Friday, October 20, 2017

In Which I Meet Gretchen Rubin

I got to meet another one of my rockstar writers! Gretchen Rubin, who writes about happiness, habits, and human nature was at an event Wednesday night put on by the same healthcare organization that brought organizer Peter Walsh (here) and gratitude guru Janice Kaplan (here) to Louisville. 

I have been following Ms. Rubin and her blog and her books for the past ten years. I remember being laid up after surgery in 2007 and messing about online looking for help with de-cluttering, simple living, etc. Her blog The Happiness Project with its cheerful blue bird popped up and I have been a fan ever since. 

I have read and written before about her books The Happiness Project (here and here), Happier at Home (here), and Better Than Before (here).

I got to meet Ms. Rubin. I'll call her Gretchen now that we are best of friends. She was sitting next to me in the front row so I introduced myself and welcomed her to Louisville. She was very gracious and gave a terrific talk on her new book The Four Tendencies.

Image result for the four tendencies

If you aren't familiar with The Four Tendencies, it is the culmination of her research on how people respond to expectations — inner or outer. You could be an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel.

I knew even before I took her quiz that, like Gretchen, I am an Upholder. My motto, therefore, is "Discipline is my freedom." 

Upholders respond to both inner and outer expectations which means I can complete my own ToDo List and also meet deadlines set by others. We are a small group, she says. Our weaknesses?  Upholders sometimes get locked into their schedules, may seem rigid and judgmental to others, and struggle with fluid situations. This is so me!

Questioners find it easier to meet their own expectations while needing to be convinced to meet yours: "If you convince me I need to do something, then I will comply" is their reasoning. Questioners can seem stubborn and insubordinate, but it's only because, well,  they question everything.

On the other hand, Obligers respond well to outer expectations. If you are an Obliger, you work best when held accountable. If you want to read more, then joining a book club will help. Or you might try making plans to meet a friend to walk three times a week. "You can count on me and I'm counting on you to count on me" is the Obliger's rallying cry. The problem Obligers face is they can suddenly explode with anger if they feel they are being taken advantage of...which of course they are, Gretchen says. Employers of Obligers need to watch for and head off over-commitment and over-work that Obligers are famous for.

Rebels know what they want, go for it, and ignore convention. They are the spirit of resistance. A Rebel's motto is "You can't make me and neither can I." Oddly enough, Gretchen says, Rebels are attracted to high-structure jobs — the military or police — as the regulations give them something to push against. 

Understanding your own tendency in meeting expectations can help you show compassion for yourself, she says. Know that there is nothing wrong with you. Understanding how others meet expectations helps us realize that we are all different and that we can take into account another's perspective. 

After the presentation, I asked her how as an Upholder with a big dollop of Rebel, I could let that Rebel have a little more room to play. She suggested that I schedule time to wander, to explore, to daydream. If it's on my calendar, I will do it. 

What about you? Are you an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel? You can take her quiz Here. Let me know in the comments how you fared and if you agree with the results.


  1. I am primarily an Obliger, but as I get older, I see all of the other tendencies making themselves felt, especially Questioner.

    I love Gretchen's books and read her blog semi-regularly. I haven't read The Four Tendencies yet, but will check it out of my library. You do meet the most interesting people!

    1. You are right, Kathy, I think we all have a smidgen of other tendencies that fight with or complement our main one. I have never been an Obliger, though! Haha.

      It was such fun to meet Gretchen. I do feel lucky to live in a city that brings so many authors to my world.