personality

The Psychology of Personality: How Knowing Yourself Better Can Keep Your Fitness Goals On Track

personality

Gretchen Rubin

I recently attended The World Domination Summit (WDS) in Portland, Oregon.  The conference was 3 days jam-packed, full of lectures and workshops all led by entrepreneurs, writers, and artists.  One of the of the many great speakers I heard was Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project.  

In her lecture, Gretchen pointed out that in order to be happy you must first learned key features of your nature.  You have to learn about yourself and the systems your brain by default uses to function before you can actually identify the things that make you happy.  So, rather than search for what makes you happy, Gretchen has identified a way for us to evaluate our own personalities so we can better structure our actions to live a happy life.

In her blog, Gretchen writes about different avenues of getting to know yourself better that can improve your life.  For example in What’s Your Personality Type for Play Gretchen explains how she was able to develop a career for herself based on her interests as a child.

More along the lines of fitness and exercise Gretchen’s work can help you better understand if you are an Abstainer or a Moderater.  A very important distinction to understand about yourself especially when trying to stick to a diet.

Gretchen says,

“You’re a moderator if you…

– find that occasional indulgence heightens your pleasure – and strengthens your resolve
– get panicky at the thought of “never” getting or doing something

You’re an abstainer if you…
– have trouble stopping something once you’ve started
– aren’t tempted by things that you’ve decided are off-limits”

When starting a diet it is very important to identify what type of personality you have.

If you are a moderator it can be important to allow yourself some treats, as long as those treats keep you within your diet ratios and calories!  Without the wiggle room to cheat every now and then a moderator will give up on a diet altogether.

personality

An abstainer can eat just one!

An abstainer on the other hand needs to make sure all temptations are out of the house.  An abstainer needs the black and white to stay on plan.

Whether or not one chooses to follow through with their fitness plan is also based upon personality type.

Gretchen divides all humans personality archetypes into 4 categories:

  • Upholders
  • Questioners
  • Rebels
  • Obligers

Each role describes the most basic ways in which people put priority into their actions.  Knowing your personality is great for learning how to best meet deadlines and accomplish goals including how to stick to your fitness and health goals.

Upholders:

An upholder loves rules.

It doesn’t matter who creates them, upholders will live by them.  If this is your personality type, you probably don’t have a hard time sticking to your diet and exercise plan, because it is a plan.  You have been given the rules.  If you are an upholder; I bet you get in your exercise 5-6 times a week, meal track like you are supposed to, and like following a specific meal plan.  For the most part you are good.

The one drawback to being an upholder, however, is that you can often find it tough to question which exercise program is the best because you want to do them all.

You may try following too many workout plans and find you never actually stick to just one.  Upholders can also find that because they never allow themselves budge room to cheat, an exercise routine can become exhausting.  Rather than not stick to the rules 100% many of my upholder clients tend to be all or nothing.  At the times they commit to exercise and healthy living they do great, but when work or life doesn’t allow them to fulfill their goals 100% they stop altogether so they don’t have to admit they didn’t follow through.

If you are an upholder give yourself some budge room when it comes to exercise.  Even small movements accrued throughout the day are better than nothing.  Don’t allow the guilt of an incomplete workout week keep you from getting any exercise at all.

Questioners:

If you are a Questioner you need to know why you are doing something.

It isn’t enough for someone to tell you what to do, you need to know the reasoning behind what you are doing and then you will have no problem following through.

The best bet for a questioner is to hire a personal trainer.  You can constantly be reading books to reinforce your knowledge and desire to exercise, however, if you are looking for a reason not to hit the gym I’m guessing you don’t want to spend your reading time on that topic.  A good personal trainer should have the knowledge to convince your questioning mind to make exercise a priority.

If you don’t have the financial means to hire a personal trainer, a webinar I recommend is The Smarter Science of Slim.  It used to be available in book format, but has been taken off of amazon until The Calorie Myth comes out in January of 2014.

Rebels:

A rebel personality tends to think (and go) against the grain.

If someone tells you to do something, you are likely to do the opposite.  Obviously you won’t respond well to someone telling you to exercise.

If I was training a rebel, I would encourage them to try something everyone else thinks they can’t do.  For example I might plant the seed to a rebel that they couldn’t run a half marathon.  The idea that they couldn’t do something is the exact motivation a rebel mind needs to inspire them to train for one.

If endurance training isn’t your thing, try looking into another extreme sport such as snowboarding, mountain climbing, MMA, or mountain biking.  The extreme nature of the sport might be what initially attracts you, but you will soon find that in order participate at all or well you need a consistent workout routine to maintain the physical ability to do your activity.

Obligers:

An obliger tends to put others expectations before their own goals.

If you are an obliger, your biggest excuse for not exercising is probably your family, job, or social commitments.  You may have been a star athlete in high school when you HAD to be at practice, but probably find it very difficult to make yourself go out for a run on your own.

An obliger is best off building external motivation.  Find a running buddy.  Join a parks and rec team.  Hire a personal trainer.  Do something to hold yourself accountable to your exercise because if you are an obliger you won’t get it done on your own.

So What Are You?

Obviously not every category is 100% perfect, but there is a good chance that you identify with one of the four.

Once you figure out where you fall, don’t try to fight your personality.  Your nature is out of your control.  Stop fighting the way your brain best functions, but rather use it to your advantage.   If you would prefer to be another way you can use the knowledge of you nature to build systems around it, don’t try to change it.

I for example am an upholder, however am I am also very drawn to pleasing others so I have a heavy obliger nature as well.  I often commit myself to too many things (classic symptoms of an upholder) so I have learned to build external motivation into the things that I know I need to get done.

Exercise and fitness is very important to me, but between all the other commitments I set up for myself often times it can get pushed aside.  Rather than set up coffee or lunch dates with people, I often set up an exercise dates.  (A good system for obligers to use)  That way I can kill two birds with one stone.

What personality type do you identify with the most?  Have you set up any systems in your world to better use your personality to accomplish your goals?  Please share below! :)

 

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