What's Your Tendency?

Today I bring you this morning's emailed reflection for the Healthy Holiday Streak, written by Melissa Kennedy, my partner in streaking and owner of Everyday Balance Health Coaching. I thought it was so helpful, I wanted other people to read it. If you haven't signed up for the streak, it's not too late. Sign up today and I will send you all of the posts you've missed. We still have several weeks to go--lots of time to set a good intention or two for this hectic season.

Take it away, Melissa:


One challenge with regard to developing and maintaining healthy habits is that we are all different: what seems like best practice to one person can be counterproductive for someone else. So when MaryAnn and I write these messages, we try to keep in mind that not everyone looks at change in the same way that we do.

Gretchen Rubin, a writer who focuses on happiness and habit change, has created a personality framework which she calls the Four Tendencies. While this isn’t a scientifically validated framework, it resonates with me and provides some interesting insights into why certain habit-change strategies do or do not work for me.

The Four Tendencies are based on how we respond to internal obligations, commitments made to oneself, and also to external obligations, like a work deadline.

  • Upholders keep all commitments, whether made to themselves or to others. Habit change may come easily to Upholders, but they have to be cautious not to over-commit themselves.
  • Obligers always meet external expectations, but struggle with commitments made to themselves. They can really struggle with changing health-related behaviors unless they create some sort of external accountability system--like our Streak!
  • Questioners, as you might guess, question everything, especially authority. They push back against external commitments until or unless they become convinced that what they are being asked to do makes sense--then they turn it into an internal commitment and honor it.
  • And Rebels push back against all commitments, even the commitments they make to themselves. They want to do what they want to do in the moment. Needless to say, this can make habit change hard! The motto Rubin gives for Rebels is “You can’t make me, and neither can I.”

None of the Tendencies are better or worse than any of the others--they each have their own advantages and pitfalls. But understanding how you respond to internal vs. external commitments can lead to very useful insights about what habit change strategies will and will not work well for you.

Your Tendency may be obvious to you after reading the descriptions above, but if not, check out the quiz on Rubin’s website.

Me? I’m a Questioner. I’m generally a rule-follower… but I am driven up the wall by rules that don’t make sense. I sometimes frustrate myself by not following through on things that I think I’m committed to… but in hindsight I almost always realize that I had never completely bought in. And I finally understand why my devil’s-advocate questioning of new ideas can be perceived as negativity.

Today’s Question: Which Tendency do you identify with? (Take the quiz if you aren’t sure!) What insights does that lead to?

Stop by the Facebook event if you would like to chat about Tendencies! (Maybe MaryAnn will reveal hers...)



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