What’s your goal-setting personality?


I don’t think it’s too big of an assumption to think that goal setting is a very personal and unique thing. I’m not talking about how your goals themselves are personal (that’s a given), but that the goal format and how it will work for you is very personal.

For example, some people do best when they have big goals to work towards, some do better when they’re making small changes they barely notice that add up to big changes. Some people like working on their goals in private, others like the accountability of posting every meal on Instagram.

Who you are plays a role in this goal setting game, so you need to account for it when you pick them.

Gretchen’s Four Tendencies

One of the tools you can use to help nail this down a bit comes from the work of Gretchen Rubin and her idea of “the four tendencies“. Her argument is basically that there are generally four types of people in the world:

  • Obligers – Really good at doing things expected of them by others, but kind of suck at doing things they expect of themselves.
  • Questioners – Question EVERYTHING and only do things if they know why they should do it and if it makes sense to them to do it.
  • Upholders – Will do things when anybody expects them to, even when that person is them.
  • Rebels – Won’t do or struggles to do what is expected of them, even if they expect it of themselves.

How do these tendencies play out with goal setting?

If you are an obliger, you probably want to have an accountability system in place. Get somebody or a group that will hold you to what you said you were going to do. Join an online group where you have to check in.

If you’re a questioner, do your research. Figure out why you want to achieve your goal and know it cold.

Upholders, know “the rules” so that you can follow them. Other than that, you’re pretty well set, lucky!

If you’re a rebel, well, you’re pretty much screwed. Ha! Just kidding. You just need to focus on what makes you want to do the action so that you can then make the choice to do it.

What tendency do you have?

If you haven’t played around with Gretchen’s tendencies yet and want to know what tendency you have, you can take her quiz. However…


Keep in mind that all of these personality theories are NOT hard science, even the ones that claim to be, so don’t hang too much weight on them.

Turns out people are complicated and you can’t put them in a box, no matter how nicely you label those boxes or how much money you spend to define those boxes.

Just because the quiz says you are “x” doesn’t mean you really are “x” or that you are “x” all of the time. Don’t create any self-fulfilling prophecies with this stuff, just use it if you find it helpful.

Also, personalities are not black and white like these categories and quizzes like to pretend. In most cases, you are a blend of the personalities or you are more dominantly one way in one situation and another way in a different situation.

People are complicated. Preach!

Go big or not?

Another personality bit that I think comes into play is if you feel like you need to go big or not with your goals. Can you make a goal to run 30 minutes a day and that will motivate you enough or do you need to plan for running a marathon to get excited for your goal?

I don’t have quiz to figure this one out, but you’ll know what type of goal you need when you start thinking about what you want to accomplish. If the goal gets you jazzed, then that’s the goal you need.

That’s it?

Umm…no, there’s a hell of a lot more that comes into play when you are deciding on goals, but I feel like these are the two heavy hitters and a good place to start.

Up next

My next post is the fun one…the one where we get to do some goal brainstorming!

(Yes, I am truly excited about this and, yes, I know I’m a dork. Back off.)

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