The Four Tendencies

“It’s been freeing to focus on what works for me rather than what’s wrong with me.”


In May I wrote a blog post about Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin’s very practical guide to habit change. That book overflows with helpful ideas, and one of them is recognizing our natural response to expectations. According to her extensive research, people naturally tend to find they are one of the following:

*Upholder (readily meets both inner and outer expectations)

*Obliger (readily meets outer expectations, struggles to meet inner expectations)

*Questioner (readily meets inner expectations, challenges outer expectations)

*Rebel (resists all expectations, both inner and outer)

I am convinced that this woman is a genius. She says,

“The happiest, healthiest, most productive people aren’t those from a particular Tendency, but rather they’re the people who have figured out how to harness the strengths of their Tendency, counteract the weaknesses, and build the lives that work for them.”


As I mentioned in my previous post on her habits book,  I really enjoy listening to Happier, the podcast this cutting-edge author hosts with her sister. I’ve heard tons of discussion around this simple framework, and lots of listeners’ questions answered on the subject.

So much so that now I feel like a pseudo-expert, myself.  😉

It is interesting, though, to figure out with my family members how we each feel about the expectations that are all around and within us every day.


As with all such frameworks, the diagnosis is only relevant as it leads to a cure.

So the idea with the Four Tendencies is that once we understand our innate response to inner and outer expectations, we can use that self-awareness to set things up for success. It’s actually pretty inspiring to hear people’s experiences with making changes in their lives once they put this knowledge to use.


A lot of teachers, doctors, personal trainers, coaches, etc also find this perspective really useful in their work with motivating other people to do their homework, take their medicine, do their workouts, and so on.

I can easily believe this, as looking at old issues through this lens has been fascinating to me and my husband! We laugh together about the foibles we now recognize as parts of our -very different- tendencies, and practice talking to each other in terms of how we each instinctively feel about meeting- or avoiding- expectations.


Incidentally, my husband (of 23 years) is a Rebel. When I read about this Tendency, it was like someone just explained him to me. Aha. And I think he felt the same way; like someone had just explained him to himself.

He had me pinned as an Upholder, but I am actually an Obliger (with Upholder leanings)… I feel very strongly about the reality of God, and my relationship with Him motivates me to try to be and do my best. So lots of things that I seem to be doing out of a sense of accountability to myself (as an Upholder would), I am, in actual fact, doing out of a deep and abiding sense of accountability to Him.

This book is clever and very useful if you are a person, (or deal with anyone else who is one… 😉

Have you read this book?

Do you listen to the Happier podcast?

What Tendency do you see in yourself, and what does this tell you about what makes you tick?

Thank you for reading with me,

Leah 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s