The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin
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Are you a New Year’s resolution-maker? If so (or if not), Gretchen Rubin has ideas for helping you succeed in your resolution – and what might cause you to fail.
If you read many blogs, you’ve probably already heard of The Four Tendencies; it has been everywhere recently. But, I found it so helpful that I wanted to talk about it here, just in case it hasn’t reached everyone. In it, Rubin suggests that there are four kinds of people when it comes to meeting expectations (and keeping resolutions):
- Rebels, who resist inner and outer expectations – the “I’ll do it when I’m good and ready” group
- Questioners, who resist outer expectations, but readily meet inner expectations if they make sense – also the group that is skeptical of this idea of four styles.
- Obligers, who resist inner expectations, but readily meet outer expectations – the people for whom an accountability partner is most helpful
- Upholders, who can meet both inner and outer expectations
So many New Year’s resolution articles offer the same suggestions – get an accountability partner, mark the days you met your goal on a calendar, etc. But, those suggestions don’t work for everyone. A Questioner won’t be motivated to go to an exercise class out of a sense of responsibility to the instructor, but an Obliger might. An Obliger won’t be motivated by a list taped to the fridge, they need the accountability partner.
A few years ago, I read Rubin’s book Better Than Before, which is all about establishing habits. It offers frameworks to hang new habits on, ways to trick yourself into following through on habits, and so on. In that book, she introduces the four Tendencies (Rebels, Questioners, Obligers, Upholders), but I spent the whole book unable to figure out which Tendency I was, and wondering if the whole thing was a load of bunk. (I should have taken that as a clue.)
Last year, some friends were going to do a Whole30. I thought joining them would be a good way to kickstart some of my health goals. I had built-in accountability partners! Surely I could make it work! Nope. Two days in, my brain wouldn’t shut up about how I was ruling out a lot of perfectly healthy foods. I failed at the Whole30, but I finally knew my Tendency. I’m a Questioner through and through.
In The Four Tendencies, Rubin describes each of the Tendencies, how they relate to others, how they can best stick to habits, and how to relate to loved ones in each of the groups. I thought that one of the most helpful parts was considering the Tendencies of my children. My oldest is also a strong Questioner, too. I try to use this to our mutual advantage. She won’t do something because her sisters are doing it. Trying to build excitement by saying, “Come on, we’re all going to _________,” doesn’t work. But, she will do something when it makes sense to her. “I know it seems like we’re leaving really early, but we need to stop for gas.”
The Four Tendencies is not a total personality framework. It won’t tell you what kind of gifts to give or Hogwarts house you’re in. But if you’re trying to get up earlier, be a better manager, or start cooking more, there is inspiration here.
If you’d like to get a head start on figuring out your Tendency, take the quiz on Rubin’s site here.
Happy New Year, everyone!
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Source: Purchased for my home library
Laura Jewell is a mom to three young readers in Richardson. She was a children’s librarian at a public library before deciding to stay home with her girls.