As I’ve detailed in my posts about holistic individualism and bio-individuality. I believe that we are all different and that we thrive in different ways when it comes to both diet and also strategies for making healthy changes. The 4 Tendencies personality framework helps us discover some of these strategies.
Personality frameworks are a really helpful way to distinguish ourselves from each other. They help us understand how each of us is unique and different. With this knowledge we can leverage our strengths and protect ourselves against our weaknesses.
Some of my favorite personality frameworks include The 5 Love Languages, Carol Tuttle’s 4 Energy Types and the NLP brain types. I love nerding out on this stuff, maybe sometime in the future I’ll talk about how each of them can be applied to your health.
Anyhoo, my favorite framework when it comes to teaching people to create lasting healthy habits in their lives is Gretchen Rubin’s 4 Tendencies Framework. I’m totally obsessed because it not only changed how I go about making habits for myself but how I help my clients make those same changes!
The 4 Tendencies
The 4 Tendencies show us how we respond to inner and outer expectations. Inner expectations being anything we’d like to do for ourselves: exercise, eat well, take a bath with candles regularly. Outer expectations are those things we are asked or expected to do by others: obey the law, turn in a work assignment, empty the dishwasher.
We can be broken up into 4 groups by our responses: Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, Rebel. Below I’ve given a few examples of what a person in each of these groups may need to keep in mind as they endeavor to “be healthy”.
To find out what Tendency you are – take the handy quiz at happiercast.com/quiz
Upholders respond readily to both inner and outer expectations
If you check all your boxes, follow all the rules and crave gold stars for getting it done, plus do it with little accountability or difficulty – you’re probably an Upholder.
Since Upholders are able to “uphold” both inner and outer expectations, it is usually easy for them to follow through on a healthy habit. When I work with Upholders, there isn’t a lot of hand holding. Mostly I’m there to give them the information so they can go forth and do it!
If the Upholder Tendency had a sponsor it would be Nike: Just Do It!
For Upholders healthy habits may be easy but they should be careful:
- Not to assume others can make changes as easily as themselves (it’s not that simple for the other Tendencies as you’ll see below).
- Not to allow the “rules” they’ve set for themselves to tighten to the point where they do more damage than good.
- To ensure that the rules they are following aren’t arbitrary (drink a gallon of water a day), so they can use their habit forming energy for things that actually count.
When I work with Upholders I encourage them to really think about the “rules” and protocols they choose to follow. Following rules for the sake of following rules isn’t usually beneficial.
Questioners respond readily to inner expectations but not outer
If you are questioning the validity of this framework or post, then you’re probably a questioner.
Information is the name of the game for most questioners. In order to comply with an outer expectation they NEED to understand it and feel like it makes sense to THEM (and thus turn it into an inner expectation).
My questioner clients typically don’t need much accountability once they understand and accept the path we have laid out together but if they don’t fully “get” it they will have trouble staying on plan.
Questioners may struggle with making healthy habits:
- When they don’t understand WHY an action would improve their health.
- When something sounds arbitrary or without sound reason (You must walk 10,000 steps a day!).
- When THEY don’t believe the purveyor of information is an expert (even if everyone else does).
That last consideration is something I have to keep in mind when I work with a Questioner. Even for those that feel I am an “expert”, they still may need to do research on their own to verify that what I am recommending is “right” or makes sense. And I remind myself, it’s just their Tendency!
Obligers are great with outer expectations but struggle with inner
These are the people I work with the most. These are your people pleasers, your best employees, that friend you can always count on.
This is also the group I belong to. When I realized that I am an Obliger it changed everything for me. I was finally able to follow through with a diet change I had been trying to make for months and it no longer felt hard. Why?
Because the Obliger tendency:
- REQUIRES external accountability to follow through on an internal expectation (changing my diet).
- Is more likely to follow through with healthy habits when they have an accountability partner, are working with a coach or participating in group programs. (In my case I set up accountability to my son and to my audience and clients because when I feel better, I’m better able to help everyone else- which is what I do because I’m an obliger!)
Obligers have a strong Tendency to think that if they can remove all the external expectations in their life and just find “balance” (that doesn’t actually exist) that they’ll finally be able to make those changes stick. In reality, all we need is to set up accountability. Hire a coach, walk with a friend (who will hold you to it), be a good role model for your kid at eat those vegetables!
The Rebel Tendency struggles with both inner and outer expectations
If I say HEY, READ THIS NOW! And you’re thinking “fuck you, you’re not the boss of me!” Then you might be a Rebel.
For the Rebel tendency being healthy is all about choice and identity.
Rebels succeed when:
- They get to decide what they WANT to do. They might try Class Pass (not an affiliate link) for exercising because it allows them to choose from a variety of options.
- Their changes are tied to their identity. “I am vegan/paleo/etc” “I am a marathoner”
When I work with Rebels I provide information and they do the rest. The choice is always theres.
I would love to know what your Tendency is in the comments!
For more information on Gretchen Rubin’s 4 Tendencies you can check out her website. She first laid this framework out in her book Better Than Before (totally an Amazon affiliate link, thank you for helping keep me stocked up on RX Bars <– hey another one!) , but she’s gone even deeper in her new book The Four Tendencies (and another!) coming out this September. I have pre-ordered both the physical book and the audio #nerdforlife
If you want to nerd out even more with me or you realized you’re an Obliger and need some damn accountability. Snag a spot in my upcoming group coaching program Make It Stick. We’ll figure out how to make your habits stick by leveraging your Tendency, everything else that makes you unique with a shit ton of ideas and resources PLUS laser coaching with yours truly to help you tie it all together. BAM!