Tuesday, August 4, 2015


As I've written about before, part of my motivation for taking so much time off this summer has been to catch up on all the things I've neglected over the past five years:  finances, household organization, paperwork (why is there so much paperwork?), and cleaning BBQs, amongst other things.  While I've been spending hours of my precious vacation time on these not so enjoyable tasks, I've been thinking a lot about how to keep up with these tasks on an ongoing basis, rather than waiting until things get desperate to play catch up.  As part of my attempt to figure out how to do things better, I recently read Gretchen Rubin's book "Better Than Before: Mastering The Habits of Our Everday Lives".

This book explores the ways in which we adopt (or fail to adopt) new habits, with a focus on internal and external barriers to making positive changes.  Included in it is a whole chapter on "loopholes", which basically describes what goes on in my mind whenever I try to change myself.  (I'm an expert at coming up with reasons not to follow through on my goals.)

What I found most interesting about the book was Rubin's categorization of people into four groups - Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels - based on how they respond to inner and outer expectations.  I would really like to be an Upholder (one who meets both inner and outer expectations; Sarah from theshubox strikes me as a perfect example), but after reading the descriptions and doing the quiz at the end, I had to resign myself to the fact that I'm an Obliger (one who meets outer expectations but not inner).  In the book, Rubin writes of Obligers that "Because Obligers resist inner expectations, it's difficult for them to self-motivate - to work on a Ph.D. thesis, to attend networking events, to get their car serviced.  Obligers depend on external accountability, with consequences such as deadlines, late fees, or the fear of letting other people down."

Difficult to self-motivate.  Yup.  That's me.  I could complete my 21 days of regular blogging just by giving examples of how I've had difficulty self-motivating throughout my life*.  My Master's degree is the perfect example - it took me forever to get experiments done and papers written, to the point where I nearly drove my supervisor crazy.  I actually told her once that if she wanted me to do something she just needed to give me a deadline.  And it worked!  When I had something external to motivate me, I got my work done without difficulty - even if the "deadline" was entirely arbitrary.

Which brings me to a dilemma.  As an attending, I will decide everything that I do.  I will decide how many patients to see and when to do dictations and whether or not to do research (etc, etc).  There will be no external expectations, aside from some very minimal requirements for teaching and clinical duties, which will not be difficult to meet.  How, as an Obliger, do I not allow my life to devolve into chaos in the absence of external expectations?

I still don't know the answer to this one.  Maybe I need to re-read the book.

*And then no one would ever read my blog again.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my god! I feel you were talking about me... Good to know I am not the only one! I will certainly put this book on my reading list...