Tag Archives: obliger

Struggling to Get Something Done? Set Up Outer Accountability (Especially if You’re an Obliger!)

Have I mentioned that I’ve created a personality framework called the “Four Tendencies?” Oh right, I think I have.

Well, if you don’t know about this framework, which divides all of humanity into four categories — Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebelyou can read an explanation and to take the quiz to find out your Tendency here.

Of the Four Tendencies, “Obliger” is the largest Tendency, the one that the most people belong to, for both men and women. And the defining fact about Obligers is that they readily meet outer expectations, but they struggle to meet inner expectation. For instance, they wouldn’t miss a work deadline, but they’d find it hard to find time to exercise on their own.

The key point for Obligers: To meet inner expectations, Obligers must create outer accountability—and it must be the right kind of accountability.

While people of other Tendencies may benefit from the Strategy of Accountability, Obligers require it. They need tools such as supervision, late fees, deadlines, monitoring, and consequences enforced from the outside. For Obligers, this is the crucial element.

Also, Obligers must pick the right kind of accountability for them. Obligers also vary dramatically in what makes them feel accountable.

For some Obligers, an auto-generated email or  buzzing FitBit might be enough; some Obligers feel accountable only to an actual person.

I was surprised to find that for many Obligers, the prospect of wasting money doesn’t bring a sense of accountability. An Obliger friend told me, “I’ve always wanted to try yoga, finally, I actually signed up—and I went one time. It was the $300 yoga class.” Maybe money doesn’t provide accountability because it’s their own money; if they’re wasting someone else’s money, they might feel accountable.

So if you’re an Obliger, and you want to create accountability, here are some options to consider:

Accountability partner

Obligers can team up with an accountability partner: a classmate, trainer, personal organizer, coach, health-care worker teacher, family member, or friend.

Unfortunately, informal accountability partners can sometimes be unreliable. If that partner loses interest, gets distracted, or doesn’t want to play the enforcer, the Obliger stalls out.

Because it can be tough to find a reliable accountability partner among friends and family, Obligers may do better with a professional. For instance, coaches—career coaches, health coaches, life coaches—can provide the crucial accountability by setting concrete goals, establishing deadlines, and looking over their clients’ shoulders.

Accountability groups

People who don’t want to pay for a professional, or rely on a single accountability partner, can join or start an accountability group.

As Alcoholics Anonymous, Weight Watchers, law-school study groups, and Happiness Project groups demonstrate, we give and get accountability, as well as energy and ideas, from meeting with like-directed people.

I created the free Better app for people to exchange ideas and tips about the Four Tendencies, and Better app also makes it super-easy to form accountability groups of all kinds.

Having a client, customer, or student

Clients, customers, and students impose accountability by the very nature of the relationship. An Obliger told me, “I’d been putting off creating an online training course to accompany my podcast on self-publishing. So in my latest episode, I offered a free copy of the training course to the first 25 listeners who sign up. Because people have signed up, I actually have to create the course.”

Similarly, many Obligers mention using getting a paid or volunteer job as an accountability strategy. Want to exercise? Teach Zumba.

Duty to others

Obligers often do things for others that they can’t do for themselves, so an Obliger may be able to meet an aim by thinking of its benefit to other people, instead of its personal value. An Obliger wrote, “I’m Controller of a company, and to create accountability, I tie my personal commitments to my commitment to work: if I get enough sleep, I work better; if I exercise, I have more energy, plus I spend less time and money going to the chiropractor.”

Many Obligers struggle to say “no,” even when they’re feeling very burdened by expectations. To overcome this reluctance, Obligers can remind themselves that saying “no” to one person allows them to say “yes” to someone else. A highly regarded professor told me that he accepted too many speaking engagements, until one day he thought, “By turning down the keynote talk, I’ll give someone else the chance to speak.” That thought allowed him to decline some speaking requests.

Some Obligers feel a duty to their future selves. “I need to do this for future-me.”

Role model

Many Obligers can meet an expectation if it’s tied to their duty to be a good role model, which is a form of outer expectation. “If I stay at my desk until 9 p.m., I set a bad example for my staff.”

Other ingenious solutions:

“I heard myself say, ‘This summer, I’m going to get my finances in order.’ As the words left my mouth, I knew they weren’t true. So I made an appointment with my expensive accountant. I had to get my finances organized to have the meeting with him and not have it cost a fortune.

My Questioner husband came up with this idea to help me fight my sugar addiction: any dessert that I eat, he has to eat double.”

“When I want to finish some writing, I tell someone else that I’ll send it to them for review by a certain date, and I also set up meetings to present ideas, which forces me to get them down on paper.”

“I wanted to stick to a budget, but also wanted to keep my finances private. So how to create outer accountability? I told my family, ‘I’m saving so we can finally make that beach trip.’ They’re so excited, I can’t let them down.”

“My sister-in-law and I both made a list of some healthy habits we want to cultivate, with a three-month time limit. If we both stick with the plan, we’ll earn a spa day. The catch is that, since we’re Obligers, we earn the spa day for each other.  If I don’t follow through, she won’t get her spa day—and vice versa. We would let ourselves down, but we would never let each other down.”

“I wanted to get up earlier, but I live alone. So I created an embarrassing Facebook post, and used Hootsuite to set it to post every morning at 8:00 a.m., unless I get up ahead of time to disable it.”

“I have many suggestions to help my Obliger music students practice consistently: join a band or an orchestra (especially effective if the student has a special role, such as the bass clarinet in a quartet); become a mentor for a younger musician; organize practice sessions in pairs, where a failure to show up will hurt a fellow student; or make a pact with a loved one that that person can’t do some desirable activity unless the Obliger has practiced.”

Whenever an Obliger struggles to get something done, the solution is always the same: external accountability. It’s just a question of figuring out what form it’s going to take.

I can’t emphasize this enough. For Obligers, it’ s not a matter of motivation, or putting yourself first, or balance, or self-esteem, boundaries, or priorities. Plug in outer accountability, and you will be able to meet inner expectations. (Unless you fall into Obliger-rebellion, which is a story for another day and a big chapter in The Four Tendencies.)

If you want to learn more about the Four Tendencies, you can sign up for the free Better app and join the fascinating conversations there.

My book The Four Tendencies goes into much greater depth on these issues. It will hit the shelves in September, and you can pre-order it now. (If you’re inclined to buy the book, it’s a big help to me if you pre-order it now; pre-orders matter a lot for building support for a book among booksellers, the media, and other readers.)

I have to say, one of the most fun aspects of working on The Four Tendencies was hearing all the ingenious, imaginative strategies that Obligers have devised.

Have you used or seen any other helpful accountability strategies?

Obliger-Spotting in the News? Rex Tillerson on Becoming Secretary of State.

As I may have mentioned, I’m obsessed with my Four Tendencies framework, in which I divide all of humanity into four types: Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebel. (Don’t know your Tendency? Take the short quiz here.)

As I go through my days, I’m always searching for greater understanding of the Four Tendencies; I search for patterns and insight. Am I right that Rebel children are often especially close to their grandparents? Do many Questioners love to share links and articles?

I also constantly search for examples of the Four Tendencies in real life and in memoirs, movies, novels, and TV shows.

It’s crucial to remember that we can’t determine a person’s Tendency from the outside — we need to know why a person talks or behaves a certain way.

But at the same time, it’s true that sometimes people do say things that seem to be a powerful indication of Tendency. I was struck by this fact when I read about an interview with Rex Tillerson.

Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp, was named by President Trump to be Secretary of State.

In an interview about his new position, Secretary Tillerson said, “I didn’t want this job. I didn’t seek this job.”

He explained that his wife “told me I’m supposed to do this.” She also told him, “God’s not through with you.”

Secretary Tillerson added, “I was supposed to retire in March, this month. I was going to the ranch to be with my grandkids.”

“My wife convinced me…She was right. I’m supposed to do this.”

To me, this sounds like an Obliger. The expectation is coming from the outside. What do you think?

Of course, because Obliger is the largest Tendency, it’s also likely that Tillerson is an Obliger because that’s the Tendency a person is most likely to belong to.

From these comments, Secretary Tillerson doesn’t sound particularly enthusiastic about this responsibility. Obligers have told me, however, that they’ve had the experience of starting a position because they felt obliged by an outer expectation, and then finding a real passion for that position. Sometimes passion follows, rather than leads, as we grapple with a new expectation.

What’s your view?

(Note: These days, any mention of politics can bring out people’s combative sides. Please keep the conversation civil and about the TENDENCIES.)

My book The Four Tendencies will hit the shelves in September. If you’re inclined to buy the book, it’s a big help to me if you pre-order it now. Pre-orders are extremely important for building buzz and support for a book among booksellers, the media, and the publisher.

Podcast 37: Meet a Work Deadline, but Can’t Go Running on Your Own? You May be an Obliger.

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Update:  Elizabeth and I reminisce about the trip we took together when I recorded a Super Soul Sunday episode with Oprah! Yes, I’m going to be on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday on November 8, 7:00 pm EST/PT on the OWN channel (find your station here). Please watch. I’ll be live-tweeting while it airs.

OprahElizabethandGretchenSelfieHotel

Boy, Elizabeth and I had fun on that adventure.  But I have to admit, I can hardly remember anything from the interview; it was such an out-of-body experience. So I’ll be curious to see if I remember it, once I watch it.

Today is the third in the series of four episodes that we’re devoting to the Four Tendencies.  In last week’s episode, we talked about the Upholder Tendency; this week, it’s Obliger.

To find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel,
take the Four Tendencies quiz here.

Try This at Home: If you’re an Obliger, or you’re around an Obliger (which you surely are), help the Obliger to figure out a system of outer accountability so the Obliger can meet an inner expectation.

If you want to start a group for people who are holding each other accountable, get the starter kit here.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Obligers:  How to identify and take advantage of the strengths, and counter-balance the weaknesses, of the Tendency.

Striking Pattern of Obligers: Obliger-rebellion. Obligers will meet, meet, meet, meet expectations — and then suddenly, they snap, and refuse to meet an expectation. This can be a symbolic, small act, or a hugely explosive act.

Listener Question: “I’m an Obliger, and I find that disturbing. I should be my own priority. Is it possible to move from Obliger to Upholder?”

Gretchen’s Demerit: After years of feeling bad about the fact that I don’t work very productively when I travel, I decided — hey, no more demerits, I’m going to use that time to read for fun.

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Adam suggested, “No more unkind voices.”

Call for comments, questions, observations!

We’re spending four weeks talking about my Four Tendencies framework for human nature. One more week to go — Rebels! We’ve already had many thought-provoking responses, but we want more.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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Happier with Gretchen Rubin #37 - Listen at Happiercast.com/37

We love hearing from listeners

Tell us — Did you help an Obliger (whether that’s you or someone else) to come up with a system of external accountability? If so, how?

If you’re intrigued by the Four Tendencies, and want to be notified when my handbook on the subject hits the shelves, text me at 66866 and enter the word “tendencies,” I’ll add you to a list to be notified when it’s ready.

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Before and After: An Obliger Figures Out How To Exercise Regularly

Have I mentioned that I have a book coming out, about habits? Oh right, I may have mentioned it.

Yes, indeed, my book Better Than Before comes out March 17. So close and yet so far! Somehow the fact that it’s now “February” instead of “January” makes my publication date seem much, much closer.

The way publishing works these days, pre-orders give a big boost to a book. If you’re inclined to buy the book, pre-ordering is a big help to me. Order info here.

Occasionally, I post an interesting before-and-after story submitted by a reader, about how he or she successfully changed a habit.  I love to hear people’s stories about habit change. We can all learn from each other. If you’d like to share your story, contact me here.

This week’s story comes from someone who wants to remain anonymous.

“Between my and my husband’s full-time jobs, work travel, and 2 young kids, I’ve often felt I had very limited time to exercise in the last few years. My favorite form of exercise is to run or hike outdoors with a good friend. I happily trained for and ran several marathons with friends before having kids. For the longest time I thought the “friend” part of the equation was because I’m a fairly sociable person and often have to work alone. It’s nice to combine chatting and exercise. Also, meeting a friend is often the key to getting me out the door. If I don’t have a plan to meet someone, I tend to prioritize something else (work or family) even if there is no deadline for that other thing. Until reading your Four Tendencies framework and realizing I was an Obliger, I really didn’t know why.  [Readers, if you want to take a Quiz to determine your own Tendency, it’s here.]

“I began to have concerns in the past year or 2 when my previous exercise partners moved away or changed schedules, and I could not seem to make myself exercise consistently alone. I tried signing up for gym classes, large group training programs, or running events like 10Ks, but it didn’t work – I would find excuses not to go if something else seemed more pressing. Having invested the money was not a huge motivating factor for me (which bothered me, but not enough to drive a change). I tried recruiting other friends as exercise buddies, but if their busy schedules interfered then I would just drop my plan too. I was feeling terrible that I seemed so dependent on friends to do something I know I like doing & that is good for me- exercise!

“FINALLY I read the Four Tendencies framework and the light-bulb went off. As an Obliger I had to understand my motivations better and create solid external accountability for exercise! And it had to be really consistent and difficult to rearrange! I realized it would be nice if my new exercise plan could involve friends, but it didn’t have to. I do enjoy running and hiking alone once I get going. And in the past I had exercised successfully for months with a neighbor’s new puppy who had to go on long runs with me or she’d chew up the house! I realized that the pre-paid large group classes or 10Ks did not work for me because the instructors or organizers, while nice, did not “need” people to show up, and left it to our own motivation to participate. And unless I attended a class or event with a friend who expected or “needed” me to go, I often wouldn’t go.

“The new accountability system I’ve now followed for 4 months is simple. Our neighbors mentioned they were hiring a part-time babysitter 2 mornings a week. I asked if she could come to our house first, from 6-7 am. During this time, I go out to exercise. The babysitter is happy to sit, read, and drink coffee while the kids (usually) sleep. If my husband is home, he gets up and leaves for work earlier than usual, which he loves. If he’s traveling, I can still exercise. The great part is that the babysitter (and my husband and kids) all cheerfully expect me to go for a run and, when I get back, they ask how it was! In light of this, I feel I can’t just sneak off and do something else! Or cancel – I feel it would be very inconvenient (and unprofessional) for me to change plans, because the babysitter lives 15 min away and would not appreciate rearranging such an early schedule at short notice. The outcome seems to work & be win win for all of us.

“Exercising consistently on those 2 days somehow makes it easier to add in other sessions on other days (because I feel better about sticking to the plan?), and I have also realized that “team” relay run events are a great exercise goal for me – I have to train for my parts of the relay and participate on the day, or the whole team will be badly affected!  Even though I do still wish that my nature was different and that I could be more self-motivated to exercise, it feels really good to have identified the strategies that work best for me, after literally decades of trial and error!”

This terrific story illustrates an important point about Obligers: they differ in what makes them feel “Obligated.”

In this case, we hear, being part of a large group didn’t trigger  a sense of external accountability. The sense of obligation arose from a connection to a specific person.

Second, paying money didn’t seem to make this Obliger feel very obligated, while for some people, money is a very powerful factor. Having paid for something, the thought of wasting money on something not used, having to pay a late fee, etc.

As with everything related to habits, the key is to think about what works for you. That’s the way to find success.

Have you found a good strategy to get yourself to exercise regularly? This is one of the habits that people most want to form, and have most trouble with.

If you want to take a Quiz to learn about your Tendency, go here.  More than 35,000 people have taken it!

 

What Andre Agassi Can Teach Us About Habits, Happiness–and Ourselves.

For yesterday’s weekly quotation, I quoted from tennis star Andre Agassi’s autobiography, Open.

It’s a fascinating book, on many levels (and I say that as someone who has no interest in tennis).

I’m always particularly interested when something sheds light on habits or happiness, and as I read the book, several observations stuck out at me.

First, Andre Agassi is an Obliger.

For my upcoming masterpiece, a book about how we make and break habits, I’ve written extensively about a framework, the “Four Tendencies,” that I’ve developed.

The framework helps to explain why people can make or break habits–or not. People fall into four categories, which describe how people tend to respond to expectations: outer expectations (a deadline, a “request” from a sweetheart) and inner expectations (write a novel in your free time, keep a New Year’s resolution).

Your response to expectations may sound slightly obscure, but it turns out to be very, very important.

In a nutshell:

  • Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations (I’m an Upholder, 100%)
  • Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense (my husband is a Questioner)
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike
  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves

 

Agassi is a classic Obliger. He’s able to meet others’ expectations (his father’s demand that he excel at tennis, his girlfriend Brooke Shields’s desire to get engaged) but struggles to meet his own expectations for himself.

He also demonstrates “Obliger rebellion,” a striking pattern in which Obligers abruptly refuse to meet an expectation, or when they rebel in symbolic ways (Agassi rebels with his hair and clothes).

If you want insight into the Obliger perspective, this book is an outstanding resource. Agassi shows the tremendous energy and accomplishment that Obligers can bring to bear, and also the anger and resentment that can arise from Obligers’ feeling that they’re working towards others’ expectations.

For you Obligers out there, who have read the book, did it strike a chord with you? Did you identify?

(If you’d like to see me discuss each category in  a video, look here: Upholders, here; Questioners, here;  Rebels, here, and Obligers, here. If you want to hear when my habits book goes on sale, sign up here.)

Agassi insight #2 tomorrow!

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