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Day 83: When the Upholder Meets Chronic Pain

by Mar 23, 2021Challenges, Four Tendencies, HOAM Elements, HOAM Insights0 comments

As a Hero On A Mission (HOAM) I have ambitious goals. I envision a better world and how I can and will be a part of making it better. I am committed to efficiency, productivity, and profitability. I aspire to live an integrated life where my work, family, friends, and God are all important and blended into a unified story with each getting appropriate priority.

My HOAM Life Plan and Daily Planner are great tools to help me live into these aspirations for my life. But every day I face challenges to the life I envision. This past week I’ve recognized three that I want to address. In fact, I need to address. They are an increased workload, time pressure on my mornings as an Upholder, and chronic pain. Today, I’ll dig into the last two: being an Upholder and chronic pain, and how they combine to make life a lot harder.

I’m an Upholder

An Upholder is a term that was coined by author, Gretchen Rubin. In her book, The Four Tendencies, she explains that humans like us can be divided into four main categories relative to how we respond to expectations we put on ourselves and those put on us by others. Those four main personality types are:

  • Obligers – respond well to other’s expectations for them, but not their own expectations for themselves
  • Questioners – respond well to expectations for themselves, but not the expectations of others for them
  • Rebels – respond well to neither expectations for themselves or those of others for them
  • Upholders – respond well to both inner and outer expectations

What this means practically is that when I want to do something (expectation for myself) like not eat sugar for a month, or write a daily blog about my experiences as a HOAM, I just do it! This can make both Obligers and Rebels extremely jealous…or it gives them an inferiority complex.

In addition, when someone else expects me to do something, I just do it! Which is great for them. But when people start asking me to do things for them, and those things are outside my HOAM Life Plan and Goals, I end up veering off course.

This past week I noticed that I’ve done that. I’ve said yes to too many things that are outside my life plan. I don’t think it’s wrong to do that once in a while. In fact, being a follower of Jesus requires that I do that when someone has a need. But when I say yes to too much, it hurts.

For me the hurt looks like stress and also the neglect of some of the non-urgent, but very important, priorities in my life.

Mix Upholder Overload with Chronic Pain = Not Good

On top of the Upholder Overload of the past two weeks I have also been dealing with chronic pain for the past four days. I have some skeletal issues that impact my spine and it’s been deteriorating for decades. Unfortunately, I didn’t know about it until four years ago. By that point there was some permanent damage that results in chronic pain. Something happened Friday that aggravated the pain and caused it to hurt three times as much as usual.

This kind of thing happens every now and then. The result decreased energy levels. It’s like an older car battery that is being drained of power on a -20F day. It just makes everything harder. And I feel tired all the time.

So, this past week, greater external expectations and decreased energy levels caused by chronic pain combined to make my life feel like I was running in four feet of water rather than on dry land.


The good news is that having my HOAM morning routine going for the past four months has made this past week glaringly obvious. It’ been like a red warning light going off on the control panel of my life. It’s telling me I need to immediately pay attention to what’s going on and take some action to correct the problem. Better sooner, rather than later and avoid even further damage.

Glen Stevens

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