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Mindset, Happiness
January 31, 2018

Gretchen Rubins’ Four Tendencies

Happiness expert Rubins discusses the upholder, questioner, obliger and rebel types

We all want to live healthier. Whether that means eating right, working efficiently, exercising or taking care of yourself emotionally – healthy habits help us lead happier lives. But how do you adopt healthy habits? How do you step out of the struggle and make them part of your DNA? After all – we’re all wired differently and respond to inner and outer expectations in our own ways. So what is the solution that will work for you?

In this episode, our host, Ana Yoerg, sits down with best-selling author and happiness expert, Gretchen Rubin. Gretchen’s Four Tendencies framework distills complex psychological tendencies into habit-forming strategies that really work for the individual. So you can make better decisions, meet deadlines, engage more effectively, and even find a better way of understanding other people’s perspectives – allowing you to find more effective ways of communicating, connecting and finding happiness

Who is Gretchen Rubin?

Gretchen is widely regarded as an expert on the art and science of happiness and the foremost authority when it comes to habits and human nature. She has written four New York Times best-selling books, including: The Four Tendencies, Better Than Before, Happier at Home and The Happiness Project. Her books have sold more than three million copies worldwide.

Gretchen also hosts an award-winning podcast, “Happier with Gretchen Rubin,” where she discusses happiness and forming good habits with her sister, Elizabeth Craft. Gretchen is perhaps most well-known for her Four Tendencies framework, which helps people better understand what inspires them to achieve their goals.

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The Four Tendencies

The Four Tendencies are about how we respond to both inner and outer expectations. Do you embrace the rules? Do you resist? What compels you? What frustrates you? Gretchen maintains that people fall under one of four behavioral tendencies – upholder, obliger, questioner or rebel.

  • Upholder: Meets both outer and inner expectations. Mindful of deadlines and keeps resolutions easily, but requires clear instructions and tends to be inflexible.
  • Obliger: Meets outer expectations but struggles with inner expectations. Requires accountability from a coach, mentor or friend to achieve internal goals.
  • Questioner: Resists outer expectations but meets inner expectations. Requires logic and reason to achieve and will not meet goals that don’t make sense to them.
  • Rebel: Resists both outer and inner expectations. Wants total freedom to live in the moment and do things their way. Requires choices and independence to meet goals.
The key to lifelong habits

Growth is one of our deepest human needs and leads to true fulfillment in life. So why are we so often unable to stick with our goals – or unable to make them at all? Why is creating lasting change so difficult? The answer lies in how we react toward expectations, including our own internal expectations.

As Gretchen says, “There is no magic one-size-fits-all solution for forming habits.” Understanding your tendency toward expectations can help you manage your life in a more insightful, productive way. It can help you make better decisions and improve your lifestyle in a way that will get you excited for the future, instead of making you feel like every day is a chore.

The Four Tendencies can also help you understand others. Knowing what inspires others to take action is especially essential for business owners and those that build teams or manage others. The ability to influence your employees in this way can help you lead your business to productivity and profits. Learn more from Gretchen in the podcast.

Happiness expert, bestselling author & podcaster Gretchen Rubin

Happiness expert, bestselling author & podcaster Gretchen Rubin

If you’re not growing, you’re dying – but what inspires you to grow may be different than you think. If you’re ready to start building healthy habits and achieving your dreams, take the Four Tendencies quiz to see which one you are – and how you and others can leverage your type to propel you toward your goals more quickly.


[01:10] Introduction
[03:10] Welcome Gretchen
[03:30] The Four Tendencies Quiz
[03:40] Key tendencies and traits
[04:25] How do you respond to expectations?
[04:55] The Upholder
[05:23] The Questioner
[05:55] The Obliger
[06:25] Most fall into the “Obliger” category
[06:35] The Rebel
[07:20] Well-known personalities that fall into the 4 tendencies
[07:35] Taylor Swift – Upholder
[07:55] You have to understand how they think
[08:25] Steve Jobs – Questioner
[08:40] Jane Eyre – Questioner
[08:55] Andre Agassi – Obliger
[09:35] Donald Trump – Rebel
[09:50] Picasso – Rebel
[09:55] Communicating with rebels
[10:50] Rebels want choice and freedom
[11:10] Remind a rebel of their identity
[11:50] Motivating a rebel
[12:15] Information / Consequences / Choice
[13:15] Do not remind, prompt or nudge the rebel
[13:55] Communicating with Questioners
[14:15] It’s all about justification
[14:35] Questioners hate anything arbitrary
[16:15] Many Questioners don’t like to be questioned
[16:45] Understanding Obligers
[17:25] The most important thing to know about Obligers
[17:50] The importance of outer accountability
[19:05] Obligers often see outer accountability as a weakness
[20:40] Best ways to help obligers succeed
[21:10] Obliger rebellion
[22:25] Obligers are often taken advantage of
[23:45] A common misconception about Obligers
[24:55] Getting rid of outer expectations doesn’t mean inner expectations will be met
[25:15] Other misconceptions about the tendencies
[25:55] Assumptions about Upholders
[27:15] Upholders can come across rigid and cold
[28:55] The best way to nurture an upholder
[29:30] The noise of outer expectations
[31:05] Pairing the Rebel with the Obliger
[32:10] Creating healthy habits based on your tendency
[34:00] Questions and the importance of clarity
[34:45] Finding your compelling reason
[36:15] Monitoring and scheduling
[37:45] Upholders and “tightening”
[38:50] Moderators and abstainers
[40:00] There is no one “best” way to form a habit
[40:45] It’s about making your life easier
[41:15] Where to learn more about Gretchen’s work

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