The 4 Tendencies- Do you know how you are motivated!

The 4 Tendencies- Do you know how you are motivated!

Do you know how you are motivated? Do you rely on inner or outer expectations, both or neither? You may have never even thought about this question before. I know I hadn’t until I read this book called The Four Tendencies, by Gretchen Rubin. It never occurred to me that people had different tendencies as it relates to their expectations and motivation. But now that I do know this, it has truly helped me understand a lot of my frustration with others and not getting stuff done or not doing what they said they were going to do.

I am sure many of you have taken different personality tests over the course of your life. I know within my company we use the DISC assessment, many people have done the Myers Briggs, Big 5 assessment, or Enneagram, but to me this is more about how we hold ourselves and others accountable and I actually find it more useful than other personality type tests.  There are 4 different tendencies (hence the name of the book The Four Tendencies) that people fall into, yes there can be some cross over. If you want to take the quiz it takes about 2 minutes! I would do it now before reading about the tendencies because people tend to answer their questions to what they “think” or “want” to be once they know the options. So, pause here, click the link, take the quiz and come back! Remember to be honest because it does no good to “pretend” to be something you are not, you can’t grow if you don’t know.


Now that you have taken the test, let’s go over what the 4 tendencies are and some detail behind them. Remember there are no good or bad tendencies or better or worse. All of them have strengths and weaknesses.

Upholder: Respond readily to both outer expectations and inner expectations. Upholders tend to be highly productive, love schedules and to do lists. They are good at self-care and rarely suffer from burnout. They are great with forming habits. Some of the upholder’s weaknesses are, they may see rigid even cold sometimes, they may refuse to change plans even if it makes sense. They feel compelled to follow the rules and may prioritize themselves over helping others or social activities.  Some of the quotes in the book about upholders were “Your lack of planning is not my emergency”, “I can do things I want to do, and I can do things I don’t want to do.”, “Just do it”, “Do what’s right even when people call you uptight.”  Being an upholder myself, these quotes made me laugh because I have probably said them numerous times in my life.

Questioner: Questions all expectations; meets expectations only if they believe it’s justified, so in effect they respond only to inner expectations. Questioners are very logical and value justification. They are very thorough in analysis and decision making. They value efficiency and continuous improvement. On the flip side due to their need to know all the information it can cause analysis paralysis where no decision is made because they need “more” information.  Other tendencies can find it annoying when Questions question every detail. Questioners may seem overconfident in their answers or beliefs because they believe they have done all the research. At times they may seem rude or inconsiderate for not following rules which they deem to be unreasonable. Some of the quotes from the book were: “Seek and seek and seek and seek, and maybe ye shall find”, “It’s my way or the wrong way”, “I’ll comply- if you convince me why”, “Prove it”.

Obligers: Respond readily to outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations. Most of the population fall into the Obliger tendency. They are reliable and likeable. Obligers are willing to go the extra mile and are great team players. They feel obligated to meet others’ expectations. Unfortunately, a lot of times they feel obligations from others that don’t exist. They struggle with self-care because they put the needs and wants of others before theirs. They find it hard to say no which then overwhelms them. They are more susceptible to burnout which can cause resentment. Some of the quotes from this chapter were: “By serving others, I serve myself”, “You can count on me, and I’m counting on you to count on me”, “How can I be of service to you”, “I don’t want to, but I will, anyway”.

Rebels: Resist all expectations outer and inner. Rebels are authentic, they say what they think and do what they believe in. They like to meet challenges when they can do it their way. They can think outside the box and are spontaneous. They tend to be more in touch with their authentic desires. This tendency can also be uncooperative, inconsiderate, have trouble accomplishing tasks that need to be done consistently. And are likely to resist when asked or told to do something. Some of the quotes from the book were “You’re not the boss of me”, “It’s so hard when I have to, and so easy when I want to”, “I do things only in my own way- a blessing and a curse”, “Because I feel like it”, “You can’t make me, and neither can I.”

Now that you know what you are, does the description make sense? Mine was spot on. I am an upholder through and through and now that I know that not everyone is, it’s a lot easier for me to understand why people can’t just do what they say they are going to do because they need more outer accountability or need to do the research first or have to come up with the idea on their own with choice and consequences.

I love the way the book is laid out. Each tendency has a chapter that helps you understand your tendency in a lot more detail. And then it has a chapter how to deal with others in your life with different tendencies. It identifies how to deal with a spouse, child, coworker, and for health care professionals how to deal with patients.

This book is an easy read and so eye opening. It was very helpful to see that not everyone is the same and they need different forms of motivation to accomplish what they want. I would highly recommend reading The Four Tendencies.

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