The Enneagram is super popular right now as a typology of nine interconnected personality types. I am familiar with the Enneagram and while it hasn’t been a particularly impactful tool for me personally, I value the depth of the insight and the common language it provides.
Similarly, Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies framework provides definition and a vernacular to what is already present in ourselves. For me, this one has resounded like a deafening gong in my ears & in my life!
Gretchen Rubin is a writer who studies happiness, good habits, outer order, and human nature. I like that while she is a highly productive, disciplined, accomplisher (and makes improving herself & her life look EASY), she has no expectation that this is everyone’s experience.
The easy way for successful influencers & coaches is to teach: “do what I do!”, “follow my tips & you will have the same results!” But, Rubin's road is far more realistic & less guilt-inducing. She says it best:
I believe there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for becoming happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative; when we know ourselves and what works for us, we can change our habits and our lives.
She wrote a book in 2015 called Better Than Before all about habit change, calling habits "the invisible architecture of everyday life." During the process of that book, she had some eye-opening conversations, like: why does my friend, who wants to take a Saturday morning class, have such a hard time making it happen? Why do I get overburdened with things other people want me to do? Why does my brother think it's ok to totally disregard the fitting room policy of 6 items only?!
The Four Tendencies is not attempting to give definition to your entire personality or life. Instead, the focus is one narrow scope:
Outer expectations & inner (self-imposed) expectations: do we meet them? Do we resist them? How does this shape our reactions, behaviors, and decision-making in life?
A rough outline of the four is as follows:
Upholder— responds readily to outer and inner expectations
Obliger — meets outer expectations, but struggles to meet expectations they self-impose
Questioner— on the opposite side of the spectrum from the Obliger; only meets an expectation if they agree or make sense of it for themselves. Effectively, all expectations need to become internal
Rebel — resists ALL the expectations, outer and inner alike
Or, here is a delightful animated short that illustrates these concepts to Gretchen's own description of the tendencies.
While the Enneagram is not deterministic (more looking at our wounds and how we have developed as a result), the 4T does claim inborn, “natural” tendencies. We are all created with a bent of how we respond to expectations.
So, these tendencies we have — the way we would automatically or naturally react to expectations — cannot be overcome or conquered so much as they can be understood, with the goal that we can work with what we have, with who we are.
I have found these insights profoundly helpful in motivating myself (especially as a self-employed person), in setting & accomplishing goals, and in relating to the other people in my household.
Does this resound with you? What is your tendency? Does it matter?
Simply for entertainment & transparency, I will share some of what I've learned about myself below.
I am a “Rebel”. Here are some of the ways that my rebel tendencies have presented themselves in my life:
These are just a few examples of my Rebel tendency. Read Gretchen's book to learn more about yourself, or the people you interact with (she features sections in each Tendency regarding working with a spouse, child, or if you are a health-care worker). It may be helpful to understand how to motivate a crazy person like me, or to temper the high standards of an Upholder.
Somehow, impossibly, I travelled around the world one year ago!
I am deeply grateful to have taken a trip to Bangladesh when I did. I was at a stage of my life & business when the adrenaline had long worn off, and I was a getting a bit stuck in a cultural mindset trap: "I don't feel like doing this every day."
More details on that, I'll save for another day (or perhaps for a more intimate conversation!). But, let it suffice to say that my colleagues in Bangladesh do NOT operate from that mindset... it doesn't even factor into the conversation.
Being reminded of this, as well as seeing — in person — the inner workings and impact of the blanket biz on the production side... well, it was deeply regenerative for me.
If I had not visited in January 2020, I don't know when that trip would have taken place! Soooo thankful.
Here is one story of a woman artisan I met: Poli.
This season for dignify has challenged us with waiting. Blankets have been leaving our hands at the fastest pace ever (yay!) and we are trying to simply keep up. Add extra inconveniences & delays (from COVID, from customs checks, and more), and we have been really exercising our muscles in patience, trust, and gratitude.
Culturally, we are in a stage of waiting, as well. Waiting for vaccine rollout. Waiting for "normal" opportunities to return, for "normal" life to resume in our cities, our nations.