In short, it has been god awful frustrating.
All my life I've struggled against internal and external expectations never really understanding when and why I would meet resistance.
This includes simple & complex expectations as well as habits (exercise, family obligations, work tasks, all types of personal & professional goals, etc.)
Some of the times I encounter little to no resistance. Other times massive resistance despite knowing that meeting the expectation would be awesome for me and my life.
I didn't understand why sometimes it was easy and other times incredibly difficult (even when the expectation itself was fairly easy).
It's been like having a super powerful machine that only turns on sometimes. When it turns on it is incredibly efficient, diligent, and reliable. However, it only turns on sometimes no matter how I hard I "try."
For some things, like exercising regularly, I have basically zero resistance and it is incredibly easy for me to do this every week with an almost fanatical zeal. This holds true for me whether the expectation comes from within myself or from an an outsider (people, society, etc.).
Yet, other things, like doing my taxes on time or early have been incredibly difficult. This is despite consciously knowing that it is in my best interest to get them done on time at the least.
I've often been bewildered by fact that I am so diligent with exercise, something many find difficult to stick to, and yet I still run into resistance for other things many would consider much easier than regular exercise.
Along the same vein, for the longest time I could not understand why I resisted great suggestions from my partner, family, and friends. A prime example of this is journaling. I always secretly wanted to be a writer. And yet I resisted my mother, partner, teachers, books, etc. until finally I began at the beginning of 2014 (more on that here).
I've run into similar issues with my own good ideas for myself in all areas of life.
If it is my idea I found that I have at least a 50% chance of following through on it. This is a rough estimate.
If the idea was suggested by someone else in the frame of "you should do _______" my internal resistance flairs up immediately most of the time and the chances of me meeting the external expectation go down a lot.
I often resist whether someone tells me to do something or kindly suggests it.
Yet, sometimes someone makes a great suggestion and I immediately implement it.
Like I said before. Ridiculously frustrating.
I can't even imagine how annoying that has been for the people in my life. Especially my Mom and significant other.
Despite how frustrating it must be for others I always felt like my Mom did an amazing job parenting me. She gave me a ton of freedom and created an environment where I could truly thrive through my own self-direction. With the freedom there were reasonable boundaries that I had no trouble respecting (most of the time).
I've come to somewhat understand how she did this for me in the last few years through many deep talks. The basic gist is that she always gave me options and let me make the choice.
She almost never (if ever) made the choice for me. And since I made the choice I was able to meet the expectation (most of the time).
A fiercely independent individual like myself has always bucked hard against anything that felt like it was limiting my freedom. Fortunately, my Mom who also highly values freedom never did this to me.
The CEO of my company Ohmygreen has also created an environment where I am constantly asked "what do you think you/we should do?" We almost always discuss options & related consequences. Then ultimately, I am always empowered to make my own choice. I'm not even sure if he's ever specifically told me what to do.
This has resulted in the most fulfilling career/calling of my life thus far and I have been massively successful in my role at the company as a result of this personally empowering environment.
I have a highly similar "pro-choice" environment in my home life with my fiancé -- one of the big reasons I know we are going to be successful and happy in the long-run. Basically, my significant other never tells me what to do, always explains the reasons behind anything and everything we are doing (often before I even ask for the reasons), and ultimately I am always left with the power to choose.
To some, this need to understand and choose may seem somewhat unruly and rebellious. To others you may see yourself in this. Regardless of the personal resonance, almost all of us know someone like this (whether we are consciously aware of it).
Well, thanks to an awesome podcast interview by Chase Jarvis along with the developing work of the Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project & Better Than Before) I believe I am finally coming to understand myself in a new & deeply profound way.
And holy hell I am grateful!
I may have just stumbled upon the missing pieces for the keys to consciously understanding & empowering my ability to meet both internal and external expectations.
I am still personally testing this, but I wanted to share now because I am so excited about this discovery and I want to up my rate of understanding & learning by interacting with others who may be going through the same thing with themselves or someone they know. . . so please leave comments!
According to Gretchen's Four Tendencies quiz I am a Rebel (take quiz here). And according to her framework as a Rebel I resist all expectations, outer and inner... Wait, what?! This sounds so familiar!
In Gretchen's words she says the following about Rebels [my comments in italicized brackets]:
- They choose to act from a sense of choice, of freedom. Rebels wake up and think, "What do I want to do today?" [LOL! This is too familiar. I usually have a running list of a dozen or more things I want to do daily and each day I wake up and intuitively do what calls to me the most.]
- They resist control, even self-control, and usually enjoy flouting rules and expectations. [I definitely resist any sort of outer control, bending rules does often appeal to me (that doesn't mean I always bend them), and expectations often drive me crazy. I often consciously and subconsciously subvert outer expectations placed upon me. Nonetheless, I have serious self-control when it comes to things related to my identity. More on that below.]
- Rebels place a high value on authenticity and self-determination and bring an unshackled spirit to what they do. Rebels work toward their own goals, in their own way, and while they refuse to do what they're "supposed" to do, they can accomplish their own aims. [Definitely agree. I often find myself purposely trying to do things in my own way, different from the usual way. I get a strong sense of satisfaction doing things uniquely. And "unshackled spirit" couldn't ring more true.]
- Rebels often frustrate others because they can't be asked or told to do anything. They don't care if "people are counting on you," "you said you'd do it," "your parents will be upset," "it's against the rules," "this is the deadline," or "it's rude." In fact, asking or telling Rebels to do something often makes them do just the opposite. [I had to teach my fiancé how my Mom parented me in order to avoid the chaos this could cause in a relationship.]
- The people around Rebels must guard against accidentally igniting their spirit of opposition--particularly challenging for the parents of Rebel children. [Both my parents, CEO of my company, and fiancé all do an incredible job of avoiding this.]
- In fact, Rebels sometimes frustrate themselves, because they can't tell themselves what to do. [Definitely run into this too many times. I believe I've finally consciously discovered solutions & strategies to overcome this (see below) . . . Amen!]
Three important strategies Gretchen brings up for the Rebel are [my comments italicized, but much is paraphrased from the reading of Better Than Before & scouring Gretchen's blog]:
1. Strategy of Clarity
- This is all about having a strong "why" behind why you are doing something. This includes the "why" related to your corresponding values & the "why" related to the action.
- I.E. I exercise because health & fitness is an important value to me and I exercise because it makes me feel energized and I love looking & feeling fit.
- By being able to powerfully articulate in your own words why you are doing something the impetus to follow through in a way that actually brings satisfaction and a sense of looking forward to meeting the expectation can be consciously created.
2. Strategy of Identity
- This is consciously tying the expectation (inner & outer) to who you see yourself as and who you want to see yourself as. This strategy of Identity is PARTICULARLY POWERFUL for me personally (more on that in the "Alchemical Learnings" at the end).
- Case in point #1: When I finally read The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron I was able to deeply tie my personal identity to journaling, writing, and reclaiming myself as an artist. Her work struck such a strong chord within me that after more than decade of resisting the suggestion of journaling by teachers, family, & my partner I have now been journaling & writing with consistency ever since reading her book at the beginning of 2014.
- Case in point #2: When I first started Transcendental Meditation (TM) I decided that this was who I was and wanted to be (a meditator) and almost two years later I've meditated every single day (twice a day for 20 minutes) without ever missing a single session. Even I am surprised at this commitment to meeting an expectation. This identity was reinforced by the fact that people I aspired to be like also did TM (Tim Ferriss, Oprah, Hugh Jackman, George Lucas & many other powerhouses).
- Another personal example is my fitness. A huge part of my personal identity is being incredibly fit so I have no problem exercising regularly and eating in a way that supports optimal aesthetic fitness.
3. Strategy of Other People
- Rebels pride themselves on being "different" from other people. This has been the story of my life. I've always enjoyed taking the path less traveled and doing things people either said I couldn't do or doing things that I "thought" other people thought I couldn't do. Whether they actually do doubt me doesn't even have to be true as long as I "think" they are doubting me. Ludicrous, but true for me many times in my life. Proving "other people" wrong and breaking societal norms brings me joy and action-taking energy.
- Case in point #1: It was uncommon for people in my high school to go to Stanford University (or equivalent level University). I even thought that most "other people" I shared this dream with doubted me. Whether they actually did doubt me is totally up for debate, but since I thought they did I had infinite energy to pursue this goal and even after being denied the first time I made it into Stanford on the second try.
- Case in point #2: It was uncommon for people who went to Stanford to go work in nightlife . . . I ended up working in Hollywood Nightlife for 7 years.
- Another personal example is my bodybuilding and yoga dual nature. I consider myself both a bodybuilder and a yogi -- a combination that isn't commonly found. I find it personally gratifying that I can be both when often a bodybuilder has no interest or sees no point in doing yoga and vice versa. And I personally get a kick when I am met with a surprised look after explaining my passion for both physical disciplines.