Motivation – what works for me


The key to my motivational strategy

About three years ago I was in a workout lull. The previous couple of years had been spent in a stress-haze related to job issues. I knew my lack of regular activity wasn’t helping, but I just didn’t want to take the time for it. I wanted to want to take the time for it though.

Around this time I heard Gretchen Rubin making the rounds on some podcasts talking about her perspective on personal motivation. Her idea is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all motivational strategy. You can’t just will yourself into making changes. Before you tackle any goal, you need to understand how you naturally react to expectations and then develop an action plan that takes advantage of those reactions.

In other words, first know yourself, and then you can more easily set yourself up for success.

She divides people up into four categories – tendencies – based on how people deal with internal and external expectations. I’m an Obliger, meaning I can be counted on to meet benchmarks that others set for me but I’m not so good at following through on goals I set for myself. It sounds like an Obliger would be doomed as far as setting any personal goals, but that’s not the case at all.

Recognizing that I needed some kind of external push, I got some family members to join me in a Run the Year 2016 challenge where we all logged our mileage for a year with the goal of getting to 2016 miles total as a team. I sent out monthly email updates to everyone. The challenge had mixed results for other family members, but for me it was key to getting me back into the gym. I personally logged 830.66 miles for 2016.

In the fall of 2016, my youngest sister asked me to try to BQ with her in 2017. This was something I’d had in the back of my mind for some time, but it wasn’t something I’d ever have tackled if I was only accountable to myself. I needed it to be someone else’s goal first.

Now that I’m training to hopefully PR at Boston I’ve started this blog. It’s been two years since I rebooted my running habit and I feel pretty solid in it, but this blog will hopefully give me that perception of external accountability that I know I need.

The point of Rubin’s system isn’t that everyone should start a blog or get someone else to set goals for them. For some people, having other people expect them to do things is the #1 way to ensure they won’t get done. Other people are great at single-mindedly pursuing their goals regardless of what anyone else expects. The point is to understand what motivates you and then arrange your environment so that you’re set up for success.

Here’s a link to a quiz for figuring out your tendency.

I highly recommend searching for Gretchen Rubin in your podcast app to hear her interviews about the four tendencies. I was able to get her book from the library, but I found her interviews to hit all the major insights that I needed. Good luck!



11 thoughts on “Motivation – what works for me

    • Rubin says that questioners have success after they do enough research to convince themselves that the plan they’re following is correct. I admire the ability to be so internally motivated.


  1. I am a questioner. When I set a goal to BQ last year I found a solid plan and trained all on my own, even staying at the gym until 1 am sometimes. This helped me accomplish my goal twice, even though I didn’t achieve my ultimate goal of registering for the actual race. I am enjoying running with others now too though. Relying on yourself for all of your motivation is exhausting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • True. A potential pitfall for obligers is that we get resentful if we feel like we’re always doing things for other people. Obliged exhaustion. Somehow all this running stuff fills my need to be selfish too though so I guess it balances out.


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