You Are Not Broken

September 12, 2022

By Meghan Greenwood

Think back to a time in high school when you were on the sports team or the debate team or played an instrument. If it wasn’t an imposed activity by demanding parents, you most likely didn’t rebel and went to the practices. You had a schedule, a coach or teacher, and peers who may have been relying on you to show up. You felt like you hit the necessary milestones and were never falling behind. After all, you probably graduated high school, right?

Fast forward to your work. No matter how you make a living, you again likely have to adhere to some sort of schedule imposed by the boss. If not, you would lose your job & possibly the roof over your head.

These types of exterior motivators help folks stay accountable, especially people who are considered to be obligers. As coined by the happiness guru Gretchen Rubin, an obliger is one of four tendencies; a person that responds well to external expectations but not internal ones. In other words, someone who needs accountability to stay on track.

Over and over again, I talk to people who feel unmotivated, paralyzed, and overall, unhappy with their productivity. I’m here to assure you that you are not broken. You are not unique. Over 40% of people are considered obligers – meaning they fair far better at meeting internal expectations when they have accountability in place.

If, for example, you really needed to clean and organize your office, but when you enter the space, you feel drained and like you don’t even know where to begin. If you move this one item, then it’ll lead to another decision (and probably a purchase of a beautiful, failproof letter organizer even though you haven’t sent a letter in 5 years) and soon, you will be stepping away from the mess on your desk because either the kitchen cabinet needs tending, or you consider the whole effort to be a flop and will push it off to the next time you’re feeling raw energy.

You aren’t underachieving. You aren’t necessarily even procrastinating. But instead, you haven’t set any expectations externally and therefore, it doesn’t matter to anyone but you that these tasks get accomplished. You need someone to check-in. Disappointing yourself doesn’t faze you to the point of action. It’s how you’re wired and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, you likely would hate to disappoint, say, your grandma.

In comes surrogate Nana.

A partner, a co-worker, a friend, or a family member can be a good accountability buddy – they likely would check-in regularly and possibly encourage you to achieve. However, sometimes what we want to do are things that perhaps those specific people don’t understand or don’t appreciate. In that case, using an unbiased, third-party can be great for productivity.

Hiring a coach or an accountability buddy can assist in setting realistic, S.M.A.R.T. goals while keeping you on the path forward with whatever you want to do in life. They can be your source of support or stern finger-wagging to ensure you stick to your timelines no matter how mundane the task may seem.

Find someone you trust to be your accountability buddy and pretend they’re your grandma. You may not live up to your own expectations, but you more than likely would want to keep Nana happy!


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