“Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.” – Winston Churchill.

We nod knowingly at such wise words. Then we walk off and… fail again to meet our goals. We run up against the same relational difficulties. Churchill’s insight applies on a personal level, as on a global scale. When I fail to learn from my own unmet goals, I am doomed to fall short again this year. So, where to start? It’s not with goals.

Self awareness.

Where do your good habits go off the rails?

Gretchen Rubin identifies four tendencies, defined by how we respond to internal and external expectations. Internal expectations are self imposed. A personal goal to work out five days a week is an internal expectation. A work deadline, family commitment, or hockey practice are external expectations. Others are expecting you to do your part. As Rubin summarizes:

  • “Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations (I’m an Upholder, 100%)
  • Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense–essentially, they make all expectations into inner expectations
  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike”

You may readily identify where you fit. I sure can. I’m an obliger. I never miss practice when it means facing angry coach but my own workouts are inconsistent. I struggle to stay on task. I’m far too apt to respond to demands from other people. (I had two little people drop in before I could finish this sentence!)

As I set out to strengthen my healthy routines and improve on unhealthy ones, this insight can serve as a catalyst or an excuse.

If my obliging tendencies define me, I might as well quit now. “I didn’t get to the gym again. I’m just like that. I’m an obliger. I can’t follow through on my personal goals.”


I can recognize I need accountability and look for a workout buddy. I can commit to a class or team.

A tendency is just that, something I tend toward. It is not a defining character trait.

How do you tend to react to expectations? How can this insight serve you as you step out into a new year?






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