Know How You Respond to Expectations

In Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too) she has found that people have one of four different tendencies when it comes to creating and/or breaking habits. I’ve written about habits before in this blog, but I’ve recently discovered this new book and I’ve used the information I’ve learned in the book to get more writing done.

The book addresses the question, “How do you respond to expectations?”

There are internal expectations (I want to start running again, I want to eat healthier) and external expectations (this report is due to my boss by Friday, my talk is Tuesday, so I have to print my handouts by Monday) and some of us do well with either and some of us have trouble with both. 

After figuring out which tendency describes you—take this short quiz here to find out—you can use this information to get more writing done!

After taking the quiz, I know I’m an Obliger. I respond well to external expectations but have a hard time upholding my own internal expectations. That translates to me being very reliable to others but not so reliable to myself. 

  • If I say I’ll make a pot of soup for the potluck, I will make that pot of soup no matter what. 
  • If I tell myself I’ll write for an hour after supper, I will let almost any other request, event, or circumstance derail that commitment. 

Rather than beat myself up about my tendency to bail on myself (I’ve done enough of that over the years,) I’m using the information in Ms. Rubin’s book to create external expectations related to my internal goals. 

I want to finish a first draft of my book, so I found an accountability partner. He and I are both working on nonfiction books and we make commitments to each other and meet every two weeks to keep the momentum going. 

I want to write every weekday, so I’ve joined multiple online productivity groups. We meet on Zoom, check in for 5 minutes, say what we’re going to do (= create an external expectation,) then we work silently together. 

If I was a Questioner (another of the 4 tendencies) I’d figure out ways to make the things I want to do make sense. Questioners ask, “Why should I do this?” and will only do things they believe are worth doing. 

Check out The Four Tendencies and see if it can help you get more writing done. 

Diane MacKinnon, MD, is a Master Certified Life Coach who used to work as a Family Physician. She’s passionate about writing and journaling and is (still!) working on her first book, a self-help book for medical peeps. You can find her at her website,