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You may remember from my fall favourites article that I spoke about a podcast that I’ve been listening to non-stop. It’s called Happier By Gretchen Rubin. This podcast is hosted by two sisters, Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft. In the podcast, the sisters discuss ways to be happier, taking into account habits and human nature. One of my favourite things about the podcast is that they keep their advice down to earth. They aren’t just spewing strategies that are unrealistic or idealistic.

Read More: Fall Favourites: A Comforting Recipe, Wood Watch, And Podcast

You’ll notice in this podcast is that Gretchen and Elizabeth talk a lot about the Four Tendencies. These are 4 personality profiles that can help explain the type of person you are and what motivates you.

The Four Tendencies are:

Upholders (meets inner and outer expectations),

Questioners (meets inner expectations but resists outer expectations),

Obligers (resists inner expectations but meets outer expectations) and,

Rebels (resists inner and outer expectations).

Spoiler Alert: I’m an Obliger.


So how is it helpful to know your tendency?

To answer, I’ll use myself as an example.

For the longest time, I relied on my iPhone to count my steps. I would check the step-counter once in awhile and noticed I wasn’t reaching my goal of 10,000 (by a long shot…).

One of my co-workers recently told me about the Carrot app. Carrot is a step-counting app but with a twist.

This app sets goals for me! When I reach my goal, the app rewards me with points towards a free movie. Through the app, I can also track my co-worker’s step-count and she can check mine too. My co-worker and I often chat about our progress and this provides me with motivation to reach my goal.

I couldn’t understand how this app was able to motivate me to reach my step goal in ways that my iPhone couldn’t. But after reading up on The Four Tendencies and knowing that I’m an Obliger, it’s pretty obvious that the Carrot app has all the features that would be motivating for me. I’m accountable to the app and my co-worker who can check on my progress (meeting outer expectations). I don’t have to rely on my own (inner) motivation to reach my goal, like the iPhone required me to do.

That’s just one of many examples of how knowing my tendency has helped me better understand my motivation and reach my goals.

So what’s your tendency?

Gretchen has a free quiz on her website that you can take to find out: QUIZ

Go take it now, I’ll wait.

Ok, now that you have the results, let’s figure out what they mean.

Here’s a video of Gretchen explaining each tendency: VIDEO

If you don’t have time, I will explain it in a nutshell.

If you’re an Upholder (meets inner and outer expectations):


Keeps New Year’s resolution and deadlines

Thrives on to-do lists

Hates letting people down, getting into trouble for things, or making mistakes


Loves following the rules


Can be too driven by rules or receiving praise

Overwhelmed and paralyzed when expectations are ambiguous

Making/breaking a habit:

Very easy because loves rules

If you’re a Questioner (meets inner expectations; resists outer expectations):


Will only do something if it makes sense (if it’s rational, there is sound justification)

Once they endorse a task, no problem following through

Intellectually engaged, loves research

Hates waiting in lines


Can’t let things go, which is tiresome for themselves and others

Overwhelmed and paralyzed when they don’t have all the information

Making/breaking a habit:

Needs to understand why they are doing what they are doing

If you’re an Obliger (resists inner expectations, meets outer expectations):


Needs deadlines, late fees, external accountability to get things done

Doesn’t like being blamed – people pleaser

Will come through for others


Does not make time for him/herself

Making/breaking a habit:

Needs external accountability (e.g., a workout buddy)

If you’re a Rebel (resists inner and outer expectations):


Does what they want to do, whenever they want to do it

Does not like taking orders from anyone, including him/herself

Motivated by choice, freedom and present desire

Authentic and in touch with what they want

Likes breaking the rules


Will do the opposite of whatever they are told

Making/breaking a habit:

Focus on present desire and the reasons why they want to do something at that moment

I’m not saying that Gretchen has the answers to explain all human behaviour or that everyone can fit neatly into one category. But I find that using the Four Tendencies framework as a tool to understand your behaviour is enlightening and revealing. For example, if you resist inner expectations, I find it most interesting that it can explain why you just can’t stop eating chips at midnight or can’t get your butt to the gym. Once you know this, you can work on strategies to make or break habits. If you’d like more information on how to change habits, I’ve written a blog post on that topic.

Read more: Tips For Changing A Bad Habit: My Donut Addiction Story

Gretchen just came out with a book on this topic which provides more in-depth information about the Four Tendencies. The book includes how to make your tendency work best for you at home, at work, and in your life.

Let me know your thoughts on this framework. I would love to hear and what your tendency is and an example of how it works (or isn’t working) for you!

What does your personality type reveal about you? Take a personality test to better understand what motivates you to succeed and do the things you do.

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