, anyone who monitors anything when it comes to nutrition; so like what you were saying, to write down the Cobb salad versus, you know, romaine lettuce and, every detail of everything, when it comes to nutrition, any legitimate monitoring honestly works better than none at all.

Gretchen Rubin: Yes.

Diane Sanfilippo: Like writing anything down any way there’s a physical or; I actually think it’s writing it down, no matter what it is. Even if it’s not the calories and the portions and all of that. Because once you put it in writing, or on a computer or app, whatever, now it’s real. You can’t deny that that happened. You have to be super honest about it. I find that works for me, too. As somebody who can’t figure out how to get myself to do things! {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: Well, and one of the things is also to lower the bar. Because I think sometimes when people want to form a habit, they keep raising the bar, and they’re like; well, if I’m going to monitor my food intake, I need to get this app, and then every single day I need to measure; it’s just like; and I’ going to get a food scale, and it’s going to Bluetooth connect.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughing}

Gretchen Rubin: And you’re just, well you can’t possibly do it, because that’s just so hard. So sometimes it’s just like, let me lower the bar until I can leap over it. And then, you might decide to up your game, if that is going to serve you. But I think sometimes making it at a level where it’s concrete and manageable over the long-term, because that’s the thing about habits. It’s not like, what can you do for a week. It’s like, what can you do for 5 years. What can you do into infinity? And that might change. What your habits are and what you expect of yourself might change over time, as you get further and further into it. But it’s not about a short burst of straining for the finish line, it’s really about consistency over the long term.

Diane Sanfilippo: That’s one of the things that I love to talk to people about with, even something like my 21-Day Sugar Detox program, and I know you have a challenge, a relationship challenge or something to that effect on your website for 21 days to have happier relationships. I was like, ooh, I might click on that and check that out. We’re quite happy, but we always love the self development so we can continue on that path. But I think one of the core things that I want people to take away from a program like that is not necessarily even the yes/no list of what they’re eating and not eating; it’s the way that they approached everything. Now you’ve gone to a party, and how did you look at what you were choosing to eat, observing the way you moved through life and made choices while you were on that challenge.

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: Once you learn it, you can’t unlearn it. Once you learn that there’s X amount of sugar in this salad dressing you used to use, or a smoothie you used to drink, you can’t unlearn that, you know what I mean.

Gretchen Rubin: Right. Right.

Diane Sanfilippo: So creating that habit, at least of awareness and all of that good stuff, that just doesn’t go away, and incorporating that long term.

11. When a Questioner drops a routine [1:04:10]

Diane Sanfilippo: We had one other question here that I actually think you already answered, and I just want to quickly touch on it because I think what people can do with everything we’ve talked about in this episode is, even if we didn’t answer your specific question, this is how I love to learn. Hear the theory, and then just think of a scenario in your life that you can apply it to so that then it makes sense. That’s just every time I’ve ever been in a classroom, I’m like how does that work in my life, right?

Gretchen Rubin: Right, right.

Diane Sanfilippo: So, this one was about, I think we talked about this, a habit that was easy to maintain for 3 years following a certain nutritional protocol, then getting frustrated and bored and not following it anymore. And it’s funny, she notes that she’s a Questioner who likes routine, and I think your point on this was, she probably needs to reevaluate the answers to why she’s doing something to kind of reinvigorate the motivation.

Gretchen Rubin: Yes.

Diane Sanfilippo: Does that seem like it makes sense.

Gretchen Rubin: That makes; yes absolutely. And maybe kind of update it, and maybe you’re going to change it. And I’m sure you talk about this all the time, there’s a lot of ways to be healthy. So maybe you’re going to switch it up; now this is theory that I’m following. And so you might need to go through that process again of like, this is what I’m interested in, this is what satisfies my curiosity, this is the authority that I trust, this is the latest research that I want to follow.

But when something like that just sort of peters out; I talk about this a lot in Better Than Before. Whenever a habit comes to an end like that, you want to pay a lot of attention to what’s happening. Because we’re not always very good at diagnosing what the problem was. You know, people will say, oh I was doing yoga for 3 years and then I stopped. And I’m like, well why did you stop? Oh, I have no idea. Well, probably something changed. Let’s drill down on that. It’s always when you feel that happening; now maybe it’s sort of like, well I’ve been at the same weight, and I’m frustrated, and I’m not where I want to be. Well, ok, you are no longer convinced that you’re way of eating.

Diane Sanfilippo: Mm-hmm. You're not longer served by that.

Gretchen Rubin: And your Questioner is like, well I now reject this as a way, because it’s not working. Ok. So find something else that is going to work. Because something has broken down.

Diane Sanfilippo: I love that. This is most fun for me. This is the most fun. Those are all the questions we have. I want to respect your time; we’ve already been 3 minutes over an hour, and I’m sure I could pick your brain here and chat with you for much, much longer.

Gretchen Rubin: Oh, it’s so fun to talk to you!

Diane Sanfilippo: This was super fun. I just want to reiterate how huge of a fan I am of your show; I really, I just enjoy listening and hearing people chat about something totally different, but also really relevant to everything we’re doing here on Balanced Bites podcast, helping people with health, nutrition, wellness, all of that stuff kind of balled into one. And I know, as soon as I started listening to this show I couldn’t shut up about it.

Gretchen Rubin: Aww, you're so nice. That’s great.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} I’m like, everybody go listen, everybody get this book. I think it’s awesome, so really impressed. And thank you so much. I just really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me today. I’m really excited to watch Super Soul Sunday, which this episode is going to air actually after your episode will have aired, and I have to say, people used to call me Paleo Baby Oprah, which {laughs} I don’t really know where that comes from.

Gretchen Rubin: {laughs} That is a great nickname.

Diane Sanfilippo: But I never set out to be a writer; I’m not a writer. I’m perhaps an author, I guess, but never set out to do that, and it just kind of is what came up. But I’m just thrilled that I could chat with you, and I’m psyched to see the episode when it comes out.

Gretchen Rubin: Well thank you very much, I really appreciate it. It was so much fun to talk to you, thank you. I really appreciate it.

Diane Sanfilippo: Thank you so much. So, that’s it for this week you guys. You can find Gretchen at http://gretchenrubin.com/, her podcast Happier is new every week. You can check that out on iTunes, Stitcher, everywhere you can get access to podcasts everywhere. And you can find her on Instagram and twitter at Gretchen Rubin, also on Facebook. All those amazing places. Don’t forget, you can find me, Diane, at http://dianesanfilippo.com, and Liz at http://realfoodliz.com/. Jin our email lists for free goodies and updates you don’t find anywhere else on our websites or on the podcast. While you’re on the internet, leave us a review in iTunes. We’ll see you next week.

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