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Understanding How You're Motivated: The Four Tendencies

Understanding How You're Motivated: The Four Tendencies

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to be self-motivated while others need constant external support? We recently discovered the book, "The Four Tendencies" by Gretchen Rubin and it answered so many of these questions for us! In the book, Rubin describes four distinct personality types that affect how people respond to both internal and external expectations.

Understanding these tendencies and how they apply to you and those around you can help you better motivate yourself and others to reach your goals and be your most productive self!


An Introduction to The Four Tendencies

The four tendencies are Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebel. Each tendency has its unique characteristics that dictate how they respond to internal and external expectations. Understanding these tendencies can help individuals tailor their approach to motivation.

Internal Expectations

Refer to personal goals and standards that a person sets for themselves. These expectations can be related to academics, career, or personal development. For example, a student may set a goal to get an A in a class, without any external pressure from parents or teachers. 

External Expectations
External expectations refer to goals and standards set by others or society. This could be expectations at work, in school, or in social settings. For example, an employer may expect their employee to meet a deadline, or a teacher may expect their student to complete a project. 


Understanding Each of the Four Tendencies


Are motivated by both internal and external expectations. They are self-driven and have a high level of self-discipline. These people thrive on planning and setting goals for themselves.

To motivate an Upholder, make sure that goals are clear and specific. They tend to be very detail-oriented and can be discouraged when tasks lack structure.

What this looks like in real life: Plain and simple, using a planner!



On the other hand Questioners, are highly analytical and motivated by internal expectations. They need to understand why a task must be done before they can be motivated to do it.

To motivate a Questioner, provide them with all the information they need, and explain how the task fulfills their value or purpose.

What this looks like in real life:
 Create a mind map to see all of the pieces that come together for the project or task.



Are motivated by external expectations. They need the support and accountability of others to get things done.

To motivate an Obliger, offer accountability, and deadlines. They thrive on knowing that others are relying on them and will let them down if they don't complete a task.

What this looks like in real life: Working from a coffee shop or doing a virtual co-working or body doubling session! Using a planner to stay on top of deadlines and sharing those deadlines with a co-worker, business partner, or boss.



Are motivated by a sense of freedom and autonomy. They want to do things their way without being constrained by rules or expectations.

To motivate a Rebel, give them flexibility and the freedom to choose how they approach the task. They need to feel like they are in control and that they have the power to make their decisions.

What this looks like in real life: Working outdoors possibly, allowing their process and progress to potentially be messy knowing it will all come together in the end.

Just by reading through these brief overviews, you can probably see yourself in at least one of two of these tendencies. If you want to get a better idea of which tendency you are and learn even more, we recommend completing the free quiz on Gretchen's website.

Know Your Tendency & Increase Your Motivation & Productivity!

Understanding the four tendencies from Gretchen Rubin's book is a valuable tool that can help anyone understand how people are motivated. Knowing each tendency's characteristics can help individuals and teams tailor their approach to motivation. 

Whether you're an Upholder who needs structure and goal-setting or a Rebel who needs freedom, understanding your tendencies and applying them to your life can lead to increased motivation and productivity. So, grab a copy of "The Four Tendencies" and start your journey to self-discovery and motivation today to learn more!


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