Creatives have a historical reputation of not following through on commitments, or of being flaky. I don’t believe in this stereotype because I’m an artist and the opposite of those things. But I wonder: what if this stereotype developed because in our culture we maintain a one-size-fits-all strategy for accountability?
Hi my name is Carrie and I created Artist Strong to help artists like you build your skill and develop your unique artist voice. Today we are going to talk about the 4 different tendencies artists could have that determine how they approach and achieve goals.
I’ve talked about Gretchen Rubin and her work before in an article I’ve linked below this video. As a teacher, this research has completely transformed the way I present and share information with students of all ages, so I was thrilled when she came out with a new book called The Four Tendencies. It furthers the research she discussed in one chapter of her previous book Better Than Before.
If you haven’t heard of Rubin or her work I want to summarize it for you here. She uncovered four tendencies that appear in people that describe how different people manage expectations in their lives.
The Four Tendencies
The most common tendency is that of the obliger. Obligers can meet outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations. For example, if you want to exercise at the gym you will find it much easier to show up if a friend expects you to join them every week.
The second most common tendency is the questioner. Questioners are willing to meet outer expectations only if they understand the reasoning behind the request. Questioners are often told they ask too many questions.
Next we have my tendency, that of the upholder. Upholders are unique in that they can easily meet inner and outer expectations. If someone asks something of me I’ll get it done. If I decide on a goal for myself, I just do it. We tend to be very rule abiding and while that is restrictive for other tendencies, it makes upholders feel free.
And that word freedom leads to our most rare tendency, the rebel. I find many rebels inside our artist community. Rebels reject inner and outer expectations. For example, if someone asks them to do something they WANT to do, the rebel will immediately feel resistance to the request despite wanting it themselves. Rebels work best in conditions where they feel free and have choice.
You are born with your tendency
Rubin explains that these tendencies are innate, it is something we are born with and can work with to help us life a happier life. Think about it: if you know you are an obliger and want something done for you, asking a friend to check in on to see if it’s done, or announcing it via social media, may be the added impetus you need to step up and follow through on that task!
While we haven’t explicitly talked about art yet in today’s conversation, I hope some light bulbs are going off in your head right now about the potential use of these tendencies in your art life.
Rebels, for example. You lovely humans need an inner passion driving your choice to create. Setting arbitrary goals, or having someone tell you what to do will only derail your hopes and dreams for your art. Find a path that feels free to you! That could mean, “I’m going to make art everyday because it’s my me time and important to me,” or, “I don’t want to sell my art because it makes me feel restricted. I’m going to keep art a hobby or side-gig so I can feel free to create whatever, however I want.”
Obligers thrive with accountability. They do well in art challenges because it helps them set a personal goal, but do it with a group to help them stay accountable to someone outside of themselves. Mastermind groups and online classes with limited time access or deadlines will help obligers make the art they feel called to make.
Obligers can struggle to say no to others and thus feel burdened. These feelings of obligation can also make them feel guilty about making time for themselves. It’s important to understand how making time for yourself can actually make you more open to serving others.
Questioners need answers. If they believe the art challenge or e-course will help them, then they can follow through on the activity. Questioners typically criticize new years resolutions because the timing and date is completely arbitrary. So to you questioner, be sure to ask your questions and do the research to come to a decision that feels good to you. Once you believe something is worthy of your time (like making your art), you will find the time.
To my fellow upholder, you don’t need advice on getting things done: you do it. Something upholder artists can benefit from is to ask themselves why they are doing a task: is it enhancing or helping you strive towards your larger goal? Sometimes we get bogged down by the rules we set for ourselves or that we imagine or feel others have for us. Having an artist friend who is a questioner to bounce ideas off of can really help you stay on track with your goal.
If you want to know what your tendency is Gretchen Rubin has a free quiz that I’ve linked below this video. Take it and then I’d love for you to tell me in the comments below: what is your tendency and how can you use it to help your art life?
Today’s topic is pertinent, because every October I run a month long challenge in this community about creating and reaching achievable goals for our art. In the past it was called Be Creatively Courageous.
This challenge is different from other art challenges: I don’t give you daily or weekly themes to draw or paint. YOU choose a goal that is aligned with your hopes and dreams for your art. It could be to finish a bunch of art sitting around your studio, create a promotion plan for launching your next series for purchase, or it could be to show up and make art every day for the month of October.
The aim of this challenge is to help you begin to identify what really matters to you regarding your art and offer you the support and resources to get there.
If this sounds like fun, or something you want to try, use the sign up link below today’s video to join in on the fun. If you watch this video at a later date, feel free to sign up to join the waitlist so you hear about it when we run it again.
Thanks so much for watching and see you next time here on Artist Strong.
I’m a rebel! It makes it so hard to be accountable. To do lists don’t work…goal setting doesn’t work…I hate commissions…I struggle when I’m pressured to make money with my art, but my dream is to make a living with my art! I feel like a walking contradiction. As soon as I tell myself I’m going to do something, I resist that with all my might! I’m working on ways of tricking myself. I make it a challenge instead. “I bet you can’t finish that painting by the end of the week…” You’ll never work out five days this week…It seems to be working, lol!
Tahirih the good news is: you aren’t alone. And it is totally normal to feel conflicted when you identify as a rebel in this way.
Some rebels find lining things up with their identity helps. “Artists do these things… I’m an artist, so I do these things.” Or, considering how doing certain tasks or projects would help them find the larger freedom they seek in their goal can sometimes help too.
I’ve heard some good tips from this youtube video that a fellow rebel shared with me just this week!
I love the idea of making it a challenge! Good for you for making it work for you! Your nature is a gift. Be proud of it <3 and keep on challenging yourself.