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  • gretchenrubin 14:00:24 on 2017/09/11 Permalink
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    A Little Happier: It’s Right to Do the Right Thing, Even When It Doesn’t Seem to Matter. 

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    Ever since I read this passage from Leonard Woolf’s memoir, it has haunted me.

    Leonard Woolf was an English political theorist, author, publisher and civil servant, and husband of author Virginia Woolf.

    In The Journey Not the Arrival Matters: Autobiography of 1939-1969, Woolf writes:

    “Looking back at the age of eighty-eight over the fifty-seven years of my political work in England, knowing what I aimed at and the results, meditating on the history of Britain and the world since 1914, I see clearly that I achieved practically nothing…I must have in a long life ground through between 150,000 and 200,000 hours of perfectly useless work….


    Though all that I tried to do politically was completely futile and ineffective and unimportant, for me personally it was right and important that I should do it.”

    It’s right to do the right thing, even when it doesn’t seem to make any difference. And we never can really know what the effect of our actions will be – on the world, or on ourselves.

    A lesson that’s very much in keeping with the very title of Woolf’s autobiography: the journey, not the arrival, matters.

    Have you ever poured a lot of time and energy into a project that seemed, in the end, to be futile? Was it right that you made the effort, even if it didn’t seem to pay off?

    This mini-episode is brought to you by the Platinum Card from American Express. There’s a world of experiences waiting to open up with the Platinum Card–backed by the services and security of American Express.

    Want to get in touch? I love hearing from listeners:


     Happier listening!

    The post A Little Happier: It’s Right to Do the Right Thing, Even When It Doesn’t Seem to Matter. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

  • Crystal Ellefsen 05:45:19 on 2017/09/11 Permalink
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    Each Year, on September 11, I’m Reminded of Winston Churchill. 

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    For me, and for everyone in New York City and the world, the day of September 11 stands out from the rest of the year.

    And each year,  I remember how back in 2001, just a month after the terrible events of that day had occurred, I was doing research for my biography of Winston Churchill,  Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, and was reading some speeches Churchill gave during the early years of the war.

    And I noticed that it was on September 11, 1940, that Churchill gave one of his most memorable broadcasts — about the “Blitz,” the brutal nightly bombing of London.

    This was so powerful for me that every year, on September 11, I post the same passage.

    For me, re-reading Churchill’s speech reminds me to reflect on the values of the United States — and to challenge myself to live up to those values in my own life.

    Every year, that aim and that challenge take a different form. The world changes. But I try to let this dark anniversary kindle a fire in my heart, to live up to the spirit of my country.

    This year, given the terrible destructiveness of Hurricane Harvey and Irma, we’re all focusing on the threats from the natural world.

    As happened after September 11, we see that despite the shock and devastation, there’s a mood of tremendous determination and desire to help.

    Churchill said:

    These cruel, wanton, indiscriminate bombings of London are, of course, a part of Hitler’s invasion plans. He hopes, by killing large numbers of civilians, and women and children, that he will terrorise and cow the people of this mighty imperial city, and make them a burden and anxiety to the Government…Little does he know the spirit of the British nation, or the tough fibre of the Londoners…who have been bred to value freedom far above their lives. This wicked man, the repository and embodiment of many forms of soul-destroying hatreds, this monstrous product of former wrongs and shame, has now resolved to try to break our famous Island race by a process of indiscriminate slaughter and destruction. What he has done is to kindle a fire in British hearts, here and all over the world, which will glow long after all traces of the conflagration he has caused in London have been removed.

    If you want to listen to Churchill give his broadcast, you can listen here. The section I quote above begins at 7:43.

    Each year, this anniversary helps me — and many people, I think — to remember the deepest values, and what matters most.

    Do you feel this way about September 11?

    The post Each Year, on September 11, I’m Reminded of Winston Churchill. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

  • gretchenrubin 17:27:35 on 2017/09/07 Permalink
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    Exciting: Scientific Research and Experiments Underway to Understand the Four Tendencies Better. 

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    When I talk to people about the Four Tendencies, one issue that often comes up  is, “Has your framework been scientifically validated?” People want to know about the research that supports the Four Tendencies.

    As I describe in my book The Four Tendencies, as part of my work on these personality profiles, I ran a study among a nationally representative sample, to examine a geographically dispersed group of U.S. adults with a mix of gender, age, and household income. I learned a lot from that study.

    I’m excited, too, to announce that a team of researchers has published a scientific article about using the Four Tendencies in health-care. This is particularly gratifying, because one of my main goals for writing the book was to help health-care providers find more effective ways of supporting patients in following their treatment plans.

    Why don’t people take their medication, do their exercises, manage their blood sugar, follow doctor’s orders — when it seems clear that they’d be healthier and happier if they did? I believe the Four Tendencies sheds a lot of light on this question of “adherence” — and how to solve it.

    Here’s the conclusion:

    “Increasing adherence to treatment is critical for improving outcomes and minimising healthcare resource waste. In general, several of the interventions available today are complex, resource intensive, expensive, and lack a firm focus on the patient. We need an effective method to target the specific interventions that provide the most benefit to individual patients, and it is crucial that this method be easy and inexpensive to administer, and widely applicable, as part of everyday practice. Rubin’s Four Tendencies model provides an opportunity to test such a targeted, patient-specific strategy. Such a tool is only useful if the interventions that are most effective for patients with a specific Rubin Tendency exist and can be implemented easily. In an environment with already stretched resources where the factors influencing adherence are complex and varied, the ability to tailor interventions to the patient is an important component of a wider problem.”

    Read the full article here.

    I asked Paul Lavender, who kicked off the process of getting this article written, about why he thought it was worth undertaking this research. He explained:

    I think this model makes a huge contribution to the topic of personality and treatment adherence.

    I’m generalizing somewhat, but it is fair to say that ‘personality’ is regarded as fairly unimportant in ensuring adherence. Why? Well, there are factors such as education, financial status, access to treatment, severity of disease, patient-doctor relationship, etc. that are shown to have a far greater impact than personality on adherence in well-controlled trials.

    So why does the Four Tendencies add something valuable? I would say three reasons:

    1. It does not focus on ‘personality’ as a whole, but on the most important aspect of personality from a treatment adherence perspective: typical response to expectations. To give a personal anecdote, my wife, my best friend and I have all taken a well-established personality test and got the same personality ‘type’ – even though this ‘type’ only comprises 5% of the population. So you would think we are pretty similar? Well, on the big issues, yes – but she is 100% ‘Questioner’, he is 100% ‘Rebel,’ and I’m 100% ‘Obliger,’ so if we ever had to take a course of treatment, we would be very different – and a detailed personality test did not pick that up.
    2. It does not postulate that a personality type is indicative of poor adherence, but that a Tendency is indicative of poor adherence only in a certain environment. To my mind, this is absolutely crucial, and to my knowledge unique to the Four Tendencies. Knowing someone’s Tendency (with the exception of ‘Upholder’) will not allow you to predict their level of treatment adherence. For example, Questioners may be non-adherent in an environment where they are given little information on their condition and treatment, but absolutely adherent in the opposite environment. Consider that patient-doctor relationship is a large predictor of non-adherence (but treated as a separate factor from ‘personality’). If we hypothesize that poor patient-doctor relationships are often a ‘misalignment’ of Tendencies between the patient and the doctor, then the Four Tendencies model has the potential to have a huge impact on treatment adherence. In short, the Four Tendencies model postulates that 80% of patients are more likely to be non-adherent in a particular treatment environment. It is relatively easy and inexpensive for health care practitioners to change the treatment environment.
    3. It is easy to understand. One problem with many psychological models is that they can only be understood by psychologists. Rubin’s Four Tendencies is simple to pick up for all health-care practitioners, from all disciplines.

    Research and experiments are also being done by Judson Brewer, MD PhD, is one of the leading minds in the field of habit change, addiction, and the “science of self-mastery.”  I recently did an interview with Dr. Brewer about how he’s using the Four Tendencies to help people have a better relationship to food and eating. Stay tuned for that transcript — I’ll post it soon.

    I’m very pleased to see the scientific community engage on the Four Tendencies — exciting to see other people grappling with the framework.

    The post Exciting: Scientific Research and Experiments Underway to Understand the Four Tendencies Better. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

  • gretchenrubin 20:02:00 on 2017/09/05 Permalink
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    Are You a Fan of Myers-Briggs, StrengthsFinder, the “Big Five,” Enneagram, the Five Love Languages, or Other Personality Frameworks? 

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    Do you love a great personality framework? I sure do.

    I believe they can be a great tool for self-knowledge — they help to shine a spotlight on hidden patterns of behavior and thinking.

    If, like me, you’re fascinated by these kinds of frameworks, I think you’ll be intrigued by my Four Tendencies model — it  divides the world into Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. (Learn more and take the Quiz here.)

    People often ask me how my Four Tendencies framework corresponds to other frameworks — for instance, how it matches up with Myers-Briggs or the Big Five. I’ve even had several people suggest that the Four Tendencies correspond to the Four Houses of Hogwarts. (By the way, they don’t!)

    In my view, each framework has its own nuances and strengths, which are lost if we try to map one framework onto another. So I don’t try to say that “this” equals “that.”

    At the same time, it’s true that the Four Tendencies can be used alongside other frameworks, to provide deeper insights.

    For instance, perhaps you’ve found the StrengthsFinder model to be very illuminating. Thinking about your “strengths” alongside your “Tendency” can give you deeper insight into yourself.

    Or perhaps you’re reflecting on the results of the quiz you took to learn your score on the “Big Five.” Thinking about those results, in context of the Four Tendencies, can help you better to understand those findings.

    I have to say, one thing I like about my Four Tendencies framework is that it’s narrow. I think that some frameworks try to be too universal in their descriptions; they try to draw a picture of people’s entire personalities, and in my observation, people are too complicated for that exercise to work well.

    The Four Tendencies model explains just one narrow aspect of your personality. If we lined up fifty Obligers, they would look very different from each other — depending on how ambitious, considerate, intellectual, adventurous, aggressive, neurotic, introverted or extroverted, etc. they were — but as to how they respond to outer and inner expectations, they’d all respond the same way.

    Your “response to expectations” is a narrow aspect of your nature, true, but it turns out to be hugely significant in how the rest of your personality plays out in the world.

    At the same time, when using these frameworks, it’s important not to let these categories to become stifling; they’re not meant to box us in or limit our sense of possibility, but to point the way to helpful understanding or change.

    My own favorite personality framework is (no surprise) the one I created, but I love reading and thinking about all of them. If you’d like to learn more about other personality frameworks, I list some of my favorite books in the post, “Do You Love Personality Frameworks? These 10 Books Will Help You Understand Yourself.

    Some of the most popular include:

    1. The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment  by Gary Chapman. Argues that people speak different “love languages”: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.

    2. Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are by Daniel Nettle. Discusses the “Big Five” personality model (extroversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness) and includes a quiz for self-evaluation.

    3. The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Richard Riso and Ross Hudson. Divides people into nine categories: Reformer, Helper, Achiever, Individualist, Investigator, Loyalist, Enthusiast, Challenger, and Peacemaker.

    4. Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type by Isabella Briggs Meyers. Based on the theories of Carl Jung, argues that people fall into sixteen types, in different combinations of four pairs: Extroversion or Introversion; Sensing or Intuition; Thinking or Feeling; Judgment or Perception.

    4. Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham; Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath. Discusses the thirty-four “strengths” and helps readers identify and take advantage their individual own strengths.

    5. The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin. Of course, I have to add my own book to the list!

    One question that often arises is: How “scientific” is a particular framework? — what research supports it, has it been validated?

    This is a very important question, and I’m thrilled by the work that researchers have begun to provide a scientific examination of my own framework.

    At the same time, though, it seems to me that if a particular way of looking at the world illuminates something for you, that clarity has its own validity.

    Research in a lab is one way to understand human nature, but it’s not the only way.

    Has one of these frameworks been very helpful to you? What frameworks have I overlooked?

    The post Are You a Fan of Myers-Briggs, StrengthsFinder, the “Big Five,” Enneagram, the Five Love Languages, or Other Personality Frameworks? appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

  • gretchenrubin 21:35:11 on 2017/09/03 Permalink
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    Have You Successfully Used the Four Tendencies at Home, in Work, in Life? I’d Love to Share Your Story. 

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    As I’ve explored happiness, good habits, and human nature — and especially in the context of my Four Tendencies framework — I’ve found that we really learn from hearing other people’s stories and examples.

    For this reason, the book The Four Tendencies is crammed with actual examples from real people.  (In fact, I was so fascinated by these examples that the early drafts of this book were gigantically long — at one point it was almost twice as long as it is in its final form. I just couldn’t resist adding example after example after example. Finally I managed to include only the most interesting and representative ones.)

    The fact is, we can all learn from each other. Obligers hear about ingenious ways to create crucial outer accountability. Rebels learn how to harness the power of a to-do list in a way that doesn’t ignite their Rebel spirit of resistance. Questioners finally get insight into why their stream of questions (and often, their reluctance to answer others’ questions) sometimes drains and overwhelms others. Upholders see how to avoid the choking grip of tightening. And so on.

    So I would love to hear your stories. If you’ve successfully put the Four Tendencies to use — at work, in a relationship, with a child, in a health-care setting — I’d love to get your short video story. And I’d love to highlight it, so that others can learn from you.

    If you’re game, please share your short video using the  #FourTendenciesStory hashtag, and tagging me @gretchenrubin on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. I’m especially looking for short videos I can share. After you create your video, post it on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, wherever you prefer, and tag me. And then email the link to info@gretchenrubin.com.

    Maybe the Four Tendencies framework has given you insight into yourself, so you’ve been able to achieve an aim that had previously frustrated you.

    Or maybe the Four Tendencies framework has allowed you to work more effectively with other people, by allowing you a new way to understand their perspectives.

    I can’t wait to hear your stories!

    Over on the “Better” app, which is my free app that’s all about the Four Tendencies, I can hardly tear myself away from reading people’s comments and questions. It’s so fascinating to see how the Four Tendencies play out.

    Side note: one thing that surprises me is how obvious the Four Tendencies are. Once you know this framework, it’s quite easy to spot the Four Tendencies in the world. How is it possible that I’m the first person in history to notice this model? Because truly, once you know about it, you see Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels all around you. It’s not a subtle thing. (Don’t know your Tendency? Take the quiz here.)

    So if you have the time and the inclination, if you want to help other people to learn and to manage their lives more effectively, if you feel like putting your story out into the world, and if you’d like to help me out, please post your video story. It’s a big help, and I really appreciate it. But only if you feel like it, of course. Up to you.

    The post Have You Successfully Used the Four Tendencies at Home, in Work, in Life? I’d Love to Share Your Story. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

  • gretchenrubin 10:00:41 on 2017/09/03 Permalink
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    How Do You Feel About “To-Do” Lists–Helpful or Not? 

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    How do you respond to “to-do” lists?

    When it comes to productivity advice, certainly one of the most common and most-discussed suggestions is, “Make a to-list, and check off the items as you go.” Is that good advice?

    I enjoy making and using to-do lists, and this is great advice–for me. And for many people. But it’s not necessarily great advice for everyone.

    If there’s one thing I’ve concluded from all my research and writing, it’s that there’s no single best way to make your life happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative. There’s no magic, one-size-fits-all tool that suits everyone.  (Well, actually, maybe the twin Strategies of Convenience and Inconvenience work for just about everyone. But that’s the exception.)

    So how do people of the Four Tendencies profiles respond to the question, “Do you find it easy to complete your own to-do list? What about someone else’s to-do list?”

    Upholders complete their own to-do lists as easily as they complete to-do lists that others gave them

    Questioners more easily complete a to-do list they wrote themselves

    Obligers more easily complete a to-do list that someone else gave them and is holding them accountable for

    Rebels usually ignore a to-do list, or they may put a Rebel spin on it

    People often ask me, “Okay, though, I’m a Rebel. So how do I put that Rebel spin on a to-do list? Or how else can I get things done?”

    Good question.

    It’s helpful to remember that the minute that Rebels see a list of things they are “supposed” to do, they feel that Rebel spirit of resistance. For them, making a to-do list may make them less likely to complete a task.

    They might be better served by doing tasks spontaneously, whenever they feel like doing them. One Rebel told me, “I keep a running to-do list, and when I feel like tackling some chore, I’ll do it, but only when I’m in the mood.

    Another Rebel turned the prospect of doing routine, scheduled tasks into a challenging game:

    Instead of writing a to-do list, I write each task on a separate piece of paper. I fold up all the pieces and put them in a bowl, then select one folded paper and do whatever task is written on it. I don’t select another paper until that task is completed. This makes for a fun game of chance, and looking at the little folded papers feels less daunting then looking at a list of tasks.

    Another Rebel was able to use a to-do list by making a simple change in vocabulary, by using a “could-do” list: “‘To-do’ lists almost never get done by me, because as soon as I have to do something, it’s the last thing I want to do. A ‘could-do’ list, however, reminds me that I can choose whether or not I complete the task.”

    As for Questioners — Questioners need to make sure they see the efficiency and justification for every item on their to-do lists. Then they will follow through.

    Obligers need to build in outer accountability for anything on their to-do lists — even items like “read for fun,” “practice guitar,” or “keep my New Year’s resolution.” This is crucial, Obligers! Always, outer accountability.

    Upholders tend to enjoy using to-do lists, and find them easy to use.

    When we understand ourselves, and how our Tendency shapes our perspective on the world, we can adapt our circumstances to suit our own nature — and when we understand how other people’s Tendencies shape their perspectives, we can engage with them more effectively.

    If you keep telling yourself — or someone else — to use a to-do list, and that method isn’t working, it’s time to try something new. There are so many different ways to build the lives we want, when we do it in the way that’s right for us.

    And what works for an Upholder, or a Questioner, or an Obliger, or a Rebel, are often quite different.

    Don’t know your Tendency? Take the free quiz here. Soon I’ll hit the one-million mark for the number of people who have taken it.

    My book The Four Tendencies hits the shelves on September 12.  Important: if you want FREE access  to my five videos about the Four Tendencies (videos: overview; at work; in romance; with children; in health-care), pre-order the book now and get your bonus videos. After September 11, there will be a (hefty) charge for the video set.

    How do you feel about to-do lists? Do you use them, or have you adapted this idea in a way that suits your Tendency?

    It’s funny to remember…years ago, as I was groping for an understanding of the framework that became the Four Tendencies, it was a glance at my own to-do list that gave me the key insight that the response to expectation was the core theme.

    The post How Do You Feel About “To-Do” Lists–Helpful or Not? appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

  • gretchenrubin 19:45:48 on 2017/08/29 Permalink
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    In Some Situations, It May Be “Better” to Be an Obliger Than an Upholder. 

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    Remains of the day

    I love to re-read, and I love to read on airplanes, so it was with great pleasure that I re-read The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Isiguro on my flight back from the Podcast Movement Conference in Anaheim.

    Maybe you’re read the book — it was hugely acclaimed and won the Man Booker Prize. Or maybe you saw the Merchant-Ivory movie, starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.

    The narrator is Stevens, the English butler of Darlington Hall who is taking a trip to visit Miss Kenton, a former housekeeper with whom he worked for many years.

    As the story unfolds, many things become gradually clear to the reader. Stevens is extraordinarily removed from his own feelings; he devoted his life to Lord Darlington, a man whose efforts to further the German cause leading up to World War II led to ignominy; he has deep love for Miss Kenton that he could never express; he revered his father and never told him; etc. etc. It’s a beautiful, compelling book.

    These days, I see everything through the lens of the Four Tendencies, and it was fascinating — and enormously instructive — to read this novel.

    It’s an incisive portrait of an Upholder. Stevens shows all the strengths of the Upholder, and all the weaknesses.

    But what was most instructive for me was to understand something that truly, I’ve never quite grasped before: the advantage, in some circumstances, of being an Obliger instead of being an Upholder.

    All the Tendencies have their own strengths and weaknesses, and this showed me how Obligers have a strength that Upholders may lack.

    Bear with me. This is a little complicated, but it’s important.

    Obligers and Upholders have a deep affinity: they both respond readily to outer expectations.

    Upholders also respond readily to inner expectations, which means that they can much more effortlessly meet their own inner standards. Most of the time, this is a useful quality.

    While Obligers (like Upholders) readily meet outer expectations, they struggle to meet inner expectations. This dynamic can lead to the striking pattern of Obliger-rebellion, which is when an Obliger meets, meets, meets, meets an expectation–then snap, the Obliger refuses. Obliger-rebellion can be small and symbolic, or it can be huge and destructive.

    I’ve come to understand that Obliger-rebellion, though it can be destructive, is also highly constructive. It’s an escape hatch for Obligers. It’s meant to protect them, to eject them from situations where expectations are unrealistically high, where they’re being exploited, where they’re being ignored, etc.

    However, I never before grasped how Upholders were disadvantaged by not having the instinct for Obliger-rebellion. I thought that the fact that Upholders meet inner expectations was protection enough (though to be sure, some UPHOLDER/Obligers do show forms of Obliger-rebellion).

    The Remains of the Day shows how this absence of Obliger-rebellion can at times be a problem.

    In a real Upholder way, Stevens gets enormous gratification from “dignity”–a word he examines and discusses several times throughout his reminiscences. In his mind, it’s his dignity as a professional that allows him to set aside his personal desires and needs in order to serve Lord Darlington’s household perfectly. As it happens, the household is entertaining important guests — and is therefore in a time of high expectation — when Stevens’s father is dying, and at a crucial moment in his (thwarted) relationship with Miss Kenton. At least until his epiphany at the very end of the book, which takes place years after the events described, Stevens takes tremendous pride in the fact that he could live up to his expectations for himself, and others’ expectations for him, to be the perfect servant, even in the face of great personal sacrifice.

    Now, according to his lights (until the epiphany at the end), this is right and justified.

    But as I read, I thought, “Hmmm….if Stevens had been an Obliger, maybe he would’ve given that great service, but at some key point, thought, ‘After all I’ve done, what do I get? My father is dying, and they expect me to serve tea? This, I won’t do!’ or ‘I’ve given Lord Darlington so many years of service, but this demand is just too much, so Lord D can just wait a little while before I rush back to his side.”

    For Stevens, such moments of Obliger-rebellion might have led to a much happier, richer life. His Upholderness held him in place.

    What has struck me most about the Four Tendencies is how much we can learn from each other.

    As an Upholder myself, I’ve learned a tremendous amount from Rebels: we’re more free than we think.  And I’ve learned a tremendous amount from Questioners (like my husband): always ask why. And I’ve learned a lot from Obligers: if someone demands too much, refuse.

    Have you seen portraits of the Four Tendencies in books, TV shows, movies, songs, and so on? Send them my way! I’m collecting them.

    On a recent Facebook Live conversation, for instance, we had a lively discussion of whether Cersei from Game of Thrones is an Upholder. Upholder or Obliger? I’m still debating.

    Don’t forget to get access to the pre-order bonus videos after you pre-order The Four Tendencies.

    The post In Some Situations, It May Be “Better” to Be an Obliger Than an Upholder. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

  • gretchenrubin 16:58:33 on 2017/08/25 Permalink
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    Some Thoughts on Happiness After Dropping Off My Daughter at College. 

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    This was a big week in the life of my family:  my older daughter Eliza has gone off to college.

    In her case, she did a pre-program, where she went hiking in New Hampshire with a small group of other incoming freshmen.

    This step reminded me of how we did the “Separation” stage when she was starting pre-school.

    During pre-school, she began the school-going experience by attending for a short day, I’d wait nearby with the other parents, and she and I got used to the idea of her going off to school by herself.

    For this outdoor program, we sent her off, but it felt more like a return to summer camp. Before she left home, the focus was on “Do you have the right hiking gear?” not “Now you’re saying good-bye to our dog Barnaby for several months.” When I dropped her off with her backpack, we told each other, “See you next week.”

    This hiking trip made the transition less abrupt. During that week, I told my husband, “I feel like I’m on the mezzanine level — in the mid-way point between two stages.” It was helpful to Eliza, because she got the chance to get to know a group of other students beforehand.

    Then after a week, my husband, my younger daughter Eleanor, and I packed up the car to meet her. We spent the day unloading, unpacking, meeting Eliza’s roommate and her family, buying a trash can, and all the rest.

    I can get very tightly wound in situations like this, so in the car on the trip up, I announced to my family, “I’m really going to try to stay calm. I know there will be ambiguous directions [a pet peeve of mine], and it’s going to be hot, and there will be a lot of waiting and frustrations, but I am going to stay calm.” (My mother is rightly always reminding me to stay calm.) I wanted this day to be a memorable, fun, serene good-bye day. I didn’t do a terrific job of staying calm, but I did a pretty good job of staying calm.

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned about happiness, and about self-mastery, it’s to think in advance about the experience I want to have, the likely pitfalls, the challenges that always trip me up. By using the Strategy of Safeguards, I help myself avoid acting in ways that will cause me regret later.

    It’s always odd, for me, when I’m going through an experience that I know will be a major life milestone. As we were waiting for Eliza to return from the hiking trip, I said to Eleanor, “I remember so well the day I moved into college. For all of us, we’ll remember this day. We’ll reminisce, ‘Remember Eliza’s first day?'” I had a similar thought when Eleanor came home from the hospital. A friend sent flowers, and I remember rocking Eleanor and thinking, “I have a baby who is such a newborn that the congratulatory flower arrangements are still fresh.” That happened more than twelve years ago.

    Time is so strange, how events can seem so distant and yet so recent. Already, Move-in Day seems like part of the distant past.

    Of everything I’ve ever written, this one-minute video, The Years Are Short, is the thing that has resonated most with people. Now that little girl who rode the bus with me is off on her own.

    In episode 125 of the “Happier” podcast, we talked about advice that listeners suggested for dealing with this family transition (also for packing–we got lots of great packing recommendations). The advice was great, and the most helpful suggestion came from the listener who said, “Remember, this is the end of something, but it’s also the beginning. You’ll have a new chapter in your family life, new favorite restaurants, and spots to visit, new memories. This chapter is short, so enjoy it.”

    I’ve reminded myself of that helpful observation often, because of that, for me, addresses the heart of my mixed feelings about this time.

    I’m thrilled for my daughter — she’s ready for this change, this experience will be terrific, she is so very fortunate to have this opportunity to get more education. And of course this change is a happy change — while often when we deal with endings, it’s in the context of loss.

    I’m sad because it’s the end of her childhood — of her being under our roof. Last week, I got a shock when I glanced into her room in the early morning: her door was open, her bed was made, and for a moment I panicked, where was she?

    And even the extra space in our bathroom makes me a little sad. She shared a bathroom with my husband and me, and the removal of her products gives us a lot more room in the medicine cabinet. This change was gratifying to my simpicity-lover side, but it was also an unexpected visual reminder of her absence.

    Speaking of echoes to pre-school separation, I keep reminding myself of the wise observation made by the nursery-school director, who as we went through “separation,” told us, “This is the first of many times that you will say good-bye to your child.

    We’ll see her soon. Visiting Day, Thanksgiving, and sheesh, I’ll be back in town for an event in less than three weeks! (I told her she didn’t have to attend, and she and I didn’t even need to see each other, if she thought it would be too unsettling to have me pop back into view.)

    It won’t be the same, but while it’s the end of an era, it’s also the beginning of an era.

    If you want to hear Eliza’s views, you can listen to her podcast “Eliza Starting at 16.” I certainly can’t wait for her next episode.

    We also did a Facebook Live broadcast together where viewers gave both of us advice for this big transition. Watch it here.

    For me, it’s always difficult when something comes to the end. Even if I’m ready and happy for it to end, I always feel a sadness in the thought that a period of my life is over.

    But then I remind myself, “No beginnings without endings. Growth brings change.”

    Also, I remind myself, “Gratitude.” As always is the case, feelings of gratitude crowd out negative feelings. When I think about how very, very, very fortunate we are, that comforts me. And that steels me to handle my own feelings and to turn outward, to think about other people’s difficulties and challenges, and the problems of the world.

    Have you grappled with this feeling — of dealing with the end of an era?

    The post Some Thoughts on Happiness After Dropping Off My Daughter at College. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

  • gretchenrubin 12:00:08 on 2017/08/15 Permalink
    Tags: , , Uncategorized,   

    A Four Tendencies Dilemma: What Would You Do with the Office Coffee Mug? 

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    Have  I mentioned that my book The Four Tendencies is coming out in September? Oh right, I think I have.

    Well, I’m gearing up for my book tour, and thinking about my book talk.

    I’m considering opening my talk by describing a familiar situation that illustrates how differently the Four Tendencies see the world. What do you think of that idea? Consider this scenario:

    “What Would You Do with the Office Coffee Mug?”

    Imagine that you’ve been hired to work in sales in a small-to-medium sized office.

    There’s an office kitchen with a sink, fridge, dishwasher, and a cabinet stocked with office mugs.

    Although you haven’t met the night cleaning staff, you know that a crew comes in every night to vacuum, dust, empty the trash cans, handle the recycling, clean the kitchen, and wash and put the office mugs back in the cupboard.

    There’s no sign in the office telling you what to do with your dirty mugs, and no one has mentioned the office etiquette to you.

    The first time you used a mug and were deciding what to do with it, what idea most likely ran through your mind?

    1. My job is to do sales, and the cleaning staff’s job is to clean.
    2. It’s more efficient for the cleaning staff to spend the time cleaning, and for me to spend my time making sales.
    3. The cleaning staff shouldn’t have to clean up after me.
    4. No one can tell me what to do with my mug.

    To be sure, your Tendency is just one narrow aspect of your character; two people of the same Tendency might behave differently depending on how considerate they are, how ambitious they are, how busy, how extroverted, and a million other things.

    And of course your life experience influences your behavior. You might automatically deal with your mug  the way you dealt with mugs at your last job.

    Nevertheless, I think there are some very general patterns, if you identified with those reactions:

    1-likely to be an Upholder

    2-likely to be a Questioner

    3-likely to be an Obliger

    4-likely to be a Rebel

    However, it’s crucial to note that you can’t judge people’s Tendencies from their actions; you have to know what they’re thinking.

    And you often can’t predict people’s actions from knowing their Tendency, because so many factors come into play.

    For instance, in contrast to the predictions listed above, a Rebel might choose to clean a mug, with the thought, “It’s important to me to be a thoughtful member of this office.” An Obliger might not clean a mug, with the thought, “This office is dangerously close to failure. I need to spend every minute I possibly can making sales, or everyone will lose their jobs.” A Questioner might clean a mug, with the thought, “If clients come in and see a sink full of dirty dishes, they may assume we run a sloppy operation. The risk of losing sales is a very good reason for me to clean my dishes.”

    Given the many different perspectives that can arise, even within the same Tendency, it’s easy how often people disagree. An Obliger might think, “I can’t believe that other people show so little common courtesy for others.”  A Questioner might think, “If you want to clean the mugs, fine, but don’t expect me to help. I’m here to make sales!” An Upholder might think, “I wouldn’t empty the trash cans, and I wouldn’t vacuum, and I don’t feel like I have to wash the dishes, those aren’t my jobs.” A Rebel thinks, “Why does everyone keep talking about the mugs? Sheesh, do whatever you want, that’s what I do.”

    Studying the Four Tendencies has shown me that very often, there’s no single correct way to view a situation.

    Want to learn your Tendency? Take the quiz here. (Hundreds of thousands of people have taken it.)

    Want to join a lively discussion about the Four Tendencies? Join the Better app to ask questions, offer strategies and insights, and join Accountability Groups.

    Want to get free access to my five videos about how to apply the Four Tendencies? To get the pre-order bonus, you can find details here. You’ll get the overview video as well as subject videos on using the Four Tendencies at work, with spouses and sweethearts, with children and students, and in health-care settings.  Free now; note after the book comes out, there will be a (fairly hefty) charge for the video series.

    The post A Four Tendencies Dilemma: What Would You Do with the Office Coffee Mug? appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

  • gretchenrubin 21:22:08 on 2017/08/08 Permalink
    Tags: , Uncategorized, Video: Habit Strategy,   

    Habit Strategies and Tips for Rebels 

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    The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin - Rebels

    After my book Better Than Before hit the shelves, I was surprised by how many Rebels contacted me to request more information about how to harness their Tendency.

    As I was writing Better Than Before, I’d assumed that a) Rebels wouldn’t want to read a book about habits, and that b) Rebels weren’t interested in trying to foster habits.

    Well, I was wrong! Many Rebels are very interested in learning how to harness the tremendous strengths of both habits and of the Rebel Tendency to help themselves become happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative.

    The Rebel section of The Four Tendencies is actually one of the longest sections, because there’s so much to say, and so much to try, that can work well for Rebels. I include dozens of examples, including many from Rebels themselves.

    One  general challenge, however, is that many strategies that work well for other Tendencies — such as the Strategies of Accountability, Monitoring, or Scheduling — don’t work well for most Rebels. And some popular strategies — such as the Strategies of Convenience, Other People, and Reward — must be carefully adapted for the Rebel perspective.

    If you are a Rebel, or you’re working with a Rebel, it’s a huge help to recognize that fact! You will have far greater success if you approach the situation in a Rebel-specific way.

    In a nutshell: Rebels resist all expectations, both inner and outer alike. 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.

    Watch this short video to learn more about the Rebel Tendency:

    Habit Strategies that Work Best for Rebels:

    In Better Than Before , I describe the 21 strategies that we can use to make or break our habits. Twenty-one is a lot, but that’s good — some of the strategies work well for some people, but not others. This is especially true for Rebels. For Rebels, the key strategies are:

    Strategy of Identity (most important for Rebels)

    For Rebels, the most effective habit-change strategy is the Strategy of Identity. Because Rebels place great value on being true to themselves, they can embrace a habit if they view it as a way to express their identity. “I quit sugar because I respect my body. I want to give myself energy and good health by eating only healthy foods.”

     Strategy of Clarity

    The Strategy of Clarity works for Rebels, because it focuses on why a habit might have personal value for them. The more Rebels think about what they want, and why they want it, the more effectively they pursue it. “I attend this optional seminar about Photoshop because I’m a creative, curious person who loves to learn about new tools and methods. This class is giving me the knowledge I crave.”

    Strategy of Convenience

    Instead of trying to commit to scheduling a habit, Rebels often do habit-behaviors as soon as they feel like it. “What a gorgeous day! I feel like going for a run.”

    Strategy of Other People

    The Strategy of Other People is also a useful strategy for Rebels to consider; Rebels love doing things differently from other people. They do an obscure kind of yoga, run barefoot, exercise late at night. One Rebel wrote to tell me how much she loved being a female bodybuilder.

    Note: Rebels tend to resist if you ask or tell them to do anything. It’s very important—but challenging—to avoid setting off their spirit of resistance.

    Also, many of the 21 strategies that work well for other Tendencies typically don’t work for Rebels: for instance, Strategies of Scheduling, Accountability, Monitoring, or Rewards.

    Looking for strategies for Upholders, Questioners, and Obligers? Click here.

    Rebels may also enjoy this interview on the “Happier” podcast, when Elizabeth and I talked to the brilliant Chris Guillebeau, who’s a Rebel.

    Chris is the host of the terrific podcast “Side Hustle School,” which aims to help people start side hustles to give themselves more freedom, career choice, and outlets for expression of their interests and talents. Freedom, choice, doing things your own way…do those values sound familiar? Rebel! Though lots of people who aren’t Rebels love side hustles, too, of course.

    Join the Discussion

    If you’re intrigued by the Four Tendencies, and want to join the lively discussion on my Better app, sign up! It’s free. You can start or join an accountability group (Obligers, I know many of you want to do that!), ask questions, have discussions about your own Tendency or dealing with someone else’s Tendency. Say, you’re a Rebel who is having trouble controlling your blood sugar, or you’re the parent of a Rebel who wants to drop out of high school. You can swap questions, ideas, and solutions.

    The post Habit Strategies and Tips for Rebels appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

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