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  • gretchenrubin 12:00:37 on 2017/12/16 Permalink
    Tags: , , Four Tendencies,   

    Use the Four Tendencies to Tackle Your New Year’s Resolutions (Or Not). 

    Because I study happiness, good habits, and human nature, I've done a lot of thinking about New Year's resolutions.

    In fact, when I was identifying the Four Tendencies -- my framework that divides the world into Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels -- thinking about various reactions to New Year's resolutions gave me an important insight into how people see the world differently.

    So how do the Four Tendencies respond to New Year's resolutions? How can they meet any challenges they face?

    Obligers:

    Obligers often say, “I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore because I never manage to keep them—I never make time for myself.” They're discouraged because they've tried and failed in the past.

    The solution is easy: Create outer accountability. Want to read more? Join a book group. Want to exercise? Join a class, work out with a trainer, meet a friend who expects company, think of the duty to be a role model for other people...there are hundreds of ways to build outer accountability. And that's what Obligers need. It's not a matter of motivation, setting priorities, putting themselves first; they must have outer accountability to meet inner expectations.

    Questioners:

    Questioners are good at keeping resolutions that they set for themselves, but they usually start them whenever the time seems right. Often, they won't wait for the New Year, because they object that "January 1 is just an arbitrary date. And it's not efficient to wait to do something that I could start now."

    If Questioners struggle, it's usually because they're not convinced that this resolution is the best, most efficient way for them to meet their aim -- or they don't trust the judgment of the person encouraging them to make a change.

    To do a better job of keeping a resolution, they should do their research, get clarity on why they're pursuing a certain aim in a certain way, and reassure themselves that this approach makes the most sense. Questioners sometimes face "analysis-paralysis," when they want perfect information before moving ahead. It's helpful for them to remember, "At a certain point, it's not efficient to keep researching. To get the benefit of my resolution, I need to get started without more delay."

    Rebels:

    Rebels generally don't bind themselves in advance, so a New Year's resolution might not appeal to them. They want to do what they want, in their own way, in their own time -- not because they promised themselves they'd do it.

    On the other hand, some Rebels love the challenge of a New Year's resolution: "My family thinks I can't give up sugar for a year? Well, watch me!" or "Starting January 1, I'm going to work on my novel, and I'm going to finish by December 31st."

    Upholders:

    Upholders often make and keep New Year's resolutions. Upholders are great at this sort of thing.

    People often ask me, "Is it a good idea to make New Year's resolutions?"

    The fact is, there's no one-size-fits-all solution for happiness and good habits. If making a New Year's resolution appeals to you, try it. If you dislike the idea, don't. There's no special magic to it. I think it's great to have milestones that remind us to consider our lives and how we could be happier, and January 1 is a great opportunity for self-reflection, but whether that's the New Year, your birthday, an important anniversary doesn't matter. It's whatever works for you.

    If you want to keep a resolution -- for the New Year, or at any other time -- knowing your Tendency can help you stick to it. This knowledge provides important clues for how to address any challenges that might come up.

    If you're an Obliger, spending a lot of time focusing on motivation won't help. If you're a Rebel, signing up for a class probably won't work. If you're a Questioner, you're not going to follow someone else's program without questions.

    Has understanding your Tendency changed the way you approach New Year's resolutions? I'd love to hear examples about the Four Tendencies in action. If you want to learn more about the Four Tendencies, get a copy of my latest New York Times bestseller, The Four Tendencies.

     
  • gretchenrubin 22:06:09 on 2017/12/08 Permalink
    Tags: , , Four Tendencies, ,   

    Looking for Holiday Gifts? Consider These Suggestions. (Warning: Blatant Self-Promotion!) 

    'Tis the season to buy presents, and most of us can use some good suggestions. So be warned, I’m going to make a plug for my various creations -- books, journals, calendar, coloring book, and even mugs.

    The Happiness Project was a #1 New York Times bestseller, on the bestseller list for more than two years, translated into more than 30 languages, and was even a question on the quiz show Jeopardy! (Which was quite surreal, I must admit.) I spent a year test-driving the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific research, and lessons from pop culture to figure out how to be happier.

    Happier at Home is about how to be...you guessed it...happier at home. Of everything I've ever written, this book is my sister Elizabeth's favorite. Time, possessions, neighborhood, clutter (of course), the sense of smell -- I got to write about so many great subjects in this book. Also a New York Times bestseller.

    Better Than Before is all about how to make or break habits -- so if you know someone who's planning to make 2018 a happier, healthier, more productive year, this book might be a big help. It turns out it's not that hard to change your habits -- when you know how to do it in the way that's right for you. Also a New York Times bestseller.

    The Four Tendencies is my newest book, and is all about a personality framework I discovered. When you know if you're an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, many things in life become much clearer. And when you know other people's Tendencies, that's a big help as well. Great for health-care professionals, managers, colleagues, teachers, parents, sweethearts. Also a New York Times bestseller.

    Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill -- ah, what a joy it was to write that book! I wrote it thinking, “I want to write an accessible, manageable book about Churchill so that people can learn enough about him to want to tackle the giant biographies.” I wanted everyone to be as interested in Churchill as I was. What I've learned, however, is that the people who enjoy my book most are the people who already know a lot about him. So if you know someone who is a big Churchill fan, he or she might enjoy it. Also a bestseller.

    Happiness Project One-Sentence Journal -- a one-sentence journal is a manageable, realistic way to keep a journal. Writing one single sentence is something that most people can manage, and one sentence is enough to hang on to memories.

    Better Than Before Day-by-Day Journal -- this journal is designed to make it easier to stick to your good habits. There are tips, quotes, trackers, "don't break the chain" boxes, and everything else to make it easier to achieve what you want.

    Happier 2018 Page-a-Day Calendar -- this calendar one page for each day of the year, with a strategy, tip, quotation, or reminder. I like formats that let me read one item a day; it makes it easy to digest information and put it to use. (Some people have asked if the content differs from the 2017 calendar. Yes, it does.)

    Happiness Project Mini Posters: a Coloring Book of 20 Hand-lettered Quotes to Pull Out and Frame -- I love the trend of adults returning to the love of coloring books -- meditative, creative, fun, and also makes it harder to snack. As someone who is obsessed with color, I love any excuse to pull out my colored pencils or fancy markers.

    Mugs! For a fan of the Happier podcast, I have a "Happier" mug. And for fans of the Four Tendencies, I have a mug for Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebel -- each one featuring my favorite motto for that Tendency. For instance, the Rebel motto is, "You can't make me, and neither can I."

    What's the most memorable book you've received as a gift?

     
  • gretchenrubin 21:13:37 on 2017/10/27 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Four Tendencies, , Weight Watchers   

    Why, and When, People Succeed Using Weight Watchers. (Especially Obligers) 

    As someone who studies issues related to human nature, happiness, health, and good habits, I've long been intrigued by Weight Watchers -- when and why it works.

    And one thing has struck me with particular force.

    In my book Better Than Before, I identify the 21 strategies we can use to make or break our habits. The Weight Watchers program harnesses many strategies that can help people eat more healthfully: for instance, the Strategies of Monitoring, Scheduling, First Steps, Clarity, Scheduling, Loophole-Spotting, and Safeguards.

    All these strategies are very powerful.

    But there's one aspect of Weight Watchers that explains why, for some people, it works so well -- and also explains why people might find themselves frustrated, by re-gaining the weight after they leave the program. And that's an aspect related to a person's Tendency, and the Strategy of Accountability.

    As a reminder, my Four Tendencies framework divides people into Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels, based on how we respond to outer expectations (like a work deadline) and inner expectations (like a New Year's resolution). Want to take the free, quick quiz to identify your Tendency? It's here. More than one million people have taken the quiz.

    The Obliger Tendency -- the Tendency that includes the largest number of people -- describes people who readily meet outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations. Obligers would say, "Commitments to other people must be met, but commitments to myself? Meh."

    Therefore, to meet an inner expectation, Obligers must have structures of outer accountability. Like...Weight Watchers. While many people find accountability helpful (note, however, that for some Rebels, accountability may be unhelpful), for Obligers, it's crucial. When Obligers get that crucial outer accountability, they can succeed. But if that outer accountability disappears, the expectation will no longer be met.

    Lesson? Obligers must maintain outer accountability. Indefinitely.

    And this explains a lot about the success of Weight Watchers.

    One Obliger wrote:

    I have no doubt that I am an “Obliger.”And since you have made me aware of this fact, it has changed my life in subtle yet meaningful ways. I battle with my weight, and I’ve joined and unjoined Weight Watchers more times than I care to recount. Oftimes, I wonder why I’m there, when I understand the program and could save myself time and money by just applying the knowledge I already have at home. And then I stop going to meetings: I fail miserably on my own and am beyond disappointed.

    Defining myself as an Obliger has changed my approach and expectations. I signed up, yet again, but this time with a different mindset.  I now go to meetings not as much for the information imparted as the sense of community and accountability.  Because that is what I really need.  And instead of hating to admit that I need a community, I am embracing the idea and running with it.

    I joined a livelier, more fun-loving group that I feel a greater commitment to. I laugh a lot and feel empowered to tackle the rest of the week when I leave.  I committed to tracking my progress online daily with other members. The Weight Watchers program hasn’t changed. The way I employ it and make it work for the type of person I am has changed immeasurably. Now, instead of going against my grain, I’m letting the grain be my guide.

    Another Obliger wrote:

    I’ve been trying to shed some weight for years and feel like I’ve tried just about every old (and new) thing. I’d tried Weight Watchers several times, but since learning that I’m an Obliger, I decided to sign up for their coaching option, where you can have personal calls with a coach. I signed up two weeks ago, and it’s been a huge difference from previous attempts. I’m 1000% sure that’s because of the exterior obligation to my coach.

    Of course, Weight Watchers is just one of many kinds of accountability groups that people use. Law school study groups, exercise classes, weekly work status meetings, attendance records, library fines...there are countless ways to create outer accountability.

    I've even created an app, the Better app, where people can discuss issues related to the Four Tendencies, and -- this is key -- can join or launch accountability groups, for accountability to meet whatever aim they want.

    The key thing for Obligers to recognize is that they require these systems of outer accountability, even to meet an inner expectation. It's not that hard to create outer accountability -- once you know that's what you need. And Obligers continue to need that outer accountability. Obligers sometimes tell me that they don't like this aspect of being an Obliger, that they don't like needing outer accountability, or they don't like the fact that they can't "graduate" out of needing it. But in my observation, this is just how it works for Obligers. It's more useful to figure out how to deal with your Tendency, rather than to wish it were different.

    Note that Obligers vary greatly in what kind of accountability works best for them. Some might feel more accountable to a group; some, to an individual coach; some, to knowing that they're going to step on the scale before a meeting. Some Obligers become teachers, leaders, or coaches themselves, because they know that if they're guiding others, they have to set a good example.

    The Four Tendencies framework has other implications for programs like Weight Watchers, for the way other Tendencies would use them.

    For instance, while Obligers need accountability, Questioners and Upholders also often benefit from accountability -- and sometimes, even Rebels benefit. Knowing that someone is watching, monitoring, and noticing what we're doing often reinforces our determination to stick to a good habit. As an Upholder myself, I don't depend on accountability to meet expectations -- but nevertheless when I'm being held accountable, it does make me feel all that much more...accountable.

    However, sometimes accountability can be counter-productive. If accountability isn't working for you, don't use it! There's no right way or wrong way; only the way that works for you.

    For instance, Rebels don't like being told what to do, or being told when and where to show up. For Rebels, it's helpful for a program to emphasize that "This is what you want," "This is what you choose," "This is the kind of person you are," "This will give you more freedom," "This is fun for you, you enjoy it," "These people are helping you to get what you want."

    Examples? "I want to eat more healthfully," "I'm a healthy, active person who respects my body and doesn't load it with lots of processed foods," "I love fresh, delicious, natural foods," "Big food companies can't tell me how eat," "I'm not addicted to sugar," "I choose to be free from cravings," "I enjoy this kind of program," "When I lose weight, I'll feel more comfortable on airplanes and walking around, and that will make me feel freer, and more able to travel."

    As for Questioners, they demand justifications for everything they're expected to do. So to work for Questioners, a program must provide information about why certain things are being encouraged, forbidden, emphasized; why systems are set up the way they're set up; why an authority is worthy of respect, etc. For instance, if someone tells a Questioner, "Take a fifteen-minute walk every morning," this may strike that Questioner as arbitrary. Why fifteen minutes? Why every morning? Why a walk? Questioners need justifications.

    To work for a Questioner, any system -- such as a point system for food -- must be justified. Why does X food have this many points, but Y food has this many points? Questioners would succeed much better when they understand the research, reasoning, and structure of a regimen.

    Questioners also tend to love to monitor and customize. So for them, activities like tracking, keeping food logs, or using a step-counter may be useful, because they enjoy getting that information on themselves. And they also like to customize, so it's useful to tell them, "You might try doing something in this other way, if that works for you." Or, if it's important to do something exactly as suggested, it's important to explain the reason. "Take this medication with food, or else you might get severe nausea."

    Upholders tend to do well in this kind of program. In fact, just about any program, curriculum, device, and so on will work fairly well for Upholders, because meeting outer and inner expectations comes more easily for them.

    The Four Tendencies vary in the number of members. The largest Tendency, for both men and women, is Obliger. It's the one that the greatest number of people belong to, so any program or group should take that fact into account. Next largest is Questioner. Most people are Obligers or Questioners. The smallest Tendency is Rebel, and just slightly larger is Upholder.

    Programs like Weight Watchers can take these differences among the Four Tendencies into account. For example, read here about how Dr. Judson Brewer is tailoring his eating program to take into account the Four Tendencies.

    Have you tried Weight Watchers, or similar programs? I'd be especially interested to hear from Obligers.

    In my book The Four Tendencies, I explore this issue at much greater length, along with related subjects like Obliger-rebellion, why Obliger-rebellion often shows up in health-related matters, why Obligers often pair up with Rebels, why sweethearts don't make good accountability partners, and more. Obligers + accountability is a big subject!

     
  • gretchenrubin 19:35:12 on 2017/10/24 Permalink
    Tags: , , Four Tendencies, NaNoWriMo, ,   

    Signing Up for “NaNoWriMo”–National Novel Writing Month? Here’s Why It Works. 

    Have you heard of "NaNoWriMo?" "National Novel Writing Month" is an engaging approach to writing a novel. The writing "month" is November, and starting on November 1, participants work toward the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel by midnight on November 30.

    Are you planning to join NaNoWriMo?

    As I describe in The Happiness Project, I did this program myself. I'd run into an acquaintance on the street, and she mentioned that she was writing a novel in a month. I was immediately intrigued. "How, why?" I asked.

    She told me that she was following a program laid out in Chris Baty's book, No Plot? No Problem! A Low-stress, High-velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days. You start without any preparation, don't edit yourself, and by writing 1,667 words a day, you write a 50,000 word novel in a month.

    Now, for many people, this wouldn't be an exciting prospect, but I went straight to a bookstore and bought the book myself. I followed the book's instructions, and wrote my novel in the month of September, but far more people join the NaNoWriMo community each November, and each year, a big surge of people do it together.

    By doing joining the official "month," you join an international group of people who are pursuing their writing projects at this particular time, and you can announce your project to the group, attend local events, award yourself with participation and writing badges, update your word count each day, verify your word count by writing your draft on the site, choose a "writing buddy," and so on.

    In all my work, I think about the question, "What makes us happier, and how can we get ourselves actually to do the things that make us happier?" And one challenge for many people is: "I know I would be happier if I worked on a creative project, but how do I actually get myself to make consistent progress on this project or side hustle?"

    A common happiness stumbling block is the feeling that you have a creative or entrepreneurial idea and impulse, but you're not putting that creation out into the world.

    I've been fascinated by NaNoWriMo for years, as a way to tackle this problem, and it's interesting to think about why its design has helped so many people to complete ambitious projects.

    For one thing, it's interesting to think about how it works for the Four Tendencies.

    For Upholders, write-a-novel-in-a-month provides a clear set of expectations. Note: as an Upholder, I didn't join the group or do my project in November. I did it on my own, in September, when it made the most sense for me. Just reading the book was enough to get me to do it, without that structure. Which may have meant that I missed out on some fun, too, of course.

    For Questioners, the program gives a concise justification for its perhaps seemingly arbitrary rules. "Our experiences since 1999 show that 50,000 words is a challenging but achievable goal, even for people with full-time jobs and children. This is about the length of The Great Gatsby. We don't use the word 'novella' because it doesn't seem to impress people the way 'novel' does." This brief explanation establishes authority, shows that experience has born out the effectiveness of this program, and explains why the goal has been set at a certain number.

    For Obligers, NaNoWriMo provides many kinds of accountability, which is crucial because a) Obligers need accountability if they're going to follow through and b) different Obligers respond differently to different forms of accountability. Here, you can set up accountability by announcing your goal publicly, joining a group, earning visible gold stars in the form of badges, attending a meeting, pairing up with a "buddy," getting your word count verified daily and at the end of the month by the program, etc.

    For Rebels, NaNoWriMo is a fun challenge. It's like running the Boston marathon, for creativity. "My friends don't think I can write my novel in a month? Well, I'll show them!" Rebels often like to meet their aims in unconventional ways -- like NaNoWriMo. And with this program, you can drop out at any time, obviously, and you're not locking yourself in for long. "Can I do this for a month? Of course I can!"

    Obviously, even people who aren't Questioners like to understand the reasons behind what they're being asked to do, and even people who aren't Rebels like a fun challenge, and even people who aren't Obligers can benefit from accountability. That said, I do think that certain aspects of the program will resonate most deeply to particular Tendencies.

    Also, in my book Better Than Before, I outline the twenty-one strategies we can use to make or break our habits.

    NaNoWriMo taps into these habit strategies:

    Convenience: by writing on the site, it's easy to save your work, get credit for it, and track your word count.

    Monitoring: when we monitor, we tend to do a better job of following through, and this program is all about monitoring what you're creating. I remember that when I was writing my novel, I spent a lot of time checking my word count, to see if I'd reached the magic number of 1,667.

    Scheduling: you're writing every day, and as my Secret of Adulthood holds, it's often easier to do something every day rather than sometimes or most days.

    Loophole-Spotting: no excuses, no loopholes!

    and very important...

    First Steps: for many people, it's hard to get started. This kind of boot camp, start-now approach is a way to get a project off the ground.

    Have you ever tried NaNoWriMo -- if so, how did it work out? If you haven't done it, does this kind of program appeal to you?

    If you want to read more about my experience writing a novel in a month (a novel that's safely locked in a desk drawer now), I describe it in the chapter "September: Pursue a Passion" in my book The Happiness Project.

     
  • gretchenrubin 21:01:03 on 2017/10/17 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Four Tendencies, ,   

    Fighting Halloween Temptation? Tap into the Power of the Four Tendencies. 

    Halloween treats! So colorful, so ubiquitous, so fun, so bite-sized...Halloween a major source of temptation for children and adults alike.

    As I know from writing Better Than Before, my book about habit change, eating healthfully is one of the most popular habits that people try to cultivate -- and Halloween is a challenging time to stick to good eating habits.

    In Better Than Before, I suggest many ways we can resist the temptation of mini-candy-bars, bags of candy-corn, beautifully decorated cupcakes and cookies, and so on. In particular, it's useful to harness the strength (and buttress the weakness) of our Tendency.

    As a side note, for my whole life, I had a tremendous sweet tooth. I couldn't resist candy, cookies, ice cream, anything sweet. It was such a relief when I figured out that I'm an "Abstainer," who finds it far easier to avoid sweets altogether instead of trying to eat in moderation. So now I eat no Halloween candy, ever. That's what works for me! If you want to read more about that, I discuss it here.

    To beat Halloween candy, I tapped into my Abstainer side. But another great tool is to think about your Tendency.

    Don't know your Tendency -- whether you're an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel? Take the quiz here (more than a million people have taken the quiz!).

    Once you know your Tendency, consider these strategies -- and of course, a strategy suggested for a different Tendency might work well for you, too. Use anything that works!

    Harness Your Tendency

    Obliger: Obligers respond to outer accountability. That's the key for Obligers. So take steps to give yourself outer accountability for not eating Halloween candy.

    • Announce, "I'm not going to eat any Halloween candy this year" in front of everyone. (This strategy works well for my sister Elizabeth, who is an Obliger.)
    • If you dip into your kids' candy stash while they're at school (something I used to do often, until I quit sugar), ask your children to catalog all their candy, and to keep track of how much they have. My daughters, at least, loved to count and sort their candy, so this would've been a fun task for them. Then your children will know if you've been sneaking mini-Snickers when they're not around.
    • Think about your future self. Now-Gretchen wants to eat that cupcake, but Future-Gretchen will be disappointed that she ate so many sweets. Resist now, because you're accountable to your future-self.
    • Consider your duty to be a role model of healthy eating for your children, your sweetheart, your co-workers.
    • Join an Accountability Group -- you can easily do join a group on my app, the Better app.

    Questioner: Questioners respond to justifications. They tend to love to track and monitor. They benefit from clarity.

    • Keep count of exactly how many Halloween treats you've eaten. One easy way: keep the wrappers in a pile in front of you.
    • Convert Halloween candy into ordinary candy. If you wouldn't go into a store, buy two Kit-Kats, and eat them, why would you eat six mini-Kit-Kats?
    • Reflect on all the reasons you have for wanting to eat more healthfully: your energy, your weight, wanting to avoid stimulating cravings, etc. Skipping the treats makes sense to you.
    • Focus on efficiency. It's not efficient to try to eat healthfully for so many days, and then to go into a long period where you're not eating the way that you know is best for you.

    Rebel: Rebels respond to choice, freedom, and identity. Focus on these aspects by reminding yourself:

    • "I'm not addicted to sugar. I can take it or leave it."
    • "I respect my body, I choose to eat healthy, fresh foods. This processed candy and this fancy packaging can't control me, it can't tempt me to eat it."
    • "My kids think I can't resist indulging. Oh yeah? Watch me!"

    Upholder: Upholders respond to outer and inner expectations. For them, it's helpful to articulate clearly the nature of those expectations.

    • What is the right amount of Halloween treats for you?
    • When and where will you indulge in those Halloween treats?
    • Remind yourself of how great it feels to stick to expectations.

    Habit Strategies

    To be sure, it's tough to fight the lure of Halloween. Other strategies you might consider, in addition to the power of your Tendency:

    • the Strategy of Inconvenience: make it very tough to get to that Halloween candy, say, put it in a bag, tightly close the bag, put the bag in a plastic container with a tight seal, and place the container on a high shelf.
    • the Strategy of Loophole-Spotting: stay alert for loopholes you might invoke, such as the Lack of Control loophole ("With all this candy in the office, who can resist?"); the Planning to Fail loophole ("I bought my three big bags of candy for the neighborhood kids two weeks before Halloween, and put the candy in the bowls for decoration, and now I keep sneaking candy throughout the day"); the Concern for Others loophole ("I'm at your Halloween party, and it will hurt your feelings if I don't eat some of your pumpkin cookies"); the Tomorrow Loophole ("It doesn't matter what I eat today, because starting tomorrow, I'm going to eat so healthfully.")
    • the Strategy of Safeguards: think of possible temptations, so you can make if-then plans to withstand them. "If the office kitchen is full of Halloween treats, I'll stay out of there as much as possible." "If I go to a Halloween party, I'll stand very far from dessert-laden table." "I've gone fifteen days without sugar, I don't want to break the chain."
    • the Strategy of Abstaining: Personally, this is what works for me -- but the Strategy of Abstaining doesn't work for everyone. Figure out if, in this context, you're an Abstainer or a Moderator. I'm a moderator for wine, for instance, but an Abstainer for sweets.

    Do you find Halloween a time of temptation, or can you enjoy it healthfully? If you find it difficult to resist the lure of all those delightful treats, what helps you stick to your healthy habits?

     
  • gretchenrubin 09:00:00 on 2017/10/13 Permalink
    Tags: , , Four Tendencies,   

    Does Obliger-Rebellion Ever Take the Form of Physical Symptoms? 

    A thoughtful reader asked an interesting question on Twitter: "Does Obliger-rebellion ever manifest as physical symptoms with no apparent cause?"

    I believe that it absolutely might do so.

    First -- what is Obliger-rebellion?

    Obliger-rebellion occurs when Obligers meet, meet, meet, meet expectations, and then suddenly -- they snap. They say, "This, I will not do!" and they refuse to meet an expectation. This refusal can be small and symbolic (refusing to answer someone's emails or being deliberately late for work), or it can be huge and fateful (ending a twenty-year friendship, quitting a job, getting a divorce).

    It took me a long time to understand something very important: though it can have destructive effects, Obliger-rebellion is meant to be a constructive phenomenon -- it's the emergency parachute that allows an Obliger to escape from a situation where expectations are too high. 

    When Obligers feel exploited, over-taxed, neglected, ignored, or taken advantage of, Obliger-rebellion eventually kicks in to give them an exit. They refuse to do what's asked of them.

    Often, Obliger-rebellion is aimed at the self. This can look like self-sabotage (refusing to prepare for an interview or to complete schoolwork). Perhaps this happens when an Obliger doesn't feel safe directing the rebellion outward, so instead, turns it inward.

    I've noticed that this kind of self-directed Obliger-rebellion seems particularly common in the area of healthAn Obliger refuses to exercise, even though exercise would help manage his back pain. An Obliger refuses to cut back on sugar, even though her diabetes is out of control.

    The consequences fall directly on the Obliger, so this is a "safe" way to rebel (as compared to Obliger-rebellion at work, say, which might have significant consequences involving other people). And no one can really interfere because health behaviors are within our sole control.

    It makes sense that Obliger-rebellion might also take the form of unexplained physical symptoms. That frustration and resentment must have an outlet; it must somehow work to relieve the pressure on the Obliger. Headaches, backaches, gut pain, lassitude...these might be ways for Obliger-rebellion to help the Obliger, by winning attention, relieving pressure, making others take notice of the work that's shouldered by the Obliger, earning a respite from burdens. And these symptoms involve only the Obligers themselves.

    Many Obligers have told me that they do believe that they've experienced Obliger-rebellion in the form of physical symptoms.

    What do you think? Does this ring true? I've love to hear your insights, examples, and observations. 

     
  • gretchenrubin 16:34:08 on 2017/10/12 Permalink
    Tags: , Four Tendencies,   

    Astonishing! More than One Million People Have Taken the Four Tendencies Quiz 

    For several years now, I've been pondering, writing, and talking about the Four Tendencies -- my personality framework that divides the world into Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels.

    I got my insights into the framework when I was working on the subject of habits; I was trying to understand patterns about when people could and couldn't successfully master their habits. This question led me to the Four Tendencies, which turned out to apply to human nature far beyond the specific context of habit-formation.

    As part of developing this framework, one of the most difficult challenges -- after the challenge of coming up with the framework itself, which practically melted my brain, it was so hard -- was the design of the Four Tendencies quiz.

    I was very fortunate to work with the brilliant people of Aperio Insights, with Mike Courtney, Nguyen Quyen, and team.  It turns out that it's a lot harder to make this kind of quiz than you might think.

    It's thrilling to see that the quiz has now passed the ONE MILLION mark. Yes, one million people have taken this quiz! I'm staggered by that number.

    You can take the quiz here. Your results will give you your Tendency, along with a simple description. If you'd like more information about your Tendency, you'll get a prompt at the end to request a detailed report.

    If you've taken the quiz, thanks for your interest, and I hope you found the results illuminating.

    If you haven't taken the quiz, but would like to take it, it's free and quick to complete. I'd love to see even more people take the quiz -- onward to two million takers. In the meantime...

    If you're thinking, "I question the validity of a framework that claims to divide the world into four categories of people," you're probably a Questioner.

    If you're thinking, "I should take this quiz, it will be a help to Gretchen," you're probably an Obliger.

    If you're thinking, "My spouse/friend/co-worker/doctor/child is telling me I should take this quiz? Well, I won't," you're probably a Rebel.

    If you're thinking, "Why would I make the effort to take this quiz, which might turn out to be a big waste of time?" you're probably a Questioner.

    If you're thinking, "This quiz is meant to help me keep my habits more easily, and to get things done more efficiently, but I don't really have much trouble with that," you're probably an Upholder.

    Okay, I'm partly joking. The Four Tendencies framework is simple to apply, but it's not quite as simple as that -- it's not possible to peg someone's Tendency from just one thought or reaction. (Though, true, it's often possible to identify a Tendency very quickly.)

    If you'd like to go deeper into the Four Tendencies, join my Better app. There, you can talk about subjects (work, health-care, parenting, romance, etc) related to the Four Tendencies; talk to other people who share your Tendency, and -- what's key for Obligers -- join or start accountability groups. There's so much interesting conversation on the Better app that sometimes it's hard for me to tear myself away. (But I can, and I do. That's the fun of being an Upholder.)

    My understanding of the Four Tendencies has been tremendously expanded by readers of my books and listeners of the "Happier" podcast-- if you have questions, insights, examples, or observations on the framework, please send them my way. I so appreciate hearing from so many people already.

     
  • gretchenrubin 11:00:24 on 2017/10/06 Permalink
    Tags: Anna Kendrick, , , Four Tendencies   

    Is Actor Anna Kendrick an Upholder? After Reading Her Memoir, I Think So. 

    I asked listeners of the "Happier" podcast whether they had any good suggestions for celebrity sightings of the Four Tendencies.

    Journalists always want this! They request lists of celebrities and their Tendencies. But this is a challenge to create, because we can't judge someone's Tendency from the outside; we have to know how they think.

    Sometimes, however, it's possible to identify a famous person's Tendency, because they've written memoirs, they've done extensive interviews, or the people around them have discussed patterns in their behavior and thinking to such a degree that it's possible to have insight. For instance, after a lot of research, I concluded that Steve Jobs was a QUESTIONER/Rebel.

    A thoughtful listener had just read Anna Kendrick's memoir Scrappy Little Nobody, and she wondered if Kendrick might be an Upholder.

    So last week I read the book.

    And yep, I agree, I think Anna Kendrick is an Upholder.

    If you don't know, Anna Kendrick is a well-known actor who has appeared in Twilight, Pitch Perfect, Into the Woods, Up in the Air, among other movies. She's been working in acting since she was a child, including on Broadway.

    Why do I peg her as an Upholder? Based on her memoir...

    She describes herself as a "people pleaser and rule follower." This suggests Obliger, and also Upholder. So that narrows things down. So is she an Upholder or Obliger?

    From a very young age, she submitted to the discipline of acting and held herself to a very high standard of execution. She was supported by her parents, but not pushed by her parents (and their support was very basic, not sophisticated) while she was young, and at age 17, went out on her own.

    She describes how, at age 12, in the cast of the Broadway show High Society, she hit a breaking point. She needed relief. She spoke to the management, and although she wanted an immediate break, they told her she needed to wait a week to take a night off. And she did. This shows an ability to recognize limits, and also not to be susceptible to Obliger-rebellion, which would be to "snap." (She shows no signs of Obliger-rebellion in her life, which is a big tip-off.)

    She describes herself as a "square" and "straitlaced."

    "I happen to love rules. I love having a plan...I thrive in structure, I drown in chaos. I love rules and I love following them. Unless that rule is stupid. And yes, I have felt qualified, no matter my age, to make that determination. Scrupulous people don't enjoy causing trouble, but they can be defiant as hell."

    Hmmm...Questioner? No, I think this observation reflects the Upholder's ability to assert inner expectations, and also the fact that none of us, no matter what our Tendency, want to do something that's stupid or a waste of time.

    "The only time I desperately wanted to be rebellious was in adolescence...I had to will myself to break rules when I could stomach it." I know this feeling from adolescence! Of using my iron discipline to force myself to break a rule.

    Kendrick's memoir is a good reminder, too, that Upholders aren't necessarily prudish. Kendrick curses, talks about a lot of intimate subjects, does discuss breaking rules and conventions, but always within the context of her own inner expectations.

    Of course, given that Kendrick is giving us the insight into her brain, it's possible that she's manipulated our view of her. So it's impossible to say definitively how she fits into the framework.

    I'm starting to wonder if more Hollywood types are Upholders than we might assume. There's a lot of media spotlight on episodes of non-Upholder-type behavior, but when you think of the grinding persistence that's needed for success, I can imagine that being an Upholder might come in handy.

    If you have any suggestions of celebrity Tendencies, send them my way! I'm planning to research Lawrence of Arabia, Johnny Depp, Amelia Earhart, and Einstein, among others.

     
  • gretchenrubin 21:26:27 on 2017/10/03 Permalink
    Tags: , , cigarettes, Four Tendencies,   

    Trying to Quit Smoking–or Trying To Help Someone Else? Create Your Personalized Plan. 

    As I know from studying habits for my book Better Than Before, one habit that people really want to change -- in themselves or others -- is the habit of smoking. But quitting is tough.

    If you're struggling, you might try to harness the strength of your Tendency, and to consider the limitations of your Tendency, to build an approach that's customized for you.

    First step: Figure out your "Tendency" -- if you're an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel -- by taking the Four Tendencies quiz here.

    Second step: Once you identify your Tendency, you can personalize an approach for quitting smoking (or whatever goal you're trying to achieve).

    How might that work?

    Obliger: The key for Obligers is outer accountability.

    That's the key! The essential piece! You need to plug in some structures of outer accountability. You might...

    • Work with a health coach.
    • Consider your duty to be a role model of healthy behavior for your children, co-workers, students, etc.
    • Think of your duty to your future-self. Now-self wants to smoke, but future-self will be so disappointed that now-self didn't quit.
    • Make a deal with someone else: if you stop smoking that person will also stop smoking (or whatever habit that person wants to change). You can't smoke, or else that person will feel free to resume his or her bad habit -- and that would be terrible.

    Questioner: The key for Questioners is justification.

    Drill deep into your reasons for quitting. What are the justifications?

    • You'll be much healthier.
    • You'll save a ton of money.
    • Your clothes won't smell.
    • Your tennis game will improve.

    Note, too, that Questioners love to monitor, so try keeping a record of how many days you've gone without smoking, how much money you've saved, etc. Questioners also love to customize, so whatever cessation strategy you use, customize it so it works for you.

    Rebel: The key for Rebels is choice and freedom.

    If you're thinking, "No one can tell me what to do, I don't care about 'doctor's orders,' I do what I want," frame your thoughts about smoking in a different way. Not-smoking is an expression of your identity, your freedom, your choice. Being free from nicotine is what you want.

    You might reflect:

    • I'm not chained by addiction.
    • Cigarettes don't control me.
    • I'm not the pawn of the big tobacco companies. Sure, they want me to continue to pour money into their pockets, but they can't keep me hooked.
    • My son thinks an old guy like me can't quit smoking, but I'll show him how tough I am.
    • I'm an athletic, energetic, vital person who respects her body. That's who I am.

    Rebels want to do things their own way, and they often enjoy flouting expectations, so maybe you want to quit in some dramatic, unexpected way, or ignore the conventional wisdom about the best way to do it.

    Upholder: The key for Upholders is discipline.

    The fact is, if you're an Upholder, you're less likely to be struggling with a habit like smoking. When I did my representative survey, at 24%, Upholders were the least likely to agree with the statement “I have struggled with addiction.” The other three Tendencies scored about the same (34%, 32%, 32%), so it seems likely that there’s something specific to Upholders’ nature that protects them. But of course, some Upholders do get hooked on cigarettes.

    In which case...

    • Make a plan.
    • Put it on the calendar.
    • Monitor how many cigarettes you smoke each day.

    In my bestselling book Better Than Before, I outline the 21 strategies that we can use to make or break our habits. For a one-pager on which of these habit-formation strategies works best for each Tendency, email me here.

    The Four Tendencies framework isn't meant to be a label that confines us, but rather a spotlight that can illuminate hidden patterns in our natures. When we know the right buttons to push, it's much easier and simpler to make positive change.

    The Four Tendencies give us insight to help make our lives happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative.

     
  • gretchenrubin 21:15:08 on 2017/09/28 Permalink
    Tags: , , craving, , Four Tendencies, , ,   

    Conversation About the Four Tendencies with Dr. Judson Brewer, Expert in Habits, Mindfulness, and Addiction. 

    On August 11, 2017, Dr. Judson Brewer and I had a fascinating conversation about how he’s incorporating the Four Tendencies framework into his work, which focuses on helping people to master mindfulness, addiction, and habit change.

    I asked Jud to do this interview because I wanted to highlight the findings and insights he’s gained from using the Four Tendencies framework in his practice and research.

    My great hope is that when people learn about the Four Tendencies, they’ll be able to make their lives happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative. Jud’s work in this area shows the efficacy of the Four Tendencies framework—and he’s also begun to do the kind of research that’s needed to put the framework to the test.

    Yes, Questioners, I know you want that research and data to validate the framework! It's coming!

    I'm posting our lengthy conversation below. If you'd like a PDF version, to print it out more easily, just email me to request it.

     

    Gretchen: You’ve done so much interesting work on mindfulness, addiction, and habit change. What’s your focus these days?

    Jud: In both my startup company, which develops apps, as well as my lab, which does all the related research, we're focusing our energy on developing good tools for how to help people create change.

    In particular, in the “Eat Right Now” program, at the pilot level, we’ve started incorporating your Four Tendencies quiz to help us get a sense for how your Tendencies framework can help people engage better with our program and start a new habit of mindfulness related to eating.

    Our overarching theme is to understand how people's minds work, so we can better help them develop practices of awareness. Down the road, we aim to have a new program about unwinding anxiety. I'd like to bake the Four Rubin Tendencies right into the fabric of that program.

    Gretchen: Why do you think the Four Tendencies model could help make your tool more effective?

    Jud: I'm a very pragmatic guy. As a clinician, I always want to figure out what's going to optimize my patients’ engagement in treatment.

    A while back, one of my research coordinators gave me your book Better Than Before, about habit change. That's where I was first introduced to your Four Tendencies framework. I was a little skeptical at first, reading it, because I thought, “Who is this person talking about habit change? She’s not a scientist.” But I started reading it, and I was won over. I thought, “Oh wow, she knows what she's talking about. She's actually talking about people's real tendencies.”

    As I read your book, I immediately started thinking, “I wonder if people in my Eat Right Now program fall into these four categories. If they do, there are some pragmatic things that we could actually put to the test immediately to try it out.”

    Gretchen: What are the aims of the people who participate in your Eat Right now program? Are they trying to lose weight, trying to manage diabetes…?

    Jud: I would say 100% of them are trying to change their relationship with eating, and probably 70-80% are trying to manage weight loss or lose a few more pounds.

    Gretchen: For health or appearance or both?

    Jud: Some people come because their doctors told them they need to lose weight or they need to manage their diabetes, but most folks find this program on their own, because they've been fed up with other weight-loss programs.

    Gretchen: So, when you read about the Four Tendencies, and you began to think, “I can see how this model would apply to my program,” what were some ideas that rang true to you? Where you thought, “Wow, I know that kind of person. I’ve run into that behavior before.”

    Jud: I recognized all four of the Tendencies, actually.

    Gretchen: Oh, really?

    Jud: Yes. To give a bit of background on the program: I moderate a weekly check-in group—the Eat Right Now program is based around this. We have mechanistically-based training on how habits are formed and how mindfulness helps people break their habits.

    We present the information in bite-sized pieces; people get daily videos and animations and in-the-moment exercises.

    In the program, ideally people complete one module per day, and they start learning how to regulate and to change their relationship to eating. As they go through the 28 days, they might then return to the beginning and start again to hone their skills, or they might take a bit more time for each module and take a couple of months.

    We’re finding from our evidence that people need about 3-6 months to start changing their behavior. At that point, some stay with the program. Some, they've got the skills and they don't need it anymore.
    The main thrust is through app-based training. There's also an online community where people can interact with each other, as well as a weekly live group that I run via Zoom where people can ask questions and interact.

    When I talk to people in our live group, I see the Four Tendencies in action. I think, “Oh, here's this person with that Tendency.” It’s a person who keeps asking a bunch of questions, or who has described why they’ve been struggling with the program. Now I’ve got names for them. For example, the “Obligers,” who meet other people’s outer expectations, but don’t take time to take care of themselves.

    People are even commenting in their online community journals about their Tendencies. I gave them your quiz, then wrote some very simple suggestions for the program based on what their responses were, and then asked people to comment on whether that was helpful or not. This was an early experiment to see if your Tendencies fit well with this population, and whether people could benefit.

    Gretchen: Let me pose an initial question before we dive deeper. People sometimes ask me, “Is it a bad idea to give people a label? To tell them, ‘You're an Obliger, I'm a Rebel.’”

    Do you think that this vocabulary somehow limits people’s sense of possibility for change? In my view, I think these kinds of “types” are helpful, because they may shine a spotlight on hidden patterns in behavior that we can then work to address. Because maybe you didn't understand why some approach wasn’t working well for you, and now you can try something that suits you better.

    That’s my view—but how do you view it? Is it okay that someone thinks, “Oh yeah, I'm an Obliger?”

    Jud: I think that’s absolutely okay.

    I think of an analogy from sports. Say somebody wants to become a sprinter. Genetically, some people have more fast-twitch muscle than slow-twitch muscle. For people like me who have slow-twitch muscle, we’re going to be more distance runners. If a distance runner really wants to be an Olympics-level sprinter, that person might get a biopsy to see what his or her fast-twitch potential is. Not knowing that fast-twitch potential isn’t going to suddenly make them an Olympics-level sprinter, but knowing it might help them say, “Why don't I focus on distance running?”

    Gretchen: Right. This information about yourself helps you direct your energies most effectively.

    Jud: Of course, it can do that only if it’s useful information. I think your Tendencies are actually useful. That's what really got me hooked.

    Gretchen: Excellent! That’s great to hear. Explain more about how you’ve seen the Tendencies appear in your work.

    Jud: For starters, I tallied up the number of people who answered your quiz. In our group, we’ve got about 8.9% Upholders, Questioners at 33.3%, Obligers at 37.8%, and Rebels at 20%.

    Gretchen: Interesting. Generally, Obliger is the biggest Tendency, and Questioners are right behind them. Rebel is the smallest Tendency, and the Upholder Tendency is only slightly larger. Because Upholders are less likely to need the kind of program you offer, it makes sense that you don’t have many Upholders.

    Jud: Because Upholders are going to meet outer and inner expectations fairly easily.

    Gretchen: Yes, a lot of different strategies work for Upholders. If people are coming to you saying, “I've tried this, I've tried that, nothing is working,” they’re unlikely to be Upholders. For the Upholders, probably the first thing they tried worked.

    Jud: That makes sense. That fits quite well. We’ve got some selection bias with the program, and that’s exactly what we would expect to see.

    Gretchen: You have a very high number of Rebels compared to the population, but again, that’s predictable, because many popular strategies that work for other people—such as monitoring, scheduling, and accountability—often don’t work for Rebels. If they really want to change their relationship to food, they’re more likely to struggle with conventional advice.

    If you have a disproportionate number of Rebels, you’d really want to take that into account. A lot of things that work for the other Tendencies don’t work for the Rebels. Your program has the challenge that one strategy could work really well for your Obligers but might actually be unhelpful for your Rebels.

    Jud: Right. Absolutely.

    Gretchen: How have you seen these differences play out?

    Jud: I’ll give you an example of the suggestions I gave to the people in the program based on your framework. We’ll update these as we learn more, but this is the first stab at it.
    First, we give participants a brief description of the Four Rubin Tendencies. I also encourage them to read your books. Then based on their Tendency, we give them a one-liner description of that Tendency and then suggest a tip.

    For Upholders, we say, "Watch out for taking on too much at once, etc." Then we give some suggestions on how to optimize their personality type to engage with the program. For instance, if you don’t make a to-do list of all the exercises and all the check-ins every day, don’t beat yourself up for not having done everything.

    Then I would give this little intrinsic motivation. Look to see where you’re aiming or angling for control instead of suffocating yourself by trying to force yourself to be in control. Simply notice when you feel like you’ve mastered something. We bring in a mindfulness practice around the motivators.

    For Questioners, the tip was to take time to clarify what elements of the Eat Right Now program make the most sense, and use those as the foundation upon which to build. The intrinsic motivator was to foster your curiosity, because that’s a key element of the eating program.

    For Obligers, a tip was to find a way to hold yourself externally accountable for using the program. That’s key for Obligers. The intrinsic motivation is “Working with others on a team feels good, no? Look to see where you can find the satisfaction of working with others as you go through this program.” Whether it’s the online community, finding a buddy or a family member, etc.

    For Rebels—this has really been a fascinating category for me. Because they resist all expectations, the tip is, “You're the decider. Find ways that you do the program on your own terms. Don’t try to tell yourself to do an exercise. Instead, see if you can find ways in which you decide when you’ll watch the module each day, and you decide when to do check-ins.” The intrinsic motivation would be find personal meaning in pursuing a goal that's difficult, but not impossible. Look for the challenge in the program each day to see if you can meet it.

    Gretchen: It’s fascinating how you put the Tendencies into action.

    Jud: I pulled a couple of their comments, and I’d be very curious to hear your responses.

    One Questioner said, “The key for me here as a Questioner was to realize that I had to see the evidence for myself.”

    Evidence is an element that I emphasized in the program as I wrote it. I'm a Questioner myself, so I wrote it from that perspective of, “Here’s the information, pay attention. Just look for yourself to see what works for you.”

    Gretchen: That message really appeals to Questioners. They’re attracted to customization. They like thinking, “This is what works for me. I’m doing this because this is the most efficient, sensible thing for me.”

    Jud: Exactly.

    Another Questioner wrote about how she hadn’t previously noticed the importance of curiosity for her, and she reported that the tip about fostering curiosity for intrinsic motivation has been really helpful. In the program, I’d shared a quotation from James Stevenson, who said, “Curiosity will conquer fear more than bravery will.” She wrote, “This is certainly something that I don't think ever occurred to me before. I have a lot of anxiety. I’m noticing how that feels in my body. Seeing that curiosity relieves the symptoms.”

    I think fear and curiosity are like fear and faith. It’s hard to experience both deeply at the same time.

    Gretchen: That’s fascinating. I need to think through that idea. That is such an interesting and powerful observation: Curiosity can overcome anxiety.

    Jud: Yes.

    Gretchen: Again, that’s an appeal to the fundamental values of the Questioner.

    Jud: Exactly.

    Gretchen: To succeed, it helps if we go straight to the heart of that Tendency strength we have.

    Fascinating. What did Obligers have to say?

    Jud: This Obliger said, “I understand that as an Obliger, I need to be held accountable, otherwise the cards are stacked against me for success with this program. The problem is I don’t want any family members or friends knowing yet what I'm doing.” I think her concern is that that she doesn’t want people to know that she’s trying to lose weight.

    Gretchen: Yes, that's very common.

    Jud: She continued, “My other issue is getting myself to journal--whether in my own personal journal or through the community journal. I put that last on my list of things I need to do. Therefore, I rarely journal.” I think her idea is that she’s putting other people in front of herself.

    Gretchen: Hmmm, in my framework, I don’t characterize the issue in that way, as “putting others first.” That’s a value judgment. It also suggests that if others made no demands on her, she would readily meet her demands for herself, which in my observation doesn't happen for Obligers.

    For Obligers, it’s really all about that outer accountability. For Eat Right Now, you have the group around the program. Does she feel accountable to that group? I would say, “Forget about your family and friends, keep your privacy, rely on the Eat Right Now group for accountability.”

    Jud: That’s what we had encouraged. We’ve got this closed online community that’s very supportive. That’s something that I can suggest to her, absolutely.

    Gretchen: Relying on family can be tricky. Sometimes, too, it doesn’t feel like outer accountability, it feels like inner accountability, because they’re so close to you. This is especially true about spouses.

    Also, with family members, an Obliger can also start feeling very resentful, and that triggers Obliger-rebellion. The advantage of your program is that it comes with a built-in accountability group. I would suggest that engaging deeply with this group could be the key for this Obliger’s success.

    Also, about the journaling. She feels bad about that. Does the journaling really matter? What kind of journal is it, is it for writing down everything you eat, is it an emotional journal? Keeping a journal could be really burdensome for some people, I would imagine.

    Jud: It’s not a food-tracking journal. It’s a personal journal so somebody can track their own progress, and they can also get feedback from community moderators if they feel like they’re struggling. It’s more to record “Here's what I noticed today.”

    Gretchen: For what it’s worth, in my observation, health is an area where Obliger-rebellion very often sets in. It happens because no one has control of your body and what you do or don’t do with your body. In this area, the Obliger-rebellion affects only the Obliger themselves, so it’s a very easy place—and often a destructive place—for Obliger-rebellion to play out.

    To me, this Obliger sounds like she’s at the end of her rope, and feeling very resentful. It sounds like she’s thinking, “They’re asking too much of me. I can't do it.” That kind of feeling can lead to an Obliger-rebellion explosion.

    I would consider telling her, “The journal is meant to be a tool to help you. It sounds like it’s not working for you. So why don’t you just not worry about that? You’re doing a lot already. Stay with the group, let them help you stay on board. If the journal isn’t helpful, let that go. You’re already working hard.”

    Jud: That’s a great idea.

    Gretchen: If it's meant to be a tool that’s helpful, there’s no point in doing it if it’s not helpful. It sounds like it might be hampering her because it’s making her feel put upon and overwhelmed.

    Jud: Great.

    Here’s another comment from an Obliger.

    “Obliger, at your service! (I must have also a Questioner part in myself, though, because I ask lots of questions, and I need to decide first from myself if something is worthy that I “oblige” to it.) Still, I didn’t believe it at the beginning. But then, I started looking back at my previous weight loss experiences, and realized… it’s true. Many times I had failed because I had set a goal only to myself, and then inevitably at the first discomfort I had let all go. But I was ashamed of myself and of this addiction I had, that I didn’t want anybody to know! Now, I had just started Eat Right Now, and I wasn’t gonna let this end like the rest. So I gathered all the strength and courage I had (and believe me, I needed a lot!), and called the friend I trust the most, and told him about my condition and this program I started. And he was very comprehensive, and understanding, and told me I was doing the right thing, and encouraged me to keep going, and accepted what I asked him: which is that every day I need to call him and tell him what I did related to food (if I binged or not, what I ate, if I exercised, if I did the lessons, etc.); and that if for some reason I don’t tell, he needs to ask me specifically (cause I know myself too well, unfortunately). But all this, not in a hard way, to beat me if one day I couldn’t make it. I told him: in a gentle way, to keep me accountable, also when it doesn’t go so well, but knowing that I am learning, and that I’ll grow stronger. It’s been 5 days, I’ve been doing this every day, and it’s working!”

    Gretchen: What a terrific story. It’s great to hear that she’s been able to use the knowledge of her Obliger need for accountability to get such great success with the Eat Right Now Program.

    Her comment reminds of an important point: people often think, “Oh, I must be part Questioner because I love reasons, or I always ask ‘why,’ etc.”

    Remember, the Four Tendencies looks only at your response to expectations. That is, why do you act, why don’t you act. I have a friend who is a doctor, highly educated, intensely curious, inhales research, always probes for more information—and she’s an Obliger. Because she meets outer expectations and struggles to meet inner expectations.

    Like the commenter above. That person is 100% Obliger. One hundred percent.

    Jud: Here, I’ve got a comment from a Rebel, who said, “I’ve definitely been doing the program on my own terms, but realize this even more now. I might even pretend that someone told me not to do the program.”

    Gretchen: Yes! The Rebel spirit of resistance!

    Jud: I thought that was classic.

    Gretchen: Classic. You know, for the program you might consider messages that appeal to the Rebel desire to be free and unchained. Like, “You're not a slave to food. You don’t want to be addicted to sugar. Those big food companies can’t fool you with their crinkly packages and their big ad campaigns. You’re not going to fall for that. They can’t take your money.” Rebels want to be free.

    Jud: That's great.

    Gretchen: Sometimes a Rebel thinks, “Oh, I feel free because you’re telling me that I'm not supposed to eat fast food, but look, watch me do it.” The answer is, “Hah! You think you're free? Eating that fast food, you’re doing just what those fast food joints want you to do. They've got their hooks deep into you, you’re addicted to that stuff.”

    Jud: They’ve got you, right.

    Gretchen: So, judging from people’s early responses and comments, do you see that the Four Tendencies framework is striking a chord with them?

    Jud: This is very preliminary research, but it does seem that so far, everybody who answered the questions did very much identify with one Tendency or another. That piece seems pretty solid. Some of them have even started sub-categories of discussion topics, where one of the topics was “Any other Obligers out there?” They formed this little huddle where they could support each other and give each other tips as a way to help each other go through the program.

    We envision that in the future, we’ll give people your quiz right as they get on-boarded with any of our programs. Then ultimately down the road, the program would algorithmically shuffle the way they get the training or the timing etc. based on their personality type.

    But even at the beginning, the program can start by just giving them a brief synopsis and say, “This is the result of your Rubin Four Tendencies quiz. Here's a brief summary. We recommend that you use the program this way as you go through the program.”

    Maybe each week we check in with them automatically. For example, they might get a message, “Are you noticing an inclination to resist? You might try this tip, this tip, this tip.” Right at the beginning or somewhere early on, I’d encourage them to read your books so they can really dive into what their personality type is.

    Gretchen: So interesting!

    To change topics, one issue for anybody designing a program, framework, app or anything like that is that it’s very easy to overweight our own Tendency.

    Take Questioners. To them, it’s crucial to have clarity about why you want to do something. So often, when Questioners try to help others, they emphasize that it’s all about inner expectations, about getting very, very clear on what's important to you and why a certain action makes sense, and what you want, and the most efficient ways to achieve those aims. And this approach just doesn’t always work very well for the other Tendencies.

    You’re a Questioner. As you’ve worked with others, has knowing about the Four Tendencies helped you to think, “I would think about this challenge in this way, but someone else might think about it a different way or need a different set-up to succeed?”

    Jud: This is an area where my psychiatric training has been helpful. I try not to let my view dominate, and I really strive to put myself in someone’s shoes so we can approach it from their personality rather than the questioner’s.

    But I very much appreciate what you’re saying. We aim not to approach this challenge from my point of view, but as much as possible, from their point of view.

    Gretchen: It’s great that you have the training to help you see the world from many perspectives. So many people give the advice that would work for them, and they’re puzzled and frustrated—and often judgmental—when that advice doesn’t work for others. I’ve certainly struggled with that myself.

    Jud: That’s why we do the research, to see what works for whom, and why. Our next step is to systematically categorize these folks, ultimately even do a randomized study, where we can have some people get the tips and suggestions based on their Tendency, while others go through the program as usual. We can see how well those Tendency-specific suggestions bolster simple things like adherence to the program.

    Gretchen: For what you’re doing, and what so many other people are trying to do, we need a simple, cost-effective tool to communicate more effectively. For eating more healthfully, for taking medication consistently, so many other things.

    To be effective, such a tool would need to be easy to use, widely applicable, and something that doesn’t require extensive training to understand or implement. I’ve got to say, I think my Four Tendencies framework is a tool like that. For one thing, once you know the Four Tendencies, they’re very easy to spot. Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels look quite different from each other, and that it's easy to tell one person’s Tendency from the other.

    For instance, as you were reading those comments from your participants, if you’d read a comment and asked me to guess the commenter’s Tendency, I think I would have guessed correctly each time. It’s obvious that these folks have different perspectives.

    It was fascinating to hear all the ways you suggested that a person might adapt the recommendations for your program to the Tendencies. It’s not as if you had to develop a gigantic apparatus within your program to suit each Tendency. It’s as simple as some tweaking of messaging, and reminding people of how they can think about the program in their own ways.

    Do you feel that in your program, it’s pretty easy to see, “I can see why different approaches work better for different people?”

    Jud: Yes. It’s about getting information to them in a way that’s accessible and reminding of that information until they have internalized it. For example, with the Rebels, first they take the quiz so they know that they’re Rebels. Now they have that information, and the program can take that into account.

    It’s awareness training. Everybody knows how to be aware to some degree, and everybody can improve at being aware to a degree as well.

    The question is: “How do we personalize medicine?” I think your Four Tendencies framework is a great way to personalize a training delivery: “Let's do the quiz, figure out your Tendency, give you that information, and then help you use that information so that you can utilize the available training in a way that’s personalized for you.”

    This is really personalizing medicine in a broad scale, if we think of medicine including behavioral training, which we certainly do these days.

    Gretchen: I was struck by an interesting lesson about Duolingo, the language-learning app. Several Rebels have told me when the app sends reminders and notifications, these messages made them turn away from the app. Obligers do well with that kind of accountability and monitoring, but Rebels think, “Even though I want to learn Italian, I refuse to do what this app is telling me to do.” Of course, the solution for a Rebel is to turn off those notifications. This is an important thing to know about yourself, as you’re setting up the app: Do you want to get notifications, or not? What would be more helpful to you?

    I think many people assume, “Notifications are great. Accountability is good.” Not for everyone.

    Jud: You’ve just described personalized training beautifully. It doesn’t take that much to do it. It’s about knowing what the Tendency is and then knowing the pieces that you want to tweak. For example, with our program, we have notifications. People can turn on or off the notifications. If they’re a Rebel, they can set the notifications for whenever they want. They’re in control. They’re the decider.

    Gretchen: You might even point that out to them: “For this Tendency, we’ve found that notifications are very helpful. We’ve found that maybe for this Tendency, notifications may not be useful. Ponder that, then set yourself up accordingly.”

    Jud: Right.

    Gretchen: For a Questioner, you could say, “Experiment. You could try it for a couple weeks on, a couple weeks off. See what works. Customize it for you. You might find that it’s effective.” Then they think, “Yes, I'm doing it in the way that’s most effective for me.”

    Jud: I’m imagining the seat position in a new car. Car companies set the standard seat position based on average driver height, and when you buy the car, you use the seat controls to adjust the seat to suit your own individual body type. Using the Four Tendencies works the same way.

    Gretchen: I think that is a perfect analogy. When the car comes off the assembly line, it’s not going to be customized for you, it has to be something that works for everybody. In the same way, your Eat Right Now program encompasses all Tendencies, so each individual has to customize it. “This program includes a body of tools, and we’ll customize the program for you. That’s just part of the process, because of course you’re not going to be able to drive the car comfortably until you move the seat around. Maybe you’re going to experiment. Maybe you’ll try the seat a little closer, or a little further away, until you find what suits you.”

    We know the people who are 6’6 are not going to want a seat adjusted the same way as for the person who’s 5’2. When we know someone’s body type, we can predict many of the adjustments that will make that seat more comfortable. Same thing with the Four Tendencies. When we know your personality type, we can predict what tools will help you succeed.

    Jud: It works extremely well when you just tweak it a little bit.

    Gretchen: I think this tweaking may be particularly important for Obligers. Obligers feel a lot of frustration because they’re able to meet expectations for others, but not for themselves. They put a lot of emotions around it. “I'm sacrificing for others. I always put the client/patient/customer first. I can always take time for other people, but I can’t take time for myself. I have low self-esteem.” They have a lot of value judgements, to which I say, “No, let all that judgment fall away. It’s really just about accountability.”

    If you’re an Obliger, the people around you may say, “If you keep talking about something and saying it’s important to you, why can’t you follow through? Why don’t you keep your promises to yourself? Why did you say ‘yes’ if you didn’t want to do it?” That’s very judgmental. With the Four Tendencies, there’s less judgment, it’s just, “This is a person who needs outer accountability. Let’s give this person the outer accountability they need, and then they’ll be fine. They just need that system in place.”

    Jud: Right. Helping them see the difference between the judging versus just holding themselves accountable could be huge for somebody.

    Gretchen: Yes. And by the way, the Obliger Tendency is the Tendency that includes the largest number of people. So, to Obligers, I always say, “Lots of people are exactly like you! There’s nothing wrong with you, or exceptional about you. This is a common problem. There’s no shame or weakness in it, you just have to know how to tackle it.”

    Jud: That makes a lot of sense.

    Gretchen: It’s interesting that you have a lot of Questioners in your program. Do people often ask for a lot of data and research justifications?

    Jud: To some degree, but we’ve also built the program with those explanations included. Probably as a Questioner myself, I’ve built those answers to those questions right into the program.

    Gretchen: Interesting. They get their questions answered as they go.

    Jud: I say, “You might be wondering why we’re doing this today. This is why.”

    Gretchen: That’s brilliant. That way they feel like they have all the information that they need. They’re not asked to do anything arbitrarily; every suggestion is justified by sound reasons.

    Jud: Right.

    6196189096 Jud, it has been fascinating to hear how you’re applying the Four Tendencies framework to your Eat Right Now program. It’s so exciting to think that my personality profiles could help people find success in a challenging area of their life.

    As your research and experimentation continues, I can’t wait to hear what you learn.

    Jud: Great to talk to you. I look forward to more conversations.

    Gretchen: Onward and upward!

    If you'd like to read my interview with Jud Brewer, about his own habits and happiness, it's here.

     

    Judson Brewer, MD PhD, is one of the leading minds in the field of habit change and the “science of self-mastery.” He has published numerous peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, trained US Olympic coaches, and his TED talk has received eight million views. A psychiatrist and internationally known expert in mindfulness training for addictions, Brewer has developed and tested novel mindfulness programs for habit change, including both in-person and app-based treatments, such as www.goeatrightnow.com, www.cravingtoquit.com. He founded Claritas MindSciences to move his discoveries of clinical evidence behind mindfulness for eating, smoking and other behavior change into the marketplace. He is the author of The Craving Mind: from Cigarettes to Smartphones to Love -- Why We Get Hooked and How We Can Break Bad Habits.

     
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