More Questions for the Upholders, Questioners, Rebels, and Obligers Out There.

More questions about the Four Rubin Tendencies.

I’m still obsessed with the four categories I’ve developed–which, for lack of a better name, I’m currently calling the Four Rubin Tendencies. Or maybe I’m calling it the Rubin Character Index. Which name do you like better?

These categories describe how people tend to respond to expectations: outer expectations (a deadline, a “request” from a sweetheart) and inner expectations (write a novel in your free time, train for a marathon).

To learn more about the Four Rubin Tendencies, read here and here. In a nutshell:

Upholders respond readily to both inner and outer expectations

Questioners question all expectations, but will follow expectations if they think the expectations are sensible (effectively making all expectations into inner expectations)

Rebels resist all expectations

Obligers meet outer expectations but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves

Note: When I write about this framework, people often try to match it up with existing frameworks. From  what I can see, this  exercise doesn’t work very well. Every framework captures something different, and to try to make them all equivalent makes them weaker, not stronger. Also, my framework looks at a very specific aspect of human nature: how people respond to expectations. It doesn’t purport to predict other aspects of personality, such as extroversion. Just how a person responds to expectations.

I’m still working on refining these types, and I’d love to hear what you have to say about the following questions. Obviously no one would answer all these questions, but if one strikes a particular chord with you, I’d be interested in your reaction.

–If you consider yourself a Rebel, you resist other people’s expectations. How do you feel about imposing expectations on others? Do you resist that, or is that not as difficult? For instance, how would you feel about imposing a deadline on your colleagues, or making your children do yard-work? Do you get angry or annoyed when other people don’t meet your expectations, or do you think, “No problem.”

–Along the same lines, Rebels, you probably don’t like working in a hierarchy, but maybe you can do so if you’re the boss. If you’re a Rebel in charge of other people, how do you feel about an expectation imposed by someone who works for you? Say, you’re asked by an underling to review a document. Do you feel less resistant to that expectation, because the person works for you?

— Are you chronically tardy? Often enough that people complain about it? If so, what’s your category? On the other hand, are you chronically early? What’s your category? I’m pathologically prompt, myself. If you’re chronically late/early  only in specific situations, what are those situations?

Do you find yourself not meeting an expectation from a respected source, because you’re not convinced that it’s justified? E.g., your doctor says you should take a specific medication, but you’re just not convinced it’s necessary, so you don’t. Or a colleague says you need to hand something in by Friday, but you don’t think it’s needed until the next Wednesday, so you don’t finish it. If so, what category are you in? (Obviously, no one is going to follow completely arbitrary or nonsensical expectations; I mean a situation where you believe those arguments haven’t been made.)

–Some people hate the idea of building regular habits or having a life of routine. If this describes your views, what category do you fit in? On the other hand, some people love the idea of building regular habits, and embrace routine. Like me. If this describes your views, what category do you fit in?

–A long time ago, I came across an intriguing term in the discussion of a then-boom in butler services, in a piece by Robert Frank: the “service heart.”

And many household managers talked with pride about what they call “the service heart”— the joy of giving their employers exactly what they want, when they want it, and how they want it. As butler student Dawn Carmichael told me, “I loved knowing what made my employer happy. I know that sounds weird, but making him happy made me happy.”

Would you describe yourself as having a service heart? If so, what category do you fit in?

— If you’re in a longtime relationship, what’s your category, and what’s your sweetheart’s category? I’m an Upholder, and my husband is a Questioner with a tendency to Uphold.

–Big question: If you identify as an Upholder, Questioner, Rebel, or Obliger, how do you feel about your category? Do you like belonging in it? Do you wish you were in a different category?

Despite the drawbacks, I love being an Upholder and wouldn’t want to be in a different category, though with time and (I hope) greater wisdom I’ve learned to be more of a Questioner (this is something that my husband’s example has helped me to do better). But an Upholder friend told me he doesn’t like being an Upholder, because of our craving for gold stars.

Your responses and observations welcome! You may think I talk about this a lot on the blog, but that’s nothing to how much I talk about it in real life.

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  • peninith1

    Oh that ‘service heart’ thing really is a zinger for me Gretchen. I think this is where an Obliger might really be made happy (as WELL as overwhelmed). Me, I’m an upholder / questioner. I do service more because I think it is right and my duty, and somewhat less because it is rewarding and I love it.

    Since I am now caring for my elderly mother, this is can be wearing for both giver and receiver. I hang on to St. Therese quite a bit, aiming for a spirit of generosity. But acting ‘according to my bond’ like Cordelia, is often more descriptive of my attitude. As a questioner, I give a lot of thought to how I am doing my job here–what it’s right to do, where to find boundaries, how to respond to the potshots and barbs (basically NOT responding is most effective), where to find freedom, what is a reasonable sacrifice to make and what is too much territory to give up.

    I think about what services would be most acceptable and possible for me to perform graciously–picking up a favorite food at the store, choosing a book or movie that will be entertaining, and the like. When it gets to personal care, probably it will be necessary for us to think of another type of living situation, because I won’t be good at it.

    I am pretty sure this is a job a Rebel could not do, or an Obliger might find themselves obliterated in performing. In other areas of my life, my ‘service heart’ is most satisfied by giving donations to organizations whose aims I strongly support and by making quilts and donating them to disaster relief efforts or to an organization that supports ALS research and ALS patients. I’m less attracted by one-on-one volunteer activities. That’s the introverted aspect and has less to do with your 4 categories, I think.

    Great topic for deeper thought, thank you!

  • Barbara

    In general, I believe that I’m like you as an upholder but with questioner tendencies. I don’t think I have a “service heart” for other people BUT because I’m a messieholic, I find that pleasing myself by doing things can sort of be the same thing. I make myself happy by doing what needs to/should be done. (On a whole other note, re: butlers, have you ever watched the British series JEEVES & WOOSTER? Wonderful epitome of “service heart” and very funny!)

  • Don Turnblade

    Maybe asking a question self classifies me, but what is the value added gain for cooperating this this classification approach?

    • gretchenrubin


      • Self-knowledge is in itself the key to happiness, but apart from that, consider the following scenario:

        Politician A says: “Prohibitionism is the key to reduce drug consumption among teen-agers!”
        Politician B rebuts: “We should rather legalise all kinds of drugs!”

        Don’t you think that this decades-long debate could be significantly enhanced by statistical data about the percentage of rebels among teen-agers and other age-groups? One might end up understanding that prohibiting hashish and other teen-ager drugs runs against one’s goals (since teen-agers tend to be rebels), whereas banning smoke in restaurants (where mostly people older than 30 eat) makes sense since in the age group 30–70 obligers abound… (these are just examples, my main point is that the 4 Rubin groups might be profitably used also in sociological analyses).

  • RPS

    I’m an Obliger. I tend to be prompt. In a case where I’m chronically tardy for something, it’s usually a case of obliging for one person over another (if that makes any sense). I will occasionally not meet an expectation, but I will have to justify it to myself (i.e. I was too busy but they didn’t need it for another two days anyway). I love the idea of building new good habits, and I love routines. They give me a break from overanalyzing. I suppose I do have a service heart, although I don’t really care for that idea… makes it seem like someone else’s values trump my own. You can’t really be an Obliger without having a service heart, can you?
    My husband is a Questioner with a dash of Rebel. He has taught me to question, occasionally. Although I’m still an Obliger at heart (in fact, you can say that I question because he wants me to!).
    I feel fine about being an Obliger, although sometimes I wish I could be an Upholder (mostly, when I’ve discovered I ate the entire bag of cookies). The idea of being a Rebel is very uncomfortable to me.
    Hope that helps!

    • Lisa Y

      Yes, I’m late for work because I keep doing “just one more thing” for my kids when really, it’s time to go. And I get home from my parents’ house 30 minutes later than I told my husband I’d be home because I don’t want to be rude to my mom when she keeps talking as I try to leave. Your comment made me realize this about myself. Thanks!

  • I am definitely an Upholder. My husband of 3 years (boyfriend for 3 before that) is a strong Questioner. I love and embrace routine; he rails against it. I am also chronically early. I think I have a service heart–not just in the work world, but in social relationships, too!

  • TJ

    I am a Questioner with a dash of Obliger. I think I have a “service heart.” I like to do things for other people, without prompting, because I like to make people happy. I also like to do “the right thing” out of a personal sense of what’s right and wrong (e.g., pick up trash on the side of the road, bring back carts left in parking lot, etc.). What becomes tricky, sometimes, is that once I do something for someone and then they expect it of me the next time, then I chafe. I do not like obligations and “shoulds” coming from others or myself. Thus, even if I know the right thing to do would be to exercise, say, I don’t do it because it’s become an obligation or a should with so many tied-in expectations. The result: a Questioner that rates every expectation according personal sense of right and wrong, but an Upholder with a problem of carrying out the expectations I have of myself–if that expectation is too fraught with obligation. Phew. Expectations are a tricky thing.

  • So, a few of my observations in response to your questions:

    – I’m a chronic early-arriver and a pretty solid Questioner. They don’t seem like they go together, do they. But for me, they do. Maybe because I said I’d be there at 6.30, so I am? I do get very put out by chronic late-arrivals. They tell me all the time it’s not a respect issue for them, but I have a hard time not having it be respect-related for me. Do what you say you’re going to do, or revise it & tell me. Seriously, the latter is JUST FINE compared to being chronically late. Wondering how clean/messy the arrivers/Tendency mashup will be. I hope you write about it later!

    – Re: meeting/not-meeting expectations from a source depending on whether it’s justified. I have a small wrench to throw in here. “Justified” is one criteria us Questioners will use to determine whether we’re going to follow it, but I want to add in another: consequence. Your expectation might be BS, but I’m also going to consider what drama will ensue before I dismiss it. Both justification and consequence are considered together, and neither really trumps the other, except in extreme cases. If your expectation is REALLY stupid, I probably don’t care what the consequences are. But if the consequences are higher than I want to pay for non-compliance, meh, I’ll lean towards complying. Use-case: my father employed a “scorched-earth” policy for infractions (total Upholder, himself). I chafed BIGTIME under that, but would comply often, because that was the “smart” response. I use these memories to clearly mark myself as not a Rebel (who would’ve taken the consequence, no matter what). But also totally not an Upholder, because I would very clearly see the BS (and dream of getting out of the house). Make sense?

    – Disclosure. This goes beyond the scope of your Tendencies, but in a practical real-world sense, it’s closely related. I can see that it’s creeping into my tardy discussion up-top. I’ve been thinking a lot about which Tendency I find annoying to have to deal with, and I think I’ve decided it’s not the Tendency that’s the problem, it’s whether they disclose their intentions or not. Uphold, rebel, ask me to ride herd so that you’ll do it – I care less about that than I do whether or not you’re going to shaft me with a problem because I expected something else. Upholders & Questioners who are going to comply, say it: “Yeah, I see your point but I’m going to comply anyway, so expect that.” Rebels, out with it: “Nope. No way. See ya.” Obligers: “I want to, but I’m going to totally flake unless someone reminds me..”

    • gretchenrubin

      Your point about disclosure is so interesting. One reason that I think understanding these categories is helpful is that it allows us to see patterns in our own behavior. It’s so hard to know ourselves! I think a lot of people don’t disclose because they don’t REALIZE patterns in their behavior. They don’t realize that they’re going to flake out unless someone holds them accountable.

  • Catherine Castellani

    “–Some people hate the idea of building regular habits or having a life of routine. If this describes your views, what category do you fit in? On the other hand, some people love the idea of building regular habits, and embrace routine. Like me. If this describes your views, what category do you fit in?”
    I am a Questioner, no question! And so, I really questioned the value of regular habits and routine. I experimented with it a great deal. I would have preferred a looser life. But for me, it was counterproductive. I started experimenting with routines and habits and life got easier, so I have stuck with it. I would not say I love it. But I accept it.

  • just_curious

    Is it me or are the women more tilted to responders and obligers and upholders and the men trend towards questioners and rebels? Is this our cultural behaviors coming through? (I’m a male and definitely a questioner and can swing rebel at times)

    • gretchenrubin

      From my observation, these categories don’t fall along gender lines.

  • Lisa Y

    I am an obliger. I LOVE regular habits and routine. I would say, yes, I have a service heart, which sometimes causes problems because it’s impossible to make everyone happy in some situations–sometimes you have to choose and that is extremely difficult for me. My husband is definitely a questioner, which can make me uncomfortable, but is good for me because he pushes me to think about things more than I would otherwise. I would really like to be an upholder because I often feel undisciplined. I envy people who have a lot of inward motivation.

  • Andrea

    I’m a questioner, though I think I must have obliger or upholder tendencies because I would definitely stop at the stop sign in the middle of the night. I would worry that I would get caught if I didn’t stop no matter how remote the chance.
    – I am chronically tardy. I’m very focused on the time but am too detailed/perfectionist that I always have one more thing I need to do before leaving the house. I have problems with procrastination for similar reasons.

    – I love the idea of having a life with routine but I have never, ever been able to stick with a routine except with my daughter’s schedule. And on the days she goes off to daycare then I can’t seem to stick to the same schedule by myself. I think I see the value of routine (big picture, day to day) but in the moment I’m not motivated by it (don’t see the point of sticking to the schedule hour to hour for myself, though of course for my toddler I *do* see the value quite literally).

    – I’m not sure if I have a service heart – I like to make other people happy but not if I feel like they aren’t appreciative (questioner tendency?).

    – I think my husband is also a questioner but definitely has rebel tendencies. He talks big but always meets deadlines. But he is very motivated by someone telling him he *can’t* do something, whereas I’m motivated by someone telling me I *can* do something (if someone tells me I can’t do something I sort of shut down inside. If someone tells him he can do something or is good at something he doesn’t feel challenged enough to do it anymore.)

    – I feel good about the questioner category, although I feel like I might lean toward obliger which makes me feel like I’m lacking self confidence or personality.

  • Natalie Waddell-Rutter

    I am a questioner and my husband is an upholder, and it wasn’t something I realized until I read your original post on these categories. It really helped me understand my husband’s tendancies and why we conflict at certain times. He’s much more likely to do or want something “because that’s how it’s done” whereas I want to know “why should I do it that way.” I’m much more patient with his quirks now, so thanks!

  • CMR

    The question about “lateness” clarified for me that I am an obliger. I hate being late, but I have trouble being perfectly on time for things scheduled first thing in the morning — because I have trouble making myself get up on schedule!

    I’m happier when I behave like an upholder.

  • Randee Bulla

    I am a strong questioner with a service heart. Very few things make me more happy. But I have to do it in an environment where I believe in my employer. Once my company and manager pass my questioner’s test and I believe in what we’re doing, I throw myself into serving to the best of my ability.

  • mm

    I’m a questioner. I’m nearly always early when it comes to physical presence for an event or meeting, and one of my biggest peeves is others’ tardiness. I’m not as consistent with promptness for turning things in, replying to emails, or meeting paper-oriented deadlines. Something always tells me that it can probably wait . . . this is something I try to work on, but with which I continue to struggle.
    I DO find myself not meeting expectations of a respected source from time to time. In fact, those exact two example you gave have applied to recent situations. It turns out I got better without the medication. My office manager needed some paperwork and I delayed it partly out of my own convenience, but also because I knew she wouldn’t be working on it until a few days after she asked for it. I felt guilty and still have a twinge as I reflect on it now.
    Regarding routine: it’s not terribly important to me, but I do love rituals (evening walks, weekend skype dates, etc, and am disappointed if such “expectations” fall through, so perhaps there is some overlap there).
    My husband is a questioner with strong rebel tendencies. In other words, if he doesn’t think something through, effectively “questioning” it, his first instinct seems to be to rebel.

    Overall: I like being a questioner, but oft-wish I were more of an upholder! It seems much much simpler.

  • Sarah Kerner

    I am either an Upholder or a Questioner… I’m still figuring that out. Maybe like your husband, a Questioner with tendency to Uphold. I am chronically tardy (but only a little bit!) to regular appointments (like… work, church, stuff I do daily or weekly) but generally I am early to appointments that are out of the ordinary, like my once-annual eye appointment or a job interview. I love building regular habits and having a set routine.

  • Felicity

    Hi Gretchen: this is a very interesting topic.

    I’m an obliger who would rather be a questioner. I worry sometimes that I would have been one of those people in that experiment who administered ‘fatal’ fake electric shocks to a fake victim because I was told to. I think being a Questioner is harder work but ultimately more responsible. I’m married to a Questioner 🙂 And I definitely have a ‘service heart’: that’s such a lovely was to describe it.

  • Amy P

    I’m a questioner with obliger tendencies, which is fine with me. For instance, my family doctor told me that I needed to start giving my four month old iron-fortified cereals or iron supplements if I continued to breastfeed exclusively. However, I’ve heard from many other respectable sources that that’s entirely unnecessary and possibly harmful at this point, so I’m brushing off her advice. However, I certainly don’t reject medical advice on a regular basis!
    And yes, I would stop at the stop sign in the middle of the night. I tend to toe the line even on the small things if I can’t see a specific reason not to, even if they sometimes seem pointless…or if I think I could possibly get caught! And I love a life of routine – having young kids makes that challenging yet necessary. I am always, always early for work, but struggle to be on time for anything else – like someone else said, I want to be super-prepared so I get caught up with grabbing one more thing or emptying the garbage first or something like that. My husband is half-rebel, half-questioner. The rebel side bothers me because it seems as thought he rebels for the sake of rebelling – if he’s rebelling after questioning I can of course see his point. Yet he can be quite disciplined when it comes to his personal expectations.

  • Stephanie Evergreen

    What do you call someone who has high inner expectations (wrote a book in my free time, trained for a marathon until I got injured) but doesn’t conform to outer expectations with ease? In fact I think I get mad at others who don’t also have high inner expectations. For what it’s worth, I’m chronically early and have no trouble assigning tasks to others.

    • gretchenrubin

      That’s a Questioner. Questioners make all expectations into inner expectations. They will follow outer expectations only if they endorse them. Some Questioners have a tendency to Rebel, so they are more resistant to outer expectations.

  • peninith1

    Routines–I’m an upholder / questioner. I love routines or rituals, and this is something that I have been cultivating more and more over the course of my life. I used to feel that I wanted to be ‘spontaneous’ and the fact was that in much of my life that only meant I was a mess–I lived in a mess and I didn’t get things done on time and I wasn’t happy with myself. That was in my teens and twenties.

    Since then (I’m now 66) I have become progressively more orderly, and the more I have processes down to a routine, the more calm and even ceremonial my life feels. In the morning, along with showering, dressing, and the like, I make my bed, open the blinds and make notes in my journal. Sundays are a kind of sabbath of housework for me, starting with laundry and ending with a pot luck with neighbors. I write a newsletter every week on about the same day. I have a bedtime routine as well. Certainly I get up and go to bed at about the same time every day of the week. All of this helps to keep me calm and pleasant through the demands and annoyances of the day.

    I keep the spontaneity for my sewing, pulling out everything I want to look at, working right through it and having occasional grand clean ups.

  • janenj

    What a thought provoking posting this morning. I am definitely a Questioner and am very comfortable not meeting expectations. (SIDEBAR: I wonder if this topic is also related to the question of What are the qualities of a Good Leader?” How is it that some people inspire those “under” them to go BEYOND expectations?) I would much rather work with people who are not only competent but are willing to say they don’t have all the answers, yet also have vision. Is that too much to ask for in a leader?

    In interpersonal relationships one must hold onto expectations lightly. Life throws us many curve balls so one of my mantras is “Expect the Unexpected”. It’s challenging to embrace so that is why I do keep a tidy house, have various daily routines and healthy habits of health. I fear the “undertoad” (“The World According to Garp”) but know that holding on too tightly to anything may be unwise.

  • Casey

    I just started reading the Happiness Project, as a apart of my miniature one, I decided I wanted to read blogs from a variety of people as to see the insights of various people. Right now, I’m following you and Paul Krugman. It’s an interesting juxtaposition. Anyway, this is my first comment. Ever.

    I define myself as a true obliger
    “are you chronically early? “Yes. I think this is more of a product of my mother than anything else really.

    “Some people love the idea of building regular habits, and embrace routine.” This is me! I am a fan of the school year/work week. Although I love to adventure and have vacations, I’m not one of those people with a count down calendar for my trip. I love my life at home, but I also like adventuring.

    “Would you describe yourself as having a service heart?” Absolutely, I work a job where I barley make over minimum wage, yet I work as hard as I can. I just want to make my manager happy. I also work hard because it’s in my nature. I find that satisfying.

    I’m an obliger, but I wish I could set stricter rules for myself. Like an upholder, I still crave gold stars.

    • janenj

      Me, too, Casey as far as following Paul Krugman and Gretchen. And yes an interesting juxtaposition.

  • I deeply enjoyed Happier at Home–thank you!
    I might be an Upbliger, or maybe a Quebel. The wordsmith in me gets very caught up in categories and systems–especially ones (worst of all would be categories of words) I create. In the past couple of years, I’ve been focused on meditation (I know you’ve said it isn’t for you), and the system of thought I most align with (if I had to pick a category) is Buddhism–because the fundamental question of Buddhism is “Is this useful?” I realized, reading this post, that I am inclined–immediately–to morph the/”your” categories into ones that are most useful for me. You will (I “expect”) have thoughts on where this urge fits into your system! You also asked about “Four Rubin Tendencies” v. “Rubin Character Index.” The English and Lit instructor in me (but really, the human) feels somewhat excluded by the first and drawn to the second, for several reasons. My initial thought was that FRT could describe you (or other Rubins), only Rubins, and only four specific tendencies. I love and acknowledge branding myself, but also have to work with some bristling against it–which seems to exist with FRT but not RCI (though I haven’t homed in on the difference logically, I know it somatically). I learn better when I align myself with someone else or a concept, rather than see myself as different (e.g., “But I’m not a Rubin–how can this work?”). I am immediately drawn to Rubin Character Index because of: 1) the use of the word “character,” which fits for me professionally & personally re story lines, and 2) “RCI” sounds snappy and like an important sports stat (hopelessly “unsporty” this fascinates me), or like a critical number in one’s medical chart (appeals to my need to control/name anything medical/internal). It’s the utility trump card again: I could see myself using RCI right away–I have already easily adopted it over a second cup of coffee. I consider you a respected source; maybe that’s part of it. Finally, as a teacher and a mother, I would have easily said I have a “service heart.” But really, until recently, I had a “service head”–ruled by the need to please others, and to serve–but really, most of my decisions (and giving) were based on shoulds and external expectations. Obviously, this is an example of a good outcome (feeling good for giving), even when motivation isn’t completely intrinsic (or self-aware). I agree that the point of all of it is self-knowledge (I try to use it to drop into a real and lasting service heart). Deep thanks, Gretchen–your work is (the highest praise) useful!

  • Ashley

    – Do you find yourself not meeting an expectation from a respected source, because you’re not convinced that it’s justified?

    Yes. And I’m a Questioner. Usually in the example of the colleague I would try to discuss with them why they really needed it then and negotiate another time table. I don’t like to displease other people, but I will question why something needs to be a certain way.

    –Some people hate the idea of building regular habits or having a life of routine

    I struggle with this. I always question the habits and why I am doing it (I am a Questioner, after all), but I have a slight Rebel streak and sometimes get frustrated that I have all these “rules” to follow, even though they are only in place to make me happier.

    I like being a Questioner most of the time. Questioning is something I have always valued. My husband is an Obliger, although my requests count as internal requests (e.g. he will work super hard and bend over backwards to meet work expectations, but household tasks I ask of him get forgotten easily despite his intending to do them).

    Love this line of thinking!

  • Allison

    Very interesting topic!
    I know I was a Rebel when I was younger (up to my mid-30s) but now I am more of a Questioner.

    With regard to the question about building regular habits or having a life of routine, I so EMBRACE the idea of regular habits and routines, but truly cannot seem to incorporate them into my daily life. I don’t know if I am fighting MY expectations or fighting what I think others expect of someone in there late 40’s – inner Rebel making an appearance?

    Am chronically tardy too (with the exception of going to the movies or mass).
    I love how thought provoking these questions are

  • Ellie H.

    -Are you chronically tardy? Often enough that people complain about it? If so, what’s your category?
    I’m a Questioner and I am chronically late. I have to make an immense inner effort in order to be somewhere or leave the house at a certain time (and even then, I have to plan to “absolutely, definitely” leave the house 5-10 minutes earlier than the last possible time to leave in order to actually manage it). But, I also categorize things as “ok to be late to” and “not ok to be late to,” which seems like a very Questioner approach to me, and I’m not late to anything that I’ve judged to be truly crucial to be on time to.

    – Do you find yourself not meeting an expectation from a respected source, because you’re not convinced that it’s justified?
    If I really respect the source, I think I would interpret any expectation as justified. (I’m thinking of my boss, who I really admire and look up to.) But there are things I’m “expected” to do that I don’t think are important, and I tend to postpone doing them until the expectations change to something I think is more reasonable and that I will be interested in doing.

    –Some people hate the idea of building regular habits or having a life of routine. If this describes your views, what category do you fit in? On the other hand, some people love the idea of building regular habits, and embrace routine. Like me. If this describes your views, what category do you fit in?
    I cannot imagine a life without routine – I love routine almost to a fault, and I’m very non-spontaneous.

    –Would you describe yourself as having a service heart? If so, what category do you fit in?
    One thing I thought of is that I have a bit of a passion for making anonymous donations. However, while I really enjoy making other people happy, I’m hugely motivated by gold stars.

    – If you’re in a longtime relationship, what’s your category, and what’s your sweetheart’s category?
    I’m pretty certain the person I am dating now is a Questioner as well, but one thing that fascinates me is that he is much more self-directed than I am. For example, he works from home whereas I would never want to work at home – too much freedom and I find it extremely difficult to be productive without the structure of being at the office. However, I’ve always found it easy to work at home on research or writing that I’ve been 100% engaged with; if something is really compelling enough to me I can be self-directed, but that’s a higher bar than for work outside the home.

    –Big question: If you identify as an Upholder, Questioner, Rebel, or Obliger, how do you feel about your category? Do you like belonging in it? Do you wish you were in a different category?
    I think it’s the best category – in fact I was first wondering if I wasn’t “really” a Questioner, but simply wanted to be, because I found it so desirable. But I think that may be a good sign that it’s what I am!

  • phoenix1920

    In looking at the definitions, I have to consider myself a rebel–because my first gut-instinct reaction to an “expectation” is a “soul cringe.” Perhaps to the same extent as an upholder who is being forced to break an expectation because of other obligations. Something about the expectation itself just feels vile–even if it makes sense and is logical. But I learned very early on that you can easily be manipulated into doing what another person wants if they see you as a rebel and try to use reverse psychology–my parents tried it out when I was young to get me in line.

    But you don’t get to where you want to go, you can’t fly free, if you spend your life opposing every expectation simply because it exists. So now I make most every decision based on logic. But I have a feeling that even most upholders will make their decisions based on logic too. If you can’t meet all the expectations, you use logic to tell you what you should do. Perhaps I’m wrong?

    The more I think about this question as to whether I am a questioner or a rebel, the more I think the answer must lie in how I motivate myself. I wish I could say that I can follow expectations if they are sensible, but I don’t. I make too many goals and plans and follow the ones that make me happy at that time–which really is the farthest thing from sensible. And perhaps making so many goals and plans helps me as a rebel because I am always pursuing something but I don’t feel bound in and tied down.

    Because I feel it is unfair for others to impose their expectations on me, I likewise HATE to put expectations on others. So I try to convince them that they would like to do what I want to do–instead of just saying, “Hey, I want x–do it with me”. I recently found out that this can be interpreted as manipulative, but that isn’t what I intended at all. When I plan birthday parties for my children, I hate the thought that others may come because they feel obligated, so I spend a lot of effort making really nice parties that people want to come to because they are different and unique.

    As for being a boss as opposed to somebody else being my boss, when I have to be the boss, I feel like I am playing a role, because I have to put myself in the situation where I am telling somebody else what to do. Generally, for those that I supervise, I try to find people who have a strong work ethic and are timely perfectionists and then give them the hierarchy of tasks and leave them to it. I step in where they don’t meet expectations. As for my ideal boss, I work best where the same freedom is given. If I know what I need to do and know the deadlines and then have space to get it done, it’s not a problem. The more space I have, the better I work. I dislike somebody constantly over me, and have to battle with a part of me that wants to push back. But the fact that I call myself a rebel does not mean I lack common sense. My boss is my boss.

    My dh is a pure questioner. He has no rebel streak; he loves to find the right answer and pursue it. His only problem is when he is told to do something that is not logical. We actually met in high school, when I was more emotional and logic did not always hold sway. He thought of me as a rebel, and it scared him and he didn’t understand it. When we were dating, I LOVED picking at him by breaking logical rules–the shock across his face was so . . . endearing.

    Gretchen, in prior responses to this character index, I’ve identified myself as a rebel, but there was a question as to whether I was actually a questioner. I’m so fascinated with this topic. I would LOVE to hear more about what you have learned from rebels. When I was young and more emotional and responded first to that emotional side, breaking all the rules, everybody called me a rebel. But that mode does not get one far in life and as you age and become more logical, I think many learn to adapt.

  • Jenya

    I’m a strong questioner, married to a strong upholder. Being a questioner is central to my identity as an intellectual, so much so that I can’t imagine being a different type. Many times I do uphold the status quo, but that’s always after reflection.

    Quick anecdote: I went to a therapist for social anxiety disorder several years ago. She was nationally known, witty, and engaging, but I questioned everything she said. I’m a good debater, and every week I “won” the argument with her. She pretty much viewed me as a noncompliant patient, but at the end of 6 weeks, I tried her strategies and overcame a major phobia. She was stunned. If I’d had the right words, I would’ve told her that my questioning may look like rebelling, but once I’m convinced, I’m happy to take advice. If only that extended to daily scheduling!

  • AlexTheRedOnion

    Great site, great post, great theory. It evoked some strong feelings, and I hope I’m not doing a disservice by sharing them.

    [1] I only found this blog today. I think it’s awesome.
    [2] The dissonances between giving rules and taking rules: it absolutely happens. But the particular dissonance I want to dwell on is the combination of “Upholder giver + Rebel taker.” That is to say, someone who expects both external and internal obedience from subordinates, but will reject all rules that he himself has not already accepted. Subjectively speaking, I am in my mid 20s, and my life has been overshadowed by many people who fit such a description.
    [3] On the feelings about my own category, the brief version is as thus: “an Upholder of Questioning is always labeled a Rebel, and earns no gold stars.” When I first looked at the personality model, I was really amused (in a good way) that I fit into ALL FOUR categories. Then I realized that some of the fits, such as “rebel,” are what others may call me, but unequivocally not what I’d call myself. Here then is a case where an internal judge of mine is actually an internalized external judge – and I’d go out on a limb to guess that this happens for many people, which is precisely what makes “knowing ourselves” so difficult.
    [4] The situation and context cannot be ignored: the word “depends” may be the worst party-pooper for a personality party, but context is a necessary evil. For instance, a person’s “Rebelness” is not a question of degree, but a question of values. An upholder who lands in a pile of rules that she does not condone will necessarily exhibit rebel-like tendencies. If she cannot extract herself from such a setting, she might habitually rebel. But this in no way guarantees an inherently “rebel soul.”

  • treesprite

    Definitely an obliger, and hate it! Wish I were better at prioritizing my internal expectations over trivial external things.
    Unlike the other obliger commenters, I don’t specially have a service heart, and I’m chronically late. Always that temptation to get one more thing done before I leave.
    As for routine & habit – I hate the idea of it; I want the freedom to experiment. However, I have noticed that I’m better at achieving goals through habit – I eat better, sleep better, exercise more etc. when I’m in a steady routine.

    • Kathy

      I could have written this comment, except that now I’m not usually late. I have *finally* (knock on wood) overcome that “do one more thing before I leave” issue and have been 99 percent on time since then. Everything else…well, that describes me to a T.

  • Sarah

    I am chronically late, even for things I really do want to be on time for. I can be early, but it takes a tremendous amount of effort and planning. Interestingly, I tend to be more prompt when I am doing something I regularly do and I have to get my children going, too. I think because I know it will take them forever, I allow extra time. For example, we are rarely late for school (I drive my kids), although I am almost always late for social engagements.

    I’m really struggling to figure out what I am. I was raised with very high expectations, yet in a rather non-comformist way, I’m definitely a rule-follower, but I don’t always follow the conventional rules. Mainly, I’m not a risk-taker and Questioners and Rebels seem to be riskier types. But I don’t follow all the rules – I drive too fast, I stay up too late, I read books others in my circle might disapprove of, I drink more than I should, etc. And yet, I am very externally motivated. When I wanted to get up earlier in the morning, I asked a friend to call me because I knew I would be motivated to not let her down. I know I should eat more vegetables and I want to in theory, but I only eat them when I’m around my kids so they know they’re supposed to eat them and see healthy eating being modeled.

    I think my husband and I both have a strong sense of conflict between being Obligers and Questioners. We both do lots of things only because others want us to, and yet we both believe that no one else should be writing our story. My husband definitely has more of a service heart than I do. I feel it about a very few people, but he for sure gets more satisfaction out of making other people happy. I think I was more like that when I was working full time and had people I actually could make happy. 😉

    I both love and hate routine. I function better with it and am almost ritualistic in certain areas of my life. But I have an incredibly difficult time establishing routines and if anything interferes, I derail quite quickly. I was very structured when my kids were babies out of survival – I needed to know I would get a shower and time alone. Now that they’re older, I’m much looser about it all, even though I know I would be happier if I had more structure to my days and weeks (such as a cleaning schedule instead of the random approach I’m currently using). I don’t have enough external motivation and my inner desire isn’t enough to put in the effort required.

    I am trying to get more in touch with my Questioner side. My life has experienced some upheaval recently and it’s important that I ask myself whose expectations I’m trying to meet and why do they matter. Because of my experiences growing up, I don’t always have the best judgement regarding the sources for my expectations and I am trying to cultivate my inner compass and be less directed by the expectations and desires of others. The funny thing is that there really are very few people who have much for expectations from me (other than my family). The ones that are most onerous are the ones I’ve placed on myself. Yikes. I’m so confused! I love these kinds of questions – they help me see how much more thinking I have to do to achieve clarity!

  • Paul Arnold

    I question the use of the word “all” in the parenthetical at the end of the Questioners definition. As is, the parenthetical dissolves the distinction between Questioners and Upholders. Substituting “those” for “all” might be better.

  • marissamuffinn

    I love thinking about these tendencies – I bring them up all the time in conversations with people (my friends probably think I’m obsessed with your ideas haha). I personally feel really torn between whether I’m a questioner or an obliger. When a new rule is imposed at work, for instance, I have a really hard time following it until a superior gives me a reasonable explanation for why the rule was created. If there’s some sort of logic explained to me, even if I don’t necessarily agree with it, I can give in. But if it’s more of a “because I said so” type thing, I don’t even PRETEND to follow it. So in that sense I’m definitely a questioner.

    But I also feel a strong pull toward the “obliger” category. I’ll promise myself I’m going to wake up two hours before work so I can get a few things done, and somehow I still can’t actually get out of bed until it’s literally time to get ready for work. I can wake up because “go to work on time” is an external thing, but promising myself I’m going to wake up sooner FOR ME doesn’t cut it.

    Is there a way to fit into two categories? I feel like those two tendencies – questioning and obliging, don’t necessarily have to be mutually exclusive. Yes? No? Maybe?

  • marissamuffinn

    Also now that I think about it, I thoroughly believe that my tendency to be an obliger makes me a procrastinator. Telling myself I’ll do it right away means nothing. Seeing the clock tick right before the deadline is the only thing that makes me do it. I feel like upholders are probably not typically procrastinators, am I right? If that’s true, I wish I could be an upholder. I’d be so much more productive if I could just tell myself I’m going to do something and DO it.

  • Anne Kirsti

    Dear Grethcen. Thank you for this very interesting blog. I think I’m an questioner, and as you say, sometimes I don’t follow advice from respected sources, or people that should have more knowledge than me about a specific topic. I find that the “truth” about a lot of things change over time, like “what is healty”, “should you take fluoride tablets or not”, ect. Therefore I do not always trust those respected sources. However, sometimes I find out that I’m wrong.

    Also I’m a fan of regular habits, it’s the best way for me to make sure to stay healthy and fit, stay in contact with friends and family and lot of other good things in life.

    I think my husband is an upholder. This combination, qustioner and upholder, can sometimes get us into small conflicts, but in the end I think we learn from each other.

  • Jennifer

    I’ll answer the question on tardiness. I would definitely say I’m an Obliger and I’m consistently late for lots of things like work (almost every day for about 8 yrs but my lovely boss has never ever mentioned it) & to meet friends/family, I am always apologetic and genuinely don’t know how i end up being late even for events I really want to get to!

    However I’m always early for any appointment or for flights. Whether I’m on time or not for a train generally depends on whether I’ve booked a particular train or just need to get the next one – if I have an open ticket even if I really do need to get a particular train I usually miss it. I guess this really shows that somehow in my brain there’s a difference between a time imposed by the outside world and my goal of when to arrive somewhere – I sometimes think that if i ended up dating someone who was a stickler for being on time that would work for me – I would somehow manage it because i wouldn’t want to upset/disappoint them (so why is it ok for me to disappoint myself??).

    One other example – I am notorious for sleeping through alarms and having long lie-ins whenever I can, however about 10 yrs ago I worked as a summer camp counselor sleeping in the same bunk as the kids. Every day without any conscious effort really i would literally jump out of bed (and it wasn’t coz I was loving the job :)) on time and be wide awake. Maybe the fact my responsibilities were so clear meant that there was no choice for me, a rebel might have hated this but for me it was completely freeing.

  • ER

    As I was reading this, I was thinking
    (still) about where I fall on the RCI (I like that it provides space for a
    spectrum of personalities, not just the discrete 4), as well as where my
    husband falls. Initially, I thought I was an Upholder, and he was a Questioner,
    no need to think about the options. As I’ve thought about it more, I think we
    might be the opposite, with a healthy mix of the other thrown in.

    For example, he would like to be on
    time (and for him on time is 15 minutes early) for everything, where as I will
    show up hours early, as necessary, for a plane flight, but am not going to
    worry if I am 5 minutes late dropping over to a friend’s house. I am on time for the things that matter, or
    are business transactions (work, school, appointments, exercise classes with a
    set start time) and mostly on time for the things where a few minutes in one
    direction or the other won’t make a difference.

    We are both VERY into our
    routines, probably because most of the time, the routines are what make the
    most sense, and are the easiest way to get through most days. I (Questioner),
    find myself thinking (or knowing) that I know more than the person trying to
    give instructions, so I nod, smile, and do whatever I was going to do anyway.

    All that being said, I like the
    idea of an Upholder – in general, it is better to follow the rules that are
    probably in place for the greater good, but am a Questioner at heart.

  • msps

    I think I’m a questioner/rebel with upholding tendencies. Like you, I am pathologically punctual. And I struggle with my anger when others aren’t. I do see it as a respect issue.
    I like routines, or maybe I like them when I have one I appear to function well with–mostly this is about work. I like structure with my freedom and having a time to go to work and times when I’m free makes me feel safe/secure/like I’m accomplishing what I need to accomplish and helps me enjoy my free times without guilt. That sounds like an obliger type of thing to me, but I don’t see that as obliging others as much as I see it obliging myself and what I know about meeting my own needs. If I could have my druthers I’d probably fall naturally into a routine that works better with my body clock than the one I have now, which works well with work, but I’ve never had to struggle about that. I have a few things that I do certain days (change linens on Saturday, read the Sunday paper in a certain order with crosswords/sudoku last), but I’ve always found I get done what I need to get done in a timely fashion, and I’ve struggled with trying to make a more formal routine–the rebel in me will NOT cooperate! So, I deem myself happy with how I do things.
    I have to work for money which taints the pleasures of my work for me. I’d gladly do what I do for free if I could, and be happier. I don’t like the feeling that an employer somehow holds control over my life by requiring this or that from me, even while realizing that it isn’t the employer, it’s I that is in control. I appreciate it when others express clear expectations, especially at work; then I can decide whether I can or want to meet them and negotiate whatever works better for me if needed.
    As for following medical advice–I am a big time questioner, and very glad I am. Even trusted doctors are human and may make mistakes. For example, I resisted very strong pressure to take HRT in menopause because my own research told me it was a very dangerous choice. A few years later my concerns were validated. I am guessing any kind of medical person hates to see me coming because I always have a multitude of questions and won’t leave till I’m satisfied. If I have some knowledge already about whatever’s told me I may act on that whether or not it concurs with the medical or other advice. If I don’t have the knowledge already I take the answers to my questions and do my own research before deciding whether or not to follow advice. On some things, medicine and otherwise, I will solicit multiple opinions in addition to my own research and then make my own decisions.
    As for imposing expectations on others, I am single and the oldest of 12 kids, none of whom appears to be much like me at all. I sometimes wonder if I was dropped out of space in the wrong place by mistake because no matter what expectations I have and how carefully we discuss whether they can be met or not, I find that my siblings rarely meet them. My solution has been to drop expectations about them and give up even voicing them. I consider anything I plan with most of them to be extremely contingent until they actually act. This has improved my relationships with them when I see them, but I find I don’t see them that much outside of big mob scene parties that I, an introvert who prefers one-on-one interaction, struggle to attend. It’s hard, but seems to be the best way for all parties to be respected, if not always pleased.
    I do have a service heart. I love that my work is providing important services to people who need them and am delighted and feel blessed when I can provide a helpful answer or other services. I am a great gift giver because I listen carefully to everyone in my life and somehow seem to effortlessly note things that will please them as gifts for birthdays, Christmas, etc. I love that about me! I get great pleasure not only from being able to choose a thoughtful gift, but also from wrapping it beautifully; I consider that part of the gift. I am delighted when I can help a friend or family member with something within my particular skills and find taking care of a problem for them more of a gift to me than to them.
    My main upholder tendency is indeed the craving for gold stars, but I’ve worked hard to let go of that because I’m just happier if I’m not thinking about that. In a certain way I equate that with score-keeping and I find that uncomfortable and not who I want to be. I also rebel at myself for craving them because for me that craving implies some willingness to do what I would not otherwise do, or feeling coerced by my own craving, and I don’t want to live there. I’m doing pretty well with this. It’s mainly a work issue. I think it’s a hangover from a childhood where it was drilled into me that if I did my best it would be recognized. Not real in the adult world in my opinion, or at least too painful to expect when my expectations aren’t met for reasons having nothing to do with me. I’ve learned that not getting them is not necessarily about ME, and that has been freeing.
    Love your books and your blog and look forward to the daily emails. Thanks for great discussions!

  • Virginia

    This is so much fun! I’m an Obliger and my guess is that my husband is, also. I feel half-good about being an obliger and wish I were an upholder. I have half as much discipline as I wish I did. 🙂

    I certainly have a service heart at work according to the description above, but don’t think my spouse does, but he might if perhaps he were in a different job. We both struggle with tardiness. We love the idea of having regular routines and habits – and struggle to implement them.

  • Katy

    Ooh love this! I prefer the Rubin Character Index. I’m an Obliger and I’m chronically early (I massively pad my schedule). At work I’m known for being the person who meets deadlines but I just can’t keep to any expectations I make to myself (do more exercise, eat more healthily etc.) so I’d love to be an Upholder and meet my inner expectations!

    p.s. Apologies if this posts twice – I think it deleted my original comment when I signed in!

  • Holly

    Obliger–but I think that gets me in trouble. I give up some pleasure to meet the deadline. Instead of reading a book (something I really enjoy) I have to be sure the “chores” are done or I can’t enjoy the book. But I’m working on getting a better balance on that. As you can imagine the work is never done–so you end up never having time for yourself.

  • Eileen

    I’m a Questioner but I’d like to be more of an Upholder. How about a piece on ways to become more of an Upholder?

  • Kellya

    I’m too much like you! I’m an Upholder and my Boyfriend is a Questioner. And I love my routines and habits.

  • Taylor

    I’m an Obliger! I wish I was an upholder, because always set goals for myself, (well, more like nagging tasks), and never can bring myself to do them unless I have nothing else to do and go “Alright. Time to tackle a nagging task.” However – I have an intense craving for gold stars when I meet other people’s expectations, and get a bit upset if I do not receive a gold star.
    My boyfriend on the other hand, is a cross between a Questioner and an Obliger. He always makes sure to acknowledge my gold-star-worthy tasks though, and is very enthusiastic about telling me what a great job I’ve done, but at the same time I have to remind him to do things a lot – which he’s been working on for a bit though! 🙂

  • donna

    hello and wellcome to my comment ..
    first if YOU have to write for something ”REBELS ” and ‘OBLIGER” WE NEED TO know what exacte they mean
    ”REBEL” become from Latine language and the sens they use is good not bad ..
    so the answer you have to get is for good or bad in your side?
    in our timing Rebel we use for exscuse if some one have nothing to do or have 0 income (is poor) every one BOSS can use for everything they wanted just with small cash ..
    for my self if you wanted one answer for this (i like or not to call my self rebel)?
    i have to say YES and NO
    YES because they are indepentend and use him/her self for (family help) just this is a reason they accept money (dirty)
    ROBIN HOD was rebel ..or in book classic MOTHER to Victor Hugo ”
    we have no numbers example 19-20 centry ..people who are in history like REBEL but with good sens or this WORD ( FOR PEOPLE HELP)
    AND NO because in our time they are extremist with out sens human (help ) just kill and brutal scene ..front of children eye ..

    –now about life routine (in relationship ..marry .in work too.)
    a true in my life (not to much relationship’s ) i keep my marry all ready 12 15 y (two children)
    my life was not good (for my 30% responsibility )
    ”NO” ” my life was not routine .just i did not like to have relationship with some one is not correct (lie . E-MORAL )
    we create one relation btw two people with respect for both side from the moment this respect have go on we don’t need to stay together ..even with children
    i am very open mind in theme with man (i know they are not monogamy) they are fullfiling in relation but just like this they don’t like to much obligation ..responsibility) —————- to have good relation ship is nice to leave place for both ..(space) ..for everything ..(not exagiration)

    we have to know our relationship is just relationship NOT OUR PRONE ..(value)
    for both side of course
    you know come one day the relation ship btw wife and husband be come bored this is fact we (women) have to accept this is not the timing 1940–50 even before ……nothing is for ever don’t see our parent or grand parent ..
    they make 7 children because they have wife machine in home with out nothing interest ..(not working)
    to day both man and women have door open for career and free life indepentend ..
    if you like to stay for ever with you husband have to do every summer free vacation with out him ..and free life (moral is up to you) .just together bed and shower ….

    this make thing’s easy ..keep long time life ..
    now obligation …every responsibility person in life have obligation ..
    like this start our life with right’s and obligation’s
    PS I AM FULL RESPONSIBILITY IN MY LIFE ..( not rebel ) just read to much …my opinion’s are up to my ideology i create from what i have read and fact example from my life ..
    i hop ( se calippto)

  • Emi

    I feel like there is a lot of crossover, because not all expectations are equal, but maybe that view point is what makes me a questioner.
    When what I need to do and want to do converge – yay! When what I need to do and want to do are different whether or not I do it will depend on the consequences. That makes me kind of an obliger, because often external consequences often seem bigger than internal consequences, which you have more control over and can usually mitigate, if not the consequences then your reaction to those consequences. But I also feel like a bit of rebel because in questioning, the very setting of a rule or expectation makes me want to see if I should or can break it, unless I was going to do it anyway or the consequences are really grave. Isn’t that just questioning the expectation?
    And do upholders really just do things without questioning them? They sound really productive and motivated by results, but if you don’t analyse what is expected and how can you be certain that it will lead to positive results.

    To answer your questions: I have no problem imposing expectations on others, but I have limited expectation of them actually doing them. If I really need something done I will either do it myself or set very clear guideline, goals and milestones to make sure it gets done how I need it.

    I am fine with hierarchy, in fact it is worse without it as then I will probably just do what I want. I am more receptive to request for help from underlings than superiors, mainly because underlings are generally requesting help on tasks that you have set them.

    Tardy if I can get away with it, late if I can’t.

    Routine is the only way I get stuff I am not particularly interested in doing done.

  • Margaret

    Hello Gretchen,
    I am most definitely an Obliger–and I’d prefer to be something else. I do well completing tasks set out by others–requests from my manager, requests for help from my direct-reports. But my own stuff falls by the wayside and I am left scrambling to complete goals.
    I do like habits/routines, so I have to figure out a habit that will allow me to complete my own goals in the (limited) time I have at work. So far, I haven’t been successful with that. [And on a personal note, I’m quite good at going to the gym, but not really pushing myself, so I’ve signed up with a personal trainer who expects me to show up and then repeat the exercises at least twice more before we meet again. This is proving very successful for my fitness!]
    Yes, I am chronically tardy to my meetings, only by 5 minutes, but still, this is a terrible habit suggesting I don’t respect other peoples’ time. Gotta figure out a solution to that one, too.

  • Mejsh87

    Hi Gretchen,

    In answer to your questions:

    My category and tardiness –
    I’m definitely an Obliger – except strangely, I’ve always had a problem with being late – to everything 🙁

    I hate this about myself, as I consistently feel as though I’m letting others down, not respecting them, and making it so much more stressful for myself than I ever feel when I am actually on time or early.

    Since finishing school and beginning work, I’ve struggled for a long while with being on time in the mornings but then I’m always early and/or on time for meetings. Strangely, it feels as though being on time to meetings is an external expectation but for some reason, getting to work early or on time has been an internal expectation – which I know doesn’t really make sense.

    I’m now becoming much better at being on time in the mornings but it’s a slow process and it takes a lot of conscious effort and hard work to push myself everyday to do it. And, I still struggle in my personal life to be on time to anything.. so this year, it’s one of my resolutions to work on and to be early and on time for everything – because I much prefer the feeling of being on time/early – it’s less stressful, puts me in a calmer and more positive mood for the day, it looks good to others at work and in my personal life, it respects their time and the list goes on with all the positive points.

    My take on routines –
    I love the positive energy I get from routines; I always feel calmer and more positive having time up my sleeve, less stressed knowing exactly what needs to be done/can be done and when it needs to/can be done, and proud to know that by following one I will be meeting other peoples needs/expectations.

    However – I struggle immensely to get into any kind of routine and to stick with it is very difficult; a constant task.

    Sticking to resolutions and routines for an Obliger –
    I’m doing my own Happiness Project this year (2014) – (side note: Your book “The Happiness Project” (bought from kikki k – Australia), is brilliant and a wonderful read!) – and I know I struggle to keep resolutions if they’re for me so I’ve been telling myself that I’m doing it to improve myself and to make myself happier and less stressed, but also that I’m doing it for my partner who deserves better and who I want to give my absolute best to – so in that way, I guess I’ve been trying to make it an external expectation also 🙂

    Like you, my first month of resolutions (January 2014), is based around locking down my four basic habits and building my energy up to set me in good stead for the rest of the year’s resolutions. This includes getting myself into a routine of going to bed early so I get eight hours sleep and still get up early so I can be on time/early for work. I’m a night owl so already I’m struggling with this but I’ve been trying to do it for a while before now anyway, and failing tragically, but I think that by doing it as part of my Happiness Project, I’ve committed to it, for me and for those around me so it’s getting a little easier day by day.

    My partner’s category –
    My partner of six years appears to be a Questioner with a tendency to Uphold too. He’s always on time/early, he’s sooo efficient at everything he sets out to do, but he questions almost all things to make sure there’s a purpose/reason to them before he agrees to them or commits to them. I admire these qualities in him and wish I was more like that than what I’m like now – maybe one day? – but I do wish he questioned less sometimes as it would make my resolution to ‘stop being a nag’ a lot easier haha!

    I can see a bit of Upholder and Questioner in myself but only when it comes to certain situations; i.e. work and external expectations – so I’d like to expand on that and hopefully one day it won’t be so hard to be an Upholder in my personal life (internal expectations) and a bit more of a Questioner when the time calls for it.

    By the way – I think you definitely have some Questioner in you – all the research you’ve done for your books is very thorough and it seems to me that you have questioned whether certain techniques for happiness are worth it/purposeful or not before accepting them as worthwhile. 🙂


  • Ducky7

    I’m kind of a mixture of an Obliger/Questioner. If someone is firm that they need something done, I will do it, absolutely. I’d feel way too guilty if I didn’t. But if expectations are unclear or obviously unrealistic, I will question, and question, and question… and then feel very guilty for not meeting expectations! Same goes for my own internal expectations… it takes me a while to figure out my goals- I’m very flexible with myself.

    I would like to be an Upholder, mostly because they seem so sure of everything!

    • Ducky7

      I should also come clean that my co-worker is a major Upholder, to the point of wanting gold stars so much that she does not even stopping to think things through, and it drives me nuts because she creates so much busy work for herself! (And everyone else. And insists that her way makes so much sense.) So I have a love-hate relationship with the idea….

      I guess I have a touch of Rebel in my personal expectations, too… I’ll follow the expected routine at work no problem. At home, however, I’m so much more liberal…. the routinized life feels SO stifled.

      I’ve gotten much more into the idea of personal routine however as I’ve read that it can be liberating and that a lot of very creative and productive people had rigorous routine…. so it’s like I’ve had to talk myself into it. (Questioner!) The concept of “looping” helps me out a lot, too… I can block out the same time period for the same type of activity every day (creative work, exercise, cooking, etc.) but it doesn’t need to be the same activity! That would drive me nuts.

  • Josh K.

    Measuring the extent to which people uphold obligations is similar to measuring conscientiousness, but breaking out obligations to yourself vs. other is an interesting idea that explains a lot of things about people.

  • Bonnie Zhou

    Hey I’m definitely a Rebel here, and I’m equally uncomfortable with imposing expectations on others as having others impose expectations on me. This is true whether I am working for the other person or vice versa. My most comfortable work situation would be a flat hierarchy where team members collaborate and bounce ideas off of each other. I typically don’t get angry or frustrated at others for not meeting my expectations, instead I would just brush it off if possible.

    I’m chronically tardy, both for events that involve others (such as outings with friends or meetings with coworkers) and for events that only benefit myself (such as classes, lectures, shows I attend). A few friends have jokingly complained about it, but more importantly, being late actually stresses myself out a lot.

    I very often find myself questioning respected sources to make sure that an expectation is justified. Similarly, I always ask for sources when a piece of information is presented to me, even in unimportant conversations such as gossip.

    I love the idea of building regular habits and routine, but never end up following through with them simply for the sake of routine. When I go out to do an activity, the motivation has to come from a present desire of feeling good or feeling satisfied in doing that activity. This usually does end up resulting in regular routine (because, for example, dance classes are offered only on certain days of the week). Before I can stick to a routine, I have to work very hard to convince myself that my specific purpose and reason of doing that activity is justified. For example, dance is an activity heavily tied to my personal identity/self-esteem, and I continuously question/convince myself about how much dance means to me and why I should continue to pursue it. Any routine of mine is also very flexible in that I feel free to terminate it if I want.

    I do not think I have a service heart. Knowing exactly what makes my employer happy has never crossed my mind as something to aim for. However, knowing what makes my boyfriend happy does make me happy – is that similar even though the relationship is totally different?

    I think I may be a Rebel with a tendency to Oblige. For example, I find going to lectures and learning the material from a professor much easier than reading the lecture slides and learning the material for myself. Similarly, if my dance classes have a set schedule and curriculum, I have an easier time getting myself to go to them, as opposed to occasional drop-in dance classes.

    I do love being a Rebel, except that I wish I had more self-control. I have a lot of activities/goals that I wish to accomplish, and the biggest challenge in accomplishing them is my lack of self-control and discipline.

    • Nicoline

      I can relate to everything that you write so much. But I don;t believe Rebels are that small of a group. I think that most people are.