How’s your Humility? Are you taking up the right amount of space?

It was over a year ago that I listened to the podcast and started thinking about humility.  

Greg Marcus (PhD) was being interviewed on one of my favourites, the One You Feed.  Marcus had recently released his newest book called “The Spiritual Practice of Good Actions” and I listened intently as he took the listener through the motivation for the book and the key tenets of the practice he outlines.

I was interested enough to go online after the podcast and buy the book – even though we all know I had too many books already.

I only recently started to read the book (yes it’s been lined up behind several others for over a year – but I’ve gotten to it now and I think I’ll enjoy it).

What this all about?

Well it’s about finding balance through the Soul Traits of Mussar.  Mussar is a thousand years old Jewish practice of spiritual growth based on mindful living.

Who knew?  I’m not Jewish and I hadn’t heard of it up until this point.

The book presents 13 ‘Soul Traits’ ranging from the first one, Humility, to Honour, Trust and Gratitude to name a few, and provides guidance to help you explore each of the soul traits to better understand yourself. One at a time with small, incremental changes.

Ok…I’m up for this.  Where do I start?

Well I start, according to the book, with undertaking a quick self assessment of where I am with each Soul Trait.  This was an opportunity for me to ‘meet my soul’ through a Soul Trait Evaluation.  I basically rank myself from 1-10 on how much of each trait I think I exhibit.  1 being the least, 10 being the most.  My first cut looked like this:

My first self-assessment

The author assures me that my first attempt at this won’t be accurate – because ultimately we are all biased when we look at ourselves.  For example, for the soul trait of Fear I ranked myself at 9.  If I ask those closest to me where they would rank me, it will likely be a lower score (less fear than I think I have).  It might be the reverse for other traits.  I am assured however that this first cut isn’t about getting it ‘right’ and that after each week of practicing a particular soul trait, I get the chance to go back and re-rank that trait.

Phew. 10’s here I come!

So what’s the ideal evaluation look like you might ask? 

The right answer is balance.  According to Mussar, the optimum score on each trait is 5.5 – claiming that Divinity is here – right on the 5.5 mark (the dotted line on my self assessment picture).

The point Marcus is making is that having too much of any soul trait is just as bad as having too little.

Goodbye 10’s.

Now at first I was challenged by this – like for example, how can you have too much gratitude, or too little humility or too much patience or loving-kindness? However as I read on and gave more thought to this, it became more clear why 5.5 might be the magic number.

For example, with this trait of Humility, I’m into week 1 and the mantra for this trait is:

“Not more than my space, no less than my place”

In addition, the author defines Humility as ‘knowing your proper place in the world and acting accordingly’.

So the goal is not to be as humble as possible – even though we might admire people who we consider to be humble.  The goal is to not be too self-important, and at the same time, not to sell ourselves short.

When I give myself permission to really think about this statement, I wonder how I’m going with humility.  What is my space?

Occupy a rightful space, neither too much or too little.

So what’s my rightful space and is it different in different circumstances.  Probably.  Yes definitely.

I don’t want to be arrogant and I also don’t want to be self-effacing.

I want that 5.5 in the middle.

How do I know if I’m there – and if I’m not, how do I get there?

Through actions say Marcus.

The book guides me to look at Humility as a continuum.  Arrogance at the 10 end and self-debasing at the 1 end.  When I observe myself on this continuum over the coming two weeks, where do I see myself in different situations?

Marcus also gives us some choice points to consider like:

 – Where do we sit or stand, in the front or back?

 – Do we feel inferior or superior to the people around us?

 – How often do we make it about us, through our thoughts, feelings and/or actions?

 – Do we wish we’d said something instead of staying silent?

So Mussar is a practice and I much prefer something I can practice, and actually partake in, than something that is entirely theoretical.  So I’ve committed to 26 weeks – 2 weeks for each soul trait – as recommended in the book.  The practice involves meditation, mindful action and journaling on a daily basis.

So there it is!  My challenge for the next 26 weeks is to learn more about myself, and hopefully get myself closer to Divinity (according to Mussar and Marcus) by getting closer to 5.5’s on the 13 soul traits.

I’ll settle for a greater understanding of myself and if the Divinity comes, all the better!

Marcus asserts that small gradual changes in our everyday life can make lasting changes to our inner world.  What have I got to lose?

Have you thought about where you are on the Humility spectrum – between arrogance and self-debasement?  Are you taking up your space, not more and no less?

You can access the podcast I refer to here, and the author’s website here .

You can take the Soul Traits self-assessment quiz for yourself here.

I’ll check in over the coming 26 weeks and keep you posted on how I’m finding it, but for these next two weeks, I’ll be focused on Humility and trying to work out what my space is, and what my place is, and if I’m taking it up.  If you do take up this Mussar challenge – let me know, I’d love to know how you find it. 

“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi.

PS.  In case you were wondering, I have no affiliation with this book, the author or the podcast mentioned, aside from being a reader and listener of such – I have simply found it interesting and useful and wanted to share.



I’m an Obliger – what’s your tendency?

Hmmm what’s all this about my tendency?

In my Year in Review for 2017 I posed a question to myself about why I was mostly able to keep commitments to others but had a harder time keeping commitments and promises I made to myself.

I’ve been pondering this.

I think I have the answer – at least in part, and for now.  I found it in Gretchen Rubins “Four Tendencies”.

Gretchen is the author of a number of best selling books including ‘The Happiness Project’ and ‘Better Than Before’.  She is a happiness researcher and has an enormous readership, both in print and online, and her books have sold almost three million copies worldwide, in more than thirty languages. 

The four tendencies describe how we respond to expectations and there’s a quiz you can take to see what your tendency is. 

Taken from her website, Gretchen says that we all face two kinds of expectations:
• outer expectations, such as meeting work deadlines or observing traffic regulations, and
• inner expectations, such as quitting napping or keeping a New Year’s resolution.

The four tendencies themselves are described as:

Upholder: “I do what others expect of me—and what I expect from myself.”
Questioner: “I do what I think is best, according to my judgment. If it doesn’t make sense, I won’t do it.”
Obliger: “I do what I have to do. I don’t want to let others down, but I may let myself down.”
Rebel: “I do what I want, in my own way. If you try to make me do something—even if I try to make myself do something—I’m less likely to do it.”

Upon embarking on the quiz, and reading more about the methodology, I learnt more about myself – and I love learning.

So I’m an Obliger according to the quiz and it resonates with me. 

So what’s an Obliger?

According to Gretchen – “Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet inner expectations. They’re motivated by external accountability; they wake up and think, “What must I do today?”  Obligers excel at meeting external demands and deadlines, and go to great lengths to meet their responsibilities, so they make terrific colleagues, family members, and friends. Others rely on them tremendously. However, because Obligers resist inner expectations, it can be 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.

In fact, Obligers need external accountability even for activities that they want to do.  Behavior that Obligers sometimes attribute to self-sacrifice or lack of self-esteem—“Why do I always make time for other people’s priorities at the expense of my own?”—is often better explained as need for accountability. The weight of outer expectations can make Obligers susceptible to burnout, because they have trouble telling people “no.” They may describe themselves as “people-pleasers.” They may, in fact, reach the point of Obliger rebellion, a striking pattern in which they abruptly refuse to meet an expectation. They may rebel in symbolic ways, with their hair, clothes, car, and the like”.

Do you see that lightbulb as clearly as I see it?


Do you see what I see?

I have utliised many profiling tools in my life, and many are useful.  This one was a big aha moment for me.  Not in finding out I was an Obliger, I kind of knew that but called it “people pleasing”.  The aha for me was the advice on what I might be able to do to help me keep my promises and commitments to myself.

What does this mean for me?

Well in a nutshell, it means I am far more likely to keep promises and commitments I make to other people, than I am to keep promises and commitments I make to myself.

Turning off the alarm when I promised myself I’d get to the gym; eating that entire pizza and bar of chocolate when I committed to myself that I would fast that day; buying that new pair of boots when I committed to no spending this week.

Bending over backwards to get that project finished for my boss because I said I would; attending that event with my friend because I promised her I would even though I really don’t want to; vacuuming the floors and doing the washing when I really want to be swimming in the ocean.

Gretchin tells us that Obligers may find it difficult to form a habit, because often we undertake habits for our own benefit, and Obligers do things more easily for others than for themselves.

Yep I know that first hand.

She says that for Obligers, the Strategy of Accountability is the crucial strategy of habit formation.

For instance, if you’re an Obliger and you’re trying to exercise more, you might:

• Hire a fitness trainer, personal organiser, financial planner, coach, nutritionist, or other accountability partner
• Team up with a friend who will be disappointed if you don’t follow through, or take a class with a teacher who will notice if you don’t participate
• Consider yourself as a role model to children, employees, friends, and the like, to be an example of fulfilling commitments, showing respect for yourself, or modeling good behavior. 

Strategy of Accountability

So my take away was that an Obliger could be assisted by developing a “Strategy of Accountability”.  It made me think about what I can do to create/generate accountability in those things I want to achieve.

For example – here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
– Joined a gym that has an app for class bookings – if I don’t turn up, they email or text me and charge me a fee
– Commenced an 8 week challenge that includes a meal plan and regular check ins – somebody is checking up on me
– Had a full body scan done showing my vital stats so to speak – with another booked in for 8 weeks time – a benchmark to see how my 8 week challenge went.
– Booked in to see a Business/Life Coach monthly – accountability for my life and business goals
– Committed to update my progress towards my goals on the 1st of each month

So that’s my progress towards being a better me and working with my Obliger tendency.  I’m not hanging my hat on everything “Obliger” but it has been helpful to understand this paradigm.

It’s also been helpful to understand a bit about the other tendencies (Upholder, Questioner and Rebel) and like me, I am sure you will be able to take a guess at which tendency those close to you hold.

The Four Tendencies has helped me to understand myself better and others better – why don’t you try it for yourself?

You can do the quiz from here.

“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi

Two hacks that are changing my life – or at least my mornings!

Do you have any morning hacks?

I am pretty sure my eyeballs are sweating.

Every other part of my body is leaking sweat, it’s dripping off me, from everywhere. I am certain there is sweat coming from my eyeballs.  Do eyeballs sweat?  

It’s disgusting and in a way, exhilarating, at the same time. Everyone around me is likewise dripping with sweat. It feels good.

My aim is to get here and sweat like this four times a week. This is the only time this week I’ve actually made it here – to the shed where I’m training at the moment. This new (to me) F45 program – 45 minutes of working hard and sweating like crazy with a bunch of like minded people and great trainers – is something I’m enjoying.

Let me rephrase that, I love the feeling of this workout – AFTER it is over.

To get to this class – I have to get up at 5am. It’s hard for me to get up at 5am – at least that’s the narrative I tell myself, my inner belief.

So how did I get here today – when for the rest of the week I couldn’t manage to drag myself out of bed?

And what happened on those other mornings when I turned off my alarm at 5am and went back to sleep, even though my desire was to get up, meditate and hit the gym?

What happened was that I didn’t use my two hacks.

These two hacks of mine have helped me work out the morning issues I have. Not all the time, but these two hacks lean me toward my goals rather than away from them, at least in relation to getting up in the morning and doing my meditation and exercise. Now lets be clear, this doesn’t mean I get up at 5am every day. I am getting better at it though and it’s because of these two things. One happens the night before, and one in the morning.

1. Set my intention for the next day

This isn’t a new one – but when I actually do it – it’s a life changer!  When I go to bed at night, aside from having my training gear ready, I take a few minutes to visualise what my morning looks like. I picture my self leaning over and turning off my alarm at 5am. I visualise myself standing up, grabbing my phone and walking the few steps into the bathroom. I see my workout gear on the bathroom floor, I put it on. I wash my face, clean my teeth, drink some water and head downstairs to meditate.  Then I grab my keys. I walk out the door, get in the car. If I can stay awake long enough, I go through visualising the rest of my day. But the key for me is to see myself actually moving through my morning routine.

2. Stand up

That’s it really. As simple as that – and as difficult as that. My second hack is to stand up. Physically put my feet on the floor and stand up. If I stand up from my bed when the alarm rings in my ear at 5am, I have achieved my morning goals. I know that if I stand up, I have as good as practiced meditation and sweated it out at my workout. That’s because 100% of the times that I have stood up, I have meditated and exercised. So really, the hack for me is that simple. If I stand up, I’m most of the way there.

I know when I rise at 5am I am a better person – and that’s what I want to achieve, every day. To be better than I was the day before.

If you like the idea of standing up, you might also like Mel Robbins 5 second rule – she has a similar hack for getting moving and motivated, based around a 5 second countdown. She suggests counting yourself down from 5 to 1 and when you get to 1, you’re on – you do whatever it is you are counting down to or procrastinating about. Have a look at her explain it here.

Do you have any hacks that help you out in the mornings to get you going? I’d love to hear them. I’m always happy to try new ways to be better every day.

“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi