From Start To End – In Search of Motivation

From Start To End – In Search of Motivation

Have you ever found yourself struggling to find motivation to get something done? It can be very hard to meet inner or outer expectation when you just don’t feel like doing it. No matter how easy or difficult something is, without motivation it is like going against the wall. Just recently, I came across interesting book written by Gretchen Rubin dedicated to finding out what motivates us. Today, I want to share the most interesting parts of this book with you.

Motivation and Tendencies

As we discussed in the intro, this post is about a book Better Than Before I read recently. This book uses a new typology t help you find out what factors will fuel your motivation. Unlike other strategies to get things done often suggested, this book approaches the whole topic in a new way based on four different types or tendencies. As you will see, some of these tendencies or types are more distinct and some less. To make it easier for you to find which type suits you the most, I included a short quiz with eleven Yes/No questions after the description for each type. Let’s start.


The first type we will take a look at is obliger. This type wants to meet expectations from his outer world. This means colleagues, family members, friends and so on. On the other hand, obliger will struggle to meet his own, inner, expectations. In other words, obliger’s motivation comes from external accountability. Meaning, as an obliger, you excel at meeting external demands and deadlines are nonnegotiable for you. You are willing to do whatever it takes to meet your responsibilities and finish your work.

The darker side is that it’s probably difficult for you to self-motivate. You find it hard to fire yourself up for something on your own. You also depend on external accountability. Some of the great tools you can try to power up your motivation and productivity are deadlines, late fees or just a bit of fear of letting other people down. For example, if your to-do list is overflown with tasks, try to associate these tasks with people. You will be more likely to get motivation to do the task so you will not disappoint other people relying on you.

You have to remember that if you are an obliger, promises made to yourself are not accountable enough. Only the promises you made to other people will give you motivation to stay on track. So, when you want to get shit done, focus on external accountability. This applies to activities that you want to do for yourself as well.

The brighter side of being an obliger is that you can be incredibly inventive when it comes to find ways to create external accountability to get the motivation you need. Imagine you want to start going to the gym so you can wear those amazing jeans you wore in college. What is the best approach you should follow as an obliger? Find a sparring partner who will be willing to train with you. This way, you will exploit what works best for you–external accountability and increase your chances to stay on track.

Another thing that can help you keep your motivation levels sky-high is to be a role model for someone. Think about it. What can be bigger commitment for someone (you) who needs external accountability than to serve as an example. Failing to do that would be a huge disappointment for you as well as for people following your example. Imagine you want to learn to code. What is the best way to fuel yourself with motivation? The same as with the gym–find a “coding” partner or become a part of community.

Today, you can learn almost anything you want through dozens of MOOCS available on the Internet. Huge communities of people attending those courses make it almost a paradise for you if you need external accountability to spark the motivation inside you. What’s more, through external accountability you will be able to do things for the sake of others that you couldn’t do for yourself otherwise. However, there can be a downside to all this.

When you take too much on your shoulders you can overwhelm yourself with outer expectations and it makes you prone to burnout. The problem is that you have probably trouble telling people no. In other words, the probability that you are a people-pleaser is creepy high. If you find yourself doing personal sacrifices to finish work for other people form time to time, then I have two news for you. First, you are an obliger. Second, you are a people-pleaser.

Neither of those facts has to be bad, definitely not the first one. The second one can become a serious problem if you are suffering due to your inclination to say yes and put other people before yourself. I don’t want you to be selfish. Helping other people is great thing to do, but you should also think about what you want and ask for it. The same thing for doing things just for yourself.

Summary: If you are obliger, inner motivation will not work well for you. What you should do instead is to focus on external factors. Find people in your environment who will be willing to help you keep yourself accountable.

Test yourself:

1) I sometimes describe myself as a “people-pleaser.”

2) People often turn to me for help—to edit a report, to take over a carpool run, to speak at a conference at the last minute.

3) I’ve given up making New Year’s resolutions, because I never keep them.

4) I get frustrated by the fact that I make time for other people’s priorities, but struggle to make time for my own.

5) Every once in a while, I snap, and in a sudden moment of rebellion, I refuse to do what other people expect of me.

6) Promises to other people can’t be broken, but promises to myself can be broken.

7) Unless someone is enforcing a deadline, it’s hard for me to get work done.

8) I sometimes feel burned out, and it’s hard for me to take the time and effort for myself, to recharge my battery.

9) I’ll do something to be a good role model, even if it’s not something that I’d do for myself. Practice piano, eat vegetables, quit smoking.

10) It’s hard for me to tell people “no.”

11) I’ve made some good habits, but I often struggle without success to form others.


The second type or tendency is questioner. As the name suggests, this type of people will question all expectations. Only if they will find the task makes sense, they will do it. In case of questioners, motivation is fueled by reason and logic. If you are a questioner, having a task on the list is not enough. In order to get yourself to doing the task with as little resistance possible you have to know the “why” behind it. Task or goal you want to get done must be backed by serious and logical reason. Otherwise, it will be a hard battle full of struggle.

As a questioner, you will decide for yourself whether the action you want to take is a good idea or not. On the other hand, if task or goal lacks logical and sound purpose you will need a lot of effort to get your motivation flowing. Compared to obligers, questioners turn all expectations into inner expectations. For example, if you refuse to follow the rules others are forcing on you, but you find yourself easily following rules based on solid reason or your own ethic code, you are a questioner.

When we are talking about resisting or breaking the rules … Questioners will often resist rules for rules’ sake. In other words, the more will someone insist on compliance with rules, the more likely you are to resist to follow them. If you find a rock-solid reason to not follow certain rule or guideline, changing your opinion will take a lot of effort.

One of the ways to spot a questioner is to watch his behavior. Meaning, they like to make decisions based on their own conclusions backed by exhaustive research. They also like to be very intellectually engaged. As a questioner you will find it hard to get motivated to do anything that seems arbitrary. For example, have you ever though about making some New Year’s resolution? If you did it probably didn’t last for a long time if the resolution was based just on the date.

Remember, as a questioner you will have motivation to get things done only by finding solid reasons for them. It is not even important if the reason is valid or not. You may reject other opinion just because you’ve made your own conclusions. In other words, following the authority for the sake of it is a nonsense for you. The same applies to doing things in a certain way just because it has been done that way all the time.

Summary: If you are a questioner, you will find motivation to finish something only if there is a solid logical reason. Doing things for the sake of it doesn’t work for you. To decrease the resistance, pick a goal or task, do your research and find sound reason for finishing it.

Test yourself:

1) It’s very important for me to make well-reasoned decisions.

2) If I want to make a change in my life, I’ll make it right away. I won’t make a New Year’s resolution, because January 1 is an arbitrary date.

3) Even when a decision isn’t particularly important, I sometimes have trouble deciding, because I want more information.

4) I get very agitated if I have to wait in line.

5) If I’m asked to do something that doesn’t make sense, I won’t do it—which sometimes causes conflicts with other people.

6) Other people sometimes become frustrated by my demand for information and sound reasons.

7) It really bothers me when things are unfair or arbitrary.

8) I like to hear from experts, but I always decide for myself what course to follow.

9) I can start a new habit without much effort, if it’s something that makes sense for my aims.

10) Occasionally, I arrive at conclusions that violate conventional wisdom or common practice (which can cause problems with other people); I want to act on the basis of my own reasoning.

11) I question the validity of the Rubin Tendencies.


The third type is rebel. As you can guess, rebel will place a high value on authenticity and self-determination. Everything you do is filled with your enthusiasm and free spirit. The easiest way to get rebel do some assignment is to convince him that he wants to complete it. If you try to force rebel to complete task he doesn’t want to do, you will run into the wall. Rebel will just … Rebel. The same thing applies to goals that should be done on a regular basis. Anything that is not backed by personal want or need will probably never go through.

That being said, this resistance doesn’t have to be bad. Sometimes, this ability to resist authority is enormously valuable to society. Many of the inventions we use today exist just because there was someone in the past willing to go against the grain. The darker side of rebels is that they might often frustrate people around them because they will take offensive position when asked or told to do anything.

To understand rebels you have to know that their motivation is not fuelled by orders or external factors. Telling Rebels to do something will often make them do the opposite and the more you will push the more they will resist you. If you have rebel in your environment, make sure to not accidentally ignite their spirit of opposition. It will be much easier to give rebel some time and let him make a decision without any expectations. Without setting any expectations, there is no urge for rebel to go against your idea.

Unfortunately, rebellion can be a problem for rebels as well. It is one thing to resist doing something because he or she says so. On the other hand, this resistance can cause a frustration to rebels because they aren’t able to find motivation to do things for themselves. It can also cause problems in personal and professional side of life like switching jobs or places of living.

The good news is that if you are a rebel, you are very inventive when it comes to channeling your energy in more constructive ways. If you are a rebel, you will find it appealing to work and exist in environments that are in flux and are disruptive. Think about it. What is can be better metaphor for rebellion than disruption? Because it is natural for rebels to resist rules and hierarchies, they will often work better with others when they’re in charge.

However, this may not be true for every case. Some people, even though they are rebel type, find it more comfortable to work in places with many rules. The reason is that letting other people have control can bring you freedom. That might be the explanation why military can be sought place for rebel, even thought it is built on rules and discipline. What’s more, removing all rules can actually be detrimental to rebel’s motivation and productivity.

Summary: For rebel, the best way to get things done is to remove expectations and let them decide for themselves, find your own reason to do “x”. Forcing rebel to do something will only raise resistance on his side. Contrary to some beliefs, giving rebel a total freedom can make him less productive. Rebels often need to to have some rules or guidelines to bend or break.

Test yourself:

1) I never make New Year’s resolutions. Why would I commit myself to do something in advance?

2) If someone asks or tells me to do something, I often have the impulse to refuse—or to do just the opposite.

3) I resist habits.

4) I enjoy flouting rules and expectations.

5) Other people sometimes become frustrated because I won’t do what they want me to do.

6) If someone tells me I can’t do something, I think, “I’ll show you,” and I do it.

7) People sometimes accuse me of being irresponsible or unnecessarily contrarian.

8) I’m not particularly persuaded by arguments such as, “People are counting on you,” “You’ve already paid for it,” “You said you’d do it,” “Someone will be upset if you don’t,” “It’s against the rules,” “This is the deadline,” or “It’s rude.”

9) Sometimes I find myself attracted to institutions with lots of rules—the military, the police, the clergy.

10) If I’m expected to do something—even something fun, like a wood-working class—I have the urge to resist; the expectation takes the fun out of an activity that I enjoy.

11) My significant other is an Obliger.


The last type of people to discuss are upholders. These people will respond readily to outer expectations and inner expectations. Upholder want to know what’s expected of him and to deliver on those expectations. They don’t like and will try to avoid making mistakes or letting people down. This also applies to letting down themselves. The good thing about upholders is that other people can rely on them.

This type of people is self-directed and have little trouble meeting deadlines, commitments or keeping resolutions. What’s more, the will often make effort to finish their tasks and goals earlier. When it comes to rules, if you are an upholder, you want to understand them. You will often find yourself searching for the rules hidden in behind. For example, a designer will not be satisfied with knowing how to compose a grid, he will want to go beyond that straight to the fundamentals.

The easiest way to find out whether you are an upholder, without taking the quiz, is to think about how you approach your tasks and schedule. Meaning, when you have something on your schedule or list, it is already done. There is nothing that can stop you from doing it. You don’t need any external motivation, like a person behind breathing on your backs, to keep yourself on the track because you feel a real obligation to meet your expectations for yourself.

If you remember when we talked about obligers, I mentioned that you might struggle with being a people-pleaser. Well, upholders are often on the opposite side. It is not so common for upholder to fall into this “yes-man” trap because he has a strong instinct for self-preservation. He is more likely to prefer meeting his expectations instead of others’. As an upholder, you not hesitate to take time for yourself and do what do you need to do. If some task delegated on you interfere with your own schedule, saying no is not an issue. Your tasks have higher priority.

When upholder may struggle are situations where there are either no rules or expectations are blurred. Since upholder will strive to meet expectations, internal or external, it doesn’t matter to him or her if the expectations are legitimate or pointless. They will still feel motivation to deliver. As an upholder, you may find it hard to continue on something knowing you’re breaking some rules. Again, it doesn’t matter if that rule necessary or not, you are not able to come up with solid justification to do so, you will struggle to finish the job.

Summary: For upholder, meeting external expectations is as easy as meeting his own. That being said, when one goal or task interfere with another, he will give higher priority to his own. Upholder is not a “yes-man” or people-pleaser. Expectations from other people comes as secondary. Upholder will strive to get things done until they are not breaking any rules. Otherwise, they have to find reason strong enough to justify it to continue.

Test yourself:

1) I love crossing items off my to-do list.

2) I feel uncomfortable if I’m with someone who’s breaking a rule—whispering to me during someone’s giving a work presentation, or using a cell phone when a sign reads “No cell phones.”

3) Usually, I’m punctual and meet deadlines. In fact, I really dislike being late or missing a deadline, even if it’s somewhat arbitrary.

4) I’ve made New Year’s resolutions in the past, and I usually have good success in keeping them.

5) If something is on my calendar, it gets done.

6) I hate making mistakes or letting people down.

7) It’s just as important to keep my promises to myself as it is to keep my promises to other people.

8) I want to know what’s expected of me.

9) Sometimes other people feel annoyed by my level of discipline. I’ve been accused of being rigid.

10) I embrace habits.

11) It’s painful for me not to do something I’ve agreed to do, even if it doesn’t really matter, so I’m very careful about making commitments—to other people or to myself.

Closing thoughts on the search of motivation

That’s it. Another food for your mind. I hope the information outlined in this post will help you find what sparks your motivation. Because without motivation, everything you want to do will require much more effort and energy than it potentially could. What’s more, facing struggle and resistance every time you want to achieve some goal you set will take all the joy and pleasure from your life. You live only once, find what works for you and get rid of the rest.

What are your thoughts on using these four types to find how to motivate yourself?

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By Alex Devero

I'm Founder/CEO of DEVERO Corporation. Entrepreneur, designer, developer. My mission and MTP is to accelerate the development of humankind through technology.

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