What’s Your Tendency?

Today I bring you this morning’s emailed reflection for the Healthy Holiday Streak, written by Melissa Kennedy, my partner in streaking and owner of Everyday Balance Health Coaching. I thought it was so helpful, I wanted other people to read it.

If you haven’t signed up for the streak, it’s not too late. Sign up today and I will send you all of the posts you’ve missed. We still have several weeks to go–lots of time to set a good intention or two for this hectic season.

Take it away, Melissa:


One challenge with regard to developing and maintaining healthy habits is that we are all different: what seems like best practice to one person can be counterproductive for someone else. So when MaryAnn and I write these messages, we try to keep in mind that not everyone looks at change in the same way that we do.

Gretchen Rubin, a writer who focuses on happiness and habit change, has created a personality framework which she calls the Four Tendencies. While this isn’t a scientifically validated framework, it resonates with me and provides some interesting insights into why certain habit-change strategies do or do not work for me.

The Four Tendencies are based on how we respond to internal obligations, commitments made to oneself, and also to external obligations, like a work deadline.

  • Upholders keep all commitments, whether made to themselves or to others. Habit change may come easily to Upholders, but they have to be cautious not to over-commit themselves.
  • Obligers always meet external expectations, but struggle with commitments made to themselves. They can really struggle with changing health-related behaviors unless they create some sort of external accountability system–like our Streak!
  • Questioners, as you might guess, question everything, especially authority. They push back against external commitments until or unless they become convinced that what they are being asked to do makes sense–then they turn it into an internal commitment and honor it.
  • And Rebels push back against all commitments, even the commitments they make to themselves. They want to do what they want to do in the moment. Needless to say, this can make habit change hard! The motto Rubin gives for Rebels is “You can’t make me, and neither can I.”

None of the Tendencies are better or worse than any of the others–they each have their own advantages and pitfalls. But understanding how you respond to internal vs. external commitments can lead to very useful insights about what habit change strategies will and will not work well for you.

Your Tendency may be obvious to you after reading the descriptions above, but if not, check out the quiz on Rubin’s website.

Me? I’m a Questioner. I’m generally a rule-follower… but I am driven up the wall by rules that don’t make sense. I sometimes frustrate myself by not following through on things that I think I’m committed to… but in hindsight I almost always realize that I had never completely bought in. And I finally understand why my devil’s-advocate questioning of new ideas can be perceived as negativity.

Today’s Question: Which Tendency do you identify with? (Take the quiz if you aren’t sure!) What insights does that lead to?

Stop by the Facebook event if you would like to chat about Tendencies! (Maybe MaryAnn will reveal hers…)



Sign up for the streak and get a copy of all the posts through today.

Ten for Tuesday

It’s been a few weeks–been busy with the Healthy Holiday Streak (not too late to jump in!).

1. How the ‘Shalane Flanagan Effect’ Works

Was so excited when Shalane won the NYC Marathon! This story just adds to the joy:

But perhaps Flanagan’s bigger accomplishment lies in nurturing and promoting the rising talent around her, a rare quality in the cutthroat world of elite sports. Every single one of her training partners — 11 women in total — has made it to the Olympics while training with her, an extraordinary feat. Call it the Shalane Effect: You serve as a rocket booster for the careers of the women who work alongside you, while catapulting forward yourself.


2. Veteran who lost both legs completes 31 marathons in 31 days, runners trailing his every step

Marine Corps veteran Rob Jones wanted to change the narrative of the broken-down, wounded veteran struggling to transition to civilian life. So for the past 31 days, he kept running.

He ran to prove a point and to inspire. Jones, who had both legs amputated after being wounded by a land mine while serving in Afghanistan, ran the distance of 31 marathons over 31 days in 31 different cities.


3. Collective Nouns for Humans in the Wild by Kathy Fish

resplendence of poets.

beacon of scientists.

raft of social workers.

A short poem with a poignant twist at the end.


4. Powerful [NSFW] Photos From The 2017 Birth Photo Competition Prove That Moms Are Badass

Raw, beautiful and fierce!


5. Brave Enough to Be Angry–Lindy West

Like every other feminist with a public platform, I am perpetually cast as a disapproving scold. But what’s the alternative? To approve? I do not approve.

Not only are women expected to weather sexual violence, intimate partner violence, workplace discrimination, institutional subordination, the expectation of free domestic labor, the blame for our own victimization, and all the subtler, invisible cuts that undermine us daily, we are not even allowed to be angry about it. Close your eyes and think of America.


6. Since You Asked, Roy Moore, Here Is Why Victims Of Sexual Violence Wait Decades To Come Forward

Seventeen good reasons here.


7. “I-Cut-You-Choose” Cake-Cutting Protocol Inspires Solution to Gerrymandering

Democratic candidates for the House of Delegates in Virginia received about 224,000 more votes than Republicans, out of about 2.4 million cast. And yet Republicans will probably end up with a 51-49 advantage. Why? Part of the answer is gerrymandering. I assume you’ve seen the maps–craziness!

I don’t have a lot of hope that our current partisan environment will be able to draw districts that are truly fair. But if we could, this article explains how it might work.


8. At Yale, we conducted an experiment to turn conservatives into liberals. The results say a lot about our political divisions.

tl;dr — It’s fear.

I have seen similar evidence elsewhere. The question is, what quirk of the brain turns liberals into conservatives? I don’t like the frame that one side is more deficient than the other; we’re just deficient in different ways is all 😉


9. Can a Democrat and Republican make a marriage work?

I find political “mixed marriages” fascinating. And ultimately hopeful.

Rather, [Professor] Duncan suggests couples try to understand each other’s point of view and respect the right to feel strongly about something, which is what Chris says he has tried to do throughout his 40-year marriage.

“When your partner is someone from a different viewpoint, you really have to try to appreciate that viewpoint and understand that everyone’s got a valid point,” he said.


10. The Thirteen Questions That Lead to Divorce

Speaking of marriage… I missed the article in the Times two years ago that listed 36 questions that one psychologist says can “lead to love.” But this one appealed to the wicked side of my humor.



Welcome to the Streak!

Note: The Healthy Holiday Streak begins today! Here’s the first reflection to get people started. All future posts will be sent to the email list only. Not too late to join! Register for the streak here.

We’re so excited you’re joining us on this adventure! Many of our daily reflections will be short and sweet, but today’s is a little more in-depth to help ensure you get off to a good start.

First thing is for you to define your streak. What makes a good goal, you ask?

  1. It’s small. Remember, this is something you will strive for every day. Don’t set yourself up for failure by picking something unrealistic.
  2. It’s within your control. Focus on things that you have the power to achieve. For example, instead of “get eight hours of sleep each night,” decide you’ll turn off the screens and unwind at a certain time each evening.
  3. It connects with a deeper sense of purpose or well-being. This is not a time for “should” or conforming to others’ expectations. What will help YOU embrace this season with a sense of well-being and joy?
  4. It needs a day off… or it doesn’t. Some of us are abstainers–we need to go all in on a habit, and if we “cheat a little,” we’ll fall off the wagon completely. Others of us are moderators–if we don’t give ourselves a little wiggle room, we’ll start to resent our goal*. Decide if you intend to follow through every day, or if you’ll do better with one streak-free day each week–and which one it will be.

Now, the good stuff!

Suggested Focus Areas for Goals

  • Exercise/Movement Each Day (how about dancing?)
  • Food/Nutrition
  • Saying No and Letting Go
  • Meditation and Gratitude
  • Sleep
  • Play and Recreation
  • Participation in Art and Beauty
  • Healthy Online Habits
  • Connecting with Loved Ones

Last Step: Accountability!

Here’s the bad news. When people set goals for themselves, there’s a pretty small chance they’ll follow through. Like, a 6-8% chance.

But guess what? The chance increases to 30% when you write the goal down. (So go do that!)

AND it increases to 60% when you tell someone about it**. So grab a friend and streak together. And head to our Facebook event and share what your streak will be. We can’t wait to cheer you on.

And we’ll be streaking too: Melissa’s streak will be focused on sleep–she is committing to a specific lights-out time each night, as well as a devices-off time 60 minutes before lights-out. MaryAnn will be choosing a different practice each week–this week, it’s a brief gratitude list at the end of each day. Each Monday we’ll report how our own streaks are going–including our stumbles–so we can all get recommitted for another week of streaking.

The next few days will be preparation for the streak, with the official streak starting on Thanksgiving (or the day after, your choice). But if you’re ready to start today, please do!

Today’s Question: Given today’s guidance, what will your streak be?

Until tomorrow!
MaryAnn McKibben Dana and Melissa Kennedy

Check out author Gretchen Rubin for more on abstainers and moderators.

Statistics on goal-setting are from the book Goal Setting: a Motivational Technique that Works by Edwin Locke and Gary Latham.


Image is from George Deputee on Flickr and used via Creative Commons Modify Non-Endorse License.

Streak with Us!

What would it take for this holiday season to be the best one yet?

Chances are, your answer to that question has nothing to do with receiving the perfect gift, or hosting the best cookie exchange, or writing the world’s bragging-est Christmas letter.

If you’re like us, a good holiday season is one that is mindful, joyous, and brimming with simple pleasures. And if we’re honest, it would be nice to get to January 1 and not be exhausted, frazzled, and crashing from too much holiday indulgence.

That’s where the Healthy Holiday Streak comes in.

To “streak” in running means to run at least a mile a day, every day. (You may have heard another definition for “streaking”—hey, what people wear to run that mile is up to them 😉)

Many runners choose to streak as a way of staying accountable to moving at least a little bit each day. This holiday season, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, we’re creating our own twist on the streak. We’d love to have you join us.

How It Works:

You decide what your streak will be. Here are some suggestions:

  • Take part in some kind of exercise each day
  • Set a nutrition goal that allows you to enjoy the holidays while still making healthy choices
  • Spend at least a few minutes each day outside in the fresh air
  • Try to get a certain amount of sleep each night
  • Intentionally drink water throughout the day
  • Make contact with a friend each day
  • Let go of one task each day that drains you

Maybe your goal is more general—to be present and enjoy this often hectic season. Or maybe you mix it up and focus on a different goal each week. There’s no right or wrong way to streak! The ultimate goal is not deprivation, but a deeper sense of enjoyment—caring for oneself in body, mind and spirit.

Each morning from Monday, November 20 though New Year’s Day, streakers will receive a short email in their inbox, containing a brief reflection and a question to ponder. These reflections are designed to keep your streak on track with inspiration, tips, and suggestions.

The reflections are written by MaryAnn McKibben Dana of ZOOM! Coaching and Melissa Kennedy of Everyday Balance Health Coaching. We’ll be streaking too, so in addition to offering our best wisdom, we’ll be sharing our own successes and struggles along with you.

How Do I Sign Up?

Register here through MailChimp. Note: If you are signed up for MaryAnn’s Blue Room emails, you will NOT automatically be subscribed; you must opt in. Use the link to do this.

How Much Does It Cost?

Not a thing. Feel free to share the emails with others, and it’s easy to unsubscribe if it turns out not to be quite what you’re looking for.

What If I “Fail” at My Streak?

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Life happens, and sometimes the exercise just doesn’t happen, or that second (or third) cookie is just too tantalizing to ignore. Don’t stress about it. Melissa and MaryAnn believe that health and wellness come in the midst of baby steps, setbacks, recommitment, accountability, and grace. Let your goals and intentions be a North Star that guides you, not a destination you either succeed or fail to reach.

We look forward to streaking with you!

About Us

Melissa Kennedy is a physician, coach, and owner of Everyday Balance Health Coaching. She helps clients learn the lifestyle habits which maximize health and well-being, using a small-steps, habit-based approach. She lives in Albuquerque with her husband, daughter, and two crazy cats, and she loves hiking, cycling, cooking, reading, and playing the violin.


MaryAnn McKibben Dana is a writer, speaker, and owner of ZOOM! Coaching, which focuses on personal/professional coaching and running coaching. She is author of the forthcoming God, Improv, and the Art of Living, and numerous other works. She lives in the DC suburbs with her husband and three children, and also has two crazy cats. She is a muffin-maker, a haphazard knitter, and an occasional marathoner.




Image is from George Deputee on Flickr and used via Creative Commons Modify Non-Endorse License.

Ten for Tuesday

Let’s get right to it.

1. On “Thoughts and Prayers”

Another mass shooting, this time in Texas, means another mass of posts on social media from various perspectives. My friend Roy posted the following yesterday and it spoke to me:



2. “Thoughts and Prayers,” part 2

After the Las Vegas shooting–yes, that was only a few weeks ago–I read the following on a friend’s Facebook feed about “thoughts and prayers” in Islam. It spoke to me:

Today, my actions include spending a few hours at a nearby polling place, handing out literature for the candidate who I believe is the best choice to be our governor.


3. Noticing Kairos Moments

My improv buddy David Westerlund reflects on time and presence:

In an improv scene if I’m worried about what I didn’t say five seconds ago; or overthinking what might happen, I’m missing what’s happening right now, I’m missing the dynamic now, of what is unfolding as I tune into my scene partner.

The now-ness of improv is one of the things I love best about it… and why I’m a constant student of it, because I often miss the now in my daily life!


4. Press Play (TED Radio Hour)

Speaking of improv, this edition of the TED Radio Hour talks about the importance of play, for all of us. I suggest that in these fraught times, play is even more vital.


5. Working to Disarm Women’s Anti-Aging Demon

Aging is harder for women. We bear the brunt of the equation of beauty with youth and youth with power — the double-whammy of ageism and sexism. How do we cope? We splurge on anti-aging products. We fudge or lie about our age. We diet, we exercise, we get plumped and lifted and tucked.

These can be very effective strategies, and I completely understand why so many of us engage in them. No judgment, I swear. But trying to pass for younger is like a gay person trying to pass for straight or a person of color for white. These behaviors are rooted in shame over something that shouldn’t be shameful. And they give a pass to the underlying discrimination that makes them necessary.


6. Five Important Women of the Reformation

We recently celebrated the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, an event that has profoundly shaped history whether you are religious or not. Here are some women you should know.


7. David Schwimmer praised in wake of Harvey Weinstein scandal for offering female film critic a chaperone

David Schwimmer has been on my Nice Guy list for a while, since producing a series of thought-provoking PSAs about sexual harassment. But this was a very interesting story in the wake of #MeToo:

[Journalist] Nell Minow, in response to the disgust felt at Hollywood behaviour, has spoken of her meeting with the Friends actor in 2011, when he was promoting Trust – the film he directed, telling the real life story of a young girl preyed upon by an online abuser.

The restaurant they were due to speak in proved noisy, and so the Friends star hesitantly broached the notion of going up to his room. Schwimmer said he could ask a third person to be present in the room.

“I haven’t thought of that since it happened but the Weinstein stories made me not just remember it but remember it in an entirely different context as an indicator of the prevalence of predatory behaviour and as an indicator of Schwimmer’s integrity and sensitivity,” she said.


8. Female Shark in Seoul Aquarium Eats Male Shark Because He Kept Bumping Into Her

Because sometimes you have just had ENOUGH.


9. How to Build Resilience in Midlife

In honor of my ‘baby’ brother who turned 40 last week:

Remember Your Comebacks. When times are tough, we often remind ourselves that other people — like war refugees or a friend with cancer — have it worse. While that may be true, you will get a bigger resilience boost by reminding yourself of the challenges you personally have overcome.


10. Astros!!!

It was so wonderful to watch the Astros capture their first World Series title in franchise history. I shared this video on my FB feed, which was my favorite moment from the celebration.

But this was a close second.