The Four Tendencies framework was developed by happiness and habits researcher Gretchen Rubin as a way to categorize how people respond to expectations.

The scoop according to Gretchen (I reference her enough I feel like I’m on a first name basis!):

In a nutshell, this framework distinguishes how people tend to respond to expectations: outer expectations (a work deadline, a “request” from a friend) 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
  • 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 the inner expectations they impose on themselves
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike

Take the quiz to find out what tendency you are (it’s free and takes about 10 minutes).

I love this framework because it helps provide critical insight into the goal setting process. A common issue I find with my clients is that they are approaching goal setting and accountability like the tendency they want to be, instead of the one they actually are.

So, for example, I’m a rebel but for years I thought I was an obliger. I thought having an accountability partner (creating outer expectations) was a way to make me be more consistent with my workouts. Turns out – I HATTTEEEEEDDD it. I often felt resentful towards my partner for making me feel like I had to do something, and was simultaneously pissed for not being able to make myself just do what I wanted to do (maybe if I cared more/tried harder/wasn’t so lazy/etc.).

Now that I know I’m a rebel, I have a whole different approach. I know I like variety so I make sure I’m changing up the days and times of the week I’m working out, the type of work out I’m doing, and if I don’t want to do it that day, I just don’t. By letting myself go with my flow, I’ve reframed the process into doing what I want to do instead of doing what I have to do.

#ResolutionReset: Analyze your resolutions based on your tendency. If you’re an Obliger, how can you create more accountability? If you’re a questioner, focus on clarity – get clear on why you are pursuing this goal and why you chose this method (and if the method isn’t working – research other ways to approach it!). If you’re a rebel, consider how you can loosen the reigns – what would make this pursuit more fun and exciting and is there a way to incorporate a challenge into it. And upholders, keep up the good work – resolutions are often easy for you to make and keep.


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