The Four Tendencies: Obliger

This article focuses on the Obliger tendency and is the second in a series of articles all about the Four Tendencies and how you can accept (even embrace!) yourself to accomplish your goals. If you haven’t read the first article yet, check out The Four Tendencies article now.

What are the Four Tendencies?

Text "Where Do I Start" with hand drawing a question mark next to it

The Four Tendencies framework is a simple and elegant way to categorize how we respond to both internal and external expectations.

The Four Tendencies categorizes people with regards to how they respond to EXPECTATIONS, that’s it. A narrow aspect of our whole person, but very mighty because this influences how we accomplish our goals.

Check out Gretchen Rubin’s podcast episode all about the Four Tendencies.

What is your tendency?

If you haven’t done so already, take the quiz here to learn your tendency.

If you’re a patient of mine, email me your tendency! I like to keep note of this in your chart because it helps me to help you improve your health!

Do You Put Your Needs Last?

Woman holding apple in one hand, tart in other hand and looking sideways at the tart

Is it hard for you to say “No”?

Do you “just need more willpower”?

Have you found yourself struggling to make your needs a priority because your to-do list is always full of commitments to other people? Have you heard yourself saying “I don’t know why I can’t just do this thing, I just don’t have enough willpower…”

Guess what, you are probably an Obliger! According to Gretchen Rubin’s research, Obligers make up 41% of the population.

“You can count on me, and I’m counting on you to count on me.”

Obligers “respond readily to outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations.” This means that you are likely reliable, responsible, and a great team player – people love working with you! You are highly committed and will go above and beyond to help others. Obligers can often do things for other people that they cannot do for themselves.

To do list with itemized list spelling out "So, Many, Things!"

The downside to this is that you may become resentful at times (but you probably won’t let anyone else know!) because you have trouble saying “no” and you become overburdened. This can lead to you exhausting your ability to meet expectations and just checking out – Gretchen Rubin calls this “Obliger-rebellion” – it is like Obliger burnout.

The biggest challenge you face is meeting your expectations for yourself since you put those last (behind the long list of everyone else’s needs). It is very difficult for you to self-motivate when you are not held accountable externally.

Obliger Key to Success: External Accountability

The first thing I want to say to all Obligers out there is THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU!

My patients who are Obligers sometimes feel bad about themselves because they “lack willpower” or “can’t get motivated.” Either they themselves or the people in their lives judge them for not being able to follow through on what they want to do.

Highway sign that says "Accountability Straight Ahead"

The problem is NOT that you need more willpower or that you are doing something wrong or that you just aren’t capable. You need external accountability. Say this out loud right now with me: “I NEED EXTERNAL ACCOUNTABILITY!”

As an Obliger, accountability is the most powerful tool in your arsenal and once you put it to good use, so many things become easier! When you accept and embrace the power of accountability, you will have more long-term success and, most importantly, ENJOY yourself more!

How I work with Obligers:

1. Start with small changes to prevent “Obliger rebellion”

Example: I may suggest going to bed just 30 minutes earlier rather than aiming for the “ideal” time you “should” go to bed.

2. Ask for commitment on key steps of the plan

Example: “Is this diet doable for you?”

3. Build in deadlines and forms of outer accountability

Example: I ask you to track diet or meditation and tell you I will look at their tracking at their next visit.

Example: My receptionist books your next visit immediately or follows up with you via phone or email if you are not rebooked.

What’s next?

To learn more, check out Gretchen Rubin’s Happier podcast episode all about Obligers. And stay tuned for my next article all about Questioners.

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