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Rebel or Obliger? Learn To Work With Your Personality — And Make Your Life Better!

According to happiness expert, Gretchen Rubin, most of us react to life’s expectations in one of four different ways. Whatever your tendency, this book can help you knock it out of the park!
by Carrie M. King | Oct 12 2017

Do you rebel against what’s expected of you, or do you bend over backward to oblige everybody but yourself? Do you thrive on knowing what you need to achieve, or do you question every little aspect of assigned tasks?

Understanding your own tendencies, and those of the people around you, can help you to achieve your goals, to work more effectively, and to interact better with your friends and colleagues.

“The great task of our lives is to know ourselves. And then figure out, given my interests, my nature, my values, my temperament, how can I do the things I need to get the life that I want?”

Gretchen Rubin in conversation with Simplify’s Caitlin Schiller

Gretchen Rubin’s new book, The Four Tendencies, offers insight into the main ways that people react to expectations, both their own and those of society generally. According to Rubin, most of us can be sorted into one of four groups: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels.

Rather than being a facile shorthand that lazily pigeonholes people, this book instead offers shrewd insights into how we can better understand our own motivations and expectations. It also offers solutions for some of the familiar obstacles that each type faces in their daily lives.

Upholders, for example, are very self-motivated and easily meet both their own expectations and those placed on them by others. Upholders are the kinds of people that can happily get everything finished at work, start (and stick to) a new exercise regime, follow through on plans to start a new side project, and still get their full eight hours sleep every night. However, they can have trouble delegating and can get overwhelmed and defensive if they struggle to meet these expectations.

Which of the four tendencies are you?

Obligers, on the other hand, can meet the expectations of others very well while struggling to meet their own. That means that they can easily complete tasks that others assign to them, but often neglect what matters most to them, often at the expense of their own health and wellbeing. To live more fulfilling lives, it’s a good idea for Obligers to tie their personal goals to external pressure.

Questioners focus on meeting their own expectations and, as you might have guessed, question everything asked of them by someone else. They prioritize doing what makes the most sense, whether that meets expectations or not. That means that they’ll interrogate everything, even tasks that seem simple to others, to make sure that it’s absolutely the right course of action. However, this inquisitive attitude can be a major asset in science or research roles or can be a boon to efficiency improvement within an organization.

Finally, Rebels are unlikely to respond well to expectations generally, not even their own. They can frustrate themselves (and everyone around them) by their insistence on authenticity and individualism, and their reluctance to do things because it’s what’s expected of them. However, Rebels will work extremely hard at something they believe in and can contribute massively in fields of creative thinking.

Each of these tendencies comes with its own challenges and obstacles, but Rubin’s book offers clear, practical solutions for making the most of our own natural tendencies, for better managing the teams we work in, and for understanding our friends and family more effectively.

If you want to learn more about Rubin, why not listen to her conversation on the Simplify podcast? You can also read more of her work in the Blinkist library.

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