I've always been like that. Whenever someone tells me what to do, I do the opposite. Or question it. Or do it - if I can really not help it - but grudgingly.
I never thought much of it.
Until I found Gretchen Rubin's book The Four Tendencies with her description of a Rebel. And realised that I was just that. A Rebel. Someone who needs to understand what needs to be done. Needs to understand the consequences. And above all, needs choices.
Even if everyone else is telling her what the correct thing to do is (ESPECIALLY when everyone else tells her what to do).
It was interesting. Because I always thought I was - what Gretchen Rubin calls - an Obliger. Someone who meets someone else's expectations easily, but can't seem to keep her own.
It made me think about accountability.
Accountability: The willingness of someone to take responsibility.
Because that is exactly what it is. Taking responsibility. Doing things. For yourself. For others.
So, why is it so hard to take that responsibility? Why is it that not all of us can easily achieve other's or your own expectations?
I'm going to answer that with a long-ish response. And a bit of a detour.
How you develop as an adult
Adult development theory tells us that people's lives is divided in phases*. From infant stage all the way to old age we go through five stages. Three of them in adulthood:
Stage 4 — Self-Authoring mind (35% of the adult population)
Stage 5 — Self-Transforming mind (1% of the adult population)**
The socialised mind
In the early stages of your adulthood you are in the 'socialised mind' stage. This means that you adapt. To society. To your family, your friends, your immediate circle around you.
In this phase you are spending a lot of time taking responsibility for what other people think of you. You try to fit in. Do what's right, what's expected of you. And, crucially, we derive our sense of self from others.
The self-authoring mind
At one point you are likely to make the move into the 'self-authoring' mind. This means that you are starting to develop your own values, you develop your own mind. You start to take responsibility for your own thoughts and feelings.
So, why am I telling you all this?
Because I believe it is important for you to understand where you are in your development. And also to tell you that it is all not as clear-cut as it looks.
Because a transition to a new stage in your life is never clean, never easy.
When you have spent so much time thinking about others, deriving your self-worth from others, you may well have a hard time remembering - or making up your mind - about what it is that YOU stand for! You may have forgotten what it is that YOU want!
I'll call this hurdle number one.
Not being clear on your values - what's important to you. And therefore not being clear when someone's ask is going against your values.
Not being clear on what YOU want.
Who are you?
Do you really know yourself? Do you know if you're a Rebel (like me), or an Upholder - who meets their own as well as other's expectations? A Questioner - who needs logical reasons for doing things? Or an Obliger, who will meet every externally imposed deadline, but can never get themselves to go to the gym or keep themselves to their diets?
Not one of these tendencies is 'better' than the other. But by knowing which one you are you will be able to determine what you need to put in place to ensure you keep your own promises, or the promises you made to others.
Are you an Obliger? You may want to consider putting in place some external accountability. A running buddy. Someone who comes with you to the weight loss club. A coach who holds you accountable for your progress.
Are you a Rebel? You need all the information, understand the consequences and then make an informed choice (Rebels are big on choices).
An Upholder? Whilst Upholders are good at meeting external AND internal expectations, they may lack flexibility. Which means that - when things change - they are slow to change direction.
And finally a Questioner. You need a logical explanation. The facts. Before you decide and make a move.
So, hurdle number two:
Do you know who you are? You may just want to try Gretchen Rubin's quiz
We've all grown up with the idea of goals. That we should set goals and stick to achieving them. It's like the Holy Grail of life.
But, what ARE your goals? What goals are important for you in your life? If you look back at your life at 80 years old, which goals will you regret not to have achieved? And what steps can you take now to achieve those?
I've re-read The New Earth by Eckhart Tolle recently. And my two takeaways from his book are this:
There is only now. Fretting over what happened in the past, or worrying about the future, is futile. You can only do things now. Right now.
There are only three attitudes to what you're doing: Acceptance. Enjoyment. Enthusiasm.
Acceptance: Life happens. Not all of it is enjoyable. And some things are unavoidable. In these situations your attitude should be one of Acceptance. It just is. Accept what is.
Enjoyment: What you do should be enjoyable.
Enthusiasm: Enthusiasm is Enjoyment plus direction. If you know where you're going your enjoyment turns into enthusiasm.
So, if you are setting your goals, what category are they going to fall into? Are you going to be looking for things that are enjoyable? Or are you looking for direction? And what does that look like for you?
The last hurdle therefore:
How will you set your goals? What will you regret not doing? And what can you do right now to move yourself in the direction of that goal?
Sometimes my clients tell me they need me to keep them accountable. To help them make progress towards their goals. Because without that they are floundering, they're all over the place, they lack focus.
They have understood that they need someone by their side. Someone who helps them to look beyond what they know about themselves. To help them set goals. And to help keep them accountable.
So that they can make sure they live with no regrets.
Do what they enjoy, or even have enthusiasm for.
Live with purpose.
Not everyone needs someone by their side. But what we do all need is this:
To understand what is important to us
To know what you would regret not having done, and
To be clear on who we are and how we get the best out of yourselves
So, I'll repeat the question:
Are you a Rebel? Are you meeting your own expectations?
And, what is it that you - really - want?
* Kegan's stages of Adult Development, as described by Natali Morad on Medium
Tineke Tammes is an ICF credentialed Career Coach, who supports professional women in making successful career transitions into work they love! Besides that she is also a lifelong feminist, part-time portrait artist, never-only-read-one-book-at-any-time reader, and obsessive doodler. Oh, and she knows a bit about change management too.
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