Are you an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger or Rebel?

We all have different expectations directed towards us all the time. They might be internally or externally driven, but they are there: Lose weight. Do your tasks before Friday. Don’t step on the lawn. Fix the garage door. And so on. But we differ a lot on how well we meet these expectations.

I think Gretchen Rubin had a very useful insight on this, when she realized that we inherently respond in specific way to either inner expectations (like new year’s promises, writing a new blog post, cleaning up the closet) or outer expectations (Request from a friend, deadline at work, “don’t use cell phone here” sign). She categorizes all people to four groups, based on how well we respect these inner and outer expectations.

Upholders respond well to both inner and outer expectations; they get things done both when they are responsible to someone else, and when they are responsible to just themselves.

Questioners always need to decide by themselves how doing something makes sense. They have to figure out why this is meaningful, and only after that they will meet an expectation.

Obligers readily meet other people’s expectations, but have difficulties meeting their own. They for example have real trouble keeping their new year’s promises. (I find myself in this category.)

Rebels resist all requirements, no matter if they’re external or internal. They value freedom of choice the most.

Why this is meaningful? Because recognizing whether it’s inner or outer expectations that motivate you gives immediate insight to what kind of practices to use when you try to build new better habits.

For example, if you’re an obliger like me, Gretchen points out that most likely you just have to arrange so that you are responsible to some one else to do what you set out to do. Nothing else will likely work. If you are a questioner, you just need to go through “what’s in it for me” or “why does this matter”, before you get yourself moving. For upholders, don’t bother – you will likely do it anyway. For rebels (luckily the most rare group), you just have to try all kinds of things and see what sticks.

I believe this insight will prove very useful also in my coaching.

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