The Four Tendencies

“It’s been freeing to focus on what works for me rather than what’s wrong with me.”

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In May I wrote a blog post about Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin’s very practical guide to habit change. That book overflows with helpful ideas, and one of them is recognizing our natural response to expectations. According to her extensive research, people naturally tend to find they are one of the following:

*Upholder (readily meets both inner and outer expectations)

*Obliger (readily meets outer expectations, struggles to meet inner expectations)

*Questioner (readily meets inner expectations, challenges outer expectations)

*Rebel (resists all expectations, both inner and outer)

I am convinced that this woman is a genius. She says,

“The happiest, healthiest, most productive people aren’t those from a particular Tendency, but rather they’re the people who have figured out how to harness the strengths of their Tendency, counteract the weaknesses, and build the lives that work for them.”

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As I mentioned in my previous post on her habits book,  I really enjoy listening to Happier, the podcast this cutting-edge author hosts with her sister. I’ve heard tons of discussion around this simple framework, and lots of listeners’ questions answered on the subject.

So much so that now I feel like a pseudo-expert, myself.  😉

It is interesting, though, to figure out with my family members how we each feel about the expectations that are all around and within us every day.

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As with all such frameworks, the diagnosis is only relevant as it leads to a cure.

So the idea with the Four Tendencies is that once we understand our innate response to inner and outer expectations, we can use that self-awareness to set things up for success. It’s actually pretty inspiring to hear people’s experiences with making changes in their lives once they put this knowledge to use.

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A lot of teachers, doctors, personal trainers, coaches, etc also find this perspective really useful in their work with motivating other people to do their homework, take their medicine, do their workouts, and so on.

I can easily believe this, as looking at old issues through this lens has been fascinating to me and my husband! We laugh together about the foibles we now recognize as parts of our -very different- tendencies, and practice talking to each other in terms of how we each instinctively feel about meeting- or avoiding- expectations.

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Incidentally, my husband (of 23 years) is a Rebel. When I read about this Tendency, it was like someone just explained him to me. Aha. And I think he felt the same way; like someone had just explained him to himself.

He had me pinned as an Upholder, but I am actually an Obliger (with Upholder leanings)… I feel very strongly about the reality of God, and my relationship with Him motivates me to try to be and do my best. So lots of things that I seem to be doing out of a sense of accountability to myself (as an Upholder would), I am, in actual fact, doing out of a deep and abiding sense of accountability to Him.

This book is clever and very useful if you are a person, (or deal with anyone else who is one… 😉

Have you read this book?

Do you listen to the Happier podcast?

What Tendency do you see in yourself, and what does this tell you about what makes you tick?

Thank you for reading with me,

Leah 😉

Happiness the Mindful Way

“Mindfulness refers to keeping one’s consciousness alive to the present reality.”   -Thicht Nhat Hanh

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Happiness The Mindful Way… I’ve had this book for a few years now; it was published in 2015. It’s definitely the most useful resource I’ve seen for understanding this powerful idea in bite-sized portions. This is the kind of book that gets marked up and stuffed with sticky flags and bookmarks. I feel like it has enough really helpful material in it to support a lifetime of mindfulness practise, but it’s totally approachable for beginners… like me 😉

“Mindfulness means purposely paying attention, in the present moment, without making any kind of judgement.”

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This is a  photo my daughter sent me of Waterton lake where she lives for her summer work. What’s so stunning about it is the calm. This place is famous for its wind and waves. I’m happy she takes time to pause and mindfully enjoy the incredible natural beauty around her.

Back to the book: Every page layout is like a display of mindfulness from a different perspective. I love this. I can open it up at any time and be presented with a visually calming spread that gently engages my attention. It’s a nice mellow way to take in any subject, but especially this one.

 

Here’s a picture my son took of a gorgeous local place where he was mountain biking this summer:

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Thankfully, even doing something so active (and muddy), he takes the awesome opportunity to soak in the amazing places where he works and plays. Also, I love that they share their pics with the rest of our family. 

One thing that attracted me to this particular book when I was shopping for one on this subject, was the title. I’m not talking about judging a book by its cover (although we all do that, don’t we?) I am not a fan of all the grey in the cover art. I know it’s a mellow and very trendy tone, so I get why the cover designer used it; it’s just something I look past to enjoy all the treats inside! Anyway, what I do love is the way this book presents mindfulness as a means to happiness. That’s what we all want, whoever we are, and however we go about trying to find and keep and share it.

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And this lovely photo is of a place where our other daughter went camping, near her workplace this summer. Again, nature is such a powerful source of strength and beauty, and I thank Heaven that she, too, treasures it. And shares with us.

So even though my own personal examples of ‘happiness the mindful way’ are all about feeding our souls on nature, this book is bursting with a wide variety of ways and means to understand and benefit from mindfulness. Some of the pages I found most interesting were questionnaires on authenticity, concentration, and self-awareness…

There are five main parts to this handy book:

*Discovering Mindfulness

*Toward a Mindful You

*Mindfulness Meditation

*Mindfulness Life Skills

*Mindfulness When You Need It

Each section is overflowing with lots of helpful tips and different ways to actually practise mindfulness and bring on its benefits. I recommend this simple little volume to anyone who wants to wake up a little more to the wonder and joy all around and within us.

Do you practise mindfulness? How? What are you most alive to that makes you happy from day to day…?

Also, I want to highly recommend that you check out this gorgeous little podcast if you are interested in finding ways -outside of meditation and yoga- to come a bit more alive every day with simple mindfulness practices and attitudes.

https://www.rachaelkable.com/podcast

She is Australian, and adorable.  😉

Thank you for reading with me…

I hope you enjoyed this post; if so, please feel free to comment, and subscribe for more book blog posts every Saturday morning!

Leah 🙂

 

 

My Life In France

“I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.” 

Julia Child 

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She’s so funny!

Julia Child wrote this book about the three things she was most in love with; her husband (Paul), France, and cooking; she had the time of her life when she and Paul moved together- in 1948- to France, where she studied at the famous Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris…

Born and raised in a well-to-do family (with hired cooks) in Pasadena, California, Julia met the love of her life in Kandy (Sri Lanka) where they were both stationed in the Office of Strategic Services. Here’s what she said about their marriage:

“We had a happy marriage because we were together all the time. We were friends as well as husband and wife. We just had a good time.”

Their love story is unconventional, unexpected, and undeniably appealing. He loved photography, and was a decade older than she was. She was taller than him, and delightfully real. I really enjoy the photos of the two of them, which are sprinkled throughout My Life In France.

In ‘la belle France’ she really ‘found herself’ as an individual. Her words:

“I had come to the conclusion that I must really be French, only no one had ever informed me of this fact. I loved the people, the food, the lay of the land, the civilized atmosphere, and the generous pace of life.”

Her inspiring story of coming to herself in a foreign country is fascinating to me because I, too, love going places and learning how other people look at life. I feel like I want to take these treasures of perspective and keep them in my pocket until they rub off on me, as she did.

“It seemed that in Paris you could discuss classic literature or architecture or great music with everyone from the garbage collector to the mayor.” 

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Of course it was learning  French cooking, and bringing this skill home to America, that made Julia Child so famous that we’re reading her books over 60 years later!

The story of how this masterpiece came about is mind-boggling! She was so intense; I can’t fathom the countless hours she spent experimenting, practising, and perfecting recipes. Even just translating them into available-in-America ingredients that would work out well was a huge job. But, as she said “…nothing is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should.”

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She was totally absorbed by learning to cook. It seemed to give her endless supplies of energy, and her dedication to this new passion makes me want to do a lot more of the things that make me lose track of time; passions that just swallow me up for as long as I can stay wrapped up in them.

“I suddenly discovered that cooking was a rich and layered and endlessly fascinating subject. The best way to describe it is to say that I fell in love with French food- the tastes, the processes, the history, the endless variations, the rigorous discipline, the creativity, the wonderful people, the equipment, the rituals.” 

Saying that, let’s remember that this woman cooked on her TV show, and it went on the air- with her mistakes included! She was no stranger to human error, and she didn’t pretend otherwise! That’s one of the reasons people love her.

“Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed. Eh bien, tant pis. Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile, and learn from her mistakes.”

Have you ever read any of Julia Child’s cookbooks? I still (loosely) follow her delicious recipe for stovetop beets. Just so good.

I hope you enjoy reading this post, and that you’ll leave me a comment and follow my blog! 

Thank you for reading with me, 

Leah 🙂

Haiku

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Photo by Chad Greiter on Unsplash

I’m an avid Happier podcast listener! Sometimes it’s practical and helpful, other times merely interesting, but always funny.

If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a weekly conversation between two sisters; one who lives in New York city and writes books about human nature and happiness, and the other who lives in Los Angeles and writes TV shows.

In one episode, they introduced the idea of making up a daily haiku as a little mindfulness moment.

And… if you’re not familiar with haiku, it’s a breathtakingly simple Japanese form of poetry that can also be done in English.

Often about nature, a haiku is simply a thought expressed in 3 little lines; the first line is 5 syllables; the second line is 7 syllables; and the third line is 5 syllables again.

That’s it.

Here’s an example by Gretchen Rubin, one I heard on that podcast episode:

Central Park in bloom.

This year, I made sure to go.

Spring passes too fast.

Here is a link to the podcast notes for that episode.

And if you want to check out some haiku by other Happier podcast listeners, take a look at this hashtag on Twitter!

The idea isn’t to write a masterpiece, just to compose a thought in a mindful way.

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Inspired by this, I found this lovely little haiku book at the library…

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What’s interesting about this tiny volume is the way it brings together the works of traditional Japanese poets (translated into English), and throws in a few classic English poets.

Here are a few I liked from Japanese poets.

Today’s moon;

Will there be anyone 

Not taking up his pen?

-Onitsura

 

This ramshackle house, 

And me just the same as ever-

The first day of spring.

-Issa

 

My life,-

How much more of it remains?

The night is brief.

-Shiki

 

Along this road

Goes no-one

This autumn eve.

-Basho

 

In the icy moonlight

Small stones

Crunch underfoot.

-Buson

And here are some haiku-like lines written by western word artists…

 

I will touch 

A hundred flowers

And pick not one.

-Millay

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(me touching, but not picking a flower 😉

A violet

By a mossy stone

Half hidden from the eye.

-Wordsworth

 

not seeing 

the room is white

until that red apple

-Virgil

 

I was puzzled by the way the haiku poems collected in this anthology  are so loose in their ‘syllables per line’ structure! I wondered if it had something to do with the translation…

Then I read (in the foreword) this explanation by Peter Washington, the editor:

“Everyone is familiar with the notion that haiku have seventeen syllables, arranged in a pattern of 5-7-5. What matters more is the combination of subtlety, force, economy, and technical refinement…”

That clarifies for me how great poets can get away with having a very fluid relationship with the rules. I think I’ll just stick to the standard form. Maybe one day I’ll graduate to the level of haiku composition that can afford to flout the rulebook, but not yet! I may not have a professional grasp on subtlety, force, economy, and technical refinement, but I can make up a symmetrical little poem with 17 syllables. Here goes:

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fresh green fir branches

reach out friendly hands to me

earthy smelling woods

-Leah

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That’s from Sunday afternoon; it’s a sweet and easy way for me to remember my walk up the riverbank trail with my husband.

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Have you ever tried making up a haiku?

What else do you like to do for little moments of mindfulness on busy (or slow) days?

Thank you for reading with me,

Leah 😉

Better Than Before

“Habits are the invisible architecture of daily life.”

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I first stumbled onto Gretchen Rubin’s work several years ago when I happened upon a copy of her hugely popular The Happiness Project.

Since then, I’ve become an avid listener of Happier, the helpful and funny podcast she co-hosts with her sister.

And I just keep reading her books. She is startlingly clever, and devotes a great deal of her abundant energy to researching happiness, habits, and human nature; and thankfully, much more of that energy to sharing what she learns with the rest of us!

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So basically, if you’re human, and want to choose your habits rather than letting them choose your life for you, this book is for you. I really enjoyed learning about what makes us tick, and how to tap into that awareness in order to struggle less and succeed more .

“How do we change? –by using habits…. If we change our habits, we change our life.”

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Self-Knowledge

As knowledge is power, the first part of the book helps us learn see ourselves through the lens of our instinctive response to expectations (both inner and outer)…

  1. Upholders respond readily to both inner and outer expectations.
  2. Questioners question all expectations, and respond only to those they can internally justify.
  3. Obligers respond readily to outer expectations while struggling to meet their own inner expectations! (me)
  4. Rebels resist all expectations, both their own, and those of others.

p.s. In case this fascinates you as it does me, there is whole other book about these four tendencies. (The Four Tendencies)

From there, we proceed to a series of thought-provoking questions to help us further understand our individual natures… (the ‘Distinctions’)

Am I…

  1. a lark or an owl?
  2. a marathoner, a sprinter, or a procrastinator?
  3. an underbuyer or an overbuyer?
  4. a simplicity lover or an abundance lover?
  5. a finisher or an opener?
  6. a familiarity lover or a novelty lover?
  7. promotion-focused or prevention-focused?
  8. and, do I like to take small steps or big steps?

The answers I came up with reveal facets of my personality I wasn’t even aware existed. ‘Things I never knew I never knew.”

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And then, the main course!

The author (I am convinced she is actually a genius. Maybe if I write in to her blog and ask, she will tell me her I.Q. score…?) has identified:

Strategies for habit change!

Here they are:

  1. Monitoring
  2. Foundation
  3. Scheduling
  4. Accountability
  5. First Steps
  6. Clean Slate
  7. Lightning Bolt
  8. Abstaining
  9. Convenience
  10. Inconvenience
  11. Safeguards
  12. Loophole-Spotting
  13. Distraction
  14. Reward
  15. Treats
  16. Pairing
  17. Clarity
  18. Identity
  19. Other People

(She often refers to the 21 strategies of habit change, but I have presented the first two- Tendencies & Distinctions- separately above under the Self-Knowledge heading.)

What I really appreciate about this book (apart from its user-friendly presentation of research that matters) is the individualized approach. Once I figured out my own answers to the questions at the top (which was fun to do) I could recognize which strategies would work best with my personality.

The idea is to reduce friction!

And it works. I sleep more now!

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Why make things harder than they have to be?

What habits have you successfully changed, and how?

Thank you for reading with me,

Leah 🙂

Lagom!

‘It’s a kind of Swedish Goldilocks approach, with everything “just right.”’

Evidently, the Scandinavians have really got some things figured out.

And naturally, the rest of us are lining up- and signing up- to become a little more Scandi-savvy!

In today’s post, let’s take a look at Sweden’s ‘best export’; lagom.

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The word lagom seems to have originated with a Viking term ‘laget om‘ (around the team) which referred to the social custom of passing a horn of drink around a circle and making sure everyone took just his fair share, so as to leave enough for the others to do the same. As one author wittily remarked,

“The Vikings wouldn’t usually be first on my list as a moral compass, but they were certainly on to something.”

Modern Swedes have come a long way from their Viking forbears; so how does Lagom translate today?

Contentment, balance, and doing things in ways that make sense for everyone…

Harmony, restraint, and appreciation for simplicity…

Moderation, sustainability, and environmental consciousness…

As I sit typing this morning at my HEMNES desk (thank you IKEA) I’m hoping you’ll enjoy taking a little peek with me into the timeless, yet trendy Scandi-secret of lagom!

For your scrolling pleasure, I’ve read three books (just triangulating data 😉 on this scintillating subject to share with you. Each one was written by someone in the know…

Elisabeth Carlsson grew up Swedish in Sweden, and is now married to an Englishman raising their children in London. Here is her book, the lagom life.

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Linnea Dunne is another Swede who left the land of lagom as a young adult and is now married to an Irishman, with whom she lives in Dublin, where they are raising their young child. She’s the author of this LAGOM book:

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“Consensus is king and everyone mucks in.”

Honestly, my favourite is Niki Brantmark’s Lagom book; she’s an Englishwoman who fell in love with a Swedish man and jumped at the chance to relocate to his homeland (about 15 years ago) where they are happily settled and raising their children Swedish-style!

Somehow her perspective seems more to the purpose… She’s looking at the culture of her adopted homeland through the lens of someone who was newly (and enthusiastically) introduced to it as an adult, which is closer to how the rest of us are seeing it, with fresh eyes and an appreciative embrace…

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“Perhaps the most liberating lesson of all has been feeling satisfied with ‘enough’.”

Whatever their various emotional approaches are to Swedish culture, they are definitely all speaking on the same subject! Here are some common themes I found running steadily through all three books:

  1. Moderation– while this isn’t a terribly exciting approach to life, it’s certainly a healthy one. And it greases the wheels of social life; greed and bragging are frowned upon. No self-respecting Swede would reach for the last treat on the plate once it had gone around at fika (coffee break) time.
  2. Forangkringsprocessenkvallspromenad (evening walk after supper) or bass bastu (sauna with refreshing breaks in cold water or snow)!!
  3. Balance– famously efficient, Swedish employees mean business about quitting time! Making time for family, health (such as Friskis & Svettis; unpretentious open air group exercise in public parks), self care, and creativity. (Incidentally, friskis & svettis sounds a little to my untrained ear like frisking and sweating- nej?
  4. Allemansratten“He who buys what he does not need steals from himself.” -Swedish Proverb

Lagom at home means keeping down clutter. Simply take a kopstopp (purchasing break) if all else fails. To further ensure home comforts, draw in as much natural light as possible, decorate with plants, and choose furniture for functionality. This is all very important, especially when the weekend comes; Fredagsmys is the traditional Friday night  family veg session with convenience food and TV, followed closely by Lordagsgodis (Saturday candy time)!! Very lagom ways to approach lounging on the couch for some screen time, and consuming candy, ja? 

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I have lots to learn about this moderate and balanced approach myself… I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, and never take coffee breaks (with or without cookies and cake)!

How about you?

Are you Swedish?

Have you been to Sweden, and what do you think of lagom?

Do any of these ideas resonate with you or help you see day-to-day challenges in a new light?

Thank you for reading with me,

Leah 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

The Happiness Passport

“Happiness is a mindset for your journey, not the result of your destination.” ~Shawn Achor

I’m obsessed with a few things; happiness naturally being one of them, because… who doesn’t want to be happy? According to the wise and witty Jane Austen, no one;

“I wish, as well as everybody else, to be happy; but, like everybody else, it must be in my own way.”

Handily, I also find that I have an insatiable appetite for learning. And people, and places. So you can imagine the relish with which I devoured this gorgeous book!

Clearly, no one place or culture has a monopoly on happiness. It’s absolutely fascinating to discover elements of contentment and joie-de-vivre tucked away in all parts of the world.

When I started school, my mom was part of a carpool; parents from nearby farms took turns driving each other’s children to school along with their own. Two of the families in our carpool were from India, and our mother wasted no time learning to cook a delicious Indian vegetarian curry and roti from one of these women. This recipe became one of our family favourites, and to this day we love to make it; only a couple weeks ago our adult son asked me for the recipe so he can make it with/for his lovely wife!

I’m grateful to my mom for this introduction to cultural diversity appreciation!

I’m convinced that we can learn something from everyone we meet. And from people we don’t meet, who find other ways to share their experiences and perspectives with us. For example, because of Megan C. Hayes, PhD., we now have at our fingertips such simple and sweet word/concepts as ‘cwtch’ (a Welsh term for a cozy cuddle), ‘ubuntu’ (Nguni Buntu for the common bond of unanimity between all people), ‘melmastia’ (a Pashto expression for unconditional hospitality and profound respect for guests), and one of my personal favourites -surely coined by someone who enjoys babies and little people as much as I do- ‘gigil’ (Tagalog for an overwhelming feeling, often in the context of wanting to pinch a cute or cherished baby)!!!

You might want to check out Megan Hayes’ program for writing oneself happy!

Positive Journal

What happiness tips have you gleaned from other languages, cultures, or places?

Thank you for reading with me,

Leah 🙂

The Golden Rule

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“DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU.”

Like most of us, I’ve been familiar with this ethic of empathy for as long as I can remember. Because I am a Christian, I learned it from my parents as well as in church.

What I didn’t realize before reading this artfully illustrated book is that the golden rule is found in all the world’s religions… According to author Ilene Cooper,

“Christianity says: You should love your neighbour as you love yourself.

Judaism says: What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow humans.

Islam says: Hurt no one that no one may hurt you.

Hinduism says: This is the sum of duty: to do nothing to others which would cause them pain.

Buddhism says: Do not do to others what would hurt you.

The Shawnee Tribe says: Do not kill or injure your neighbour, for it is not he or she that you injure; you injure yourself.”

This book presents a simple tale of a young boy learning about this universal element of humanity in a thought-provoking conversation with his grandfather…

The little lad likes that the Golden Rule is the same for children and adults. I like how his grandpa answers his how-to query;

“You begin by using your imagination.”

Sometimes it’s too easy for me to interact with (especially my family) just a little thoughtlessly. When I take a little moment to consider first, I’m far more likely to treat the people I love the most in the way I would like to be treated; with kindness and respect.

A couple days ago a man stepped aside, holding the door open for me as I was leaving the post office. He was on his way in, and happened to have his hand on the door handle before I did. It was easy and natural for me then to hold it open for him as he took his turn passing through. It was such a simple gesture, but it brightened my day.

How has someone touched your life with gold by following this simple rule?

Thank you for reading with me,

Leah 🙂