Resources for the Intentional Parent

Willpower, Habits and Motivation

Lately I’ve been kind of obsessed with how we are hardwired. Personality, motivation, habits. There are so many moving parts to what makes us who we are. Nature versus nurture. Brain chemistry versus heart and soul. Willpower versus weakness.

On top of that, we are parenting at a time when there is a lot of screen stuff and devices. It’s so hard. We are the first; a generation of parents raising a generation of kids who have round the clock access and input. This is all new. An experiment. None of us really knows anything about how it will shake out in the long run.

One of the strategies I rely on to curb that helpless feeling is to educate myself. As I mentioned, right now I am unquenchable on the subjects of personality, habits, motivation and self-control. Introvert or extrovert?

Abstainer or moderator? Eeyore or Tigger? What’s your love language?

What is your Myers-Briggs personality type? (I’m an INFJ, incidentally. Hence the interest in all the big ideas and deep thoughts.) Enneagram, anyone? And did you know we all have a finite amount of willpower to expend each day?

I know, I know. It can make you cross-eyed. It’s overwhelming. But I’ve been reading, listening and processing the intricacies of human nature for over a year now and the more I learn, the more I love it. The knowledge makes me feel empowered and encouraged.

Best-selling author Gretchen Rubin is one of my favorite sources for learning about personality and habits. In her latest book, “Better Than Before,” she lays out a framework for our habit-forming tendencies.

Through her research, she has identified four tendencies: Upholder, Obliger, Questioner and Rebel.

Briefly, Upholders are able to meet inner and outer expectations; they do what they need to do AND what they want to do for themselves and others without much “trickery.”

Questioners will do things if it makes sense to them. They might easily meet the expectations of one teacher, for example, but see no reason to follow through on assignments in another class.

Rebels have a hard time meeting expectations for themselves and others. To me, they seem like they would be the toughest nut to crack in terms of motivation and self-control. But when they understand themselves, they can find strategies to help them succeed in life.

Obligers, on the other hand (me, Me, ME!!), often won’t do things just for themselves, but they will meet outside expectations easily. Employers generally love Obligers. Speaking for myself, I excel when I know other people are counting on me or if I might look like a flake if I don’t follow through. For example, I have learned that if I want a habit of regular exercise, I need to create accountability: make plans to meet someone or get to know a couple people in workout classes so they will notice if I don’t show up. I’m not broken or lazy. It’s just how I’m wired.

It’s not that I desire to put everyone in a box. But having a better understanding of what makes us tick, individually, helps me have more empathy, compassion, understanding and grace for people who are not like me. Especially my kids. Learning about how we are wired, how my kids are wired, and how that impacts self-control and motivation when there is a whole world of distraction and entertainment right at our fingertips…it’s good and helpful stuff.

When you know yourself better, you can use tools and strategies to support who you want to be. And it’s critical to my parenting.

A tool like Kudoso is exactly the right thing at the right time. It’s such a relief to know that our business culture is rising up to meet our modern needs. No matter what your tendencies are or how you are hardwired, we all could use some support in moderating our technology in healthy ways. We parents need all the help we can get.

By Lorri Strand, Kudoso Kontributor