It happens every year.
Sometime between Christmas and New Years you get asked (maybe more than once) whether you’re going to make a New Year’s resolution.
And whether it’s something you believe in, or you think it’s the worst idea ever, there’s always something about the end of a year that brings up feelings of wanting to make the next year great. Amazing. Even better than the last.
And if there’s one thing I know for sure, if you want that to be the case, you need to go into the New Year prepared. Ready. Equipped to handle any complications or issues that block your way and stop you from reaching your goals.
That’s why I’m excited to give you some helpful strategies to ensure that this year you really can reach your goals – whatever those goals may be.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while now you know that I love psychology. I love studying how we can make our lives easier and more fulfilling by tapping into the science of human behaviour.
Because the truth is that it doesn’t matter how much willpower you have. At some point you’re going to run out, and then what?
So you need something else. Something longer lasting that can help keep you going when you want to quit (or get you started again when you already have).
That’s why I love the simple methodology behind Gretchen Rubin’s book The Four Tendencies.
She’s done hundreds of hours of research with thousands of people and realized that we’re all motivated in fundamentally different ways. And our motivational DNA can impact how successful we are.
So if you’ve been trying to get yourself to the gym more consistently but you just can’t seem to make it happen, this can help.
If you’ve been trying to eat more kale and less french fries, this can help.
If you’ve been setting goals for as long as you can remember and you’re just having such a tough time actually following through – especially now that you’re a busy mom – this can help.
The best part is that you don’t have to change anything about who you are – it’s not about trying to be a “better person” – it’s about working with what you’ve already got to get awesome results.
Sounds pretty darn cool, right?
So let’s dive in…
The Four Tendencies Explained
Gretchen believes that everyone fits into one of four categories:
And each of these four categories responds to expectations and is motivated to do (or not do) something in their own unique way.
You see, as Gretchen says, there are two different kinds of expectations in our world:
- Inner Expectations. These are the expectations we place on ourselves – like being self-motivated to get up early and go workout. You’re counting on yourself.
- Outer Expectations. These are the expectations others place on us – like bringing the cookies you promised you’d bring to the work holiday party. Others are counting on you.
If you think about every situation in your life where you did or did not do something, there was either an outer expectation or an inner expectation behind that action.
Your boss is expecting that report by Friday (outer expectation).
You decide to set a New Year’s resolution but don’t tell anyone so you’re relying on yourself to make it happen (inner expectation).
You told your partner that you would pick up the groceries this week (outer expectation).
You want to quit eating sugar for 30 days and you’re relying on your own willpower to make it happen (inner expectation).
And here’s where things get really interesting – whether you succeed or struggle with a goal has a lot to do with how well you know your own unique Tendency and how skilled you are at using it to your advantage.
Because each Tendency responds differently to expectations…
Upholders meet both inner and outer expectations. They can be both self-motivated and motivated by others. Whether they set the deadline or their boss sets the deadline, chances are it will be met.
Questioners question everything (hence the name!) and will only run with an expectation if they think it’s the best course of action. If they’re convinced that a certain way of eating or a particular workout is the best because of XYZ, they’ll do it. But if they’re not convinced, they won’t. They gather the facts, look at the options, and weigh the pros and cons before they dive in.
Obligers meet outer expectations but have a tough time with inner expectations. When someone tells them to do something, they’ll probably do it. But when they try to tell themselves to do something – without any external motivation driving them (like someone counting on them) – they’ll have a tough time making it happen. Obligers have a much easier time getting to the gym when a personal trainer is waiting for them. If they’re always counting on themselves to get there, they’ll struggle to keep up with a consistent exercise habit.
Rebels resist both kinds of expectations. They do what they want, when they want, and only if they want to do it in the first place. If someone asks a rebel to do something, chances are they won’t do it – or they’ll do the opposite. They don’t even like the idea of telling themselves what to do. Which can obviously make things a little tricky. It’s all about freedom and choice for the Rebels. The only way they’ll be motivated to do something is if they truly feel like it’s what they want to do.
Pretty interesting, right?
And this isn’t just interesting. It could be life changing because once you know how your motivational tendencies work, getting and staying motivated to do anything – including eating healthy and exercising – will be a heck of a lot easier.
It can also be incredibly freeing. When you used to think you were lazy because your friend could just set a goal and make it happen, whereas you needed someone to literally drag you out of bed to do it, now you know that it’s just how your mind works.
You’re an Obliger. You need that external push to get it done – and a lot of other people do too. (Gretchen has discovered that the Obliger tendency is the most common. So you’re not alone).
And you don’t have to be ashamed that you need that external driving force – like someone else to keep you accountable – to make your dreams happen. You’re not lazy. You simply need to better understand what gets and keeps you motivated and apply that to your everyday life to make goals happen.
As Gretchen says in her book…
The happiest, healthiest, most productive people aren’t those from a particular Tendency, but rather they’re the people who have figured out how to harness the strengths of their Tendency, counteract the weaknesses, and build the lives that work for them.”
It’s not about changing who you are. It’s about using who you already are to your advantage.
Let’s Get Motivated! (Yay! 😉 )
Step #1 in this process of being awesomely motivated to reach your goals is figuring out what your motivational DNA is. You probably already have an idea, but you can take the quiz right here to learn which Tendency you fall into.
Then step #2 would be exploring how you can use that to your advantage.
So, once you know what Tendency you fall into, whether you’re making a resolution for the New Year or it’s the middle of July and you simply have the goal to eat less junk and move more, here are some ideas to help you get and stay motivated to make it happen.
If you’re an Upholder…
Upholders like routine and schedules and can end up being pretty rigid with the way things ought to be.
If you’re an upholder you likely don’t have a lot of trouble getting and staying motivated to do things. You usually do what other people expect you to do and what you expect of yourself as well.
This means that you thrive in an environment where you can easily develop habits. So try these strategies to start building healthy habits into your life…
>> Go through your calendar for the week or month and mark down when you’re going to workout.
>> Create a set of eating “rules” (being mindful that you want to feel good – physically and psychologically – so only include a “rule” if it feels like the best idea for you). If you want to cut down on sugar, eat less processed foods, or enjoy more veggies write this down. Make a list of your food goals and get clear on what you want to eat and don’t want to eat to feel awesome.
>> Buy a ready-made fitness program and block off time in your calendar to get your workouts in.
>> Schedule a meal planning day for each week. Pick a day that you’ll sit down (potentially with your hubby and/or kiddos) and decide what healthy deliciousness you’re going to enjoy for the week. Make it a habit and it’ll become the norm to have healthy, go-to options in the fridge.
>> Figure out a monthly wellness budget. Each month you get to spend $_____ amount of money on fitness and health. Maybe you splurge on a new gym bag, or buy a 10 card pass to yoga, or hire a personal trainer for a few sessions. Knowing that you have a certain amount of money to spend on feeling good can help you make it more of a priority in your life.
>> Get really clear on your goals and why you want this in the first place. As an Upholder it can be easy to think that all your goals are equally important so reminding yourself why your health is at (or should be at) the forefront can help you make it more of a priority in your life.
>> Find someone you trust to design a nutrition and/or fitness program for you that you can do on your own. Your self motivation will help you make it happen, you just need the right program for your goals.
>> Set 90 day goals for yourself. You want to be able to deadlift this weight by March 30th. You want to have no more back pain by August 1st. You want to cut out refined sugar completely by October 31st (just in time for Halloween 😉 ). You thrive on deadlines so set some up and knock ’em down!
>> Make a grocery game plan and decide what aisles are the ones you’d like to avoid because they’re full of junk that you know you don’t want to eat because it won’t make you feel good. Then make it a habit to stick to the places you know are full of energy-boosting fuel (like the produce and meat sections).
>> Figure out the time of day that you feel the most energized and excited to go to the gym or get a workout in and plan to make working out during that time a part of your daily(ish) routine.
Because of your knack to thrive with routine and habits, it’ll be important to remember to cut yourself some slack when you miss a workout for whatever reason or eat some gluten here and there. Yes it’s important to have healthy habits. But it’s also important to not be so rigid that you can’t enjoy colouring outside the lines from time to time.
So when things don’t happen according to the blueprint you designed, remind yourself that you’re trying your hardest and perfection isn’t the goal. Doing the best you can with the time and energy you have is.
We all eat ice cream and chips sometimes… after we’ve skipped our workout. It’s okay.
If you’re a Questioner…
The key if you’re a Questioner is that there has to be a darn good reason for you to do (or not do) something. So if you want to reach a specific goal, make sure you have a strong why driving you.
You simply need to be convinced (or convince yourself) that something is a good idea and you’re game.
So try these strategies on for size…
>> Research your top 5 fitness class choices and pick one to try out for the next 30 days.
>> Interview a handful of trainers at your gym and choose to work with one that feels like the best qualified for the job of helping you reach your goals.
>> If you’re trying to cut down on a certain food (like sugar) or you want to add more of something into your diet (like leafy greens) do your homework and look into the reasons why that would be beneficial for you. The more it feels like a great idea, the easier it’ll be to make it happen.
>> Sign up for a run or obstacle course race so that you have a good reason to hit the gym and train.
>> Subscribe to a healthy living blog or listen to health and wellness podcasts that will give you plenty of reasons to move more and eat better. I love the Ultimate Health Podcast, Katy Says, Real Food Mamas, The Paleo Solution, Healthy Moms Podcast, The Model Health Show and Balanced Bites.
>> If you’re dealing with a pelvic floor issue or some aches and pains and you’re not quick to find a solution because it doesn’t feel like a big deal, educate yourself on why your future self will thank you for taking care of it now instead of waiting.
>> Ask your mom friends why they like a certain kind of exercise and pick the one that feels like the best fit for you.
>> Buy a nutrition textbook or guide and learn more about how eating well (or not so well) can impact your entire life. Once you know what’s at stake it’ll be easier to follow through. To get started, I recommend you grab one of Gary Taubes’ books.
>> Check out your local healthier takeout options and do some research on the top 10 that you think will be best when you want to order out but you also want a healthy-ish meal on the table. This way, when it’s 5:45 and you need dinner now you’re not stuck going through hundreds of options, overwhelmed with trying to find the best one.
>> Make a pro and con list on why signing up for that gym, that trainer, that exercise program, that nutrition plan is the best fit for you, and run with the one that has the most pros and least cons.
For you, it’s all about knowing that you’re perfectly capable of being self motivated to do something – if there’s a good enough reason behind it.
If you have a goal and you’re struggling to reach it, get clear on why it’s important to you, how it’ll impact your life, and what the best options are for making it happen and it’ll become a lot easier to get there.
If you’re an Obliger…
You usually can’t rely on yourself to get and stay motivated. You need some sort of external something to keep you going.
But something to keep in mind is that not all Obligers are created equal . What works for one Obliger may not work for another (which is true for all the Tendencies). So, while an accountability buddy may work great for one person, an app that bings and beeps and keeps things on track may be better for another person.
So play around with these ideas and find something that works for you.
>> Hire a trainer, coach or pro who can help keep you accountable.
>> Find a workout buddy in your gym or Mommy and Me class and start making plans to go to the gym together, go on hikes, take a yoga class, or just be more active together.
>> Hire a babysitter to show up at the same time each week so you can go get a workout in – they’ll be counting on you for the income.
>> Tell everyone you know that you’re eating healthier and you’ve decided to stop eating this and start eating that (you’ll probably be less likely to eat garbage – at least around them – because you said you wouldn’t be eating it anymore and you’ll want to keep your promise).
>> Use Gretchen’s Better app to find an accountability group to help you reach all your goals.
>> If you like going to a studio or gym where you can sign up for classes ahead of time – and you’re charged a fee if you cancel last minute – sign up for all the classes you want to go to for the week. You probably won’t want to lose the money, or inconvenience someone who would have wanted to take your spot.
>> Ask a friend to come grocery shopping with you and tell them that you aren’t putting any processed stuff in your cart.
>> Buy a Fitbit or other fitness tracker, set some goals, and make it happen.
>> As you’re leaving the gym, tell the front desk staff that you’ll see them again on _________. Knowing that they’ll be expecting you may be enough to get you back in the gym like you said you would be.
>> Tell your husband or partner what days you’re going to workout this week and ask them to (gently) kick you out of bed or say, “Isn’t it time to head to the gym?” when you were planning to workout.
You’re not lazy. You simply need an external push to get and stay motivated. It’s just how you’re wired.
So get some external motivation in your life and reaching your goals will feel more piece-of-cake-y.
Again, not all methods and strategies will work for every Obliger. So play around with these ideas and come up with some of your own that work for you.
If you’re a Rebel…
As a rebel, it all comes down to knowing that the only way you’re going to do something is if you actually want to do it.
No one (including you) can force you to do anything.
Being told to do something – even telling yourself to do something – can backfire and make you want to not do it at all – or do the complete opposite. Which can make reaching your health and wellness goals tricky… But not impossible.
Here are some strategies that can help…
>> If you can afford it, buy memberships to a couple different studios or gyms so that you have options. You can decide the day of what you feel like doing as a workout.
>> Make a list of healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner options you love to eat and keep it on the fridge so you can decide on the fly what you feel like eating while still keeping it as healthy as possible. This may not work for you. Especially not all the time. You may not want anything on the list, or you may want to explore tweaks to the list, just run with it on the days it works and don’t worry about it if this isn’t something that works for you.
>> When you feel yourself resisting the idea of exercising or eating healthy because you’re feeling the urge to go against the grain, remind yourself why this is important to you and how you’re making the choice to do this for your health.
>> Don’t worry about 90 day plans, goal setting or anything that makes you feel pinned down and burdened. If it feels good to set a goal, go for it. But if it doesn’t, don’t sweat it. Sometimes setting a goal will have the complete opposite effect and make you want to avoid reaching it at all costs.
>> Challenge yourself. Being told you can’t or could never reach a goal can be incredibly motivating for you. Even a comment as simple as, “I bet you can’t go to the gym 3 days a week for a month” can be enough to make you want to do it. So motivate yourself by making these comments or encourage others to make them (within reason of course, we don’t need you killing yourself to rise to a challenge!)
>> Ditch the workout calendar. It’s probably making you less likely to go to the gym. Remember that you want to go to the gym because it makes you feel awesome (or insert other reason in here) and then go whenever you feel the urge to get that rush of happiness inducing hormones.
>> Seek out workouts and fitness methods that are brand new and not mainstream yet. Rebels love going against the grain and doing something outside the norm.
>> Don’t tell anyone in your life about your goals. This may seem counter-intuitive but often times Rebels get de-motivated when other people know about their goals and start cheering them on. Keep it to yourself and you may be more likely to succeed.
>> If you’re having a tough time sticking to it and making your goals happen, remind yourself of the consequences that can happen if you don’t do something, or you do do something. What will happen if you don’t go to the gym? What will happen if you eat more vegetables? What will happen if you stop drinking enough water? Do your research and decide for yourself if it’s worth it. Then remind yourself of the consequences if you find yourself slipping up.
>> If someone makes a comment about how well you’re doing or how proud they are of you, remind yourself that this is your choice. You’re deciding to do this for your own health not to live up to anyone’s expectations. You’re free to do whatever you want and you don’t need to do this for anyone but yourself.
A lot of the traditional motivational strategies don’t work for Rebels (as you can see).
So it’ll be important for you to carve your own path and do things that make you feel free to make choices and do things for yourself, not because someone said you should do it.
One of the best ways you can stay motivated without feeling the urge to rebel is to keep up with the consequences mindset.
“If I do this, what will happen?”
“If I don’t do this, what will happen?”
Then you can decide if the consequences are worth avoiding or worth aiming for.
Perfection Isn’t the Goal
Remember, this isn’t about being perfect at all times. Everyone, regardless what Tendency they’re grouped into, has good days and bad days. Days they feel super successful and days they struggle to even make one thing happen.
The idea is to simply use this to your advantage to get the best results possible.
You’re a busy mom. You don’t have time to play around with strategies and tactics that aren’t going to get you the results you deserve.
That’s why using tools like the Four Tendencies is my go-to driver with my clients and women in our community. Because once we know more about you and your unique way of being, setting and reaching goals is so much easier. And succeeding becomes inevitable instead of just hovering above a maybe.
So between presents and ringing in the New Year, take some time to explore what you want to do, how you want to feel, what goals you want to reach in the New Year.
Then use what you’ve learned about the Four Tendencies to help make it happen. Brainstorm some ways to use your motivational DNA to your advantage.
And have a fantastic holiday season. I’ll catch you in the the New Year, my friend!
P.S. Was this a good one? If you liked it please share it with your friends. Thank you!