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How Knowing Your Tendency Can Help You Stick to Your Goals

Updated: Jan 19, 2021

Gretchen Rubin's book, The 4 Tendencies, provides insight into how we respond to expectations.

The detailed Tendency Report states that “We all face two kinds of expectations:

  • > Outer expectations, such as meeting work deadlines or observing traffic regulations

  • > Inner expectations, such as quitting napping or keeping a New Year’s resolution.”

Essentially…”The Four Tendencies explain why we act and why we don’t act.” (Rubin, 2018)

Each tendency responds to life’s expectations differently, for better or for worse, and this can make goal completion difficult if you’re not sure how to use your unique way of navigating the world to your advantage.

Rubin has created Tendency Reports for each category:

As you can see by the accompanying graphic, some of the tendencies DO overlap and if you choose to read Rubin's book then you will be better able to understand how these overlapping traits affect the way you respond to the expectations in your life. Just understand that the opposing tendencies CANNOT overlap (A person can't be an Upholder-Rebel, Questioner-Obliger, or vice versa). Having a more thorough understanding of your tendency will give you that much more insight into how you can successfully achieve your goals and resolutions.

What These Tendencies Mean for Your Resolutions and How to Use This Knowledge to Help You Achieve Your Goals this Year:

It may or may not surprise you to know that I’m a Questioner. In my search for all the answers, I can succumb to analysis paralysis very easily and that can lead to stagnation and a complete lack of progress for my goals and resolutions. To combat this, I set specific limits to the amount of research and dwellings that I allow myself to indulge in and require a decision from myself by the end of those self-imposed limitations. Conversely, when I have truly, internally validated an expectation, you can bet your beans that it gets done, and then some. No one gets in the way of a Questioner who has made up their mind.

For Upholders, well, they’re go-getters so whether they’ve decided something is important or if someone has imposed the importance of a resolution or goal upon them then they typically get it done - through hell or high water. However, if you’re an Upholder, be wary of goals that require flexibility and the ability to just “wing-it.” The potentially liberating resolutions about living in the moment and enjoying each day can be very enticing but may feel restrictive to your structured tendency.

Obligers need a relying party to get to their resolution end game. If that means trading left shoes with your gym buddy to ensure the weekly meeting actually happens (as noted in Gretchen’s book) - I mean, your buddy is relying on you to bring his/her shoe! - then so be it. The beauty of obligers lies in their commitment to others. If they’ve said they’ll do something for you, they will, no matter what.

For Rebels, it’s a whole other ball game; at least from the perspective of a Questioner, like me. Setting a resolution or goal is particularly difficult because they resist these commitments, internally and externally. However, Rebels usually have a strong sense of self so, provided there are no limitations or regulations to their optional goals (they don’t really make resolutions as they’re too restrictive), they can and will work toward achieving them in their own way.


When we understand ourselves and how our Tendency shapes our perspective on the world, we can adapt our circumstances to suit our own nature—and when we understand how other people’s Tendencies shape their perspective, we can engage with them more effectively.

(Rubin, 2018)


What’s additionally cool about this method of thought and navigation through our potentially confusing world is that it can help people of all ages, even children. Using this information can provide you with yet another tool in your back pocket to guide you in achieving your goals, big and small!

Take the quiz to find out which of the tendencies you fall under.


In a nutshell, remember:

Upholders want to know what should be done.

Questioners want justifications.

Obligers need accountability.

Rebels want freedom to do something their own way.

(Gretchen Rubin)


Please note that I receive no affiliate commission by promoting this information. I simply feel as though it is useful and has great potential to help in our day-to-day, especially when it comes to long term commitments like resolutions and life goals.


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