Inspire,  Motivation

How Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies Will Help You Stay Motivated

Gretchen Rubin, if you don't already know, is the author of The Happiness Project, a book I personally adore that can also be found in the library tab if you want to check it out. She writes on happiness, habits, and human nature, and her newest book, Better Than Before, takes understanding what it means to be us to the next level. 

In her newest work, Gretchen introduces her framework of the Four Tendencies that distinguish how people tend to respond to both outer and inner expectations. 

What does this mean and why does it matter?

When you try to create a new habit or get rid of a crappy one, you're creating an expectation for yourself, so as Gretchen says, its crucial to understand how we respond to expectations.

Outer expectations are things meeting work deadlines, following the law while driving, etc. while inner expectations include tasks like cutting sugar from your diet, sleeping 8 hours per night, or stop biting your nails.

Think deadlines, laws, and rules enforced by society versus New Year's Resolutions you set for yourself that no one else may even know about. 

You can take a quiz here to find which of the Four Tendencies you fall under, then use this information to effectively manage yourself and stay motivated. 

Here's how it works (from Gretchen's site):

  • Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations 
  • Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense–essentially, they make all expectations into inner expectations
  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike (I'm definitely a Rebel).

How can this help you?

Take the quiz, look deep into yourself, and figure out which of the Four Tendencies is right for you.

Do you need outside reinforcement to stay on track with deadlines or does the idea of a deadline send you straight into procrastination mode? Or, are you lucky enough to respond well to both outter and inner expectations?

Doing so will not only help you understand yourself and what makes you tick, this knowledge will help you to create and form new habits personalized to you. Essentially, you will be able to get more done and understand that not everyone works the same way. Thus, through this level of understanding different personalities, you can influence people around you as well. Become happier and stay motivated on goals. You know, the usual. 

There are some people out there you will have to work with that ask a lot of questions, that seem to complete tasks simply for the reward of having completed them (Questioners). You'll work with people that won't do what you ask them to, instead opting for what they feel like doing instead (Rebels), people that need to know and understand what's expected of them, yet just do without expectation of reward from outside influences (Upholders), and people that will go out of their way to see all your needs are met, but may have difficulty completing their own expectations (Obligers). 

You can learn to work with different types of people, manage your children's different personalities, help keep your spouse on track, and so much more by understanding the Four Tendencies and the role expectations play in our lives.

Why do I think this is an amazing theory?

We often hear that in order to be successful we need a plan. We need to schedule out every minute of our day with tasks and to-do lists, checking off the list as each is completed.

Yet, many people struggle to hold themselves accountable. 

I'm a strong believer that everyone functions differently, thus the same techniques don't work for everyone. 

SO when it comes to advice along the lines of "Schedule out your week and hold yourself accountable for each task by giving yourself a reward or even something bad to happen when you fail," some people can't seem to meet their goals. 

I may be a Rebel, but this just doesn't work for me. 

It's not just me. Some people find the reward of finishing the task to be enough, some need another person to hold them accountable. This is why many people have writing partners to keep each other on track. Some people need a combination of outside accountability and inner drive based on personal interest, and others still only need some space. 

As a Rebel, I tend to revolt from plans altogether. I like to make to-do lists, but these are all things I want to do. And I don't plan out my day or week entirely, but I do have a list of tasks I want to get done that week. Each morning, I start off by reading with my morning coffee because I like these things. I love feeling the sun on my skin, a book in my hand, the smell of coffee drifting toward my nostrils. 

Each morning, I start off by reading with my morning coffee because I like these things. I love feeling the sun on my skin, a book in my hand, the smell of coffee drifting toward my nostrils. 

After I have read for 30 minutes to an hour (or more depending on the book, my mood, whether or not I just don't want to put the book down), I decide what I want to do that day. Often, my tasks are decided by the weather, if I want to get dressed and venture outside my apartment, or how many tasks I want to get done. 

Feeling like I need or have to do something sends me into procrastination mode. That's when the indulgent child comes out and eats the entire bag of chocolate donuts instead. That's when I go out with friends even though I have a deadline or sabotage myself in some other way. 

Then I feel like I need to change myself because I'm not getting enough done, so I must need to hold myself accountable by scheduling tasks, which then only makes me hate my life and the cycle continues. 

Force doesn't work. 

Don't get me wrong, I meet deadlines. I even pride myself on not missing a single one. But at the same time, this is because I want to succeed, to write, to gain clients, to live a life of freedom that freelancing provides, and to do so I need to meet deadlines. Here, my want overrides the need. The want always comes first. 

Gretchen Rubin's Four Tendencies framework showed me that it's okay to be who I am and work how I want. 

We're not all the same. We're not just another color in a box. We're unique, and we don't all need to manage life the same way. 

Don't blindly follow every bit of advice you read, find what works best for you. (Or perhaps that's the Rebel talking). 


Buy your copy of The Four Tendencies here to get started, take the quiz, figure out your tendency, and improve your life today. 


Then, leave me a comment. Are you a Rebel too? Do you struggle accomplishing tasks, but feel driven to get to business? What's worked for you? Let me know in the comments or send me an email. Whatever works for you.