How do You Respond to an Expectation?

How do you respond to an expectation? We all face two kinds of expectations:

  • Outer expectations: meet a work deadline, observe traffic regulations
  • Inner expectations: stop snacking, start running

Upholders respond readily to both outer expectations and inner expectations. They’re self-directed and have little trouble meeting commit­ments, keeping resolutions, or meeting deadlines. However, Upholders may struggle in situations where expecta­tions aren’t clear. They may feel com­pelled to meet expectations, even ones that seem pointless.

Questioners question all expectations, and will meet an expecta­tion only if they believe it’s justified—they’re motivated by reason, logic, and fairness. Essentially, they turn all expectations into inner expectations. If they decide there’s sufficient basis for an expectation, they’ll follow it; if not, they won’t.

Obligers respond readily to outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations. Obligers excel at meeting external demands and deadlines, so they make terrific colleagues, family members, and friends. They don’t let others down, but they may let themselves down. Because Obligers resist inner expectations, it’s difficult for them to self-motivate—to work on a PhD thesis, say, or attend networking events.

Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike. They choose to act from a sense of choice, of freedom. They resist control, even self-control, and enjoy flouting rules and expectations. Rebels work toward their own goals, in their own way, and while they refuse to do what they’re “supposed” to do, they can accomplish their own aims.

These tendencies are hardwired, but with greater experience and wisdom, we can learn to counterbalance our tendency’s negative aspects. Most people are Questioners or Obligers. Very few are Rebels, and, very few are Up­holders. Focus on solutions that help Questioners, by providing sound reasons, and Obligers, by providing accountability.

Summing-up: All of us differ dramatically in our attitude towards habits, and our aptitude for forming them. The happiest and most successful people are those who have figured out ways to exploit their tendency to their benefit and, just as important, ways to offset its limitations. By understanding ourselves and others better, we help ourselves to build happier, healthier, and more productive lives.

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