You’re scrolling through Instagram, and that familiar feeling is coming up again.
The feeling that everyone else has this amazing life…
Except for you.
It’s not like inspiration is in short supply. You read the motivational quotes. You see these women living their dreams. You know if they can do it, you can, too.
So what’s holding you back?
Nothing, you decide. You’re going to do it. You’re finally going to write that book/get in shape/go back to school/change careers.
How are you going to motivate yourself? How are you going to make sure you stick with it this time?
Are you going to:
- Write down your goal and stick it in a prominent place?
- Research your goal thoroughly so that you know exactly what steps to take?
- Get a buddy or a coach on board to hold you accountable?
- Focus on proving wrong the naysayers who don’t believe you can do it?
Hold on just a second.
If you go ahead on pursuing your dream and you don’t know THIS about yourself, you could be dooming yourself to failure.
Do You Know How You Respond to Expectations?
Gretchen Rubin was fascinated by habits.
She wanted to know how some people manage to stick to healthy habits, while other people got derailed by unhealthy habits they couldn’t break.
So she decided to write a book about it, Better Than Before.
In the process of researching her book, she noticed that some people are great at living up to other people’s expectations but really bad at doing anything for themselves.
She noticed that other people are great at doing things they find personally meaningful but balk at following arbitrary or unnecessary rules.
If people knew what kind of expectations they found it easiest to live up to, Rubin reasoned, they’d be able to motivate themselves more effectively.
So she divided all people into four categories, based on how they respond to expectations. And she called it the Four Tendencies.
The Most Important Personality Test You’ll Ever Take
Think back to when you were a kid and an adult asked you to do something. How did you respond?
- You went ahead and did it. Life is full of things you don’t want to do, but you just have to get over it.
- You asked why you had to do it. You don’t mind doing something if it makes sense, but you’re not going to obey some stupid rule that has no point.
- You did it as long as you were being supervised. If the adult left you to your own devices, you’d end up getting distracted and not getting it done.
- You refused. You don’t mind doing something if you want to do it, but you bristle at being told what to do.
Your answer can give you insight into your Tendency.
The Four Tendencies are:
- Upholder. Upholders are good at meeting all kinds of expectations, whether they’re imposed from the outside or self-imposed.
- Questioner. Questioners will only meet an expectation if they understand why they’re doing so and it makes sense to them.
- Obliger. Obligers are good at meeting other people’s expectations, but they have a hard time motivating themselves to meet personal goals.
- Rebel. Rebels don’t like expectations of any kind. They do what they want to do when they want to do it.
Chances are, you already have a good sense of which category you fall into!
As soon as I learned about the Four Tendencies, I immediately knew I was a Questioner. I’ve always needed to know why things are done the way they’re done. I don’t agree to do something unless I’ve asked a lot of questions first. I find it very easy to stick to healthy habits that work for me, but I don’t like following someone else’s program.
If you’re not sure which Tendency describes you best, you can take the formal Four Tendencies quiz here.
How Your Tendency Can Help You Motivate Yourself
Now that you know whether you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, you can create a custom plan to keep you motivated and on track with that big goal.
Upholders have the easiest time sticking to goals. It doesn’t matter whether other people expect something of them or they expect it of themselves. They’ll meet all expectations, no matter how small.
Which leads to a problem:
How do you know which expectations really matter?
Upholders must be careful to avoid getting derailed by unimportant or unnecessary expectations. For example, an Upholder may believe that she needs to do X, Y, and Z before she can even begin writing that book proposal or applying for that job. But is that really true?
Prioritize the expectations that are absolutely necessary, and let yourself off the hook for the rest.
The best way to motivate a Questioner is to make sure a goal makes sense.
Questioners need to do a lot of research and ask a lot of questions before they’re 100% sure about the course of action they want to take. They may be skeptical of one-size-fits-all plans. They prefer to customize.
But once the Questioner knows WHY they’re doing what they’re doing and the best way to achieve it, they’re off and running.
Questioners must be careful to avoid analysis-paralysis. They can get so caught up in the research phase that they never take action.
Obligers do best with external accountability. They thrive when they’ve got a coach, boss or buddy checking in with them regularly.
Left to their own devices, Obligers can find it hard to stick with something, even if it’s really important to them. That doesn’t mean they lack willpower. It simply means that they do best when other people are relying on them.
An Obliger might motivate herself to achieve health goals by reminding herself that her family needs her to be fit and healthy, or by starting an exercise routine with a friend or neighbor, or by joining a group program.
Obligers must be careful not to feel so pressured by outside expectations that they rebel. They can get overwhelmed with everything other people want from them, and they find it difficult to say no. Push an Obliger past her breaking point, and she’ll balk completely.
Rebels are among the most difficult to motivate, because they resist any and all expectations. They want the freedom of being able to decide exactly what they want to do, when they want to do it.
Try to encourage a Rebel by suggesting that they do something or offering to help, and you may just find the Rebel refuses on principle. Doing what you want them to do—even if it’s something they want to do as well—feels like losing.
Rubin suggests using an information-consequences-choice model instead.
Give a Rebel the information she needs to make an informed choice, tell her what the consequences for each potential course of action would be, then allow her to choose. Don’t try to push her in any particular direction.
Rebels must learn to manage their desire for freedom with the necessity of jumping through hoops. You can’t win a game if you refuse to play it.
If a Rebel has a mission or goal that feels big enough—or if someone has told her she can’t do it—that sense of purpose will drive her to completing her goal. The Rebel loves proving people wrong. She’s not afraid of a challenge that people say can’t be done.
How Are You Going to Motivate Yourself?
Now that you know your Tendency and what motivates people with that Tendency best…
How will you think about your goals differently?
Is there something you could do to set yourself up for success?
Like researching your goal thoroughly, so you know exactly what you need to accomplish with each step. Or hiring a coach to work with you. Or focusing on proving wrong the naysayers who don’t believe you can do it.
Tell us your Tendency and your favorite way to motivate yourself in the comments!