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Book Review: The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin’s new book hit shelves on Tuesday! I’ve been looking forward to The Four Tendencies since Gretchen first mentioned it on her podcast. I love this framework, and have found it to be very valuable both personally and professionally. This will be the first of many posts about what I learned from this book.

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In this book, Gretchen explains the personality framework she discovered when studying habit formation for Better Than Before in great detail. The Four Tendencies breaks people into Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. A person’s tendency is based on how she responds to an expectation.

  • Upholders easily meet inner and outer expectations alike.
  • Questioners question all expectations and will meet an expectation only if they think it makes sense, meaning they treat all expectations as inner expectations. They meet inner and resist outer expectations.
  • Obligers easily meet outer expectations but have trouble meeting expectations they set for themselves.
  • Rebels resist all expectations, and don’t like to be bound to any set rules or regulations.

The book has tons of examples and advice on how to set yourself up for success based on tendency. It’s so simple, but very powerful. I love everything Gretchen Rubin does, and this book was no different. It’s fun and entertaining, but also smart and extremely practical.

This doesn’t have anything to do with content, but I love the look of this book. It’s hardcover, but with no dust jacket. The inside cover has a handy diagram to explain how the tendencies overlap and also displays a motto for each tendency. The colors are also great and appealing. Basically, this book will look good on your shelf!

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The way this book is organized is really effective. It starts with an overview of the framework as whole and how it can be helpful to you at work and at home. The second chapter is devoted to a quiz that helps you discover your tendency. The bulk of the book is a deep dive into each of the four tendencies including patterns, strengths, weaknesses and mottos. The last section of the book is about applying the framework to everyday life. There’s also an appendix filled with lots of helpful resources!

Why do I find this framework so helpful? Like I said before, it’s simple but impactful. I’m a Questioner, and once I realized this it became a lot easier to set myself up for success. I stopped worrying about what I thought I should be able to do, and started focusing on doing what works for me.

Questioners need reasons and justification. We hate anything arbitrary or inefficient. “Because I said so” is not going to convince us to do anything. We like to have tons of information and will likely do tons of research before making a decision. Once we’re convinced the reasons for doing something make sense, we’ll meet the expectation pretty easily.

This description so accurately describes me it’s comical. I once spent six months researching different planners before I finally made a purchase. A simple task like a purchase order seems paralyzing to me until someone explains why it’s necessary. Even when a habit is working for me it feels vulnerable until I have clarity as to why it’s working.

I can promise this won’t be the first time I write about the four tendencies and being a Questioner. I want to share in detail how useful knowing my tendency, and the tendencies of those close to be, has been. This framework is so helpful, and I highly recommend this book.

Questions: Have you heard of the four tendencies framework? Do you find personality frameworks helpful? How do you respond to outer expectations? How about inner expectations?

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