Well-Being//

How Well Do You Know Yourself? Find Out With the ‘Four Tendencies’ Chart

"In a nutshell, it distinguishes how people tend to respond to expectations"

Credit: Elena Seibert

Of everything I learned about habits and human nature from working on my book Better Than Before, the most challenging thing I figured out — and the insight I’m most proud of — is my Four Tendencies framework. (See below for a quick overview.)

It took me months of rumination to make sense of everything I’d observed, and to fit it into a system that accounted for everything. I’ll never forget the thrill I felt when everything at last fell into place.

I felt like I’d uncovered something like the Periodic Table of the Elements. My framework is balanced, consistent, encompassing, and predictive — if I do say so myself.


For that reason, I wanted to develop a quiz to help people figure out their Tendency. With the help of the extraordinary Mike Courtney and his team at Aperio Insights, it’s ready! (It turns out that it’s a lot harder to make this kind of quiz than you might think.)

At last, it’s finished. 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.

Remember, be honest! The Quiz is only as accurate as the answers you provide.

When I talk about the Tendencies, people often say, “I’m a mix.” It’s true that the Tendencies do overlap, so each Tendency shares aspects with other Tendencies — but it’s not really possible to be a mix. To be an Upholder is not to be an Obliger. To be a Questioner is not to be a Rebel. While Upholders and Obligers both respond readily to outer expectations, it’s how they respond to inner expectations that distinguishes them. Similarly, Questioners and Rebels both resist outer expectations; it’s how they respond to inner expectations that distinguishes them. And so on.

For this reason, part of what made the Quiz tricky was that I had to figure out questions that would really pinpoint the key differences among the Tendencies.

Once you’ve taken the Quiz— did your answer ring true for you?

In Better Than Before, I explore at greater length the nature of the Four Tendencies, and how they affect habits.

In fact, I’m thinking of writing a little book that’s a field guide to the Four Tendencies, one that goes even deeper into this framework. Would you be interested in something like that?

In the meantime, take the Quiz! I’d love to hear what you think.

If you need a quick overview of the Four Tendencies:

In a nutshell, it distinguishes how people tend to respond to expectations: outer expectations (a deadline, a “request” from a sweetheart) and inner expectations (write a novel in your free time, keep a New Year’s resolution).

Your response to expectations may sound slightly obscure, but it turns out to be very, very important.

  • Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations (I’m an Upholder, 100%)
  • Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense–essentially, they make all expectations into inner expectations
  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike

If you’d like to see me discuss each category in a video, you can watch: for Upholders, watch here; Questioners, here; Rebels, here, and Obligers, here.

I hope you find the Quiz useful. It was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun to do. I’m very curious to hear people’s reaction to it, so please do post a comment to share your thoughts..


Originally published at gretchenrubin.com on January 14, 2015.

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