by Kathie England

Better Than Before – Day 11

Before I talk about the next pillar of habits that Gretchen Rubin proposes (it’s scheduling – another favorite topic of mine), I decided it would be helpful to review the four tendencies that describe the different ways people respond to habits. Rubin believes that habits begin with self-knowledge, knowing oneself allows us to become more effective.

The first step is to identify how our own nature affects our habits. This perspective led Rubin to this question: How does a person respond to expectations? (You can read more details about this topic in Days 1 and 2 of this blog.) These are the four tendencies she suggests:

  • Upholder: Meets outer expectations and meets inner expectations
  • Questioner: Resists outer expectations and meets inner expectations
  • Obliger: Meets outer expectations and resists inner expectations
  • Rebel: Resists outer expectations and resists inner expectations

Here are a few characteristics she offers for each of the four tendencies.


  • Feels uncomfortable with someone who’s breaking a rule
  • Easily meets self-imposed deadlines, even ones that are set somewhat arbitrarily
  • Makes and usually keeps New Year’s resolutions


  • If individual wants to make a change, usually makes it right away
  • Very important to make well-reasoned decisions
  • Really bothered when asked to do something for what seems to be arbitrary reasons


  • People often turn to this person for help because they know this person will pitch in even at the last minute
  • Gave up making New Year’s resolutions because never keeps them
  • Will do something to be a good role model for someone else even if it’s something this person will do not for her/himself


  • Doesn’t make New Year’s resolutions or even try to form habits; doesn’t want to be caged in like that
  • Does what he/she wants to do regardless of other people’s expectations
  • If told to do something by someone else, this individual often has the impulse to refuse

Which of these tendencies best describes you?