How do you respond to rules? Are you someone who can follow a set schedule or are you more likely to do the opposite of whatever is expected of you?
I think understanding how we respond to rules is helpful for finding out what motivates us. Gretchen Ruben, author of The Happiness Project, recently wrote a blog post about the different ways people are motivated. She outlined four personality types, defined in an earlier post, categorizing the way people respond to both internal and external rules.
These are the four categories of personality quoted from her article:
Upholder—accepts rules, whether from outside or inside. An upholder meets deadlines, follows doctor’s order, keeps a New Year’s resolution. I am an Upholder, 100%.
Questioner—questions rules and accepts them only if they make sense. 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.
Obliger—accepts outside rules, but doesn’t like to adopt self-imposed rules.
Her recent post gives some insightful detail about what motivates each different personality type. I think there is a lot of value in understanding which category you relate to, especially when it comes to exercise or diet routines.
The comment section on Gretchen’s post is also worth reading through because there are comments from people in each of the four categories. It seems clear, at least on the surface, that people are driven and motivated in different ways.
Based on these classifications here is my take on how the different personality types can find motivation:
The Upholder personality likely has no difficulty keeping an exercise routine or following nutritional guidelines. For them, the most important factor is having a routine or plan of action. It can be something they set themselves or one arranged for them. As long as a plan exists, the Upholder will follow through.
I’m a Questioner. I’m very motivated to follow rules that I set for myself. I can follow external rules, but only if they make sense to me. I find it important to gather as much information as possible before making a decision. If I can rationalize what needs to be done then I’m likely to be motivated to take action.
A Questioner would probably do well learning as much as they can about exercise or nutrition before establishing a plan. They might need to draw from different resources, or hear several opinions, before they decide their course of action. In addition to rationalizing their actions, the Questioner is also likely to adhere to an internal set of values. For this personality type it might be helpful to take time to reflect on your health and fitness goals or write what aspects of health are most important and the reasons why they are important.
A Rebel personality would be the opposite of the Obliger. They will go to the gym if it’s what they want to do on a given day, but they will avoid going if they are told to or if they think exercising is what’s expected of them. Of the four personality types, the Rebel would be the least likely to follow a set routine. A Rebel would do best in unstructured environments; places where they are free to choose what path they want to take.
It’s probably pointless to give recommendations for this category since people who relate to the Rebel will only do the opposite. Still, if you know you’re likely to go against any plan given to you then create opportunities for yourself to exercise or eat well. Set up a home gym that will be available to you 24/7. Find access to local hiking trails or explore parts of your city that will give you access to different types of foods.
An Obliger is motivated by a sense of duty. The Obliger can follow along with a plan of action as well, but only if the rules are coming from an outside source. The Obliger might be a person that will regularly go to the gym to workout with a personal trainer, but isn’t motivated to go on their own. Hiring a trainer or nutritionist can be expensive, but the cost is probably worth it for someone who falls into this category. Sharing your plan with as many people as possible can help you feel responsible for adhering to your fitness or diet plan.
Which category do you see yourself in and what motivates you to exercise or eat healthy? Also, if you’re interested in learning more about this it’s worth checking out the post on these personality types on the Happiness Project blog.