Rebel with a Cause…Making It Work

Knowing how you respond to internal and external expectations can change the way you self-talk. Do it!

Yeah, once again, it’s been a long time since I posted. I put up that post about my goals for 2018 and then that was it for the year so far, until the year’s almost a quarter over and I’m just sort of realizing it. That’s not to say I haven’t been working on my goals, but there’s been some other stuff going on in life that I’ve been working with, and a lot of it comes down to being a Rebel.

“Grammar Police” folks will look at the last paragraph and say “whoa, Jamie, you’re usually pretty good about grammar but that capital R on rebel isn’t correct.”  Okay, maybe none of you actually did that, but I do want to call attention to my reasoning there. I’ve been reading a book by a researcher named Gretchen Rubin called The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too) and it’s got me thinking about a lot of the challenges I’ve had in my life as regards making and sticking to goals.

You probably all have that one friend who, when told “oh, you have got to see this movie” or something similar, will then go out of their way to never see it. Or who seems to take pure joy in bucking trends or flouting conventional wisdom. Or perhaps you have a friend who knows that they need to get back into shape or lose weight, but for whatever reason just can’t ever seem to pull it together and do so.  Well, my friends, you know a Rebel.

Rubin’s book breaks up all of society into four groups based upon the way they respond to expectations (you can take this quiz to find out where you fall if this sort of thing is interesting to you):

  1. Upholders:  these people respond positively to both internal and external expectations. They are your Type-A achievers, the ones who seem to have it all together and get everything done.
  2. Questioners: the folks who respond positively to internal expectations and reject external ones. These are the folks who, as the name indicates, question everything until they come up with answers that make sense to them.
  3. Obligers:  these folks respond positively to external expectations and reject internal ones. More people in the world are Obligers, according to Rubin’s studies, than any other tendency group – these are the folks for whom expectations laid upon them from other people are the most important – but they frequently have issues with taking care of themselves and internally motivated goals.
  4. Rebels:  yeah, you guessed it:  these folks reject expectations from both themselves and from other people. They are driven by doing what they want, when they want, and no one is going to tell them otherwise.

Now, before you reject all this and find loopholes, yes – there are Upholders who lean more to Questioner behavior and tendencies or Obligers who lean toward Rebel behavior, etc. And of course personality comes into play in how these tendencies play out. But by and large, Rubin puts together a lot of great research on the way people are motivated and has broken it out into some pretty solid groupings with this work.

How do you react to expectations? I'm a #Rebel - come see how that's affecting my life and goal attainment and learn how to discover your tendencies toward expectations! Click To Tweet

Let’s look at Rebels for a moment – because that’s where I fall, and that’s one of the biggest challenges that I have in my life. I don’t think anyone will ever say that I don’t have goals, and that I don’t have motivation to complete them. I want the best I can get for me, my family, and all the people around me. I think my posts up to this point have shown that – I really do care about people and myself.

Let’s start with the positives: I love being a Rebel. It’s what leads me away from the mainstream and to looking at things like obstacle course racing, the Paleo lifestyle, natural movement, and all the stuff that this blog is all about. I love finding out the studies that are throwing conventional wisdom aside and showing how long-held beliefs about nutrition, exercise, and more are just straight-up wrong. It literally makes me want to shout this stuff from the rooftops and disrupt everything people think is true about these facets of life.

I also love how Rebels embrace the new and weird. I heard about OCR back in 2010 via Spartan Race, and ran my first race in 2011 at Warrior Dash Ohio – back when this stuff was still pretty new. I took on the Primal Blueprint diet and lifestyle plan in 2008 – ten years ago now, long before the Paleo Diet and its ilk were mainstreamed like they are today. This isn’t an attempt to brag, just to point out my tendency to jump on and try stuff out (as a Rebel, I reject the “I’m better because I’m a long-time fan” attitude).

But one of the things that I have really struggled with my whole life is the setting of goals and then the sticking to goals. I’ve talked a lot about setting habits to get stuff done on this blog – making habits so that you don’t have to have as much discipline, and things like that. I truly believe in that.

And yet…

I’ve kept on a more-or-less Paleo Diet for most of my life following my immediate ramp-up in 2008. Yeah, I haven’t been perfect, but for the most part I avoid grains and legumes and keep my dairy limited. I’ve only done on-ramp programs three times in that time (well, four, I’m in the middle of another Whole 30 right now) and have pretty much kept my weight down into a very manageable area. Many folks do one every year.

I haven’t owned a car since 2006 and have kept using buses, bikes, Car2Go, and walked all that time. I’ve enjoyed being the guy who has no car and gets around without one most of the time.

Here’s where I think the disconnect happens: being Paleo is fun for me. While the health results are awesome, I enjoy having a body of knowledge that I act upon regularly, but that is out of the mainstream. And I love making people think about the standard American diet and the low-fat/high-carb protocol that doesn’t work for most people.

I also love shunning gyms, health clubs, etc. in favor of doing it myself and getting great results. I love all the stuff I can do as a nearly 50-year-old man that many people ten years younger than I am can not do. I like the looks on my kids faces as I hop on the playground equipment with them while other parents are checking their phones, sitting on benches, or micromanaging their kids on the slide.

Heck, I liked it when I was still wearing kilts regularly and walked around the neighborhood fully clad in my kilt and enjoying the comfort and convenience of the items. I even found out a few years later (after I’d lost so much weight on Paleo that my kilts no longer fit me and I had to get rid of them) that I was known in the neighborhood as “kilt guy.”

And let’s face it – I’ve achieved a lot in my life. I’m not afraid to try new things, I love learning, and I love experimenting. Example: I have a bachelor’s degree in history, yet my career is in Information Technology. I was once interviewed by USA Today’s entertainment section for my old “Comic Book Movie Connection” website, a site that I put together just to learn HTML back in the earlier days of the web. My first blog was a local hit as I introduced the people of Columbus to carless living.

But where I fall short, it seems, is in the world of motivating myself to achieve goals when they’re in a formal setting. The old “set some goals and get accountability to achieve them” makes me crazy. I know it’s a great way to achieve stuff, perhaps the best way… but it makes me want to run screaming the other way. The very idea of someone putting pressure on me, even altruisticallly, is going to push me to rebel against it and reject it. I know it will, because it’s happened before – a lot.

So for me, learning about my Rebel tendency has come with a host of techniques to keep me working on the stuff I love. I work on my finances because it makes me feel good and secure for my family and I. I work on this blog because I love the subject matter and sharing it with you. I take on physical challenges because they’re fun and I love how they make me feel.

And I’m learning about my self-talk, and working to change it from “why can’t you just do what you need to do to achieve this goal?” to “how can I make achieving this goal fun, and something I want to return to regularly?” Knowing this tendency in my life is making a ton of difference in the way that I approach life.

So yeah – go take the quiz at the link above, and then read this book. Every one of the tendencies has sections on what having that tendency means, how to work with that tendency in your life, and how to work with others who have that tendency. It’s a real eye-opener – in sort of the “I knew internally that this is how I work, but now I know how to really do it more productively and happily.”

And isn’t knowing the best techniques to make ourselves better for ourselves and our families what this is all about?