In my one-on-one coaching work with clients, one of the first things that we do together is set clear goals for growth. Then we identify action steps that will help you move in the direction that you want to go. That’s usually the easy part.
The hardest part, for most of us, is putting those action steps into practice. Why do we have trouble doing the things that we want to do?
Some will say that it’s because we don’t really want our goals enough. We don’t care enough. Or we lack the discipline. I used to follow this line of thinking, particularly as it related to myself. But I recently read the book, The Four Tendencies, by Gretchen Rubin, and it’s turned my thinking around.
Rubin, who is an author and researcher on our habits and the way they shape our lives, discovered that people generally fall into four tendencies when it comes to our relationships with expectations. The tendencies include:
While I’m generally not a big fan of surveys that put people into boxes, I took the quick, easy quiz that she developed and learned that I am an obliger.
And it’s pretty darn accurate.
Obligers are people who are able to meet external expectations easily, but have a hard time following on internal goals or expectations that we set for ourselves. On the plus side, we are well equipped to be in leadership roles and tend to excel in structure and group environments when there is accountability built in. On the flip side, we can be people who have a hard time saying no. We are likely to override our personal goals for other’s goals or expectations, and trend toward overextending ourselves. If we don’t have some kind of accountability built in to our lives around our goals, we can flounder a bit. Obligers are common, we are the most populated group of the four tendencies. We also tend to feel the worst of all tendencies about not meeting goals that we set for ourselves. This is partially because we know we can do meet goals for other people easily, so why can’t we do it for ourselves?
The good news here, and what I loved about Rubin’s book, is that once we gain awareness of our tendency, we can learn how to work with it and more effectively get things done. We can let go of the judgment and self-recriminationwe might have, and just focus on what works for us. Rubin has lots of great hacks and recommendations for working with our tendencies. Here are some of my favorite for us obligers, some of which I have done, and some that I’m just trying out.
Imagine your future self as the person holding you accountable. Of all of these, this sounds the strangest, but I’m experimenting! When I don’t want to exercise or meditate, or work on my business development goals, I literally imagine my future self thanking the current me for meeting my goals. Believe it or not, this appeals to myobliger desire to meet external expectations, and is often enough to get me started.
Sound interesting? Wondering what tendency you might be? Take the quiz and find out. Then I encourage you to identify one thing that you can do right now to set yourself up for greater success to accomplish your goals.