Have you ever noticed that it’s easy for you to do certain things that other people struggle with? Or maybe you find that you can complete a task only when someone else is relying on you to get it done?
The reason may have to do with how to respond to inner and outer expectations, according to best-selling author and human behavior researcher Gretchen Rubin. When conducting research on habits and happiness, Rubin noticed several patterns emerging related to motivation and expectations. She found that everyone falls into one of four categories, which she named the Four Tendencies.
Your tendency reveals how you respond to both external and internal expectations. What does that mean?
- External expectations are those placed on you by other people. For example, your boss wants that report by Friday, or your spouse expects you to clean out the garage this weekend.
- Inner expectations are those you create for yourself: you decide you’re going to start a new barre class or quit sugar or run a 5k, because you want to do it or you think it will be beneficial for you.
You can take the quiz here and find out which tendency you fall into: Upholder, Obliger, Questioner, or Rebel.
Here’s an overview of how each tendency operates:
- Upholders find it easy to meet both outer and inner expectations. Whether you decide to go to the gym four times a week because it’s a goal you set for yourself, or you organize the PTA silent auction because someone else asked you to, you are likely to follow through with your commitments.
- Obligers are good about meeting external expectations, but struggle with their own goals. You’re likely to meet work deadlines and help other people when asked, but you may not be able to stick to a workout schedule you’ve set for yourself.
- Questioners meet internal expectations, as long as something makes sense to them and they understand why it’s important. If you’re a Questioner, you’re likely to do a lot of research and gather information before making a decision. You don’t like to do something just because “that’s the way it’s always been done.” It may be difficult for you to make a decision, but once you decide on a course of action, you’re likely to stick to it.
- Rebels resist both outer and inner expectations. They don’t like to be bound by rules and guidelines. They may even resist doing something they want to do if someone else asks them to do it. If you’re a Rebel, you likely place a high value on expressing your identity and doing things your own way. You can be very productive, but only if you feel like it.
So what does this mean for meeting your health goals? Once you know your tendency, you can create systems that will help you stick to a workout routine or diet. Here’s how to find what works for you:
If you’re an Upholder
Congratulations! You typically don’t need a lot of help creating good habits because you are good about meeting both external and external expectations. If you decide you’re going to do strength training three days a week, you are likely to follow through. You don’t want to disappoint anyone else OR yourself, so it’s easy for you to stick to a plan. You tend to not like surprises, so a regular, predictable workout routine is best for you. Put in on your calendar or in your phone — wherever you keep track of appointments. Once it’s on your calendar, you’re apt to stick with it.
If you’re an Obliger
Putting something on your calendar probably won’t work for you. You’re more likely to let things slide if an outer expectation takes precedence. The best thing for you is to build systems that give you external accountability. That may mean making appointments with a personal trainer — if someone is expecting you to show up, you won’t want to let them down. You could also agree to run a 5k with a friend or enroll in a class. Anything that creates external accountability will help you meet your goals.
If you’re a Questioner
You aren’t likely to do anything arbitrary. The best approach for you is to set concrete goals and determine the best course of action to meet them. Want to build muscle and increase strength? Put together a strength training routine that targets the areas you want to work on, and then keep a fitness log to track your progress. Measuring your results will motivate you to stick with it, or switch to something else if what you’re doing isn’t working.
If you’re a Rebel
You like to do things your own way. You’re likely to resist going to a class or keeping to a set schedule. Some Rebels motivate themselves to exercise by putting their own spin on it. For example, you may be attracted to barefoot running or other unconventional forms of exercise like rock climbing. Trying different things will not only help you figure out what you enjoy, it will also give you a wide array of options to choose from, and choice is important to Rebels. To make exercise easier, be prepared: Keep a gym bag packed and ready to go, or even keep workout clothes in your car, so you’re ready to go when the mood strikes.
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