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.
I was inspired by a goal that Elise Joy (goal-setter extraordinaire) set for herself for 2020: "Get dressed (in an outfit I feel good in) every day."
In Bangladesh, there are some cultural “rules” about what to wear that is appropriate. This amounts, basically, to covering your curves: two layers over your chest and rear. When I was there for a week, I essentially wore the same thing every day (a long, plain navy, cotton tunic, as well as a scarf). That had its own benefits (the ease of a "uniform"!), but I was also thrilled to come home and wear what I wanted to again.
But, with the freedom to wear whatever I wanted, the question came: what did I want to wear?
One subject I find really interesting is learning some behind-the-scenes of business and marketing. I've written before about how online brands use email subscriptions, discounts, and scarcity tactics to sell and grow. Some elements can be manipulative, but overall, I am just fascinated by how all of these hidden intricacies work.
In e-commerce businesses (retail stores that are all online) like mine, it is common to grow for the sake of growing. More sales, more staff, more products… isn’t that the definition of success?
Listen, I know that there are book lists for DAYS out there. This is another one, and I'm not pretending otherwise! It is completely biased and based on nothing other than what I have read recently. I love to read, I love to receive recommendations, and I love to share the books that I've enjoyed with others.
Every one of these books is my recommendation to YOU, but there are also ideas of other people in your life who might enjoy them. 😉 Comment below or fire me an email with your own best, recent reads!