The Four Tendencies

“According to your answers, your dominant tendency is ‘Rebel'”

Wait, what?


Surely not. I see myself as an ‘Upholder.” A straight up rule-follower. Someone who is disciplined, and law-abiding–a straight arrow.

How could the quiz have gotten it so wrong?

Yet here I am. A rebel. NOT an upholder.

This is a serious setback.

It will keep me up for weeks.


What on earth am I talking about?

Well, I have a terrible confession to make. I’m quiz-junkie.

There! I’ve said it. I love taking quizzes – What flower are you? Which Greek Goddess? Which Game of Thrones character are you based on your food preferences (yeah, based on your food preference (???), no joke . . . and in case you were wondering, Arya Stark).

So when Gretchen Rubin’s “Four Tendencies” quiz floated past my screen, I cast my line and reeled that sucker in!

So Four Tendencies–I suppose I should describe the framework.

According to Rubin, when it comes to expectations, we have different tendencies, those we hold for ourselves (inner expectations) as well as those others hold for us (outer expectations.

The four tendencies are described in detail in Rubin’s book, but here’s a quick synopsis of each, just so you get a sense of what’s on the table here:


Upholders tend to score high on meeting the expectations of others as well as themselves. They tend to readily meet both inner and outer expectations. They find it easy to meet a deadline. They find it easy to meet a New Year’s Resolution. They like to knock things off a to-do list. They don’t like to let people down. They hate getting in trouble or being blamed for things or making mistakes. They like to know what the expectations are and they like to meet them. They find this very satisfying. They are your proverbial overachievers–“Good Girls,” if you like.



Questioners, by contrast, question all expectations. They’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense. They wake up in the morning and ask, “What needs to get done today?” They are motivated by logic and sound reasoning. They want to know that the expectation makes sense. They hate things that are arbitrary or that don’t seem fair. They love information, they love research, they love evidence. But sometimes they can become paralyzed when they don’t have perfect information.


Obligers find it easy to meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet inner expectations. They’re the ones that will get to the gym when they know someone’s waiting for them there, but hit the snooze button when they have to do it themselves. They perform much better when they have some sort of external accountability. They tend to ask, “What do I have to do today?” They don’t like letting people down. They are the rock. They will deliver for others. But they have a tough time holding themselves accountable.




Rebels, the rarest of the profiles, resist all expectations, outer and inner alike. They want to do what they want to do at all times. They even have difficulty imposing expectations on themselves. Rebels wake up in the morning and think, “What do I want to do today?” They are very likely to resist if someone tells them to do something. In fact they are very likely to do the opposite. They love disruption. They are attracted to it. They thrive in it. If they do something, like exercise, for example, then they’re doing it because they have found a way to connect to the present-moment pleasure of it. They focus on why they want to do it, why they have the choice to do it. They are motivated by freedom and choice.




Okay, fine. So I am motivated by freedom and choice. But I am also someone who easily (readily?) meets expectations. In fact, I like that I meet expectations. I take pride in the fact that I am “dependable” and “trustworthy” and “solid.”

I might be the only woman on the planet who likes the word “solid” associated with herself. I want to be substantial. A rock. A tree planted firmly in the earth.

But I’m also a rebel. And more so now than ever before.

Of course, I’m not your leather-jacket-wearing, stereotypical, rebel. But I do shun (ignore) social convention and norms in many ways and have an allergic reaction to being placed in boxes of any sort.

I also “resist” being told what to do (doesn’t everyone?). So in that sense I guess the shoe fits.

So maybe the quiz is right. Maybe I’m a rebel.

What do you think?

Check out the quiz here and weigh in.









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