Monday, September 25, 2017

Book Report - The Four Tendencies

I have loved every one of Gretchen Rubin's book since I first read The Happiness Project about seven years ago.  She's a meticulously detailed writer and researcher with a very easy-to-read style that's a cross between research paper and personal diary.  Her work on becoming happier and habit change has been profoundly influential in my life, and in a way that feels much more realistic and accessible than some of the slightly more extreme books out there, such as The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  (Good luck getting us to purge that much)

In her book Better than Before, Rubin unearths four tendencies - a somewhat looser term than "personality type" - a framework that identifies people based on how they respond to both inner expectations (like keeping a New Year's Resolution) and outer expectations (like meeting deadlines at work or school).  I was not at all shocked to learn that I, like Rubin, am an Upholder - and apparently we are a very percentage of the general population, which now that I think about it makes total sense.

The Four Tendencies are, briefly:

Upholders - Readily meet inner & outer expectations

Obligers - Struggles to meet inner / Readily meets outer expectations (the majority of people are obligers)

Questioners - Readily meets an expectation if it makes sense to them, and will ask lots of questions to get to that justification

Rebels - Struggles to meet inner and outer expectations - values freedom and will meet expectations that they determine align with their identity

If reading that you still feel like you have no idea what you might be, there's a handy little quiz you can take that will tell you.

One thing Rubin points out is that there is a ton of variation within each tendency.  This only tells us one big, broad thing about ourselves - how we respond to expectations.  It doesn't touch on any details such as our level of patience, kindness, anxiety, work ethic, intro/extroversion, or temperament.

But while it's not a big, comprehensive personality framework a la Myers-Briggs, it can have a huge effect on your life when you learn more about what motivates you, what de-motivates you, and how to work with your tendency - as well as the tendencies of those around you - to help yourself meet the expectations that you have to and want to meet.

This was also really helpful for me because, while it may seem like I've got it made as an Upholder because we are the "get shit done" tendency, one of our downsides is that we can be pretty judgmental of others who struggle with expectations that we ourselves don't.  We have a harder time putting ourselves in someone else's shoes, and this book helps you to see the perspectives of those who react differently than you in given situations.  It also helped illustrate why some of my weaknesses are my weaknesses - a paralyzing fear of mistakes and failure, occasional difficulty delegating, a tendency to be inflexible and to get rattled when plans change, and a clinging to habit or rule just for its own sake, even if it no longer serves me.

The book breaks down strengths and weaknesses of each tendency, how to understand and deal with each tendency, and puts it into different contexts of personal relationships, family, work, and even health and self care.

My only complaint about this book was that I wanted more of it.  I preordered it and absolutely devoured it.  It's short and a lightening-fast read.  It pairs well with its predecessor, Better than Before, which is the book that first helped Rubin discover these four categories of personality, which you should definitely read if this book also leaves you wanting more.

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