Knowing your personality type can make you calmer and healthier
Do deadlines stress you out or give you a thrill? Do you follow the rules or break them? Happiness expert Gretchen Rubin says that what works for one person, won’t necessarily work for another. She believes there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for building a happier life.
‘Different strategies work for different people,’ she says. ‘Some people are morning people, some night owls. Some do better when they abstain from strong temptation, others, when they indulge. Some people love simplicity, some thrive in abundance.’
In her book The Four Tendencies, Gretchen explains that the key to happiness lies in our habits and how we respond to these expectations.
She breaks these into two types, outer and inner expectations. The former are ones that others place on us, like work deadlines, the latter are those we place on ourselves, like a New Year’s resolution.
‘Depending on your response to these expectations, you fall into one of four distinct types,’ says Gretchen.
Upholders: Respond readily to both outer expectations and inner expectations.
Questioners: Query all expectations and meet them if they believe they’re justified.
Obligers: Respond readily to outer expectations, but struggle to meet inner expectations.
Rebels: Resist all expectations.
Gretchen says whichever Tendency we are is in our nature, but knowing our type can help us to understand ourselves better.
Meeting deadlines, keeping resolutions and having routines are things Upholders thrive on. If they make a commitment they stick to it, and get irritated when others can’t.
However, this can lead to what Gretchen calls ‘tightening’ — for example, they might keep increasing their daily Fitbit step goal until they are jogging on the spot before getting into bed, just to reach their target.
Gretchen says they should consider carefully whether that expectation deserves to be met.
Using information, gathering facts, deciding for themselves, and objecting to anything unreasonable or illogical is what makes a Questioner.
Gretchen says: ‘Questioners wake up each day and think, “What needs to get done today and why?”’
But it can be exhausting.
Gretchen says they should spend less time researching and focus on their ultimate aim.
She says: ‘It’s important for Questioners to remind themselves to do what they have to, so that they can do what they want.’
Obligers are people-pleasers. They meet deadlines, keep promises and follow through for others, but struggle to do things for themselves.
Gretchen says. ‘Obligers meet their deadlines, fulfil their responsibilities and volunteer.’
But it’s inner expectations they struggle with.
Gretchen says: ‘No matter how much they want to meet a purely inner expectation, they’ll almost inevitably fail.’
Obligers need accountability. If they want to read more, they should join a book group. If they want to exercise more, they need to sign up for a class. Without that, they won’t make time for themselves.
Rebels are very productive, but only if they’re doing what they want to do. If someone else asks or tells them to do something, they resist.
Gretchen says: ‘Rebels wake up and think, “What do I feel like doing right now?” They resist control, even self-control, and often enjoy flouting rules, expectations and conventions.’
This Tendency — the rarest of the four — loves a challenge, enjoys defying people’s expectations and struggles with mundane tasks. Their behaviour often frustrates others, and can be self-destructive.
So what can a Rebel do?
Gretchen suggests introducing an element of game, challenge or choice. For example, if a Rebel has boring chores to do, they could write the tasks on pieces of paper, put them in a bowl and select one at random, making for a fun game of chance.
If dealing with a Rebel, try making things their choice or presenting it like it was their idea in the first place.
Edited by Julia Sidwell