The Morning Battle: Human vs Alarm
6:00 a.m. Alarm – It’s time to get up. You promised yourself you’d go for a run today, but if you cut your post-run shower short, you can sleep for another 4 minutes at least. *pushes snooze*
6:04 a.m. Alarm – You decide to cut your shower out all together, but you’re definitely still going for a run next time the alarm goes off. *pushes snooze*
6:08 a.m. Alarm 5 more minutes. You’ll skip breakfast. You’re rarely hungry in the morning anyway. *pushes snooze*
6:13 a.m. Alarm There’s no way that was 5 minutes. *turns off alarm and continues sleeping*
7:02 a.m. No alarm. Wakes up and checks phone. Dammit, how did that happen AGAIN? *jumps out of bed, brushes teeth, promises self you’ll run tomorrow*
Why You Keep Losing to the Alarm
On this week’s episode of The Happen To Your Career Podcast, four-time NYT bestselling author Gretchen Rubin dives into the science behind unmet resolutions, the anchor holding you back from your side gig, and the reason one “right way” might be…well…bullshit. A seasoned podcaster, she regularly co-hosts the Happier Podcast where she provides tips for making and breaking habits and success strategies for each personality type.
In her latest book, The Four Tendencies, Gretchen explains a personality framework involving, as you would guess, four tendencies. Each identified type is characterized by their tendency to respond to inner expectations and outer expectations. (Inner expectations being those you set on yourself—like New Year’s resolutions; outer expectations being those put on you by friends, coworkers, family, etc.)
To listen to the episode, click play. To read about it, continue down the page.
The Four Tendencies: Find Your Type
You can discover your type by doing a short quiz over on Gretchen’s site, or identify your unique tendency using the descriptions below.
Obligers meet the expectations of others but struggle to meet their own. This type is likely to abandon a New Year’s resolution almost as quickly as they set it—unless they enlist the help of a friend. They require outer accountability to make things happen.
*If you identified with the alarm clock situation, another inner alarm might have gone off when you read this description.*
Questioners question all expectations. They decide whether or not an expectation makes sense, and in that way, turn all expectations into inner ones. They are big on justifying their actions, and they may encounter analysis paralysis—the state of over-analyzing a situation so long that they never take action or make a decision.
Upholders can uphold all expectations—whether inner or outer. Once they’ve articulated a goal, they can move forward unrestrained. These people may be perceived as rigid by friends and coworkers.
Rebels resist both outer and inner expectations. They want to do what they want to do when they want to do it. They don’t enjoy taking orders from others.
The Secret to Fighting Your Limitations
Your result from the four tendencies test doesn’t have to limit you. The big secret Gretchen knows, and graciously shares with us on today’s podcast, is this:
“It’s much easier and more effective to change circumstances and surroundings than attempting to change your inner nature.”
That’s it. Set up external parameters that help you reach goals instead of recalibrating your brain. We know. Now that you read it, it seems kind of obvious. (We felt the same way the first time Gretchen said it.)
The Four Tendencies: Key Success Strategies
When you understand your innate response to expectations, you can set yourself up for success. Here are a few examples:
An obliger struggling to stick to an inner commitment to work out may set up external expectations by joining a gym class that takes attendance, inviting a friend to be their workout partner, or scheduling workouts with a fitness trainer.
A questioner attempting to make a major decision may spend hours upon end researching, getting sucked into a black hole of information. Knowing this tendency, a questioner should remind themselves exactly what it is they need to know and why the answer is important.
An upholder chasing after goals is unstoppable so long as they can articulate what they are going after. The first step to getting what they want is always stating what they want. Upholders must put special attention into clarifying goals.
A rebel might run from accountability instead of benefiting from it. This type may even resist their own desires, just to prove they don’t give in to expectations. To counteract the need to act in opposition to expectations, rebels should ask themselves, “What do I actually feel like doing right now?”
Now that you’ve read about the four tendencies, do you know your type? With more self-awareness than you had 5 minutes ago, you can get started tackling your side job, transforming your career, and living a more fulfilling life. For more help in taking control of your life and career happiness, click here.
Can’t listen to the show right now? Read the transcript here.
Transcript from Episode
This is the Happen To Your Career Podcast with Scott Anthony Barlow.
We helped you stop doing work that doesn’t fit you. Figure out what does and make it happen.
We help you define the work that’s unapologetically you and then go get it. If you’re ready to make a change, keep listening.
Scott: As I’ve been diving into the psychology of happiness over the last 10 years, that’s led to reading tons and tons of books on the subject of happiness. Now, this included books from psychologists and leaving research experts, but there was also one person that wasn’t a psychologist whose books I kept getting hit over the head with no matter where I went or where I turned.
Gretchen: And I got to the point where I was like, you know, I’d rather fail as a writer than succeed as a lawyer at this point. And I also was at a point in my life where I was like, this is the obvious point to try. If I take another job in law, I might never have the gumption or the opportunity to try and either succeed or fail. This is the moment to try. I should take this opportunity and if I’m ever going to switch, this is the time
Scott: We’ve had tons of requests from people sending me her work and articles and books written by Gretchen. By the way, she’s the author of quite a few different books, including New York Times bestsellers – The Four Tendencies, Better Than Before, The Happiness Project. She’s been interviewed by Oprah. She’s eating dinner with Daniel Conoman, walked arm in arm with the Dalai Lama. She’s had her work written up in medical journals. She’s even been the answer on jeopardy, which is kinda funny, but she hasn’t always had this level of success. So where does it all start for her?
Gretchen: I started my career in law. I went to yield for undergraduate and law school and was doing very well on the lawyer track. So I was editor in chief of the law journal there. I was a clerk for Justice Sandra Day O’connor, and it was actually when I was clerking for justice o’connor that I got the idea for what turned into my first book. That’s when I was sort of seized by an idea and I thought, you know what? I really think that I want to try to write this book. I want to try to be a writer. So it was a process just switched from water writing. But yeah, I started out in the law track.
Scott: Well let me ask you about that. What prompted you to go to law school in the first place? Why did you even want to be a lawyer?
Gretchen: I went to for all the wrong reasons, which is a reason frankly, that a lot of people go to law school you think you’re doing it for yourself. It’s a great education. I’m good at research and writing. It’s great preparation for a lot of different things. I can always change my mind later. In my case, my father was a lawyer, very happy lawyer. He’s still a very, very happy lawyer, so I had the model in my life than somebody doing it and really loving that work and it just was, and this is what I called drift. I’ve written about this on my blog a few times. The idea of drift and that’s when you make a decision by not deciding when you kind of go with the flow and you do what is sort of the easiest option and drift sounds easy. Like oh, drifting makes it sound very leisurely. Well, of course that’s not the case. I mean law school was hard all the way from cramming for the LSAT, that taking the bar exam, you know, taking my exams in law school, clerking, it was hard but I went because I really was like, I don’t really know what else to do and so this seems like the kind of thing that I would be good at and I wasn’t good at it and I’m not sorry that I went. Sometimes when you drift into something it turns out well, but not necessarily. I did not mindfully choose law. I definitely did it. Thinking that it was kind of an open ended and the fact about law school is that law school prepares you very well to be a lawyer. So if you don’t think you want to be a lawyer, I would not go to law school. I intended to set you up to be a lawyer and you are very well qualified for that, it doesn’t necessarily make it a lot easier to go into other careers. Some, maybe it helps. The three years is a long time. It’s hard, it’s a lot of money. You want to be very careful about how you spend your time, your money and your energy.
Scott: Totally agreed. Well, let me ask you this, Gretchen, what began to happen that caused you to think, hey, maybe I do want to consider something else. What was the set of events that led you down that path?
Gretchen: Well, you know, I think when I look back on my life, I had done many, many things to prepare myself to be a writer. And I think the problem was just I didn’t see a place for myself in the writing world. At that time, there was much less emphasis on sort of creative nonfiction, so I sort of thought like I either need to be a journalist, which I did not want to be. I need to be like a novelist, a playwright and poet, which I did not want to be or I needed to be an academic writer and I didn’t want to do any of those things. And so I had this kind of background interest in reading and writing, but I didn’t have an outlet for it. And the thing about writing, and this is true of many careers, many people in very many different careers I’ve discovered, but it was definitely true for me and it’s true of many writers, is there’s almost a compulsion to it. Like you almost feel like there’s no choice and in a way this is good because it’s very satisfying, but in a way it’s bad because it’s like you kind of don’t have a choice. I had this idea for a book, as I said, when I was clerking and it was just like, it hit me. I remember exactly the minute when I had the idea. It was like, this is my idea, I must pursue it, I’m going to do this. So it wasn’t so much like I was leaving law or like I didn’t like law. It was more like I felt this extraordinary pull in another direction that became irresistible. I always think of, you know, in star wars when they’re in the Millennium Falcon and they’re like, turn off the engines because the tractor breaks screen us, you know, and we’re going to rip ourselves a part of. We don’t just go. And I was sort of like, you know, now I just, I feel this strong compulsion to go and to pursue this. And of course it was a tremendous amount of work and I didn’t really know what to do. So I had to figure that out, which was, which was not easy. I didn’t know how to become a writer side to figure that out. But, so I think for me a lot of it was just really knowing what I wanted for the first time. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t like what I had. It was like, oh my God, there’s this other thing that I want, and I got to the point where I was like, you know, I’d rather fail as a writer than succeed as a lawyer at this point. And I also was at a point in my life where I was like, this is the obvious point to try. If I take another job in law, I might never have the gumption or the opportunity to try and either succeed or fail. This is the moment to try. I should take this opportunity and if I’m ever going to switch, this is the time. And so, I did.
Scott: It makes my heart happy that you used the Millennium Falcon example there. But aside from that, let me ask you about something that you said and I’m curious what you thought about this for yourself, but what you’ve observed over the years too, because I think this is important. I heard you say that writing’s always been there in one facet or another. Right? And it sounds like, but initially you really couldn’t see a place for yourself in what you knew about the, I’m just gonna call it the writing world. Is that fair to say?
Gretchen: Exactly right. Yep.
Scott: So then, did you feel like it happened organically then in order to begin to see yourself in a place in that world or did you do things intentionally throughout that process? I’m getting into the nitty gritty a little bit.
Gretchen: I have a memory which I know is false. I know this is a false memory because I’ve tried to figure out how the timing would work and it doesn’t work. So I know that this is a false memory, but the way I remember it is I went into a bookstore and I saw Mark Kurlansky’s book – Cod, The History Of The World Through The Eyes Of A Fish, and I was like, oh my God, my head is exploding. You can do anything you want with nothing. And in my mind that’s how it happened. I don’t think that that is how it happened but somehow that is like, that’s kind of like somehow in my mind that symbolically it was like I began to see because there are models of other kinds of nonfiction, there are models of nonacademic say like I wrote a nonacademic biography of Winston Churchill when there are those models and it wasn’t that I was consciously saying to myself, how do I find a place for myself in this world? It was like, all of a sudden I’m like, oh my gosh, I have this. My first book was called Power Money, Fame, Sex, a user’s guide, and it was like a guide to power money, fame, sex, and it’s like people would say to me like, is this a joke or is this real? Because it’s like a guide, but in a way that’s very kind of satirical and I love kind of false self help or false guides. There’s like a whole genre of false guides. So this fits into that. And then the minute I was like, this is this kind of thing. I know this kind of thing. I can write this kind of thing. I have an idea for this kind of thing. Then it was like, oh my gosh, but I think it took a long time for all those points to connect. One of the things about me that I was one of my favorite things about myself as I am very subject to epiphany. Like it’s not that uncommon for me to like all of a sudden like literally stopped still on the sidewalk and be like, oh my God, idea is hitting me right now. I will remember like exactly where I was when it was for almost all my books. I know exactly when I had the idea for it. Like I will feel it, like entering my body and sometimes I’ll have a realization like reading something. I’ll be like the electricity hits me. And so, it didn’t happen before, but this was the first time when I was like, yes, I see what this would be and how much fun this could be and like how I could develop this idea.
Scott: That’s amazing. So let me ask you then about the happiness project. I was trying to find where and how that idea hit you and now you’ve brought up this whole element of that idea hitting you, but what was that? You mentioned casually in the book itself, but then you don’t necessarily go into detail about what was that moment?
Gretchen: So I was at the Crosstown bus, if any of your listeners know near New York City. I was on the Cross town bus at 79th street. It was pouring rain and there was a lot of construction on the street so it was going very, very slowly and I just had one of these moments for reflection when that a lot of times you don’t have in everyday life because you, we’re all sort of rushing from this to that and you’re thinking about everything that you need to get done and everything that’s just happened or it’s going to happen. But. So anyway, I had one of these moments where I was just like, I’m stuck on this bus. I’m not going anywhere. And I looked out the window and I just thought, you know, what do I want from life anyway? Like I just asked myself like the biggest question and is that all I want to be happy. And I realized at that moment I never thought about happiness. I never asked myself if I were happy, I never thought about is there a way, could I be happier? Like is it even possible to be happier? Like is that something that you can affect? And I said, I thought it was, you know, I should have a happiness project. And it was like, babam! happiest project you’d like. Yeah. And then later on people were like, oh, I don’t like to say this title, you should call it something else. What happened to this project? Sounds like too much work. And I’m like, no, no, no. From the very first conception of it, that is what it has been to me, the happiness project. But it was good to be just for me, this started out as just like my own private revelation. And I start random books, the library and got a huge stack of books. Checked out a huge stack of books about happiness and started doing all this research and I do that fairly often like I’m obsessed with color. I’m obsessed with the placebo response. I’m obsessed with smell like I do all this research that may or may not show up in a forum that anybody else would see, so that’s not that uncommon, but with happiness it was just so rich and so deep and I kept going deeper and deeper and deeper intimate. It got bigger and bigger and bigger. I was finishing up my biography of JFK that time and I was just so entranced by this research that at a certain point I thought, well, maybe this is my next book, but maybe my happiness project isn’t just something that I will do for fun, but I will actually do it and write a book about it. And so that’s how I got the idea for that book.
Scott: I love that. I love that. I’m very much the same way. I will one, get a mini epiphany’s and then those will happen at certain moments, but also very much I get attached to particular topics and then I want to know everything about it and I’m going to read all the books or whatever it might be.
Gretchen: So fun when that happens. Oh my God.
Scott: Oh yeah. Okay. So not to dovetail too far off here and I really want to come back and talk both about happiness and also a subject that you introduced in one of your earlier books, but it has made the showcase for your latest novel in the Four Tendencies.
Gretchen: That’s not enough though. But, yeah. Book.
Scott: Your latest book. Yes. Yes.
Gretchen: I don’t want any novel readers to expect, sadly disappointed novel.
Scott: I do want to come back and ask you, I’ve got so many questions about that. However, I am curious. I just recently I heard you mention the biography for Winston Churchill and I just recently came back. My family and I spent a month in the UK and got to be kind of entrenched in some of the Winston Churchill history. So I’m curious, what were some of your big takeaways and in researching him in what did you love about the man? What did you dislike about the man?
Gretchen: Well, I wrote a short unconventional biography of Churchill and part of what the point of that book was to kind of be a meditation on the nature of biography and the nature of telling the story of someone’s life. And so the way it’s called 40 ways to look at Winston Churchill and it takes, it looks at him in 40 different ways and so it kind of forces you as the reader to think about like, oh, well how is the way that I’m receiving this information leading me? How’s the biographer leading me to certain conclusions? For instance, the first chapter, it’s like the heroic version of Churchill. All, absolutely factually true. It’s absolutely true. The whole thing. It’s perfectly factually accurate and it’s just you come away thinking like Winston Churchill is one of the greatest people who’ve ever lived. Then I have the other version of Winston Churchill also bear, you know, a 100 percent factually accurate, but it’s like you come away thinking this is a deeply, deeply flawed person who made many, many, many significant mistakes on a world stage. Both are true and you will see how I am leading you to a different conclusion. And it’s funny because I will get emails from readers both separately arguing to me using facts that they’re quoting back to me that I put in the book. I’m like, I told you that. You’re saying that because I told you that. I wrote that. I know that. So I love Churchill because he is so complex and there are so many things to look at. I mean, he was involved in everything for so long. One of the things I admire most I say personally that I learned the most was writing because I’m a very annoyingly. Not only was he this like world statesman who’s also a brilliant writer. And I learned a lot about writing from just reading his speeches, his memos, his of course, his books, which he wrote many of many different types. All very wonderful to read. Anyone who hasn’t read painting as a pastime or the history of the English speaking people or my early life. These are wonderful, wonderful books. History of the English Speaking People, not so factually accurate, but okay. The other thing that’s so fun about setting Churchill is like all the people that so many people around him were themselves, brilliant writers and thinkers and so interesting to sort of pursue all those things and of course it was such a tremendous time in the world. What a joy it was to write that book. I love studying Churchill. Have a gigantic bookshelf full of my Churchill collection. One day I wanted this to go back and reread all those books again because it was such a delight.
Scott: Churchill’s fascinating. I didn’t even realize how much I’ve always been a Churchill fan just because of the reason that you pointed out is so complex. There’s so many different sides to him and he’s so fantastic since he’s been involved with so many different pieces in. I’m saying it’s pretty high profile, high stakes sort of way. But I’m super curious. Possibly the most important question there is, which of the Four Tendencies just Churchill fall into?
Gretchen: And it gives a questioner
Scott: That’s what I figured you would say. Well, a little bit of background here. Let’s shift gears because I’d love to ask you some more about how the four tendencies really came about? I know that it was a process there. That one did not sound like an epiphany except for…
Gretchen: Oh was, it was absolutely.
Scott: Well then, I want to hear about it as well. So Four Tendencies is your newest book to be clear, not a novel, and how do you do describe that book when you’re talking about it to other people? and what are the four tendencies? Set us up here. Help us understand that.
Gretchen: So, the four tendencies, is personality framework that I feel like I discovered it. I wouldn’t even say I invented it. I discovered it in the world that divides the world into four types of people. They say there are two types of people, the kind of people who divide people into two types of people and the kind of people who don’t. And I’m the kind of people who does. I’m always looking for sort of vocabulary to kind of make generalizations about how people behave and how they respond. So this personality framework divides people into upholders, questioners like Churchill, obligers and rebels. And what the four tendencies looks at is how people respond to expectations. So it’s a very narrow aspect of your nature, but it’s a very significant aspect of your nature because we all face two kinds of expectations – outer expectations, like a work deadline or requests from a friend. And then our own inner expectations, which is like, I want to keep a new year’s resolution. I want to get back into practicing guitar. These are the things I ask of myself. So depending on how a person responds to outer and inner expectations, that’s what determines whether they’re an upholder, a questioner, an obliger or rebel. And then in front, once you know someone’s tendency, it gives you a lot, a huge amount of insight into or yourself if it’s you, how to get yourself to do something, how to set up situations that makes it much more likely for people to succeed, how you understand conflict that you have with other people or frustration because like why do they see the world in a different way? For me, that’s what the tendencies will show.
Scott: Well, I think this is super fascinating and super relevant to everyone who’s listening here because many of the people who are listening right now are in the place where they want to make a very large change in their life, often loses a career change and they’re wanting to do something differently and how we respond to your point, how we respond to an inner and outer expectations drastically changes how we might be successful in some ways. And going about those types of major life changes. Is that fair to say?
Gretchen: Absolutely! Once you know the definition of before you start seeing how you need to do things differently.
Scott: I gotta be honest with you, when people first started sending me your work and then eventually, you know, this book came across my desk. I’m like, this is the world, really need another set of category. Even though I’m the type person who also put people in categories left and right. But I started thinking about that and then I read the book and I was like, oh, this is good. I like this. So I’m a questioner. But let’s go through some of these and talk about them briefly and here’s what I’m really interested in for the people in each category, how can they best make a rather large type change? Because when we’re talking about a large career change, that’s more like a marathon than a sprint. It’s behavioral change
Gretchen: Well I have and I think this is the four tendencies, is something that helps with exactly that kind of challenge. So I will briefly describe these and most people know what they are from a brief description, but if you want to take a quiz that will tell you an answer, you can go to my website which is gretchenrubin.com. Like I think 1.3 million people have taken this free quiz. It’s fast, it’s easy if you want an answer. And on my podcast Happier With Gretchen Rubin, we talk about it a lot. So if you want to hear more discussion of your tendency or them in general, there’s a lot of stuff on the happier podcast. But like I say, most people can tell what they are from a very brief description, which I will give now. So upholders readily meet. I’ll go through them quickly and then I’ll go back and explain what you would do differently depending on your tendency so that people kind of know what they are. You sort of have to hear all four before, you know. Nice people are like, that’s me. No, that’s a no. Okay, no, now I know what I am. Okay. So upholders readily meet outer and inner expectations. So they meet the work deadline, they keep the new year’s resolution without much fuss. They want to know what other people expect from them, but their expectations for themselves are just as important. Then there are questionnaires like you and Winston Churchill, questionnaires question all expectations. They’ll do something if they think it makes sense. So their question is like, why should I? They want a justification and they tend to resist anything arbitrary, inefficient or unjustified. So they’re making everything an inner expectation. If something meets their inner standard, they will do it. No problem. If it fails their standard, they will push back.
Scott: And we despise waiting in line. I will go to good wait, great lanes to not have to wait in line no matter how long or where it is or whatever else.
Gretchen: Then there are obligers. An obliger readily meet outer expectations, but they struggle to meet inner expectations. And I got my epiphany about the whole four tendencies came when somebody said something to me that then now I recognize was something that an obliger says. She said, I don’t understand it. I know I would be happier if I exercised when I was in high school, I was on the varsity track team and I never missed track practice. So why can’t I go running now? The answer is because you’re an obliger. Obligers readily meet outer expectations, but they struggle to meet inner expectations. When she had a team and a coach expecting her to show up, no problem, which he’s trying to go on her own. It’s a challenge. Then finally, rebels. Rebels resist all expectations outer and inner alike. They want to do what they wanna do in their own way, in their own time. And if you ask or tell them to do something, they’re very likely to resist. Though they could do anything they want to do, anything they choose to do. And so rebels don’t want to take orders from other people. They want to do what they want to do when they want to do it. And the interesting thing about the four tendencies is they’re not the same number of these things of the tendencies in the world. The biggest tendency for both men and women by a fair amount is obliger. You either are an obliger or you have many obligers in your life. That’s a big tendency.
Scott: That’s super interesting. Why do you think that is?
Gretchen: I think it’s evolution. I mean evolution decides everything for us, I think because I really believe in the genetic roots of personality. So I think that this is somehow, this is what the genetics have predisposed us to, and an evolution has its own purpose and you can see why that would be. It’s great to have lots of obligers around, but you can’t have all obligers. Then there are questioners questions or it’s the second largest. Then rebel is the smallest tendency. It’s a conspicuous tendency, but it’s a small tendency. And my tendency, upholder tendency is only a tiny bit larger. So my tendency is also a very rare and kind of extreme type of personality. So when you’re thinking about like if you’re trying to develop a message or a curriculum or you’re setting up an app or something like this, it’s very helpful to realize most of the people you’re going to be talking to are either going to be obligers or questioners, the rebels and the upholders are the extreme personalities. There aren’t that many of them relative to the other two. But to your point, very, very important point, which is, okay, I want to make a big career change. How do I harness the power of my tendency? How do I offset the weaknesses and limitations of my tendency and get myself where I want to go? This is the question for all of us. How do I make the life I want? How do I make the changes that I want in my life, especially if I’m frustrated? So for that kind of changed, it’s probably pretty easy for upholders. Once they decide what they want and look at me, right? I was just like, you know what? I think I would like to go to law school. So I went. I think I would like to become a writer, so I did what I needed to do. I didn’t have an agent, I didn’t have an editor, I didn’t have anybody holding me accountable and yet I was able to follow through because once I had that very clear idea in my head of what I wanted to do, then I could execute so easiest, that kind of thing for upholders. They have to make sure they know what they’re expecting of themselves. They have to clearly articulate what they’re expecting of themselves because otherwise they can’t meet those expectations.
Scott: Well, that was I was gonna say though. Let me ask you about that because your first statement almost left us with, hey, I’m just going to. It’s no problem for upholders. Right? But it sounds like really it actually is much more about making sure that you have those clear expectations. Is that what you’re saying?
Gretchen: Yeah, but I mean, I imagine that in your case people have a clear expectation. They’re like, my expectation is I’d like to make a career change. I imagine that that’s the people in your audience. They’re not like it has never occurred to them that they would like to make a certain kind of change. They know that they want to make that change or maybe not, but if you know that’s the first step. The first step is to know what you want as always. Yeah and yeah, and that can be easier said than done. Like for me, I was alive because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Then when I figured out what I wanted to do, then I went to do that. So yes, you have to do that. And then there are questioners. So when questionnaires are facing a challenge of not being there for some reason they’re not doing what they want to do. I want to make this change. I don’t understand why I’m not making this change because again, if people are like, well on their way to making this change, it’s not such a challenge. The challenge comes when for some reason it’s not happening in a way and people get frustrated with themselves. For questioners, you always want to go deep into justification and so a lot of times when questionnaires are not able to move forward, one thing is they can have analysis paralysis. This is when they want more and more and more information and their desire to have perfect information. Or did you total research, it means that they can’t make a decision or move forward. So it’s sort of like, okay, I have a job as an accountant. I know I don’t want to be an accountant. I think I want to be a lawyer, but I need to do more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more research about what would they do, what would I be, how would this look, how would it be? And then it gets in their way. Because it’s sort of the black hole of information and that’s so satisfying too. So questionnaires have to guard against analysis paralysis and then also they have to have clarity of what their inner expectation is. If for them that means what are you asking of yourself and why? Why is this the right choice for you? Why is this the most efficient way to go about it? If you get caught in kind of like, well, I don’t know, what should I study for the bar exam on my own? Or should I take a class? They can actually do it online or you know, maybe I shouldn’t have a study group. Again, it’s like understand exactly what you’re asking for yourself and why that is the highest and best answer for you. And then actions follow. So when questioners can’t do it, it’s because they really aren’t clear on why and how. For obligers and I bench and you have a lot of obligers because this is the kind of thing obligers struggle. If they’re like for years I’ve wanted to have the side hustle. I’m totally interested in starting my online textile design business. I’ve totally committed to it. I’m 100 percent motivated. Every year I wake up and I’m like, this is the year I’m gonna start my business and I never do it. What’s the problem? This is the universal experience of obligers. They cannot meet inner expectations unless they have outer accountability. This is good news because outer accountability is absolutely easy to set up. There are 1 million ways to give yourself outer accountability. Once you realize that is what you need. A lot of times obligers try to work on motivation. They try to whip themselves into a frenzy of desire. This does not work. What works is outer expectations, so like my friend who was not exercising, I would have said workout with a trainer. Take a class where the teacher takes attendance. Work out with a friend who’s going to be annoyed if you don’t show up, take your dog who’s going to be so disappointed if she doesn’t get to go for a walk. Think of your duty to be a role model for someone else. Think of your obligation to your future self. Gretchen right now doesn’t want to exercise, but future Gretchen is going to be so disappointed if Gretchen doesn’t start keeping this habit of exercise, and so the person with the textile business, I would say get an executive coach. Start an entrepreneur group where everybody checks in once a week and holds each other accountable. Get yourself some customers, say 10 people, you’re my first on my list. I’m giving you a free whatever it is, and then these people will be like, hey, you said I was getting a free bag. Where’s my bag? Like now you’ve got a customer you’re going to have to deliver. You’re going to have to create that business because you’ve got customers waiting for you or clients or students. Whatever it is, create that accountability. One of my favorite ones was somebody who she told her kids, you have your homework and I have my homework and when you are working on your homework, I will work on my homework, and by the way kids, if you see that I’m not working on my homework, you get to take the night off too. So her kids are like policemen. All they do is like, mommy, mommy, mommy, why not the debt? You know, why don’t you watch TV with us? But now she has to work because she wants her kids to do their homework and so she’s created outer accountability for herself. There’s a million, million, million ways to do it. Once you realize that that’s what’s necessary. These are the tip offs for obligers. I would never let someone else down, but I let myself down. Everyone else is the priority. I can’t make myself the priority. I have no time for self care. Everyone can rely on me. I don’t know why I can’t rely on myself. I’ve given up making New Year’s resolutions because I’ve made and broken them so many times. I’m so discouraged. I would never do it again. If you say those kinds of things, if that things are true, then you are an obliger and again, it’s a very big tendency. So you are in good company and there’s tons of resources and hacks and strategies for obligers cues to get themselves the outer accountability that they need to follow through. And once they have that outer accountability, they’re great.
Scott: Have you totally, just curious, because I’m a questioner, it occurs to me that since you have dived into a lot of the different topics around happiness, have you also dived into the, around behavioral change by any chance?
Gretchen: Yes. I wrote a book called Better Than Before, that’s all about 21 strategies of how to make or break habit and that’s what led me to the Four Tendencies because when I was looking at how people successfully made and broke habits, I noticed that there were these patterns, these kind of very large patterns that seem to affect. For instance, accountability. As I said, works is necessary for obligers. It’s absolutely crucial for obligers. For rebels that can be counterproductive. Some rebels, they will resist if they feel like somebody is looking over their shoulder, they won’t do it, it will ignite the spirit of resistance. So it’s like you can’t just say like, oh, accountability is great. It’s great for some people it might not be great for others. So I started picking up these differences and like what would work for people and that’s what led me to an understanding of the four tendencies. Yeah. So I think about behavior change all the time.
Scott: That’s we do in our business and our work. So I am right there with you. I was going to ask you, and as you were thinking about behavioral change and as you were doing the research for that book and everything else that came along with it, have you found any place else that groups in that particular way, because most of the research that I’ve seen available out there kind of lumps almost everybody into one group in terms of like, hey, you need to get an accountability group or you know, these seven things work, but doesn’t really chunk it out much further.
Gretchen: No, I think it’s a huge mistake and I don’t understand it because it’s totally obvious to me. I mean, I think it’s totally obvious just from living in the world that there isn’t a one size fits all solution for everyone. There is no magic answer. There is no best practice because it’s what works for you because what works for me may not work for you. And in a really big part of understanding how to change is to understand well what am I like? And so how do I set things up so that I will succeed in the way that’s right for me? And it very obvious. I’d be like a very blatant example of this. The habit experts at the like sort of happiness, wellness experts often say things like, start small. Give yourself 30 days, give yourself a cheat day. Do it first thing in the morning. Okay? Right? Like that’s going to be universally successful, but let’s just think about do it first thing in the morning. There’s a million reasons on paper where that makes sense. I get it, but you go to a group of people and say, how many people here are morning people? Half the hands go up. How many people here in night people? Half the hands go up or more or less. It’s a real thing. Research shows that this is largely genetically determined and a function of age. Some people are at their most productive, creative and energetic much later in the day and if you’re a night person, the idea that you’re going to get up early and go for a run before work or that you going to be at your most productive and creative if you have an 8:00 AM staff meeting with a bunch of other night people, it’s just not the case. It’s just not so. And so, to me, I’m like, it’s much. Instead of trying to beat yourself up year after year after year to try to get yourself to go running in the morning, set yourself. So I’m an exercise in the afternoon, so there’s a million reasons like, okay, why is that challenging? But that’s a different problem. If you’re like, what I need to do is figure out a way to exercise between lunch and six PM. You can figure that out much more easily than you’re going to get yourself up early in the morning because it’s just not right for you and I in better than before. I go through all sorts of distinctions about how to figure out what kind of person you are. So you can set yourself up for success because what happens a lot of times is that people are like, oh, well this really, this works really well for my brother in law.
This works really well for my spouse. If it doesn’t work for me, there’s something wrong with me. I don’t have any willpower, I don’t have any self control, I don’t have any self esteem. I’m like, no. It’s like you’re an abstainer and he’s a moderator or you’re a finisher and she’s an opener or you’re a marathoner and he’s a sprinter. There’s like a million ways that people are different from each other and once you kind of know yourself, then you can set things up in the way that’s right for you. It’s much easier to change your circumstances and your surroundings that it is to change your inner nature. So I’m like, take the easy way so that it keep for yourself trying to beat yourself up, which doesn’t work
Scott: Exactly, almost zero percent of the time
Gretchen: And it doesn’t work for long. I mean, anybody can give up sugar for length, but it’s like, what do you do after? How do you keep that going? That’s when it starts getting interesting.
Scott: So to be quite honest, that’s one of the main reasons as I was reading through the Four Tendencies, that’s what jumped into my end of my mind for one of the reasons I liked it because, you know, applied to behavioral change specifically, it showcases that hey really we are not one size fits all and that we must take all of those differences into consideration because just like what you described, I mean, I’m thinking about my wife and I just had this conversation just the other day where, you know, it works for me to go through and never have any kind of dessert for like a month at a time and that just works better and not breaking it up versus she needs a cheat day.
Gretchen: So that’s moderator abstainers. So some people, when they’re giving up a, like a temptation, not something that they’re just mildly interested in, but something that’s really a temptation. They’re do better when they haven’t never. Like when they really just avoid it altogether, they can have none, but it’s hard for them to have a little. But then some people get kind of rebellious and anxious if they’re told they can never have something, so they’d like to have a little bit. They’ll have it. Sometimes they’ll have like five french fries. They’ll have like, you know, a couple bites of ice cream and the fact is a lot of times abstainers and moderators tell each other that they’re doing it wrong. I am a hundred percent an abstainer I don’t, I never eat sugar. I really don’t eat carbs. So I didn’t eat bread, pasta, rice, any of that stuff ever. It’s my birthday. Do I eat it? No, it’s Christmas do I eat it? No, because I don’t need it. That’s what works for me. I love it. And people will say to me, it’s not healthy for you to be so rigid. You need to learn how to indulge from time to time. And I’m like, why do I need to? This works for me. I’m not saying it’s going to work for you because some people they like to have a little bit, they like to have it and that’s what works for them and it’s just like, but I’m like, why don’t you just quit cold Turkey? Like why do you keep breaking the rules as that way works for them and it’s like if you and your wife were like, my way works for me, your way works for you. It’s like how do we create an environment where we both thrive instead of saying one of us has to convert the other. One of us has to convert, convince the other that I’m right, you’re wrong. It’s like we can both be right because there’s no right or wrong. It’s just what works for you. But I think a lot of times people don’t. They feel like there’s a best way and it’s only what’s best for you.
Scott: That is fantastic. Thank you for making that point. I think if you do nothing else. If you do nothing else realizing that it’s more important to find the best way for you, for all the things that we’ve talked about so far, rather than trying to find that the quote unquote right way and when it doesn’t work, blaming yourself and then ending up huddling in a corner with a whole bunch of ice cream or whatever it happens to be. Don’t do that thing. So I really appreciate you pointing that out. I have become a rapid fan as I have been beat over the head with your work over the last, I don’t know, several years at this point and I’m just really, really appreciative of you taking the time and coming and sharing this with our group, with our audience.
Gretchen: Thanks for having me.
Gretchen: We can talk all day.
Scott: I do as well. I love this stuff and I do love to talk all day about it. We don’t have all day though. So where can people find your work? Where should we send them? If they want more Gretchen and they’re like, I’ve got to get more Gretchen.
Gretchen: That’s great. Well, if you like to listen to podcasts, I have a podcast called Happier with Gretchen Rubin, which I do with my sister. She’s my co host, she’s a TV writer and show runner living in La. And so each week we talk about how to be happier, healthier, more productive, more creative, and we’re sisters so we don’t let each other get away with very much. So that’s super fun. I also have my books. We touched on the happiness project, which was my one year experiment in how to be happier, like all the things that I did. I wrote a book called Happier At Home, which is really about focusing on happiness in the home, which is one of the few universal ideas within happiness. Then I wrote a book, we also talked about Better Than Before, which is all about habit change. It’s the 21 strategies you can use to make or break your habits. And then the Four Tendencies, he goes just really deep into using the four tendencies, dealing with them, you know, whether it’s at work, whether it’s in a romance, whether it’s with a child, whether it’s in health care. I hear from a ton of healthcare professionals as well as just sort of general workplace stuff. It goes into all the questions of how do you deal with other people of that tendency and how do you deal with yourself taking into account your tendency? And then I have a site, gretchenrubin.com where I post about my adventures and happiness and have lots of tons and tons of resources there about anything, anybody would want to go deeper on. And then I’m all over social media as Gretchen Rubin and I love to connect with listeners and viewers and readers. So anywhere you see me, I’m like, I’ll all out there. I love to hear from people.
Scott: It will link up all that onto your happentoypurcareer.com/240. And that way you’ve got one place you can go for all of those links. Gretchen, this has been fantastic. I really, really appreciate you taking the time and making the time and thank you so much.
Gretchen: Thank you. I so enjoyed it.
Scott: Hey, I hope you really enjoyed that interview with Gretchen and I know that I really enjoyed the conversation, but we spent a bit of time talking about the four tendencies as well as how you can leverage expectations. So we’ve put all that into a blog post you can go to happentoyourcareer.com/240. That’s happentoyourcareer.com/240 and find everything that we talked about in today’s episode. I think that you’re going to love it. All right. We have so much more coming up for you and in store even next week, right here on Happen To Your Career. Take a listen. And I all that and plenty more next week, right here on Happen To Your Career. Until then, I am out. Adios!