Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project” and “Happier at Home”, recently wrote a thought-provoking blog post identifying four different personality types and the way each type responds to “rules”.
There wasn’t any difficulty determining where I fall on this continuum: I am definitely an Upholder, which Rubin defines as someone who “accepts rules, whether from outside or inside. An upholder meets deadlines, follows doctor’s order, keeps a New Year’s resolution.”
Upholders don’t question or rebel against the rules, whether those rules are generated from outer forces, such as traffic laws and social protocol, or inner instructions, such as a commitment to exercise or meeting a deadline.
Of course, like anything, there are pros and cons of each personality type.
For example, making an internal commitment to a Project 365 fits in well with my upholder tendencies. Once I state my intention, it becomes an internal rule and I follow it. Self-motivation tends to be easy for me – this means I get things done and generally fulfill my commitments to myself and to others. Being an Upholder helps me achieve my goals.
The downside is that I tend to follow those rules without question, even when they no longer serve me and my best interests. I also have a strong tendency to convert a choice into an unchangeable inner rule, often without noticing. And once things are solidified into “rules”, then it becomes my “duty” to uphold them. Which is when my upholder inclinations become detrimental to my creative growth.
As I wrote earlier this week, it is a constant struggle to recognize and break through these artificial limits that I place on myself. The idea that I am “this” type of photographer who shoots “these” subjects with “this” composition – hard-baked rules that I must now uphold. This kind of thinking leaves little room for growth or experimentation or just plain fun.
Applying a label to my rule personality helps shine a light on those tendencies that are harmful, giving me a better chance to recognize and modify my negative upholder tendencies.
Where do you fall in your relationship to rules? Are you a fellow Upholder, a Rebel, a Questioner or an Obliger? And how does this help or hinder your creative work?