The Four Tendencies

Recently I finished the latest book by one of my favorite authors, Gretchen Rubin, called The Four Tendencies. I love Gretchen’s books because she writes about human behavior and how creating habits can make our lives more fulfilling.

I’ve always been interested in those same subjects and enjoy the process of trying new ways to make my life more efficient, simple, and meaningful. I must have read her previous book, Better Than Before, about five times because it has so many great ideas about habits I wanted to implement in my life.

In her new book, The Four Tendencies, Gretchen created a framework around how we respond to the internal and external expectations of ourselves, and explains why we take action and why we don’t take action on those inner and outer expectations.

The four tendencies are:

  • Upholder (Gretchen): responds readily to inner and outer expectations
  • Questioner: questions all expectations, they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense. Essentially they make all expectations into inner expectations
  • Obliger (that’s me): meets outer expectations, but struggles to meet expectations they put on themselves
  • Rebels: Resist all expectations, inner and outer alike

I already knew I was an Obliger from the description, but I took her four tendencies online quiz, just to be certain, and my most dominant tendency is indeed Obliger (you can take it here).

In the book, the greatest amount of time is spent written about Obligers and Questioners, because according to her research the majority of people identify with those tendencies.

Listening to the chapter on Obliger felt like getting a performance review from a boss and it was one of those “swallow your pride and humbly receive the corrective criticism” kind of moments. It was truly hard for me to hear and I wanted to reject it until I realized, if I’m completely honest, she’s describing me.

What I found difficult to receive was what she says about Obligers: they will work hard to try and not let others down, but often end up letting themselves down.

Obligers find it hard to create habits, because habits are for ourselves, and as an Obliger, I do things more easily for others than for myself.

The more I thought about it, the more I knew this was true for me. I’d always wondered why I excelled in things like school, gymnastics, cheerleading, track, and cross country, but struggled with adulthood.

I never had a hard time showing up and meeting others expectations of me in those activities, but when it came to showing up for myself via waking up early to exercise, making calls to build my business, or cooking healthy meals (AKA meeting my own internal expectations), it usually got put on the back burner.

I finally understood the answer to combatting these tendencies when I read that for Obligers, the key to forming habits is to create external accountability.

Deep down, I knew this about myself, but resented the fact that I couldn’t make myself do it on my own. I felt discouraged because I initially thought Gretchen was saying I would inevitably fail as a business owner because of my Obliger tendency.

As I read on, however, I realized she laid out a plan to address the problem (which is not getting the things done in my business I say I want to do) and then gave me the holy grail to my success: creating systems of external accountability.

For example:

  • Find an accountability partner to help keep you accountable for your daily, weekly, and monthly goals
  • Hire a business coach to help you organize your short-term and long-term business goals, and who will then keep you taking action on the steps needed to reach them
  • Workout with a friend or sign up for a class

In a way, reading this book felt like getting permission to seek the accountability I need so I can start following through on my own personal goals the way I follow through for others.

I would love to know…

Which of the four tendencies are you? Please share an example of how this plays out in your everyday life, and if you have any tips on how you hit your goals!

Can’t wait to hear your thoughts! Next week, I’ll share one of the external accountability systems I’ve already put in place!

I hope you found this post helpful and I’m so grateful for your time! For more on Gretchen Rubin, you can go to Love and Blessings.

PS – I’d love the opportunity to come share my inspirational message at your next company meeting, church event, inspirational gathering, mom’s group etc. Please email me at [email protected]

PPS – Back in 2015 when I published The Ellie Project, a book Andrew wrote and illustrated during the the final months of his life for our then two-year-old daughter, Ellie, I had no idea the impact it would have on families all over the country. It’s sold over 6,000 plus copies, and continues to leave a lasting impression on the hearts of those who read it. Get your signed copy here.