What Motivational Type Are You?

by Liisa Kyle, Ph.D. on 08/05/2015

image via commons.wikimedia.org

How do you make yourself do something? Especially something that’s scary or overwhelming or daunting. Different things work for different people. If you grapple with motivating yourself, it’s helpful to step back a bit and think about how you tend to operate in the world…and what that means for your motivation.

In her new book, Gretchen Rubin describes four different motivational types:

Upholder—accepts rules, whether from outside or inside. An upholder meets deadlines, follows doctor’s order, keeps a New Year’s resolution.

Obliger—accepts outside rules, but doesn’t like to adopt self-imposed rules.

Questioner—questions rules and accepts them only if sensible. They may choose to follow rules, or not, according to their judgment.

Rebel—flouts rules, from outside or inside. They resist control. Give a rebel a rule, and the rebel will want to do the very opposite thing.

Can you tell what type you are from the descriptions? If not, Rubin offers a free quiz to help you figure it out.

Once you know what type you are, consider the implications for your motivation.

If you are an Upholder, you tend to meet both external and internal expectations. You meet deadlines whether they are self-imposed or external. If you are an Upholder and you are having motivational challenges, it may be that the expectations aren’t clear — or that you’ve taken too much on — or that something doesn’t ring true. Whichever issue(s) seem valid in this particular circumstances dictate the remedy: clarify expectations, take some things off your plate and/or eliminate any inauthentic elements of the task at hand.

If you are an Obliger, you’re good at meeting external expectations but resist internal ones. It’s much easier for you to do things for others than to do them for yourself. You’re probably a bit of a People Pleaser. When you get stuck, try conjuring up external reasons to do something — or try finding external reasons to validate and bolster your internal expectations.

If you are a Questioner, you tend to meet your own internal expectations but resist external ones. Your motivational challenges are likely to arise when given externally imposed tasks or deadlines. To overcome your resistance, you may need to reframe the task at hand to be more palatable. You may need to conjure up internal, personal reasons to motivate yourself to act — as if it was your idea all along.

If you are a Rebel, you tend to resist both external and internal expectations. You derive motivation from doing the opposite of what’s expected. If you are stuck, you’re not being try to yourself: you’re not rebelling. Push back and do the opposite of what anyone expects.

Whether or not you find this framework is helpful, ask yourself: what has worked well for me in the past to get things done? What has helped me get motivated in the past?

Apply what you know works for you.


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