370: Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies: Finding A Career That Fits Your Tendency


The following post complements our recent interview with Gretchen Rubin, NYT Bestselling author of The Four Tendencies. Listen to the full episode.


6:00 a.m. Alarm – It’s time to get up. You promised yourself you’d go for a run today, but if you cut your post-run shower short, you can sleep for another 4 minutes at least. *pushes snooze* 

6:04 a.m. Alarm – You decide to cut your shower out all together, but you’re definitely still going for a run next time the alarm goes off. *pushes snooze* 

6:08 a.m. Alarm  5 more minutes. You’ll skip breakfast. You’re rarely hungry in the morning anyway. *pushes snooze* 

6:13 a.m. Alarm  There’s no way that was 5 minutes. *turns off alarm and continues sleeping* 

7:02 a.m. No alarm. Wakes up and checks phone  Dammit, how did that happen AGAIN? *jumps out of bed, brushes teeth, promises self you’ll run tomorrow*  

Four Tendencies : A Gretchen Rubin Podcast

On this week’s episode of The Happen To Your Career Podcast, four-time NYT bestselling author Gretchen Rubin dives into the science behind unmet resolutions, the anchor holding you back from your side gig, and the reason one “right way” might be…well…bullshit. A seasoned podcaster, she regularly co-hosts the Happier Podcast where she provides tips for making and breaking habits and success strategies for each personality type. 

In her latest book, The Four Tendencies, Gretchen explains a personality framework involving, as you would guess, four tendencies. Each identified type is characterized by their tendency to respond to inner expectations and outer expectations. (Inner expectations being those you set on yourself—like New Year’s resolutions; outer expectations being those put on you by friends, coworkers, family, etc.) 

To listen to the episode, click play. To read about it, continue down the page.


You can discover your type by doing a short quiz over on Gretchen’s site, or identify your unique tendency using the descriptions below. 


Obligers meet the expectations of others but struggle to meet their own. This type is likely to abandon a New Year’s resolution almost as quickly as they set it—unless they enlist the help of a friend. They require outer accountability to make things happen. *If you identified with the alarm clock situation, another inner alarm might have gone off when you read this description.*  


Questioners question all expectations. They decide whether or not an expectation makes sense, and in that way, turn all expectations into inner ones. They are big on justifying their actions, and they may encounter analysis paralysis—the state of over-analyzing a situation so long that they never take action or make a decision.  


Upholders can uphold all expectations—whether inner or outer. Once they’ve articulated a goal, they can move forward unrestrained. These people may be perceived as rigid by friends and coworkers.  


Rebels resist both outer and inner expectations. They want to do what they want to do when they want to do it. They don’t enjoy taking orders from others.    


  Your result from the four tendencies test doesn’t have to limit you. The big secret Gretchen knows, and graciously shares with us on today’s podcast, is this:


That’s it. Set up external parameters that help you reach goals instead of recalibrating your brain. We know. Now that you read it, it seems kind of obvious. (We felt the same way the first time Gretchen said it.)


When you understand your innate response to expectations, you can set yourself up for success. Here are a few examples: 

An obliger struggling to stick to an inner commitment to work out may set up external expectations by joining a gym class that takes attendance, inviting a friend to be their workout partner, or scheduling workouts with a fitness trainer. 

questioner attempting to make a major decision may spend hours upon end researching, getting sucked into a black hole of information. Knowing this tendency, a questioner should remind themselves exactly what it is they need to know and why the answer is important. 

An upholder chasing after goals is unstoppable so long as they can articulate what they are going after. The first step to getting what they want is always stating what they want. Upholders must put special attention into clarifying goals. 

rebel might run from accountability instead of benefiting from it. This type may even resist their own desires, just to prove they don’t give in to expectations. To counteract the need to act in opposition to expectations, rebels should ask themselves, “What do I actually feel like doing right now?” 

Now that you’ve read about the four tendencies, do you know your type? With more self-awareness than you had 5 minutes ago, you can get started tackling your side job, transforming your career, and living a more fulfilling life. For more help in taking control of your life and career happiness, click here. 

Can’t listen to the show right now? Read the transcript here.

Gretchen Rubin 0:03
This is my idea. I must pursue it. I'm going to do this. So it wasn't so much like I was leaving law or like I didn't like law, it was more like, I felt this extraordinary pull in another direction that became irresistible.

Introduction 0:20
This is the Happen To Your Career podcast, with Scott Anthony Barlow. We help you stop doing work that doesn't fit you, figure out what it does and make it happen. We help you define the work that's unapologetically you, and then go get it. If you're ready to make a change, keep listening. Here's Scott. Here's Scott. Here's Scott.

Scott Anthony Barlow 00:44
For many years my wife, Alyssa and I, had the argument about what is the "better way to do hard things." For example, do you never have things like sugar or carbs or do you allow for a cheat day? Or is it better to train for a half marathon by running with friends long distances or by doing sprints alone during the weekend? Or do you create new habits in your life by getting an accountability buddy or by taking the time to write out your purpose and your "why" in creating the habit? Now, here's the thing. When it comes to doing hard things or changing behavior, all of them could be right or none of them. Wait, hold on. What? All right, the real answer is, it depends. Why? Well, because not everything is going to work for everyone, unfortunately, we found is that so much research and personal development advice out there is about the "best way for all human beings." But for many things in life, nutrition, running, saving for retirement to remembering to put your car keys in the same place, not everything is going to work for everyone. So how do you know what's really going to work for you? One way, is by learning how your personal expectations and the expectations of others influence your behavior. And if you get this one thing right, it makes choosing a trading plan, accomplishing financial goals and even making a career change. And actually finding your car keys so much easier, so much easier.

Gretchen Rubin 02:15
If I take another job in law, I might never have the gumption or the opportunity to try and either succeed or fail. This is the moment to try, I should take this opportunity. And if I'm ever going to switch, this is the time.

Scott Anthony Barlow 02:29
That's Gretchen Rubin. We've had so many requests from people sending me her work and her articles and books. And by the way, she's author of quite a few different books, including New York Times bestsellers, "The Four Tendencies" "Better Than Before" "The Happiness Project." She's been interviewed by Oprah, she's eaten dinner with Daniel Kahneman, walked arm in arm with the Dalai Lama. She's had her work written up in medical journals, she's even been the answer on Jeopardy, which is kind of funny. But long before, she was a bestselling author focused on happiness. Her career began very normally.

Gretchen Rubin 03:05
I started my career in law. I went to Yale for undergraduate in law school, and was doing very well on the lawyer track. So I was editor in chief of the Law Journal there, I was a clerk for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. And it was actually when I was clerking for Justice O'Connor, that I got the idea for what turned into my first book. That's when I was sort of seized by an idea. And I thought, you know what, I really think that I want to try to write this book, I want to try to be a writer. So it was, you know, process to switch from law to writing. But yeah, I started out in the law track.

Scott Anthony Barlow 03:42
Well, let me ask you about that. What prompted you to go to law school in the first place? Why did you even... why do you even want to be a lawyer?

Gretchen Rubin 03:49
I went up for all the wrong reasons, which is a reason frankly, that a lot of people go to law school.

Scott Anthony Barlow 03:52
It is.

Gretchen Rubin 03:54
You think it to yourself, it's a great education, I'm good at research and writing, it's great preparation for a lot of different things, I can always change my mind later. In my case, my father was a lawyer, very happy lawyer. He's still a very, very happy lawyer. So I had the model in my life of somebody doing it and really loving that work. And it just was, and this is what I call drift. I've written about this on my blog a few times the idea of drift. And that's when you make a decision by not deciding. When you kind of go with the flow and you do what is sort of the easiest option. And drift sounds easy, like, oh, drifting makes it sound very leisurely. Well, of course, that's not the case. I mean, law school was hard all the way from cramming for the LSAT to taking the bar exam. You know, taking my exams in law school, clerking, it was hard, but I went because I really was like, I don't really know what else to do. And so this seems like the kind of thing that I would be good at. And I was good at it. And I'm not sorry that I went. Sometimes when you drift into something, it turns out well, but not necessarily. I did not mindfully choose law. I definitely did it thinking that it was kind of an open ended and the fact about law school is that law school prepares you very well to be a lawyer. So if you don't think you want to be a lawyer, I would not go to law school. It's intended to set you up to be a lawyer and you are very well qualified for that. And it doesn't necessarily make it a lot easier to go into other careers. Some maybe it helps. The three years is a long time, it's hard to a lot of money. You want to be very careful about how you spend your time, your money and your energy.

Scott Anthony Barlow 05:25
Totally agreed. Well, let me ask you this, Gretchen, what began to happen that caused you to think, "hey, maybe I do want to consider something else." What was the set of events that led you down that path?

Gretchen Rubin 05:37
Well, you know, I think when I look back on my life, I had done many, many things to prepare myself to be a writer. And I think the problem was this I didn't see a place for myself in the writing world at that time, there was much less emphasis on sort of creative nonfiction. So it sort of thought like, I either need to be a journalist, which I did not want to be. I need to be like a novelist, playwright, a poet, which I did not want to be or I need to be an academic writer and I didn't want to do any of those things. And so I had this kind of background interest in reading and writing, but I didn't have an outlet for it. And the thing about writing, and this is true of many careers, many people in many different careers I've discovered, but it was definitely true for me and it's true of many writers, is there's almost a compulsion to it. Like you almost feel like there's no choice. And in a way, this is good, because it's very satisfying, but in a way, it's bad because it's like, kind of don't have a choice. I had this idea for a book, as I said, when I was clerking, and it was just like, it hit me. I remember exactly the minute when I had the idea. It was like, this is my idea. I must pursue it. I'm going to do this. So it wasn't so much like I was leaving law or like, I didn't like law, it was more like, I felt this extraordinary pull in another direction that became irresistible. I always think of, you know, in Star Wars when like, they're in the Millennium Falcon, and they're, like, "turn off the engines because the tractor brake cream has us" you know, and we're gonna rip ourselves apart if we don't just like go and I was sort of like, "you know, now I just, I feel this strong compulsion to go and to pursue this." And of course, it was a tremendous amount of work. And I didn't really know what to do. So I had to figure that out, which was, you know, not easy. I didn't know how to become a writer. So I had to figure that out. But so I think for me, a lot of it was just really knowing what I wanted for the first time. It wasn't so much that I didn't like what I had. It was like, Oh, my god, there's this other thing that I want. And I got to the point where I was like, you know, I'd rather fail as a writer than succeed as a lawyer at this point. And I also was at a point in my life where I was like, this is the obvious point to try. If I take another job in law, I might never have the gumption or the opportunity to try and either succeed or fail. This is the moment to try, I should take this opportunity. And if I'm ever going to switch this is the time and so I did.

Scott Anthony Barlow 07:48
It makes my heart happy that you use the Millennium Falcon example there. But aside from that, let me ask you about something that you said. And I'm curious what you thought about this for yourself, but what you've observed over the years too, because I think this is important. I heard you say that, writings always been there in one facet or another, right? Yeah, it sounds like, but initially, you really couldn't see a place for yourself in what you knew about the, I'm just gonna call it the writing world. Is that fair to say?

Gretchen Rubin 08:21
Exactly right. Yeah.

Scott Anthony Barlow 08:23
So then what... did you feel like it happened organically then, in order to begin to see yourself in a place in that world? Or did you do things intentionally throughout that process? I'm getting into the nitty gritty a little bit.

Gretchen Rubin 08:39
I have a memory, which I know is false. I know this is a false memory, because I've tried to figure out how the timing would work. It doesn't work. So I know that this is a false memory. But the way I remember it is, I went into a bookstore and I saw Mark Kurlansky, his book, "COD" the history of the world to the eyes of a fish and I was like, Oh my God, my head is exploding. You can do anything you want with none. And in my mind, that's how it happened. I don't think that that is how it happened. But somehow that is like, that's kind of like, somehow in my mind that symbolically, it was like, I began to see, because there are models of other kinds of nonfiction. There are models of non academic say, like I wrote a non academic biography of Winston Churchill, well, there are those models. And it wasn't that I was consciously saying to myself, "how do I find a place for myself in this world?" It was like, all of a sudden, I'm like, "Oh, my gosh, I have this." So my first book was called "Power, Money, Fame, Sex" a user's guide, and it was like the guide to power, money, fame and sex. And it's like, people would say to me, like, "is this a joke? Or is this real?" Because it's like a guide, but in a way that's very kind of satirical. And I love kind of false self help or false guides. There's like a whole genre of false guides. So this fits into that and then the minute I was like, this is... this kind of thing, I know this kind of thing, I can write this kind of thing, I have an idea for this kind of thing. Then it was like, "Oh my gosh." But I think it took a long time for all those points to connect. One of the things about me that I... as one of my favorite things about myself is I am very subject to epiphany. Like, it's not that uncommon for me to like, all of a sudden, like, literally stop still on a sidewalk and be like, "Oh my god, no idea is hitting me right now."

Scott Anthony Barlow 10:19
Like old moment.

Gretchen Rubin 10:21
I will remember like, exactly where I was when it was for almost all my books. I know exactly when I had the idea for it. Like, I will feel it, like entering my body. And sometimes I'll have a realization like reading something, I'll be like... like the electricity hits me. And so, and but that was the... and it had happened before. But this was the first time when I was like, "Yes, I see what this would be and how much fun this could be and like how I could develop this idea."

Scott Anthony Barlow 10:48
That's amazing. So let me ask you then, about the happiness project. I was trying to find where and how that idea hit you. And now you've brought up this whole element of that idea hitting you, but what was that? You mentioned casually in the book itself, but then you don't necessarily go into detail about what was that moment.

Gretchen Rubin 11:07
So I was on the Crosstown bus, if any of your listeners know, New York feels on the Crosstown bus at 79th Street, it was pouring rain, and there was a lot of construction on the streets, it was going very slowly. And I just had one of these moments for reflection when that a lot of times you don't have in everyday life, because we're all sort of rushing from this to that, you're thinking about everything that you need to get done and everything that's just happened or that's going to happen. And so anyway, I had one of these moments where I was just like, I'm stuck on this bus, I'm not going anywhere. And I looked out the window and I just thought, you know, "what do I want from life anyway?" Like I just asked myself, like the biggest question, and I thought, well, I want to be happy. And I realized at that moment, I never thought about happiness. I never asked myself if I were happy. I never thought about, "is there a way, could I be happier?" "Like, is it even possible to be happier? Like, is that something you can affect?" And I said, I thought of it as, "you know, I should have a happiness project" and it was like, "babam!" My happiness project like, yeah. And then later on people were like, "Oh, I don't like to say, this title, you should call it something else. Happiness project sounds like too much work." And I'm like, "No. From the very first conception of it, that is what it has been to me. The happiness project." But it was good to be just for me, this started out as just like my own private revelation. And I saw random books, the library and got a huge stack of books, checked out a huge stack of books about happiness and started doing all this research. But I do that fairly often. Like, I'm obsessed with color, I'm obsessed with the placebo response. I'm obsessed with smell like I do all this research that may or may not show up in a form that anybody else would see. So that's not that uncommon. But with happiness, it was just so rich and so deep, and I kept going deeper and deeper and deeper into it, and got bigger and bigger and bigger. I was finishing up my biography of JFK at that time. And I was just so entranced by this research that at a certain point, I thought, well, maybe this is my next book. Maybe my happiness project isn't just something that I will do for fun, but I will actually do it and write a book about it. And so that's how I got the idea for that book.

Scott Anthony Barlow 13:03
I love that. I love that. I'm very much the same way in that I will, one, get to many epiphanies, and then those will happen at certain moments, but also very much I get attached to particular topics and then I want to know everything about it, and I'm gonna read all the books or whatever it might be.

Gretchen Rubin 13:19
So fun when that happened. Oh, my God.

Scott Anthony Barlow 13:21
Oh, yeah. Okay, so not to dovetail too far off here. And I really want to come back and talk both about happiness and also a subject that you introduced in one of your earlier books, but has made the showcase for your latest novel, in the four tendencies...

Gretchen Rubin 13:37
It's not a novel. But yeah, my book.

Scott Anthony Barlow 13:40
Your latest book. Yes.

Gretchen Rubin 13:43
I don't want any novel readers to expect a novel. You sadly disciplined novel.

Scott Anthony Barlow 13:50
I do want to come back and ask you, I've had so many questions about that. However, I am curious. I just recently, I heard you mentioned the biography for Winston Churchill and I just recently came back, my family and I spent a month in the UK, and got to be kind of entrenched in some of the Winston Churchill history. So I'm curious, what were some of your big takeaways in researching him, and what did you love about the man? What did you dislike about the man?

Gretchen Rubin 14:20
Well, I wrote a short, unconventional biography of Churchill. And part of what the point of that book was to kind of be a meditation on the nature of biography and the nature of telling the story of someone's life. And so the way it's called "40 Ways To Look At Winston Churchill." And it takes... it looks at him in 40 different ways. And so it kind of forces you as the reader to think about like, Oh, well, how is the way that I'm receiving this information leading me? How is the biographer leading me to certain conclusions? For instance, the first chapter is like the heroic version of Churchill, all absolutely, factually true. It's absolutely true. The whole thing, it's perfectly factually accurate, and it's just you come away thinking like Winston Churchill's one of the greatest people who've ever lived. Then I have the other version of Winston Churchill also very, you know, 100%, factually accurate. But it's like you come away thinking this is a deeply, deeply flawed person who made many, many, many significant mistakes on the world stage. Both are true. And I'm true and you will see how I'm leading you to a different conclusion. And it's funny because I will get emails from readers, vociferously arguing to me using facts that they're quoting back to me that I put in the book. I'm like, "I told you that. You're saying that because I told you that. I wrote that, I know that." So I love Churchill because he is so complex. And there are so many things to look at. I mean, he was involved in everything for so long. One of the things I admire most and I say personally that I learned the most was writing because a very annoyingly, not only was he this like, you know, world statesman, he's also a brilliant writer, and I learned a lot about writing from just... I was just reading his speeches, his memos, his, of course his books, which of which he wrote many of many different types, all very wonderful to read. Anyone who hasn't read, "Painting As A Pastime" or "The History of the English Speaking People" or "My Early Life" these are wonderful, wonderful books. "The History of the English Speaking People" not so factually accurate but okay. The other thing that's so fun about studying Churchill is like all the people that... so many people around him, were themselves brilliant writers and thinkers and so interesting to sort of pursue all those things. And of course, it was such a tremendous time in the world. What a joy it was to write that book. I love studying Churchill. I have a gigantic bookshelf full of my Churchill collection. One day, I wanted to go back and reread all those books again, because it was such a delight.

Scott Anthony Barlow 16:44
Churchill's fascinating, I didn't even realize how much. I've always been a Churchill fan just because of the reason that you pointed out, he's so complex. There's so many different sides to him. And he's so fantastic since he's been involved with so many different pieces in a lot of times pretty high profile, high stakes sort of way. But I'm super curious, possibly the most important question there is, which of "The Four Tendencies" just Churchill fall into?

Gretchen Rubin 17:11
I think he's a questioner.

Scott Anthony Barlow 17:12
So that's what I figured you would say. Well, in a little bit of background here, let's shift gears, because I'd love to ask you some more about, how "The Four Tendencies" really came about? I know that it was a process there. That one did not sound like an epiphany, except for...

Gretchen Rubin 17:31
Oh, it was. It was absolutely.

Scott Anthony Barlow 17:33
Well, then I want to hear about it as well. So "Four Tendencies" is your newest book, to be clear, not a novel. And how do you describe that book when you're talking about it to other people? And what are "The Four Tendencies"? Set us up here. Help us understand that.

Gretchen Rubin 17:47
So, "The Four Tendencies" is a personality framework that I feel like I discovered it, I didn't... I wouldn't even say I invented it. I discovered it in the world that divides the world into four types of people. They say they're are two types of people, the kind of people who divide people into two types of people and the kind of people who don't. And I'm the kind of people who does. I'm always looking for sort of vocabulary to kind of make generalizations about how people behave and how they respond. So this personality framework divides people into upholders, questioners like Churchill, obligers, and rebels. And what "The Four Tendencies" looks at is how people respond to expectations. So it's a very narrow aspect of your nature, but it's a very significant aspect of your nature. Because we all faced two kinds of expectations, outer expectations, like a work deadline or request from a friend, and then our own inner expectations, which is like I want to keep a new year's resolution. I want to get back into practicing guitar. These are the things I asked myself. So depending on how a person responds to outer and inner expectations, that's what determines whether or not they're an upholder, a questioner and obliger or rebel. And then in front, once you know someone's tendency, gives you a lot... a huge amount of insight into or yourself if it's you how to get yourself to do something, how to set up situations that makes it much more likely for people to succeed? How you understand conflict that you have with other people, or frustration because like, why do they see the world in a different way for me? That's what the tendencies will show.

Scott Anthony Barlow 19:20
Well, I think this is super fascinating and super relevant to everyone who's listening here, because many of the people who are listening right now are in the place where they want to make a very large change in their life. Often it is a career change, and they're wanting to do something differently and how we respond, to your point, how we respond to inner and outer expectations drastically changes, how we might be successful in some ways in going about those types of major life changes. Is that fair to say?

Gretchen Rubin 19:50
Absolutely. Okay, once you know the definition of before you start seeing how you need to do things differently.

Scott Anthony Barlow 19:56
Oh, yeah, I gotta be honest with you. When people first started sending me your work and then eventually, you know, this book came across my desk. I'm like, does the world really need another set of category, even though I'm the type person who also puts people in categories left and right. But I started thinking about that. And then I read the book and it's like, "oh, this is good. I like this". So, I'm a questioner. But... let's go through some of these and talk about them briefly. And here's what I'm really interested in for the people in each category, how can they best make a rather large type change? Because when we're talking about a large career change, that's more like a marathon than a sprint. It's behavioral change.

Gretchen Rubin 20:36
And I think, this is... "The Four Tendencies" and something that helps with exactly that kind of challenge. So I will briefly describe these and most people know what they are from a brief description but if you want to take a quiz, that will tell you an answer, you can go to my website, which is gretchenrubin.com. Like, I think 1.3 million people have taken this free quiz. It's fast, it's easy, if you want an answer. And on my podcast, Happier With Gretchen Rubin, we talked about it a lot. So if you want to hear more discussion of your tendency or the, in general, there's a lot of stuff on the happier podcast. But like I say, most people can tell what they are from a very brief description, which I will give now. So upholders readily meet... I'll go through them quickly, and then I'll go back and explain, what you would do differently depending on your tendency so that people kind of know what they are. You sort of have to hear all four before you know. These are nice people are like, "that's me." "No, that's me." Okay, now I know what I am. Okay. So upholders readily meet outer and inner expectations. So they meet the work deadline, they keep the new year's resolution without much fuss. They want to know what other people expect from them, but their expectations for themselves are just as important. Then there are questioners like you and Winston Churchill, questioners question all expectations. They'll do something if they think it makes sense. So their question is like, "why should I?" They want justification, they tend to resist anything arbitrary, inefficient or unjustified. So once... so they're making everything an inner expectation. If something meets their inner standard, they will do it no problem. If it fails their standard, they will push back.

Scott Anthony Barlow 22:04
And we despise waiting in line. I will go to great lengths to not have to wait in line, no matter how long or where it is or whatever else.

Gretchen Rubin 22:13
Then there are obligers. And obligers readily meet outer expectations but they struggle to meet inner expectations. And I got my epiphany about the whole "Four Tendencies" came when somebody said something to me that, then now I recognized was something that an obliger says, she said, "I don't understand it. I know I would be happier if I exercised. When I was in high school, I was on the varsity track team and I never missed track practice. So why can't I go running now?" The answer is, because you're an obliger. Obligers readily meet outer expectations but they struggle to meet inner expectations. When she had a team and a coach, expecting her to show up, no problem. When she's trying to go on her own, it's a challenge. Then finally, rebels. Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner like. They want to do what they want to do in their own way, in their own time. And if you ask or tell them to do something, they're very likely to resist, though they could do anything they want to do, anything they choose to do. And so rebels don't want to take orders from other people. They want to do what they want to do when they want to do it. And the interesting thing about "The Four Tendencies" is they're not the same number of these things in... of the tendencies in the world, the biggest tendency for both men and women, by a fair amount, is obliger. You either are an obliger, you have many obligers in your life, that's a big tendency.

Scott Anthony Barlow 23:28
So I thought that was super interesting. Why do you think that is? After...

Gretchen Rubin 23:31
I think it's evolution. I mean, evolution decides everything for us, I think. Because I really believe in the genetic roots of personality. So I think that this is somehow, this is what genetics have predisposed us to and evolution has its own purpose. And you can see why that would be. It's great to have lots of obligers around, but you can't have all obligers. Then there are questioners, questions are the second largest. Then rebel is the smallest tendency. It's a conspicuous tendency, but it's a small tendency and my tendency, upholder tendency is only a tiny bit larger. So my tendencies is also a very rare and kind of extreme type of personality. So when you're thinking about like, if you're trying to develop a message or a curriculum or you're setting up an app or something like this, it's very helpful to realize, most of the people you're going to be talking to are either going to be obligers, or questioners, the rebels and the upholders are the extreme personalities. There aren't that many of them relative to the other two. But to your point, you're very important point, which is okay, I want to make a big career change, how do I harness the power of my tendency? How do I offset the weaknesses and limitations of my tendency, and get myself where I want to go? This is the question for all of us. How do I get... how do I make the life I want? How do I make the changes that I want in my life, especially if I'm frustrated? So for that kind of change, it's probably pretty easy for upholders. Once they decide what they want and look at me, right. I was just like, you know what, I think I would like to go to law school. So, I went. I think I would like to become a writer. So, I did what I needed to do. I didn't have an agent, I didn't have have an editor, I didn't have anybody holding me accountable. And yet I was able to follow through because once I had that very clear idea in my head of what I wanted to do, then I could execute. So easiest, that kind of thing for upholders. They have to make sure they know what they're expecting of themselves. They have to clearly articulate what they're expecting of themselves, because otherwise they can't meet those expectations.

Scott Anthony Barlow 25:22
Well, that's what I was gonna say, though. Let me ask you about that, because your first statement almost left us with, "hey, I'm just gonna... it's no problem for upholders. Right?" But it sounds like, really, it actually is much more about making sure that you have those clear expectations. Is that what you're saying?

Gretchen Rubin 25:41
Yeah, but I mean, I imagine that in your case, people have a clear expectation. They're not... they're like, my expectation is I'd like to make a clear career change. I imagine that that's the people, in your audience, they're not like it has never occurred to them that they would like to make a certain kind of change. They know that they want to make the change, or maybe not. I give that that's the first step. The first step is to know what you want. As always. And yeah, that can be easier said than done. Like, for me, I was alarmed because I didn't know what I wanted to do, then when I figured out what I wanted to do, that I want to do that. So yes, you have to do that. Then they're questioners. So when questioners are facing a challenge of not being... there, for some reason, they're not doing what they want to do. I want to make this change, I don't understand why I'm not making this change. Because again, if people are like, well on their way to making this change, it's not such a challenge. The challenge comes when for some reason, it's not happening in a way and people get frustrated with themselves. For questioner, you always want to go deep into justification. And so a lot of times when questioners are not able to move forward, one thing is they can have analysis paralysis. This is when they want more and more and more information and their desire to have perfect information or to do total research means that they can't make a decision or move forward. So it's sort of like, "Okay, I have a job as an accountant, I know I don't want to be an accountant, I think I want to be a lawyer, but I need to do more and more and more research about, what would I do? What would I be? How would this look? How would I prefer in?" And then it gets in their way. Because it's sort of the black hole of information. And that's so satisfying too. So questioners have to guard against analysis paralysis. And then also they have to have clarity of what their inner expectation is. And for them, that means, what are you asking of yourself? And why? Why is this the right choice for you? Why is this the most efficient way to go about it? If you get caught in kind of like, well, I don't know, should I study for the bar exam on my own? Or should I take a class? Maybe I should do it online or, you know, maybe I should have a study group. Again, it's like, understand exactly what you're asking for yourself and why that is the highest and best answer for you. And then actions follow. So when questioners can't do it, it's because they really aren't clear on why and how. For obligers, and I bench and you have a lot of obligers because this is the kind of thing obligers struggle with, they're like, for years, I've wanted to have the side hustle, I'm totally interested in starting my online textile design business. I've totally committed to it, I'm 100% motivated every year I wake up and I'm like, this is the year I'm gonna start my business and I never do it. What's the problem? This is the universal experience of obligers. They cannot meet inner expectations unless they have outer accountability. This is good news. Because outer accountability is absolutely easy to set up. There are 1 Million ways to give yourself outer accountability once you realize that is what you need. A lot of times obligers try to work on motivation, they try to whip themselves into a frenzy of desire. This does not work. What works is outer expectation. So like my friend who was not exercising, I would have said work out with a trainer. Take a class where the teacher takes attendance. Work out with a friend who's gonna be annoyed if you don't show up. Take your dog who's gonna be so disappointed if she doesn't get to go for a walk. Think of your duty to be a role model for someone else. Think of your obligation to your future self. Gretchen right now doesn't want to exercise but future Gretchen is going to be so disappointed, if Gretchen doesn't start keeping this habit of exercise. And so the person with the textile business I would say, get an executive coach, start an entrepreneur group where everybody checks in once a week and hold each other accountable. Get yourself some customers. Say to 10 people, I'll give you... your my first on my list, I'm giving you a free whatever it is. And then these people will be like, "hey, you said I was getting a free bag, where's my bag?" Like, now you've got a customer, you're gonna have to deliver, you're gonna have to create that business because you've got customers waiting for you, or client or students, whatever it is create that accountability. One of my favorite ones was somebody who, she told her kids, "you have your homework, and I have my homework. And when you are working on your homework, I will work on my homework. And by the way, kids, if you see that I'm not working on my homework, you get to take the night off too." So her kids are like policemen. All they do is like "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, why don't, you know, why don't you watch TV with us?" But now she has to work because she wants her kids to do their homework and so she's created outer accountability for herself. There's a million million million ways to do it once you realize that that's what's necessary. These are the tip offs for obligers. I would never let someone else down, but I let myself down. Everyone else is the priority, I can't make myself the priority. I have no time for self care. Everyone can rely on me, I don't know why I can't rely on myself. I've given up making new year's resolutions because I've made them broken them so many times. I'm so discouraged, I would never do it again. If you say those kinds of things, if that rings true, then you earn obliger. And again, it's a very big tendency. So you are in good company. And there's tons of resources and hacks and strategies for obligers to use to get themselves the outer accountability that they need to follow through and once they have that outer accountability, they're great.

Scott Anthony Barlow 30:48
Have you... totally just curious because I'm a questioner. It occurs to me that, since you have dived into a lot of the different topics around happiness, have you also dived into around behavioral change by any chance?

Gretchen Rubin 31:03
Yes, I wrote a book called "Better Than Before". That's all about housing. That's the 21 strategies of how to make or break habit. And that's what led me to "The Four Tendencies" because when I was looking at how people successfully made and broke habits, I noticed that there were these patterns, these kind of very large patterns that seemed to affect, for instance, accountability. As I said, work is necessary for obligers. It's absolutely crucial for obligers. For rebels, it can be counterproductive. Some rebels, they will resist, if they feel like somebody is looking over their shoulder, they won't do it, it will ignite the spirit of resistance. So it's like, you can't just say like, oh, accountability is great, it's great for some people, it might not be great for other. So I started picking up these differences and like what would work for people? And that's what led me to an understanding of "The Four Tendencies". Yeah, so I think about behavior change all the time.

Scott Anthony Barlow 31:07
That is right. That is what we do in our business and our work. So I am right there with you. I was going to ask you and as you were thinking about behavioral change, and as you were doing the research for that book, and everything else that came along with it. Have you found any place else that groups in that particular way? Because most of the research that I've seen available out there, kind of lumps almost everybody into one group in terms of like, "hey, you need to get an accountability group or, you know, these seven things work, but doesn't really chunk it out much further."

Gretchen Rubin 32:17
No, I think it's a huge mistake. And I sort of don't understand it, because it's totally obvious to me. I mean, I think it's totally obvious just from living in the world that there isn't a one size fits all solution for everyone. There is no magic answer. There is no best practice. Because it's what works for you. Because what works for me may not work for you. And a really big part of understanding how to change, is to understand well, what am I like? And so how do I set things up so that I will succeed in the way that's right for me? And a very obvious, I get to think of like a very blatant example of this. The habit experts or the... like sort of happiness wellness experts often say things like, start small, give yourself 30 days, give yourself a cheat day, do it first thing in the morning. Okay. Right. Like that's going to be universally successful. But let's just think about, do it first thing in the morning. There's a million reasons on paper where that makes sense. I get it. But you go to a group of people and say, "how many people here a morning people?" Half the hands go up. "How many people here a night people?" Half the hands go up, or more or less. It's a real thing. Research shows that this is largely genetically determined and a function of age. Some people are at their most productive, creative and energetic much later in the day. And if you're a night person, the idea that you're going to get up early and go for a run before work, or that you're going to be at your most productive and creative if you have 8am staff meeting with a bunch of other night people, it's just not the case. It's just not so. And so to me, I'm like... it's much, instead of trying to beat yourself up year after year after year to try to get yourself to go running in the morning, say to yourself, "I'm an exercise in the afternoon." So there's a million reasons like, okay, why is that challenging? Well, that... but that's a different problem. If you're like, what I need to do is figure out a way to exercise between lunch and 6pm, you can figure that out. Much more easily than you're going to get yourself up early in the morning because it's just not right for you. There's and... better than before I go through all sorts of distinctions about, "how to figure out what kind of person you are so you can set yourself up for success?" Because what happens a lot of times, is that people are like, "oh, well, this really, this works really well for my brother in law. This works really well for my spouse. If it doesn't work for me, there's something wrong with me. I don't have any willpower. I don't have any self control. I don't have any self esteem." I'm like, "no, it's like, you're an abstainer. And he's a moderator" or "you're a finisher and she's an opener" or "you're a marathoner and he's a sprinter." There's like a million ways that people are different from each other. And once you kind of know yourself, then you can set things up in the way that's right for you. It's much easier to change your circumstances and your surroundings than it is to change your inner nature. So I'm like, take the easy way. That make it easy for yourself. Instead and find to beat yourself up, which doesn't work.

Scott Anthony Barlow 34:59
Works exactly, almost zero percent of the time.

Gretchen Rubin 35:02
It doesn't work for long.

Scott Anthony Barlow 35:03

Gretchen Rubin 35:05
I mean, anybody can give up sugar for lunch. You know, it's like, what do you do after lunch? How do you keep that going? That's when it starts getting interesting.

Scott Anthony Barlow 35:13
So to be quite honest, that's one of the main reasons as I was reading through "The Four Tendencies", that's what jumped into my mind for one of the reasons I liked it because, you know, applied to behavioral change specifically, it showcases that, hey, really, we are not one size fits all, and that we must take all of those differences into consideration because just like what you described, I mean, I'm thinking about my wife and I just had this conversation just the other day where, you know, it works for me to, you know, go through and never have any kind of dessert for like a month at a time and that just works better and not breaking it up versus she needs a cheat day.

Gretchen Rubin 35:53
So that's moderator abstainers. So some people when they're giving up, like a temptation, not something that they're just mildly interested in but something that's really a temptation, There do better when they haven't never, like when they really just avoid it all together, they can have none. But it's hard for them to have a little. But then some people get kind of rebellious and anxious if they're told they can never have something. So they like to have a little bit, they'll have it sometimes, they'll have like five french fries, they'll have like, you know, a couple bites of ice cream. And the fact is a lot of times, abstainers and moderators tell each other that they're doing it wrong. I am 100% abstainer, I don't... I never eat sugar. I really don't eat carb. So I didn't eat bread, pasta, rice, any of that stuff ever. It's my birthday. Do I eat it? No. It's Christmas. Do I eat it? No, because I don't need it. That's what works for me. I love it. And people will say to me, "it's not healthy for you to be so rigid. You need to learn how to indulge from time to time." And I'm like, "why do I need to? This works for me. I'm not saying it's gonna work for you." Because some people, they like to have a little bit, they like to have it. And that's what works for them. And it's just like, but I'm like, why don't you just quit cold turkey? Like why do you keep breaking the rules? It's like, that way works for them, and it's... like if you and your wife are like, my way works for me, your way works for you. It's like how do we create an environment where we both thrive? Instead of saying, one of us has to convert the other. One of us has to convert, convince the other that I'm right, you're wrong. It's like we can both be right, because there's no right or wrong. It's just what works for you. But I think a lot of times people don't. They feel like there's a best way. And it's only what's best for you.

Scott Anthony Barlow 37:25
That is fantastic. Thank you for making that point. I think if you do nothing else... if you do nothing else, realizing that it's more important to find the best way for you, for all the things that we've talked about so far, rather than trying to find the "right way" and when it doesn't work blaming yourself. And then I don't know, ending up huddling in a corner with a whole bunch ice cream or whatever it happens to be. Don't do that thing. So I really appreciate you pointing that out. I have become a rapid fan as I have been beed over the head with your work over the last, I don't know, several years at this point. And I'm just really, really appreciative of you taking the time and coming and sharing this with our group, with our audience.

Gretchen Rubin 38:13
Thanks for having me. It's like we could talk all day.

Scott Anthony Barlow 38:15
I do as well. I love this stuff. And I do love to talk all day about it. We don't have all day though. So where can people find your work? Where should we send them if they want more Gretchen? And they're like, "how to get more Gretchen?"

Gretchen Rubin 38:29
That's great. Well, if you like to listen to podcast, I have a podcast called Happier With Gretchen Rubin, which I do with my sister. She's my co host. She's a TV writer. And so runner living in LA and so each week we talk about how to be happier, healthier, more productive, more creative. And we're sisters so we don't let each other get away with very much. So that's super fun. I also have my books. We touched on the happiness project, which was my one year experiment and how to be happier like all the things that I did. I wrote a book called "Happier At Home" which is really about focusing on happiness in the home, which is one of the few universal ideas within happiness. Then I wrote a book, we also talked about, "Better Than Before" which is all about habit change. It's the 21 strategies you can use to make or break your habits. And then "The Four Tendencies" goes just really deep into using "The Four Tendencies" dealing with them, you know, whether it's at work, whether it's in a romance, whether it's with a child, whether it's in healthcare, I hear from a ton of healthcare professionals, as well as just sort of general workplace stuff. It goes into all the questions of "how do you deal with other people have that tendency and how do you deal with yourself taking into account your tendency?" And then I have a site, gretchenrubin.com where I post about my adventures and happiness and have lots of tons and tons of resources there about anything anybody would want to go deeper on. And then I'm all over social media as Gretchen Rubin and I'd love to connect with listeners and viewers and readers. So anywhere you see me I'm like, all all out there. I love to hear from people.

Scott Anthony Barlow 40:00
Hey, I hope you loved my conversation with Gretchen. I know that every time I've interacted with her, or read her books or anything, I always get a lot out of it. And we spent quite a bit of time talking about the four tendencies as well as how you can leverage expectations. So we put all that into a blog post where you can go to happentoyourcareer.com/370, Episode 370, and find everything that we talked about in today's episode. But if you're needing help to identify your tendencies for yourself, and make the best use of them, especially as it relates to your career, then here's what I want you to do. I want you to text MY COACH (M-Y COACH) to 44222 and we'll send you a coaching application and questionnaire and we'll schedule a conversation with you so we can figure out the very best way that we can help you. Where we can support you. Next week though, we're going to share some of the best information that we've gathered about negotiating your next job offer, and actually I've had quite a few conversations with several experts in negotiation.

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