July 28, 2019

Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin: From Obliging to Questioning

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About the Author

Gretchen Rubin is one of today’s most influential and thought-provoking observers of happiness and human nature. She’s known for her ability to distill and convey complex ideas with humor and clarity, in a way that’s accessible to a wide audience. 

She’s the author of many books, including the blockbuster New York Times bestsellers Outer Order, Inner Calm, The Four Tendencies, Better Than Before, and The Happiness Project. She has an enormous readership, both in print and online, and her books have sold over 3.5 million copies worldwide, in more than thirty languages. (The Happiness Project spent two years on the bestseller list.)

On her top-ranking, award-winning podcast “Happier with Gretchen Rubin,” she discusses happiness and good habits with her sister Elizabeth Craft.

In her work, she draws from cutting-edge science, the wisdom of the ages, lessons from popular culture, and her own experiences to explore how we can make our lives happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative.

Gretchen Rubin started her career in law and was clerking for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor when she realized she wanted to be a writer. Raised in Kansas City, she lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters.

Source: https://gretchenrubin.com/about/biography/

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About the Book

During her multibook investigation into human nature, Gretchen realized that by asking the suspiciously simple question “How do I respond to expectations?” we gain explosive self-knowledge.

I discovered that people fit into Four Tendencies: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Our Tendency shapes every aspect of our behavior, so understanding this framework lets us make better decisions, meet deadlines, suffer less stress and burnout, and engage more effectively. The Four Tendencies explain why we act and why we don’t act.

One of the big daily challenges of life is: “How do I get people—including myself—to do what I want?” Knowing the Four Tendencies make this task much, much easier.

Source: https://gretchenrubin.com/books/the-four-tendencies/about-the-book/


Take the quiz and find out your tendency here: https://quiz.gretchenrubin.com/

Find out more about the four tendencies here:


Listen to Gretchen’s podcast here: https://gretchenrubin.com/podcasts/

BIG IDEA 1 (5:07) – There are two types of expectations.

This is the fundamental principle of the book. The two types of expectations are your internal expectation – which is placed on us by ourselves, and your external expectation – which is placed onto us by others. 

In Gretchen’s research she found out that how people react to those expectations determines your type. It also determines what challenges, habits etc. you find easier or harder to maintain.

BIG IDEA 2 (5:56) – There are four tendencies.

This is the application of big idea number one. How you react to the two expectations creates the four tendencies. The four tendencies are upholders – they uphold inner and outer expectations with motto “do what’s right even if others say I’m uptight”. 

Second tendency is the obliger – those who are very willing to meet external expectations, doing things for others but struggle with internal expectations. Obligers motto is “you can count on me”. These are the people that might struggle to meet and uphold their New Year’s resolution.

Third type is the questioner, these people question all the expectation until they feel it was justified. They internalize & meet expectations once they agree that the expectation makes sense. Their motto is “I’ll comply if you convince me why”. (I am a questioner!).

Type number four is the rebel, and they resist all expectations. Their motto is “you can’t make me, and neither can I”. They struggle to stick to schedules or go with the plan and abide by the rules which they think aren’t necessary. 

BIG IDEA 3 (8:32) – Success through self-awareness.

Knowing your tendency helps you create the environment and habits you need to succeed both for yourself and for others. Having self awareness can help you work better with them and achieve more for yourself. 

Upholders need to loosen up themselves a bit when plans change or rules don’t make any sense or hold them back from achieving things. Obligers take commitment very seriously and are great to have in the team. But they can burn out because of always putting others first. If they become too burnt out they can become rebels. If you are an obliger and are struggling to meet inner expectations, try to find a way to pivot those so they become outer expectations (eg accountability buddies).

Questioners really challenge the expectations and making sure things are being done for good reasons. This can also go too far, trusting nothing and noone because you could not make a decision due to not enough information to decide if it’s worth doing or not. They value data and fact so working with them in your team can be an advantage. 

Rebels do things that they want to and when they want. They also find expectations almost offensive so you need to align their habits to their identity. That is the way to overcome the rebel nature. They’re great to have around because they will take you places that you think you haven’t gone to before. If this is you, find a purpose or identity to connect with to make what you need to do part of your identity.

Also listen to Atomic Habits by James Clear

Music By:  Retro Active Song by John Isaac

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