written by LOU BLASER

A version of this essay first appeared in Midlife Cues, a weekly newsletter about intentional living in our middle years. Get it in your inbox; you're going to love it.


The best way to motivate ourselves, they say, is to get in touch with our why.

“Remember why you started,” says a popular meme.

I’m as big a fan of Simon Sinek as anyone.

But on a day-to-day basis, there’s a more tactical thing that drives our motivation engine.

What pushes us to follow through and do the things we say we want to do?

In her book The Four Tendencies, Gretchen Rubin zooms in on the part of our internal OS (operating system) that rules over these things.

I believe that understanding our individual tendencies is the key to flipping that motivation switch on or off.

If we understood our tendencies, we’d be able to seek the right help, put in place the most fitting habit or forcing function, etc.


Meets outer and inner expectations. If only we could all be upholders. <sigh> People with this tendency have little difficulty following through on commitments — the ones they make with themselves (internal) and those they make with or for others (external). They will set New Year resolutions, and you can go to the bank that they will meet them.


Meets outer expectations; resists inner expectations. Rubin’s research shows that more people have this tendency than any of the other three. If you’ve ever wondered why it is that you easily meet deadlines imposed by others but find it so hard to do the ones you set for yourself, this may be the reason why. Obligers will do best with accountability groups or partnering with others to help them push through personal goals.


Resists outer expectations; meets inner expectations. People with this tendency question almost everything before they commit to doing anything. It’s not enough for them to know that something works or is recommended. They will want to ask a hundred and one questions; they can’t help it! They have to convince themselves first before agreeing or committing to it. In effect, they turn all expectations into inner ones.


Resists outer and inner expectations. Aaahh. The rebels. The ones who would say, “I was going to do it until you told me to do it, and now, I don’t want to do it anymore.” They have a hard time with expectations, period. They rarely set any for themselves, let alone accept those imposed on them. They are motivated by a sense of freedom. They wake up in the morning and ask themselves, “What do I want to do today?”


Adopting routines made for someone with a different internal OS isn’t going to work.

It’s like forcing an iPhone to run an Android-based app.

Truly knowing ourselves — and not fooling ourselves about who we are — is the unlock key.


“Nobody worked harder on being Fred Rogers than Fred Rogers.” — his wife, Joanne Rogers

It’s one thing to say, “This is the kind of person I want be.”

The real work happens in the small, quiet moments — and usually when no one’s looking — when we do our best to actually be that person.


Meet Gen Xer Melissa Dinwiddie.

Melissa says the 25-year-old version of herself would be blown away by the things she’s been able to do — and continue to do.

Rightfully so! Calling herself a “passion pluralite”, Melisssa has pursued a wide variety of creative expressions throughout her life: calligraphy, abstract painting, paper flowers, jazz singing, improv, dance (her first love), animation, and more

Read the rest of Melissa’s profile here.


I’m a fan of these types of assessments because they help me understand myself.

Once I get the outcome though, I would… you guessed it… question the dang thing before I could accept the results.

Some people find questioners tiresome. The funny thing is that many questioners find themselves tiring too! 🤭

Here’s to a fun and easeful week ahead.

Hit reply and send comments, your thoughts on your tendency, even if you’ve been rebelling against it!

Cool Beans,
Lou Blaser


A former management consultant and IT leader, Lou Blaser is the editor of Midlife Cues and the host of the Second Breaks podcast. She is also the author of Break Free: The Courage to Reinvent Yourself and Your career. Lou’s work is focused on exploring how to navigate, thrive, and turn midlife into the best phase in our life.