Podcast 38: Do You Hate Being Told What to Do? Maybe You’re a Rebel.

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Update: For our upcoming Very Special Episode, Holiday edition, we want to hear from you: What is your Try This at Home for staying happier, healthier, and more productive over the holidays? It can be a challenge. So let us know what works for you — for dealing with family, for traveling, for managing temptations, anything. We can all learn from each other.

Today is the fourth in the series of four episodes that we’re devoting to the Four Tendencies.  In last week’s episode, we talked about the Obliger Tendency; this week, it’s Rebel.

To find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel,
take the Four Tendencies quiz here.

Try This at Home: Try to come up with a motto for your Tendency.  Fun!

Strengths and Weaknesses of Rebels:  How to identify and take advantage of the strengths, and counter-balance the weaknesses, of the Tendency.

Striking Pattern of Rebels: Whenever a Rebel is in a long-term relationship, whether romantically or at work, it’s almost always with an Obliger.

Another striking pattern: While Rebels want choice and freedom, some Rebels are drawn to areas of high regulation, such as the military, the police, and the clergy.

Listener Questions: “What are some strategies to use if you have a Rebel child?” “How do Rebels manage their inclination to rebel against themselves?” Plus a Rebel weighs in about how she sticks to her good habits.

The Rebel author I mention is Geoff Dyer. I highly recommend his book Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D. H. Lawrence as a self-portrait of a Rebel.

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth needs to get her car serviced.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: I’ve started a new habit: on my Facebook Page, each Sunday evening, I post a photo of all the books I’ve read that week. I love to shine a spotlight on books, and I get a lot of satisfaction from thinking, “Look at what I’ve read.”

Call for comments, questions, observations!

We’ve spent four weeks talking about my Four Tendencies framework for human nature. It has been fascinating. We’ve had so many terrific responses that we’re planning a round-up episode. So if you have more questions or comments, send them in!

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Happier Podcast #38: Are you a rebel?

We love hearing from listeners

Tell us — did you come up with a motto for your Tendency?

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HAPPIER listening!

  • Liz F

    I am an Upholder (my work in chemistry and life is dictated
    by numerous excel spreadsheets) married to a wonderful Rebel (he was in the Army and is going to law school – gotta know the rules to break them!). Reading your book gave me a lot of insight into my marriage and also baffled me as to how we get along to so well. One of the things that we’ve done in our 4 years of marriage is that we do not have defined tasks. We approach everything with the house, dogs, cars, etc. as whoever has the time and the energy takes care of it. That way whatever he is motivated to do when he is home gets done and I will take care of what I deem to be most important per my to-do list when I am home. This works because we are both high energy, motivated people but I am interested to see how it will change when we have children. Another thing that I had to change when I got married was my financial budget. I had a very rigid budget with set amounts I could spend for each category however that was not feasible with a rebel. So now all of the money for bills goes into one account, money into savings goes into another, and the checking is our
    money for everything else. We save, all our bills are paid, and yet he can spend out of the checking on what is needed and doesn’t feel restricted. I would love to hear from any other Upholder-Rebel marriages to see what works for them.

    • gretchenrubin

      I would be very curious to hear how this works out when/if you have children.
      For many couples, the “I’ll take care of my stuff, you take care of your stuff, we help out as the mood strikes” works until children enter the picture.
      Then there’s so much more work to be done that it’s hard to sustain this system.

  • Jessica C


    I’m a questioner married to a rebel. I tend to always pay the bills, set appointments, and finish things. I find myself getting frustrated that I feel like I’m doing everything. When my husband has tried to take on responsibilites or I have asked him to do something I find he doesn’t do it in a timely manner or pushes it off. I find that I have more inner struggles because I don’t want to make him feel bad.

    • bythedog

      Just one quick thought about the bills. Is it possible to set up an auto pay feature that will make sure the bill is paid on time? Then when he actually does pay it on time, maybe you can go online and cancel the auto-pay for that month. It might be more work than it’s worth, but I just thought I’d throw it out there.

  • bythedog

    I’m an obliger with a rebel partner. I think listening to this podcast is going to be a big help. Now I know why she seems to be so understanding when I don’t live up to some expectation. I also now know why she can’t stick to a budget or a diet.

    If only we can trick ourselves so that she holds me more accountable and is able to diet, exercise, and manage money in her own way. Any tips?

  • Sarah

    I am not a rebel, but I did think of a motto…
    “You can’t make me, and neither can I!”

    • gretchenrubin


      • Lindsay Wilcox

        When it comes to mottoes, I stole this one off Phoebe Buffay forever ago!


        • gretchenrubin

          Love this!! And I love that show.

        • gretchenrubin

          Love it!

  • OceanPark2

    I really appreciate this discussion and appreciate how much the Four Tendencies have helped me understand about myself as a Rebel. However I think much of this discussion underestimates Rebels. Gretchen and Elizabeth, with all respect I do wish you had had a Rebel guest for your in-depth discussion this week. Imagine a Rebel and a Questioner trying to host a show on Upholders; even with the best of intentions and deep intellectual commitment, it is tough for these groups to speak for one another with empathy.

    A Rebel is not simply a badly-behaved person. For many Rebels a key part of expressing our authentic selves is about making our loved ones feel happy and secure, building a brilliant future for ourselves and our families, or astonishing ourselves with what we can do when we persist. We can accomplish incredible things and blaze trails that others might not dare to pursue. We are also capable (when we have to be) of making our beds, running marathons and getting our kids to school in the morning. I loved your discussion with Lisa Randall. She makes her own way – but she also accomplishes a tremendous amount, which does require meeting deadlines, catching trains and generally acting like a grown-up.

    The way I see it, nobody – regardless of their tendency – should be made to do something that feels wrong to them. Instead of trying to ‘trick’ a Rebel into doing something (or expecting, as a Rebel, that we can do this to ourselves), may I suggest asking him or her whether this choice reflects his or her authentic self? How I define myself is dynamic – if it was too consistent it would feel like a trap –
    but there are core beliefs I hold about myself that often lead to better

    I hate being told to do something because it takes away my agency. The outcome
    of my work no longer belongs to me but to the requestor. It saps my motivation,
    energy and focus. I felt this way very clearly as a child too. For the parents
    of Rebels who are struggling – that resistance you are experiencing is real. It’s
    so real for me, I can still feel it as if I were eight years old. But the
    important thing I want to share here is that even in those moments I DID want
    to help my family, do well on my assignment, make my room gorgeous. I just
    needed a reminder that this outcome matched who I genuinely want to be – not what my parents or teachers expect of me. Is that a conversation you can have with your child or partner? I truly believe you will learn a lot about that person
    and maybe find better way to support one another.

    Frankly I can’t imagine being with an Obliger because I think it could lead to
    a lot of codependency and resentment. I didn’t seek a partner because I need
    someone to clean up my messes. That in itself takes away my freedom. I love
    being married to a Questioner because we can have an honest, vigorous debate
    about what needs to happen – and when something makes sense and is important to our sense of what our family should be, we both do our part. For him, he does it because he said he would; I do it because it is an authentic expression of what matters to me. Through the debates, he has also convinced me to adopt many smart habits, big and small, that have brought me closer to the person I want to be – on my own terms. He lets me do things my own way, which may be hair-raising at times, but he also trusts that I will get them done – and that frees me to own my outcomes. Yeah, I get tempted to break the rules – but I
    remember to trust that I set them up for a reason, and focus on my lodestar: my
    authentic, best self.

    I know this is a long post, but I passionately feel that many Rebels, myself included, have the potential to be fabulous partners, coworkers and parents. I walk my own path with pride, gratitude and love.

    • gretchenrubin

      This is such a powerful and thought-provoking statement of the Rebel perspective. So much to ponder here.

      For people who want to respect the Rebel Tendency in someone they’re working with, or close to, but are having trouble managing that Rebel spirit, do you have any suggestions about how to approach things in the most constructive way?

      Or are there things you would say – wow, never do X or Y, that SO rubs a Rebel the wrong way? Beyond the obvious, like don’t say, “You have to do X, because I say so.”

      You point out something that I haven’t seen before in Rebels’ self-description, which is very striking now that I think about it. You emphasize wanting to be INDEPENDENT. I would’ve assumed this would be a core value for Rebels, but actually, I’ve rarely seen it come up. Hmmmm.

      Thanks for such a thoughtful response. The Tendencies are SO FASCINATING.

      • OceanPark2

        Thanks Gretchen, and thank you for your good questions. For me, something that can soften my rebellion is to see a conflict or difficult situation as a challenge I can solve. For example, instead of telling a coworker to show up at meetings on time, I might try presenting the negative consequences and then asking, ‘how would you address this?’ Being a Rebel is not the same as being a narcissist; if our actions are having a negative impact we want to know and address it. It’s a question of whether change comes from within or is externally imposed.

        As far as language that might trigger my ‘Rebel Reflex’, beyond obvious things like saying ‘you need to X’ or ‘if you don’t X then Y’, it would probably backfire to assume that I’m not following through because I lack the tools. If I want to accomplish something I will use any and all available resources to help – hence my fascination with your work, Gretchen. But for someone else to suggest a new app, guru or tricky technique just makes me want to avoid those things – if only to prove I don’t need them!

        You mentioned the powerful positive impact of challenging a Rebel – ‘you think I can’t (cook a gourmet meal/do SoulCycle/show up at work on time)? WATCH ME.’ This totally resonates for me. Whenever I hear myself say the words “I can’t”, “I could never” or “I’d be scared to…” then I feel compelled to do that thing. This utterly baffles my Questioner husband, but I have to say I have amazed myself and tackled impossible things just to prove to myself that I could. I think it could actually be dangerous and certainly manipulative to try to ‘dare’ a Rebel into doing the right thing, but I will honestly say it would probably work on me.

        • cat

          Just adding a second voice to your broad comments OceanPark – agree with what you’re saying about independence and authentic self, and definitely about solving problems! I LOVE to solve problems and my rebel nature means i can cut through other people’s bs without being worried about bending the rules…

        • gretchenrubin

          So interesting and helpful.

        • Barbara O’Neal

          Again, thank you. “Being a Rebel is not the same as being a narcissist.”

      • Samantha W.

        I think the most effective approach would be to give the person a choice in a way that allows them to identify what resonates with their identity. For example, punctuality has been a source of tension between my mother and I for years (and I’m 33!). She would nag, gently remind, yell – nothing helped. Finally, one day she put it as, “Look, right now, I feel like I can’t trust or rely on you. I also feel like When you keep me waiting, what it communicates is that you think your time is more important than mine, even if that’s not what you actually believe. If that’s who you want to be – someone that others can’t rely on and who makes them feel unimportant, fine. Or, you can be someone that people can trust, rely on, and who makes others feel valued. It’s your choice.” It was like a switch flipped instantly. Because she gave me a CHOICE – and I immediately knew what resonated with my sense of authentic self. Then it became easy.

        Another example: I had found the college I was completely in love with (the only school to which I applied) and was applying to attend after my junior year of college. Despite wanting it really badly, I continually procrastinated on the (intense) application process. My mom handled it beautifully: she’d ask if I’d worked on my essays, knowing I hadn’t, and when I grumpily/defensively said no, she’d casually respond, “Okay, so don’t go. Stay here and finish your senior year.” And I would yell, “NO!” and have a huge burst of energy to go work.

        The key, for me, is to let go of fighting my own resistance and try to white-knuckle my way into doing what I “should” (which is the worst word in the english language for me) – and instead, explore the alternative and make a choice. When others can tap into that/provoke that for me, it dissolves the resistance.

        • gretchenrubin

          Fascinating! So helpful.

      • barefootwriter

        I’m doing my Masters thesis using self-determination theory, and it makes the distinction between autonomy as the need for independence (as it is often defined by others) and autonomy as the need to feel that one’s actions emanate from one’s own identity and values.

        It’s entirely possible to feel your actions emanate from yourself while still doing things that other people would also like for you to do. SDT says a strong autonomous motivational orientation can’t, in fact, develop without one’s needs for relatedness — the need to care and feel cared for — being satisfied.

        “Autonomy support” is the term SDT uses to describe all the ways of meeting people’s needs to feel autonomous, related, and competent. I think of it as pretty much textbook for how to deal with a rebel (or really, deal honorably with anyone). If you have to “make” someone do something, then you acknowledge their resistance and give them good reasons why they have to do this particular thing.

        The book Verbal Judo, written by a police officer, is also textbook for dealing with rebels.

        When I facilitate, I tend to use non-directive language like “What I would like for us to do is. . .” or “What if we tried X?” or “Have you considered Z?”

        • gretchenrubin

          Fascinating – the distinction between the two kinds of autonomy.

          Is there one great book or textbook that explains this?

          I think you’re right that this has significance for Rebels…

    • Michelle

      Your statement, “I hate being told to do something because it takes away my agency” perfectly sums up the Rebel tendency. Independence is such a core value of mine that for years I’ve had a sticky note with that word in bold letters stuck to my desk.

      • gretchenrubin

        But what about a different kind of independence –

        Seems to me that Rebels often rely on others to smooth their way in the world – to pay bills, to empty the garbage, to get the kids ready for school, etc. Is that a kind of dependence?

        • Michelle

          Gretchen, that is a thought-provoking perspective which has not occurred to me before. My view as a rebel has been that I am using these services (online bill pay, garbage service, housecleaning, etc.) as tools to create more time & efficiency in my day. Having my partner help get the kids ready is simply him doing his fair share if the parenting tasks. It would not occur to me to think of being dependent on these things as I view myself as being able to do everything on my own if I had to. Thank you for a fascinating discussion!

        • Kim

          “Smooth their way” sounds like we’re naughty children who need a mommy…I’m a Rebel and am fiercely independent. I take out my own trash, pay the bills (early) plan our monthly finances based on an annual projection of income and expenses, raised my daughter as a single mom (with no child support) working two jobs to support us and no family near by to help. Self responsibility is a core value of mine. It’s my motivation that is different from other Tendencies, not necessarily my capacity/ability to be responsible for myself. It is true that if I don’t want to do something I WILL NOT do it unless I can make it a choice. This can be inconvenient for me, and challenging to manage in myself, but others don’t receive the brunt of it, I do because I believe I’m responsible for my own happiness, so I never expect other to “pick up the tab” so to speak.

          • gretchenrubin

            Fascinating…there is a real range in Rebel (as with all the Tendencies). If I can ask, When you’re doing something like taking out the trash, what are you thinking? Do you ever struggle with the instinct for resistance with a repetitive expectation like that? (many Rebels do). How do you stay focused on what you want, and not get kicked into resistance when others try to direct you? (again, something many Rebels say is an issue).

          • Lindsay Wilcox

            When I’m taking out the trash, I’m usually thinking, “Yes! I remembered to get this stinky thing outside on the right day! No more smelly garbage!”

            I don’t take the garbage out because I or anyone else expects me to take it out. I take it out because I dislike having it in the house! Same thing with any other tasks I do on a routine basis. I pay my bills on time because I dislike paying fees (anybody else think it’s weird how much of this is about paying bills?).

            One of the things that helps me build habits is reminding myself what the result is of neglecting an action. “If I don’t ‘X,’ ‘Y,’ which I like even less than ‘X,’ happens.” You know how some people put pictures of skinny people up to inspire them to make good choices? I put up pictures of myself at my fattest, in my underwear. I like being fat even less than I like choosing vegetables over ice cream.

            It’s worth noting that I certainly have a bit of a questioner streak in my rebellion too. If I don’t understand WHY someone wants something done, gunpoint may not even persuade me. If ‘Y’ is, “So-and-so will be unhappy,” I’m likely to think So-and-so is a bit ridiculous for being so bothered about something when she can’t even articulate why it matters. Suffice it to say that rarely spurs action!

          • gretchenrubin

            Great examples of the Rebel perspective.

          • Barbara O’Neal

            Absolutely agree.

        • Kim

          One more thing…I think the idea that Rebels need someone to do for them relates more to an idea that things should be done in a certain timeframe and in a certain way. That is (obviously) not a Rebel way of being. I don’t promise people something unless I’ll do it. But it’s not a moral issue to me if to choose to pay a late fee, leave the garbage till tomorrow etc. To some people, it really is. They really feel that certain things must be done a certain way etc. I could see this being a collision course with a Rebel..luckily, I don’t have many people like this in my life – we wouldn’t get along well. 😉

        • Karla Carter

          This Rebel (I can’t speak for them all!) doesn’t rely on others for anything unless it’s a dire emergency that I can’t possibly cope with myself. I’m intensely independent. I actually hate to be in someone’s debt, as it were, because that becomes an obligation and my dream world is completely free of obligations. That doesn’t mean my dream world consists of me doing nothing, but it does mean that I do what I want when and how I want. I unload the dishwasher because it’s something I want to do; if my partner (a Questioner) were to ask me to unload it I would immediately want to go tidy my sock drawer instead. That agency thing mentioned by @oceanpark2:disqus really says it well! Also, I’m strongly tied to a sense of identity and authenticity.

        • Guest

          I haven’t listened to the podcast yet but just reading the discussion I’m guessing I’m a rebel…

          I don’t take clean my house or myself and I’m rubbish at doing pragmatic things….but I would HATE it if someone did it for me. I don’t want anyone to do anything for me. If I don’t clean the house, it’s because I don’t want to clean the house. Easiest thing to do is live alone, otherwise someone will nag you (or end up doing it for you, which is worse).

          Is it not just that other people THINK we want them to do stuff for us, then get resentful when actually…I never really wanted them to do it anyway. My mother always does stuff for me when I haven’t done it, instead of just accepting I’m ok with it not getting done. Then she gets moody about it. My friends just accept that’s who I am. They ask if I need help with it, I say no, they leave me alone.

          If I’m living with others, I’ll try to do it out of respect for them, but it’ll probably be bare minimum.

        • UseTheWholeBuffalo

          That sounds more like a narcissist than a rebel.

        • Casey Noble

          I’m late to this discussion but your work on tendencies is really helping me to understand my rebel nature. I think you may be overestimating the amount of rebels who are in relationships with obligers, and underestimating how much some rebels care about aesthetics and efficiency.

          I take care of all the bills in my household. If they come in the mail, yeah, I’ll definitely just either put them in a drawer or tear them up and throw them away. But I know that about myself, and I also know that I don’t like spending time on tasks that are repetitive and of no use to me, so I just set up autopay for everything. Autopay bills, autopay credit cards, auto-transfer to savings and retirement. If it happens automatically, I feel efficient and it makes me happy. Plus, it feels like I’ve hacked the system to fit my own personal needs.

          My SO is also a rebel (I’m pretty sure; he refused to take the quiz) and an extreme neat freak. One example is that he washes dishes by hand because he doesn’t like to use the dishwasher (he’ll take them out of the dishwasher to wash them), and I think he considers neatness a core aspect of his personality and upbringing.

          I used to be much messier; in high school, I’d toss clothes all over the floor just because I knew my obliger mom would clean my room if it got messy enough. I really am much happier in a clean environment, so I’d just constantly make it so dirty in my room that it would get cleaned on a regular basis. Now, my apartment is neat as a pin and pretty organized. Living with a neat freak helps, but now that I’m a grown adult I get to decorate my own place. The only way to trick myself into doing everything myself (I can’t afford a house cleaner) was to remind myself that I want to live in a beautiful place, and I want it to be functional for of our hobbies and passions.

          And, while I don’t have kids, I certainly have no problem getting myself out the door. I have a “uniform” (slacks-blouse-blazer or skirt-blouse-blazer; I stick to neutral colors plus red) and a five-item makeup look I’ve perfected. I also value being on time. The important thing is that I’m doing this because I have a particular image of myself I want to present, not because someone else tells me too. I feel like people look at me and assume I’m young and not particularly capable (I’m short and petite), so I’ve kind of created a power look that expresses the opposite.

          Plus, I live in casual Northern California where people mostly wear jeans and stretchy pants, so I find it really fun to wear suiting and business professional clothing everywhere.

          • gretchenrubin

            Rebel all the way!

            Auto-pay is something MANY Rebels mention. Rebels, what other hacks do you use to help harness your Rebel nature?

          • Casey Noble

            One thing that really works for me is keeping a list of things that I don’t want to do. Right now I don’t want to sweep the ash out the oven, nor do I want to clean out the trunk of my car, nor do I want to sort the mail.

            Sometimes, writing it down can help me to recognize that I actually do want to do those things because they’re stressing me out. I guess a “don’t do” list is kind of the reverse psychology version of a “to do” list. I’m constantly surprised that I can trick myself like this, but it works.

            Another good list is the “people don’t think I can do these things” list. That’s how I got into the habit of waking up early without pressing snooze.

          • I agree on both counts. I can totally relate to completing tasks (especially ones related to HST returns, taxes, and so on) due to the stress they impart.

            I also succeeded in completing a 4-year undergraduate program, a Master’s program, a post-grad publishing program, and a 2-year course in natural nutrition because one of my high school teachers didn’t think I could pass an undergraduate level class. And I take great joy in succeeding in difficult industries, which motivates me to work harder.

            Some people have told me they could never work from home, but I’m more productive running my own business on my own terms because I’m free.

          • mellen

            I really like this story. What resonates for me in the Rebel description is the need to do things my own way and ‘debugging’ my life: to get a simple uniform, a simple face care routine, a faster way to clean the house. When I struggle to do something routine, one way to motivate myself is by analyzing how to do it better.

        • mellen

          It’s not always that easy for a rebel to partner with an obliger. I often find myself saying, “I’ll do it myself.” Or he’ll ask, “Am I hovering?”

    • aleishacd

      As a hardcore Obliger I cannot tell you how hard it is for me to imagine living life as a Rebel, so your insight was quite interesting and thought-provoking. Even when I have “Obliger Rebellion” (which I have definitely experienced), I always feel guilty about it. Thanks for such a thorough look at your tendency.

    • Electric Daisy

      I am a questioner in a relationship with a rebel with commitment phobia (parents’ divorce, previous engagement gone awry, etc.). In this relationship we’ve made great progress so far, without him even realizing, but whenever things get pretty serious and I think marriage is in the near future, he completely shuts off. He says he sees himself being married to me, but doesn’t know when or if it will happen. By saying that, I feel like he takes the ball back to his court and we’re back to square one. The thing is, I do believe him when he says he wants to be married to me and see us have kids and live a happy life. I think now he is conflicted between his wants and the fact that he wants everything in life to be “his idea”. Throughout this entire relationship, without knowing about these four tendencies, I realized that I need to manipulate him into thinking that everything was his idea in order to get him to do anything, but it’s really exhausting for me and I’m starting to wear down. Do you have any words of encouragement for me to continue in this relationship? The love is there, it’s just I feel like we keep going back to square one… It’s very frustrating.

      • OceanPark2

        I admire your openness and the honesty of your question. It’s taken me some time to answer, because I generally don’t feel comfortable giving relationship advice. I feel that nobody can know what’s really happening in someone else’s relationship (much less two strangers). But I do feel concerned about some of the things you wrote. So, imagining that you’re my best friend and we’re sitting in my kitchen, here are my thoughts.

        I am very troubled by your statement that you feel you need to manipulate your partner. Just as it’s not okay to guilt-trip an Obliger, take an Upholder for granted, or tell a Questioner whatever you think they need to hear in order to ‘get on board’, it isn’t okay to try to trick a Rebel into thinking that something is his or her idea. In my experience it also backfires way more often than it works. If you make this the basis of your lifelong partnership, you are building your family on a crumbling cornerstone.

        If you feel happy with your partner, and trust that you have a future together, that’s wonderful. But you need to see the relationship as it is today – not what you want it to be. You say that you feel exhausted and frustrated, and it sounds like you don’t trust your partner to be there for you without your pulling him along. This makes me feel worried for your current and future happiness.

        Couples counseling may be a good way for both of you to speak openly and fully about where you are now and where you want to be. But please do not use your partner’s temperament as a justification for misleading him. And please, imaginary best friend, take good care of yourself too! You deserve a relationship that feels strong and supportive.

    • Trina Summers

      You said this very well. I am a Rebel but I also manage to be a very productive member of society. My bills are paid early because I use the tool of auto-pay. My trash gets taken out because I pay for the pickup service and intend to use it. I also find Gretchen’s resources valuable for trying to make certain habits part of my identity. I hope to hear a lot more about Rebels in the future.

    • Lee Wittenstein

      YES, YES, YES!! We are not just naughty, willful people. We have the capacity to do great things. My husband of 35 years is an Upholder and we work very well together. We learn from each other.

    • Barbara O’Neal

      I felt this way, too. That both Gretchen and Elizabeth had done a great job with some of the other Tendencies, but both underestimate and might feel slightly shocked or appalled at the Rebel personality–which as Gretchen says, is a thing we can’t change. We are our types. But Rebels aren’t just a bunch of bad girls smoking behind the bleachers and making bad decisions (though I suspect most of us had to go through a stage like that to understand where our own boundaries were).

      I am a Rebel and very successful in a career that requires tremendous amounts of discipline. I pay my own bills, have supported myself for many years, and paid for a child to go to college working as an artist. I’m also in a productive, peaceful relationship with an Upholder, and like OceanPark, I feel that we compliment each other. We’ve worked out compromises and because we love each other, and value the thing the other has that we do not, we each give what we must to maintain the equilibrium.

      I create systems to deal with my Rebel tendencies. Bills are paid on the first of the month to avoid the trouble that comes if I forget. If I have a framework to manage the mundane aspects of life, I have more time and energy for my wild creativity.

  • Chelse Shaver

    My rebel husband sometimes refuses to do chores when asked. So to give an example: I needed the trash to be taken out. It sat in our kitchen for 2 days that contained the used cat litter. I was sticking heels in the dirt and not just “taking care of it”, like I normally do. So I wrote him a note: Even Rebels don’t want cat poop in the kitchen. Please take out the trash.

    I came home to no trash and him cleaning out the closets. So I guess bringing up the fact of what he wants or doesn’t want, seems to work for him. Hope this helps!

    • gretchenrubin

      Great example!

  • s_ifat

    I’m a rebel, my father is a rebel my grandfather is a rebel and my 10 yeo son is a rebel. I know rebel. Growing up, one of my father’s key sentences regarding accomplishing something was- you just need to want it. And this is who I am- if I want something I will do whatever is takes to get it. But if I don’t, even if it’s good for me, I won’t do it. I went to law school and veterinary school, but I didn’t graduate none of them, just cause somewhere in the middle I felt I was done with that subject and it’s time to move on, didn’t feel obligated to finish. In fact, I think one of the rebel’s moto should be- there is no obligation. As a mother to a rebel child I know how important it is to make the child think everything he does is his choice. I guess it will be very challenging for a non-rebel to parent a rebel child. My tip for habits would be- do what you want first. For example if I want to eat healthy, I will eat the chocolate or the “bad” thing first thing in the morning, this way I trick myself to think ‘I won the war, I do what I want!’ And the rest of the day I feel free from rebelling against me telling me what to do. Most of the time this knowing that I can eat the chocolate or whatever when I want, is enough for me not to touch it.

    • gretchenrubin


      I’m noticing a pattern: sometimes Rebels make a choice to show that they CAN make that choice – even perhaps if it’s not their “true” choice.

    • Trina Summers

      Hmm… I went to 6 different colleges before I finally graduated with a degree. Before I even heard of Gretchen I had identified myself as a starter and NOT a finisher. I am very excited about the planning and initiation phase and then the fun wears off and I put something down and may never finish it. I start crochet projects, home DIY projects, laundry. I’m not sure if that aligns to Rebel so much as Finisher vs. Starter in any tendency.

      • s_ifat

        I’m the same way. I think that if you don’t feel obligated to finish, even if you have a good reason to or it’s good for you, you’re a rebel. None of the other tendencies act this way. On the other hand I know a lot on many many topics, if it interests me, I’ll go full power and know everything there is to know about it. Also, I can’t imagine working for someone, being an employee never crossed my mind

      • Poppy

        Me too – the fun is in the planning and the big picture, once it get down to execution and detail I am less enthusiastic. I wonder if rebels tend to be “big picture / ideas” people rather than detail oriented.

  • Klarafu

    My suggestion for the holidays: give yourself a little holiday with yourself before and after holiday with the whole family!

    • OceanPark2

      Yes, I agree! Last year I had the occasion to attend a very quiet, meditative candlelit Quaker Meeting for Worship in my town. I went by myself and didn’t really know anyone else there. It was so lovely. For the rest of the holiday season, I felt a little oasis of calm around my heart. When things got hectic or I started to lose perspective, i could return to that wonderful feeling.

      Drawing on this, I am going to seek out a similar experience this year- something silent, meditative and just for me. Thinking of doing a labyrinth walk at Grace Cathedral in SF…

  • Chelse Shaver

    One thing I’ve noticed about obligers is we all have that “rebellious streak”, like I love non traditional hair colors. I think that is why we love rebels. Rebels tell us it’s ok to indulge that rebellious nature and in turn that gives obligers the freedom from some obligations. Both my husband and best friend are rebels. They make life more fun and think my “weird” style or interests is cool. It makes it worth while dealing with someone who doesn’t have any rules if you know they accept you completely, flaws, quirks and all. Plus they always remind me when it’s time to take care of me before I hit burnout. Where as questioners or upholders (my brother and stepfather) don’t understand WHY I took on so many responsibilities if I “couldn’t handle them”
    However, my brother (upholder) is the best accountability buddy.

  • Lisa Kennedy

    I am an obliger married to a rebel. Because I am an obliger, I can sometimes be a person who puts herself last; even with someone who I barely know. What I love about being married to a rebel is that he reminds me when I am paying too much attention to outside motivation. I, on the other hand, remind him when his actions make others feel slighted. Yes, his disdain for rules sometimes makes me insane, but, I love that he doesn’t overthink everything!

    • gretchenrubin

      Great to hear from the Obliger side of the Obliger-Rebel pair.

  • cat

    I was so excited to hear the rebel episode… When i described the Four Tendencies to my parents and sister, i was only a couple of lines into explaining what the Rebel was when they all pointed at me and said ‘That’s You!’

    I would describe myself as a Guilty Rebel. My instinctive behavior is to do whatever I feel like, but I often feel guilty about making selfish choices, or not being able to follow through on the commitments I *wish* I wanted to make… I’m really bad for always being late to meet friends, or to work, but I can’t make myself leave earlier – unless I decide today is a day I am really going to seize for me, in which case I can show up to work at 7.30…

    Knowing my nature has helped me to make some stronger choices for myself, instead of resisting my instincts and trying to fit myself in to others patterns. I’m much more comfortable now trusting my instinct to do what I want to do, even if it’s not what I think I should want to. I really related to the lady mentioned in the podcast who harnessed doing things when the impulse took her, I try to do that too – I have a list of things that I have a vague notion of doing (fun things as well as chores) and when I find myself at a loose end I pick what I feel like from the list… I guess that’s strategy of convenience?

    I also relate a lot to the part in Better Than Before about making things part of my identity in order to follow through. GENIUS.

    • gretchenrubin

      So great to hear that it strikes a chord with you.

  • cat

    Here’s a question for all the other rebels out there – i was thinking about @oceanpark2:disqus’s articulate explanation of the independence factor below, and I go to thinking about this rebel reflex i often have – when other people take up an activity i had thought of as ‘mine’ i often am instantly completely disinterested in it. When running got popular with people at my office, i was instantly much less interested in running, and when before running 4 times a week was just ‘what i do’ with minimal effort, i found myself resisting the habit, almost overnight. It was so strange but i’ve noticed it with other things since….
    Anyone else get that reaction?? See it in someone they know??

    • This happens to me all the time. I kind of hate it. I’m usually ahead of the curve, so people tend to catch up. I’ve had this happen with healthy eating, exercise, you name it. I’ll start a healthy diet and others catch on and start discussing it and all of sudden I think it’s bs and I don’t want to do it anymore.

      Recognizing this impluse has helped me calm it down a bit.

    • Mari Craig

      I am like that, definitely. I think we Rebels are often in the avantgarde, and we wouldn’t be caught dead doing what everyone else is doing. This leads to a lot of frustration when everyone starts doing and liking the things we did and liked when they hadn’t occurred to anyone else!

    • mellen

      I can definitely see this. At home, I lose interest in things my husband can and will easily do. I’m more interested in doing the chores that are not getting done.

      My sister-in-law has this in spades. When someone in the family encourages anything she is doing, she’ll stop doing it. It seems like such a strong instinct for her that I’ve considered buying cigarettes for her in order to get her to quit smoking. I do not want to be like that — losing interest only because other people have an opinion. Certainly this reflects what barefootwriter was saying about how a strong autonomous motivational orientation is connected with how we relate to other people.

      I’ve also got the vague notion that I’m very behind the curve or ahead of the curve in a lot of areas. I just got my first cordless phone and my girlfriends are all laughing at me. Meanwhile in other areas I’m ahead.

  • For increased happiness during the holidays, I lower my expectations and try to go with the flow. When you don’t count on Christmas being magical in the same ways it has been in the past, you open yourself to new channels of happiness.

    • Barbie

      I agree completely….people who are unhappy during the holidays have created such huge expectations of how it should be….I go with the flow just like you and enjoy each day as it unfolds.

    • Molly

      Yes, the key is to not try to replicate past experiences.

  • Elissa Parent

    I am an upholder, and I’ve been thinking about what my upholder motto is. The motto I came up with is “Continuous forward motion”. I have observed in myself, and the other upholders I know, a tendency to be constantly setting and meeting expectations. This pattern is helpful in that I am consistently driven to achieve, but also negative in that I frequently catch myself not enjoying and savoring life because I am so anxious to move on to the next scheduled event ( my questioner live-in boyfriend refers to this as my “timetable” and questions the necessity of it).

    • gretchenrubin

      Great motto!

      • Agnes

        I’m in the upholder camp, too, and I recently had to give a talk about my time in the Peace Corps. One of the questions was about re-adjusting to the U.S., and I mentioned that I graduated from college, left for the PC one week later, finished the PC, and started graduate school one month later, because “I like to keep my life moving forward.”

  • MaggieRose59

    I find the whole idea of the four tendencies fascinating, and I started
    thinking about them in light of our sense of self-identity that was
    discussed in a previous post. If you have ever read Tim LaHaye’s
    books about the four temperaments ( a model I am much more familiar
    with), there are similarities and I think they line up like this:

    Questioner: Meets inner expectations resists outer expectations – Melencholy
    Upholder: Meets inner expectations, meets outer expectations – Choleric
    Obliger: Resists inner expectations, meets outer expectations – Phlegmatic
    Rebel: Resists inner expectations, resists outer expectations – Sanguine

    As to one’s identity, I see it this way:
    Questioner’s constantly question their own identity through introspection and
    Upholder’s are confident about who they are and strongly uphold their own identity.
    Obliger’s as people pleasers tend to bring forward aspects of their identity
    that fit a given situation
    Rebel’s resist the idea of having a specific identity. They don’t like to be

    No one is all one temperament. We are all varying combinations of 2 or
    3. I think the dominant one would decide which tendency you would
    have. I am just musing and thought I would throw that out there!

  • MaggieRose59

    The Rebel (by Anne Taintor)

  • Aislinn

    My tip for happiness during the holidays is INDULGE! But mindfully. If you go to the holiday work party, have one drink. If you’re at a family gathering, enjoy the dessert table, but only just a small taste of what you want. One drink, one dessert, one day (Thanksgiving especially) will not make you gain weight or make you unhappy. This is a time of celebration! Celebrate! I also make it a point to continue on my regular workout schedule regardless of the season. If you don’t have a regular routine, it’s probably not the time to start because you may get discouraged if you fall off the wagon. If you do have a routine, make a date with yourself and don’t miss it. The most important part of the holidays is happiness. It’s family. It’s home. It’s celebration. Just be present and enjoy it.

    • gretchenrubin

      So interesting. As an Abstainer, this would be torture for me! but I know that it works for Moderators.

  • Jess

    Great podcast as usual, thank you ladies! I’m pretty sure I’m an upholder, and I’d say my motto is “Why didn’t you just do it the way I told you to?” Because I seem to find myself saying that quite a bit…

    • gretchenrubin


  • artie

    Do you have a lot of people who aren’t sure if they are Questioners or Rebels? I am kind of torn. I get Questioner on the quiz. But the more I hear about Rebels, the more I see myself in that tendency. I have a tendency to self-sabotage because I just don’t feel like being strict with myself, and I will bristle if someone tells me I have to or cannot do something. It makes me immediately want to…rebel. Also, I have a tendency to identify in opposition to the majority or the mainstream around me, wherever that happens to be. But on the other hand, analysis paralysis is where I live, and I love to have maximum information about something I’m really interested in before I make a decision. I hate arbitrary rules but don’t mind sensible ones. I will do something that someone asks me nicely to do, if it makes sense to me.
    I will say that I’ve learned recently that going with my gut is essential to making a decision work, because if I don’t really want to do it, I’ll regret it and try to go back on it. I love keeping my options open and hate the idea of pinning myself down or specializing.
    My husband and father are both classic Rebels (and, funnily enough, my husband used to be in the military and my dad used to be a minister), but I don’t think I’m an Obliger. I just am too willing to break plans or rules if they don’t make sense to me and I don’t think I will experience consequences. The self-sabotage thing I guess is what keeps making me think I might be a Rebel. For example – I’m convinced that I should avoid sugar, but if I really want it, I will eat it, and I may or may not justify it to myself (or weakly, invoking a loophole like, “everything in moderation” or “a little bit won’t kill me” when I am clearly an abstainer).
    I don’t know. Now I’ve almost convinced myself I’m a Rebel. Weirdly torn about this, Gretchen!

    • AndPeggy

      This describes me exactly! I also don’t know whether I’m a Questioner or a Rebel. I got Rebel on the quiz, but definitely do tons of research before making decisions and often end up with “analysis paralysis.”

  • Chelse Shaver

    Obligers motto: how can I help?

  • Mimi Gregor

    For de-stressing the holidays, my “try this at home” would be: if it ain’t fun, don’t do it. If you don’t enjoy shopping for gifts, opt out of it (tell people first, so they don’t buy you anything either). If you don’t enjoy making a holiday dinner, there are restaurants and take-out places that are open. If you don’t enjoy decorating or putting up a tree, don’t do it. If a family member complains, and it is that important to them, then they can take it over. There may be some stress initially, but if you hold your ground, people will get used to this new dynamic. Then you’re home free!

    • gretchenrubin

      Very interesting Try This at Home!

    • MaggieRose59

      I totally agree with opting out of gift buying if you don’t like it, and letting others know. However if someone wants to give you a gift anyway it is so important to graciously receive it! I love gifting and have been very hurt before by someone rejecting my gift because they hadn’t chose to gift as well. (I’m sure you wouldn’t do that Mimi, but I am speaking to the masses). It was embarrassing, and hurtful. Like rejecting a hug!

      • Mimi Gregor

        Yes, it’s very important to be gracious when someone gives you an unexpected gift. A simple “thank you” without any fanfare about how you don’t buy gifts suffices.

        On a related note, compliments are verbal gifts, and should be treated as such. A simple “thank you” once again is in order, without any qualifiers like “oh… this old thing?” or “oh, but my hair really needs a cut”. When one qualifies a thank you, it is like telling the giver that s/he made a mistake giving you the compliment in the first place and embarrasses them.

  • Andrea

    I’ve been wondering about which of the four tendencies I am since you first introduced them, and I have always thought that I’m an upholder, terrified to be an obliger. I question everything, but I don’t see myself as a questioner really, and the rebel tendency I didn’t even think of because ‘rebel’ sounds so negative to me. But the other day I was talking with a friend from university (we study literature) and he said “I think the worst part is, I think I would actually really enjoy this book if I didn’t have to read it because of school”. And something just said snap in my brain. That’s what I do with everything. I will gladly do dishes, clean up, go for a run, etc etc. But when I’m told to do it it just drains the joy out of it. I absolutely hate being told what to do. I’ve tried to explain this to my mom several times, but she keeps insisting that if she didn’t tell me I would definitely never do it. But that’s not true. I will do it, but I will do it for me, because I want to and when I feel like it. It sounds very selfish, which is probably why I haven’t wanted to be associated with that tendency. I saw someone further down in the comments refer to themselves as a ‘guilty rebel’ and I think I am one too. I hate making other people angry or upset with me, so I usually do what is expected and what I’m told. But nothing in the world makes me as angry, annoyed and frustrated as being told what to do. I was talking with my dad about university the other day, and he said “well, you have to get an education!” and even though I absolutely love learning, all I could think was “No I absolutely do not!”

    Thank you Gretchen, for helping me make sense of this irrational frustration!

  • Alex

    Have you come across many people who have chosen careers based on their tendency? I am an obliger, and I have recently made a switch towards a more obliger-friendly career (not deliberately – I realized after the fact, when your podcast got me thinking about it). I started out in academia, and did extremely well at the beginning, when I felt that I had an obligation towards my PhD supervisor to produce good research, write good papers, and so on. However, as I started moving towards career stages where my only obligation was towards myself and my own research track, I started finding it increasingly difficult to set expectations for myself and work towards meeting them. I have recently left academia for a teaching-only position, and I absolutely love it. I truly feel that I thrive in this job, and I have been wondering if the reason could be that each work day gives me dozens of opportunities to meet other people’s
    expectations, especially my students’, and I find great satisfaction and fulfillment in
    meeting every one of them. Sometimes I wonder whether I’ve somewhat “given in”, or “surrendered” to my tendency, and whether I should have tried to “push back” against it… But, at the same time, what I do now makes me so incredibly happy that I can’t bring myself to see “surrendering to my tendency” as a bad thing… I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

    • gretchenrubin

      Fascinating! I’ve just started thinking more deeply about the connection between career and Tendency, so this is exactly what I’ve been thinking about.
      I’d love to hear from others – weigh in on this issue!

  • Trina Summers

    I was impatiently anticipating the Rebel episode and I felt a little disappointed that the striking pattern turned out to be more about Obligers and was something that was already discussed in the previous podcast. Maybe because I am a Rebel and I don’t want to think of my identity as tied to someone else’s – especially because my husband and I are BOTH Rebels. I am not lucky enough to have an Obliger to rely on, so I have to find ways of getting certain things done. (Thank goodness my bank has automatic bill pay.)
    My husband also has the “Words of Affirmation” love language, so this makes it impossible to get him to do anything around the house because he wants praise for every little thing and then if I praise him it only makes him less likely to do it again. #frustrating Could you please do an entire podcast on “When Rebels Unite”?
    It seems there are several places in the book where it is just resigned to saying that Rebels just won’t do something or a certain tactic won’t work for them. Remember that is just one part of our personalities! We also want to be Better Than Before. I know you didn’t think Rebels would have much interest in habits, but because we cannot even get ourselves to do things even for our own good or with our health on the line… I hope the upcoming book on the Four Tendencies will have some additional information that can help us use our Rebel tendency to our advantage. Thanks for all you do and all of the great resources you provide!

    • gretchenrubin

      Yes! this is a major focus of the book. SO FASCINATING to learn about it.

      I would love to hear more about a Rebel-Rebel relationship. How does that work?

      How do things get done? e.g, automatic bill-paying, brilliant.

      what do you love about being with a Rebel, what’s tough about it?

      • Trina Summers

        I have been considering how to reply because I started asking myself, “How DOES this Rebel-Rebel relationship work?” [Cue Billy Idol song] My initial reaction to “How do things get done?” is – They don’t! But that is not entirely true. I previously mentioned the online bill pay, but everyone also gets to work and school on time. I think we identify ourselves as successful, hardworking people. It is housework that mostly takes the back seat because it is not the #1 priority for either of us. Besides us Rebels we also have one teenager still at home. She is a Questioner. She will not do housework either. The older daughter is at college and she must be a Rebel because I cannot even get her to take the quiz. I think we identify as people who have better things to do than housework, so we need to reframe that.
        My husband definitely suffers from unconscious overclaiming. He really feels like he does more around the house than he gets credit for, but being a Rebel, if you give him credit he never does it again. He does also admit that he could help out more. When we were first married I could easily get him to do things by asking and then when I saw they weren’t done I would say, “nevermind, I will do it myself.” Then it would get done. He caught on to me so that no longer works. I am going to try to use the strategy of identity more often, but could definitely use more suggestions.
        Discussing the tendencies framework with my husband over the weekend was enlightening. He would never pick up the book on his own but when I appeal to his identity as someone who constantly wants to improve, then we can have a nice discussion. He definitely agreed that he struggles with rebelling against himself. I have asked for the Better Than Before Journal for Christmas, so I am hoping to use that as a tool to facilitate more conversations about how we can use our Rebelness to help ourselves improve.
        What I love about being a Rebel is that life is full of surprises. People may think that they know me and then they will find out that I listen to heavy metal, consider myself Buddhist, used to teach Sunday School, have been divorced twice, etc. One of my key values is Authenticity. My #1 Resolution is definitely “Be Trina” but sometimes I have had a difficult time defining what that means. I love the quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson about consistency being the hobgoblin of little minds. I identify strongly with that and it gives me permission to change my mind and feel/think/say one thing authentically today and something different and contrary tomorrow.
        The toughest thing is not being able to motivate myself. Long ago I discovered that accountability partners for exercise turned into sabotage partners for me and that I have to do something only because I want to. But I want to go to yoga and still cannot make myself do it. I know that I am a Lark and I can get up early but I still cannot make myself do yoga in the morning at home despite thinking that I identify myself as a yogi. Dr’s instructions to eat low-carb make me crave carbs like never before. Regardless of whatever “plan” I put into place or putting things on the schedule, I cannot convince myself to stick to it when the time comes.
        This is really long, but I am fascinated about what makes us tick, and if there is a way to get myself and my husband to rebel into some better habits, you are the one to help us figure that out. Thanks!

        • Samantha W.

          Trina, as a rebel, I can’t decide which I resist more strongly – inner or outer expectations! I haaaaaate schedules. I hate the WORD schedule. I have found one thing to work for me for housework: my greatest asset is a kitchen timer. I actually really enjoy challenging myself by setting some random/small amount of time, like 13 or 17 minutes, and moving AS FAST AS I POSSIBLY CAN! to get as much done in that time as possible. (Now in truth, I usually end up going for longer because then I’m energized to do it, and inertia is my friend.) Some days, I’ll actually ask myself, “what amount of time is so small that I won’t say no to it?” and set a timer for that. It might be 7 minutes or even 4. You can always make a dent in even the smallest amount of time – and making a dent, having some productivity, also gives me a sense of accomplishment which (in my case) releases me from the shame of it piling up. So, that’s what works for me – take it or leave it. 😉

          (But, wanna bet you could get more accomplished than your husband in 10 minutes?)

          • gretchenrubin

            Brilliant approach!

          • Trina Summers

            I love this idea! Inertia gets me and I just can’t get started or would rather do something else. I think I do respond better when it’s a short-term challenge. I’m much more likely to do something every day if it’s a 21-day challenge than if I think it’s for the rest of my life. Surely I could commit to 4 minutes. I know I am motivated by accomplishment and by appreciation. I guess those are sort of an internal and an external. I’m also a Lark, so I need to do anything first thing in the morning because after work I am useless.

          • mellen

            Yes, I love this. Using a timer is very helpful. I also count things when I’m doing them: the seconds it takes for a pot to fill with water; how many pieces of clothing I’ve put away, how many emails I’ve deleted.

  • Jenya

    For what it’s worth, Elizabeth sounds like a loyal Hufflepuff. 🙂 Nothing wrong with that! (I’m a Ravenclaw. No trolls in the dungeon for me.)

    I do know one rebel-rebel pairing, and it works for two reasons: (1) The husband makes a lot of money at his own business, which he loves obsessively, and his wife stays home and does whatever she feels like after getting kids off to school. (2) They both have strong identities, so they want to be good parents and family members.

    • gretchenrubin


      What do they do that shows that they’re Rebels? How do they manage something that MUST be done? Or how do they handle something like deciding when and where to go on vacation, and making necessary arrangements?

      • Jenya

        I love hearing their vacation planning stories. 🙂 The wife always picks exactly what she wants, and then the husband decides whether he wants to go as well. So far, he’s rarely wanted to be left behind, but she puts no obligations on him to go. Likewise, if he asked her to book a vacation, she’d be resistant. They plan most events this way: one person cares very much and the other person shows or doesn’t.

        When it comes to kid obligations, they take turns as much as possible because it’s painful for each of them to be where they’re supposed to be, unless that’s exactly what they want to do.

        As 20-somethings, you couldn’t get them to show up for anything that they didn’t think was purely fun, but I’ve seen them care more about their identities as responsible adults as they’ve gotten older.

        • Jenya

          Oh, one phrase I’ve heard them use a lot is “I hate doing that more than you do.”

          I think both being rebels makes them empathize with each other, so they have gotten good at seeing who is least resistant to a particular task. I don’t think it would work if they couldn’t afford to outsource so much.

          • Making sure that we don’t put obligations on each other has made my Rebel/Rebel marriage high functioning. I assumed that’s what made a happy marriage. I guess it’s more true for Rebels.

          • gretchenrubin

            Can I ask – do you have children? How do you handle parent responsibilities?
            And how do you handle dull tasks that no one wants to do?

          • Samantha W.

            Oh my gosh, that sounds like such a great partnership to me, hahaha. I LOVE this: “They plan most events this way: one person cares very much and the other person shows or doesn’t.”

        • gretchenrubin


        • Casey Noble

          This sounds so strikingly similar to my relationship it’s scary. I booked a trip to Europe with a friend without even consulting my boyfriend, then asked if he wanted to go. He didn’t, so he’s just going to drive down the California coast while I’m gone and spend a few days in Los Angeles and San Diego. I don’t expect him to go to social events with me, and I like that he’s okay with me doing my extrovert thing when he feels like staying in.

          My boyfriend was just talking to a coworker about something that they’d like to go to together, and the coworker said he didn’t think he could go because his girlfriend wasn’t into it. We both thought this was crazy: why would it matter what she wanted to do, since she can just do something else?

  • Taylor

    I make sure to take part in what makes the holidays special for me. I go the extra mile to decorate my house, make festive drinks (hot cocoa, apple cider, etc), listen to festive music, watch holiday movies. All of that makes me appreciate the holidays even with all the chaos they can bring. When I get stressed by my endless to-do list I just find festive ways to get the tasks done like buying a holiday drink while I do my shopping or watching a holiday movie while wrapping presents! Paying attention to the little things is key this time of year!

    • gretchenrubin

      Great idea!

  • Michelle

    My daughter (14 years old) is a STRONG questioner. Unfortunately this has made school challenging (“Why do I need to take geometry? or physics? or American History to 1860? I’m NEVER going to use it.”) She failed to see the point of kindergarten (I’m only slightly exaggerating!) I understand that lots of kids question the reason to complete this class or join that extra-curricular activity, but it’s so hard for my child to see the point of anything that doesn’t fit exactly into her future version of herself. She feels trapped in this pointless exercise and as a child, she’s limited in her options. We constantly emphasize the fact that school is a means to an end, but it’s so hard! The upside is her dad is a questioner too. So, we’ve been having them spend more time together, and they’re developing strategies to help her cope better with the seemingly arbitrary rules of high school!

    • gretchenrubin

      Such an interesting example of a Questioner in action.

    • Lynette White

      I hear your pain! My teen is also a questioner (and I’m a rebel) and she has had a lot of trouble attending school and staying focused on her studies. It isn’t easy to explain to a 12 yr old why school is important, even if they endlessly ask ‘why?’. Now nearly an adult she is getting there slowly. Being able to choose all her subjects helps as she feels like she’s working towards the future.

    • Samantha W.

      The idea that school is a means to an end may actually be really counterproductive for her. That means she has to drag herself through years of this, feeling it’s inflicted on her, waiting to be done. That’s such an energy-suck. If you want, maybe just try something more like this and see if it resonates: first, acknowledge that the *content* of many of those classes is likely something that she won’t use, or frankly, remember after high school. I mean, do you remember much of the content you learned in high school?! I know I don’t! The big secret that they don’t tell you in school is that, it’s not the point. The point of geometry (and all math) is to develop a way of critical thinking – to understand how universal rules/truths are discovered/developed through logic. The point of physics (and all science) is to develop an understanding of the scientific method – it’s a way of problem solving, by developing and testing a hypothesis. The point of history is to have a greater context for the world – to see how various events across time and space connect and interweave and shape our daily experience. To know that what happens today doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I would challenge her to make her OWN meaning of those classes – to think deeper about not the content, but the way of learning, and discover for herself how that connects to her vision of her own future. She can “reframe the task.” Find what the point is for HER, not for everyone else, or what she’s been told the point is.

      • gretchenrubin

        Great suggestion.

  • Barbie

    I am an Upholder and an Abstainer….when you mentioned having a motto, I realized that I embraced “Strategy is stronger than willpower” a few years ago when I read “The Thin Commandments Diet”….people tell me that I have so much willpower and I tell them that I just have just make a plan and stick to it.

  • OG

    I loved this episode b/c of the insight It gave me on my husband. Even though he hasn’t taken the quiz (and quite frankly, I’m not sure I can make him!), I am 100% sure he is a rebel. I’m an obliger (surprise!), and I had to laugh when you talked about the rule-breaking. I’ve had so many cringe-worthy moments, but I’m also in awe watching someone who truly doesn’t care about what other people think, and who ends up getting his way most of the time. Of course, he’s not without his faults, and we seem to balance each other well (even if we frustrate the other at times).

    • gretchenrubin

      Great to hear it struck a chord with you.

  • zurisays

    Not a motto, but Woody Guthrie has a song, “Tell Me Why Oh Why?” That could be the questioners’ theme song.

    • gretchenrubin

      I’ll go listen to it

      • zurisays


  • Carla Forero

    After listening to the podcast on the Rebel tendency (which cut off after about 25 minutes in, as do all of the podcasts on my devices), I became more and more convinced that the true rebel tendency is only the collective manifestation of immaturity and negative identity issues. In my experience, those who need to assert themselves against every expectation on a knee-jerk basis eventually grow into sad and pathetic figures, insisting to the death that they don’t have to do anything they don’t want to, which is true enough, but which behavior rarely translates into success on any level at all. I’ve not seen contributions from this type that make a difference in in any “important” context; i.e., relationships, creativity, spirituality, physical health and well-being, etc.. I’m old enough (66) to have experienced close, and even intimate, exposure to all the tendencies via work and personal relationships, and my observation is that rebels are the most unhappy and unhealthy group of all four. Of course, this negative take couldn’t possibly be influenced by the fact that I’m an upholder to the bone…

    • Samantha W.

      Carla, I’m sorry you feel this way. It makes me sad to read because this perception reminds me of the shame and fear that used to paralyze me. For that reason, I’m compelled to respond – not to toot my own horn, but because I hate to let this perspective go unchallenged in a public forum, for the sake of all rebels.

      So just as a counterpoint, here’s my story (and let me assure you, I am a STRONG rebel): I went to college at 16; I have a graduate degree from Harvard; my work has been recognized with the highest commendation in the state by the governor. I moved across the country to live with/take care of my best friend who was recovering from cancer. My relationship with my mother is extraordinarily close, deep, and healthy. I am about to embark on an intensive training to be a yoga teacher and am an active member of a spiritual fellowship where I live. I do many things that I don’t want to on a surface level because in my mind, they are linked to a greater purpose: I don’t want to clean the kitchen, but I DO want my friend to come home to a clean, beautiful, and peaceful home to make her life/peace of mind easier. So I clean the kitchen.

      It also strikes me as possible that when a rebel is happy and successful, it may be hard to tell that they’re a rebel. 🙂 Outwardly, I may not appear to be a rebel to others. When I resist outer expectations, I don’t typically vocalize it externally – now, I have a whole process that I utilize to notice my own resistance and work with it, that involves choice, identity, and compassion. The vast majority of the time, I make the choice to meet those expectations – and when I do not, I typically have a good reason not to that’s bigger than “I don’t feel like it.” It might be, “This other thing is a higher priority right now and here’s why.”

      I hope this helps to open your mind to a different possibility – and if not, well, I’m sticking up for rebels anyway because we are capable of ANYTHING. Love to my fellow rebels!

  • Molly

    Hey Gretchen and Elizabeth, loved this episode. As a grown up rebel, I just wanted to give some encouragement to all the parents of rebel children that called in. I’m a twenty something living on my own now in a city far from my parents and I manage to be a fully functioning member of society, so hang in there!

    With some hindsight, I’ve noticed that, as a rebel, I not only push off the good things they tried to get me to do, but I also rebelled against some of their negative habits and views. For example, my mother is very nervous about driving (probably more afraid even then Gretchen) so she has essentially been telling me I should be afraid of driving my entire life. Guess how I feel about driving? I love it and I refuse to be afraid to drive cross country or through a big city. Objectively, I realize why driving is dangerous and I can see why other people find it scary, but I have this voice that tells me “you can’t make me be afraid of driving!” Moral of the story – you may end up with children who have conquered your biggest fears and bad habits effortlessly!

    That being said, I have picked up some of the habits they tried to teach me. For example, my parents were always very strict on sending hand written thank you notes. This was always a battle because I just hated being told to do them, but now I send thank you notes often without supervision or prompting. In fact, I tend to send them when they might not be expected and much more often than your average twenty-something. I don’t do this because I feel obligated to do so, but being grateful is an important part of my identity, so I make time for it. One of my personal commandments is “it’s never a mistake to tell someone you’re grateful.” I may not do things because they told me too, but ultimately my parents got what they wanted.

    • gretchenrubin

      Such an interesting perspective on your parents’ influence.

  • Carolina Avellaneda D’Atri

    My rebel motto: My way my time.

    • gretchenrubin

      Love it!

  • Poppy

    I took the quiz and I am a rebel – which I expected. I think on the surface I look more like an obliger but I also think that is learned behavior – as a responsible employee and single parent sometime being an obliger is the best strategy to get people off my case so I can do what I want. Is that possible that I am a rebel but use obliger as a strategy sometimes?
    My motto would be “you’re not the boss of me”

    • gretchenrubin

      Absolutely – Rebels can do things if they HAVE to do them, or if for some reason, it makes their life easier (like wear a seat belt instead of paying high fines, as happened to one Rebel friend of mine).

      • Poppy

        Oh interesting – I have an aversion to seat belts also 🙂

      • Lindsay Wilcox

        It’s interesting to me that you pick the fines as the potential consequence.

        I wear my seatbelt because if I’m going to be in a car accident, I’d vastly prefer to be inside a vehicle than flying out of one!

  • I’m still struggling with what my tendency actually is. I hate to be told what to do (Rebel?), especially when I think it doesn’t make sense (Questioner?), but I am highly responsible once I have chosen to make a commitment, unless it’s to myself (Obliger?). I show up on time, I pay the bills, and I send Christmas cards. I get really annoyed when other people think rules don’t apply to them, but then I also get outraged when arbitrary rules are imposed on me. I’m more likely to do something if it’s my own idea than if someone tells me I have to, and sometimes I’ll commit to something just to prove a point to someone who doesn’t think I can/will do it. I often frustrate myself with my inability to follow through on things that I enjoy and claim that I want to do, and at the same time I continue to do certain things that I dislike because I feel obligated (although often with great resentment). I think that this framework could be helpful to me in tweaking and improving my habits, except that I think that I’m either all the tendencies (well, except Upholder–that’s definitely not me!), or none of them, and so it’s hard to narrow down which strategies I might have the most success with.

  • Claire G

    I took the quiz and discovered I’m a Rebel and it feels like my whole life makes more sense. I don’t think many people would think of me as a Rebel because it’s mostly created inner conflict to this point (“why is it so hard for me to do X when it seems so easy for everyone else?”).
    Fortunately, I’ve found a career and a life (painter and stay at home mom) where no one tells me what to do and I’m so happy. The hardest thing for me is housework. It’s never ending and I don’t want to do it. I do it because it creates more harmony with three little kids but it’s a daily struggle. Thanks for creating this framework.

    I think my husband is a Rebel too which is a whole other story….we work well together so I’m going to think more about how and why.

    • Trina Summers

      I’m a rebel with a rebel husband, but I am the only one in my house who isn’t an artist. I guess my creativity takes other routes. Housework is the worst for me, too.

      • Claire G

        I got him to take the quiz and he’s a Questioner, which does make more sense for him and was another revelation for me–I can be more patient when he wants me to explain my reasons for doing things. Thanks for the reply. I can’t believe how helpful it’s been to understand this about myself.

    • Cristinalcherry

      I’m a rebel who is a painter and a stay at home mom also and I can totally relate to the housework thing. I just don’t want to do it but obviously need to to keep the house running. what’s strange is that when I lived alone and didn’t necessarily have to clean my house- I loved cleaning. now that it’s more expected of me I have a really hard time making it happen.

  • CJ

    I’m a Rebel and the thing I’ve found in changing a habit, is I go extreme – I do some kind of really difficult challenge (often different ones at once) and my competitive streak kicks in. I still have days where I won’t do it – NaNoWriMo and writing 1667 words a day comes to mind – but I want to beat the challenge and that takes over, especially when I’ve mentioned it to someone else and heard how difficult they think it will be to do. (Still defying expectations even when they’re negative!)

    With habits, the bonus here is if it’s short enough (a month or less is pretty good for me), going from an extreme habit back to somewhere in the middle is a lot easier than going from no habit to a decent one. Also I have to call them rituals because habit gets my “i don’t wanna” brain kicking in at the boredom.

  • Kat

    My rebel motto: rules are only for people who don’t understand why there is a rule.

  • Ashley Van Brabant

    There is something that I feel that I need to add to this conversation. After learning that I was a rebel I am learning and still learning how to uphold what I want to do. What works for me is giving myself space by knowing I literally do not have to do anything.
    I practice a ton of self compassion. I also keep the things that I do secret from all of the pockets of people I interact with. Many people don’t know all of the things that I do and it’s fun to casually surprise them. I also spend a lot of time defining and redefining myself.
    I am not so interested with pushing back on ‘little rules” like garbage day is on Thursday – just take the garbage out. I am more concerned with changing the big rules of how we do things – like the new wave of conscious business and how I am going to (eventually) expand that.
    what might be a possibility is that the majority of rebels don’t have a cause. I think if you are a rebel without a cause you will push back on all the little rules that society has and are less willing to ‘work’ with other people.
    I think it is great to have a conversation about a rebels identity and I think if we were to go deeper and start talking about revolutions there is a much richer conversation to be had. I think as a rebel you are a small pocket of change in the world and the more you recognize and act on it the easier it is to be with yourself.

    • Samantha W.

      YES. I love this!!! I think that’s a GREAT point – that if you don’t have something greater, more meaningful that you’re focused on, you nitpick at the little bullsh*t. I don’t have time to give a sh*t about the little rules if I have something bigger I’m currently invested in. I’ve made significant changes to little daily things, without effort, because of how they relate to something much deeper about redefining how I want to LIVE more fully,

      This is on a somewhat different track, but I think in terms of career, being a rebel must be the hardest for people who don’t have a profession/job they care deeply about. I recognize that I will never be someone who gets the job done because that’s what I’m supposed to do – being a good employee isn’t part of my identity, because for me, that requires automatic respect for someone simply because they’re higher than me in a hierarchy, and that’s not something I’m willing to grant for no reason. So for me, I have to care DEEPLY about the work so that I’m motivated to do the very best I can – despite maybe not respecting people above me or the rules I think are dumb.

  • Michelle

    So happy to discover the Rebel tendency, it so explains that voice in the head that is always yelling “do the opposite of everyone else” and constantly whispers “I am my own worst enemy.” Brought my kids up using “out of the box” problem solving tools; guessing they are both Rebels too. I am now very happily married to a wonderful Obliger…

  • Annie Heuscher

    I find some of this conversation really annoying because it seems like Rebels are painted as being so extreme and negatively charged – they “have” to have someone around to take care of them, they can’t follow any rule, etc. I think there’s a need for a lot more variation like there is in all the other categories. I am definitely a rebel, but I can excel at my career and in other things. I’ve been trying to figure out why, and I’m not exactly sure but I think that a couple of people have really hit the nail on the head.

    Rebels can either be really authentic and compassionate towards themselves and then they’re likely to be able to set some internal goals or set a vision of themselves that helps them to establish habits. But I would guess that the majority of female rebels feel constantly guilty for not “fitting in” to society’s rules. Why can’t I do this? Why do I have zero willpower? Why can’t I wake up in the morning? We flout the rules and it’s either easy because you know, love, and trust yourself or it’s awful because you feel ashamed of being seemingly incapable of following along.

    I would argue that perhaps the best thing for us rebels to do is to find the Oprah or Brene Brown or whoever speaks to you and try to get in touch with loving, trusting, and knowing yourself. I know for me it’s taken a lot of deep therapy to figure out where my shame comes from and I doubt that most could skip that piece but man, once that shame is gone, we rebels can rock the world because we don’t give a F%$K! 🙂

    • Samantha W.

      YES – this really resonates with me. I’ve found that when I internally decide that I want something to be “who I am,” I can actually change my habits instantaneously. I had been trying to force myself to wake up in the morning for YEARS – left to my own devices, I would become almost completely nocturnal. It was a huge problem that affected my personal and professional life (and happiness). One day, I just decided I was done. I didn’t want to be a nightowl anymore – I deeply wanted to be someone who woke up early, had a morning ritual (not routine, I hate that word – but I love rituals!!), and lived the full day! Really, within a week, I’d completely changed my habits. I did whatever it took. Now I adore being in bed early and waking up early – I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It was all about that vision of self. And, you’re dead right – it was that shame holding me back.

      My motto is: “F*ck should – but what if I could?”

      …nothing makes me shudder/resist/feel weighted down like the word “should.” BLECH! I hate it! On the other hand, asking, “but what if I could?” opens up a world of possibility – it’s exciting! Energizing! I immediately start envisioning the possibilities. IF I make that choice. IF I decide that’s part of who I am/want to be.

      • Annie Heuscher

        Love this. SO TRUE.

  • I have to say, I am both bipolar I and have moderate ADHD. There are times that I have tested (twice) and came up as a Rebel. After a period of time (about 4 months or so), I was in a different state of mind, my upper mania state. At that point, I tested and I was hands down, a Questioner. I think all in all, that one fits much better than the Rebel model until I am in my low depressive state, then I get more of the Rebel tendencies. Just so you know, there are a few of us I’m sure, out here who have this sometimes really annoying and frustrating illness and I believe that it’s possible that we are the rare ones who may bounce from one model to another then back then forth then so on – but I see myself as only the two depending on which side of my bipolar I am on.

  • Jill

    Rebel is such a helpful construct! I had been having no trouble taking supplements from their bottles every day for a health condition. Then I had to travel and got myself one of those 7-day pill holders and carefully filled them all up, the correct amount for each day in its own little lidded compartment. However, I could not make myself take them correctly! Back home I was fine again, because I could “choose” which pills to take. I heard a little voice in my head describe the pill holder device as “bossy!” Nowadays when I travel I just use mini-bottles of the supplements and stay on track. Sounds bizarre until run through the Rebel filter… Anything too prescriptive or fussy gets the bossy label as well. Love my Apple tools! Was Steve Jobs a Rebel?

  • Cristinalcherry

    I really enjoyed hearing about rebels and wish you’d write a whole book about us! I’ve also loved reading through the comments from other rebels and am amazed with how much I can relate to them. there definitely seems to be a pretty broad spectrum of rebel. I think I may be a pretty extreme rebel and it has definitely caused me some trouble functioning in “the real world”. anything that requires being somewhere at a certain time regularly is challenging, even if it something I love to do. as a result I have set my life up with as few obligations as possible but then motivation sometimes becomes an issue. I do have a constant feeling that I am rebelling against myself which can be exhausting. the biggest motivator for me has always been creating or staying true to my identity. for the longest time I couldn’t bring myself to exercise but finally took up kickboxing because that fit into my “identity” at the time. now, I’m trying to convince myself to do yoga because I know it would be fabulous for me but can’t seem identify with it enough to do it. I could also relate to something you said about rebels being able to argue for all sides within an argument. I do have to say that as challenging as being a rebel has been for me at times, I still think rebels are pretty awesome. I am definitely a free thinker, highly creative (a painter), and a nonconformist (to a fault maybe?), I truly believe that rules are made to be broken (although that one has gotten me into some trouble in the past). I was in a very passionate and turbulent relationship with another rebel for years but it failed miserably- because we were rebels I’m sure. now I’m married to, you guessed it, an obliger. I look forward to hearing much more about rebels soon!!

  • unmowngrass

    kept this tab open for three days, listened to it when I was putting off going for a walk that I (thought I) persuaded myself to take…..

  • PrettyGirlFromMontréal

    Oo 105 comments!! LOVE this episode thank you Gretchen!!! It was allllll true and I recognised myself all the way! It helps!!!

  • Maggie Penton

    I’ve been puzzling over your four tendencies for a couple of weeks. I love the framework, but didn’t see where I fit, then it dawned on me yesterday as if I had been hit on the head by an apple. I am a rebel. However, I think I am a well adjusted member of society.

    I am married to a man that (I believe) is an upholder. He easily meets his own expectations for himself and those others place on him. I admire him for these qualities even though I struggle with them. I do not like being told what to do or how I’m supposed to feel or act – even by myself.

    I think I’m oddly blessed though. For example, my parents struggled with money management (I’m the youngest of four children), arriving places on time (hard to get places with four kids), and keeping a clean house. So, I work very hard to rebel against these things in my own life (if my husband wants me to clean all he has to say is, “It’s beginning to look like your parents house around here.” I cannot help myself. I will clean up).

    Also, while my mother was not a great housekeeper, she is a great parent. She seemed to understand my rebellious nature. She never reminded me to do my homework in school or rewarded me for good grades, “They’re you’re grades. It’s your homework. You can do it or not do it if you want to.” So, I chose to do it – I graduated in the top of my class in high school and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Vanderbilt. I thought it would be stupid to waste the money I was spending on my college education by not going to class or doing my best to learn the material in the class. I also thought of myself as rebelling against the culture of a college campus (“I will not spend my weekend drinking and partying”).

    Also, I manage our family’s finances. I do a great job as long as my husband doesn’t ask or remind me to take care of it. Then I get very annoyed and have a hard time bringing myself back around to it. It’s true that the more I feel nagged, the less likely I am to do something.

    My husband and I own a business together, so I’m able to lead myself, which I enjoy. But I also think I make a great employee – when I’m doing a job that I believe in. I know because when I was job hunting a few years ago, I did a terrible job in interviews for jobs that I didn’t want. I couldn’t make myself fake enthusiasm and interest in something that didn’t fit with my vision of who I am. And I don’t have a lot of patience or understanding for people I know who do stay in jobs that they don’t believe in because they feel they’re supposed to. If it doesn’t line up with your internal compass – I don’t see why people do it.

    Anyway, I am really grateful for your discussion and podcast because I have struggled since leaving the structured environment of a school or institution with creating my own schedule – I have nothing to push back on, so I feel a bit…lost when I try to move my life toward what I want rather than away from what I don’t want. I kept wanting to be like my upholder husband who does what needs to be done because it is his passion and it must be done. Now, I can see that I need to frame things to myself differently, I’m very motivated if I think “You know most businesses like yours fail.” and I’ll find a way to make it work. I’m excited to read your book on the four tendencies!

    Also my rebel motto: “Oh yes I can!”

  • Barbara O’Neal

    I’m glad to see that I’m not the only Rebel who was disappointed in this episode. I’m a very big fan of these books–I love the tendencies and I can see how the model helps create a framework for personal improvement.

    But I really felt that this episode missed the mark. It made Rebels sound like bunch of snotty kids who manipulate others into doing their work for them–and totally missed the point that we tend to be highly intrinsically motivated, passionate about the work we’ve chosen, intensely alive human beings.

    Who might also like to figure themselves out a little more. I was honestly looking for some tips that might help me manage some of the less appealing parts of my nature. Instead, I felt let down–probably mostly because I didn’t feel that either of you understood the Tendency at all, and were looking on with a faint bit of horror.

    I am absolutely a Rebel and yet I have created a highly successful career in a field that requires tremendous discipline, but also a high tolerance for risk and almost certain failure at times. I have an endless capacity for reinvention, for flexibility, for thinking fast and on my feet, for showing up day after day after day after month after year to write.

    And although I am that Rebel, I have learned that to keep my life from running amok and forcing me to handle Muggle problems, I have to create a framework of good habits that counter my tendency to forget to do things. So I keep regular hours (of my own choosing–and they’re kind of odd, so I take some eccentric pride in that) and have a date that I pay bills so I don’t forget. I hire people to do things I hate.

    My motto is Good habits handle Muggle matters so my creativity can soar.

    And the reason it works is because if focuses on my passion–my absolute delight and love for the pursuit I chose to spend my life engaged with.

    • gretchenrubin

      For our live event, we’re talking to a Rebel, Nir Eyal – very Rebel, very successful. So hope to do a great presentation then. Stay tuned for January!

  • Sandra Ramirez

    “Every now and then I like to do as I’m told, just to confuse people.”
    ~ Tamora Pierce, Melting Stones

  • Pingback: Favourite podcasts of 2015()

  • UseTheWholeBuffalo

    The quiz says I’m a rebel, but I believe I was born a questioner who grew up being forced into behaving as an obliger. I failed repeatedly living as an obliger, and the more I failed the more parents and teachers tried to force me to oblige… and I desperately and anxiously tried with all my heart to oblige.

    My rebellion began to emerge when I was 25. My best friend died and I began to have lots of questions about what the point of everything was if it meant living miserably. The rebel emerged slowly, but when I rebelled I found success instead of failure.

    I shovel the snow from my sidewalk, I’m debt free, and I’ve received two promotions in last 1.5 years at my current job.

    I don’t like being told what to do, because in my experience bossy people are just following an entitled, broken, status quo indoctrination, and the rebels are the ones questioning what it means to create value.

  • Ann Guthrie

    I am an obvious questioner married to an obvious rebel. This has explained SO MUCH about our relationship!!!! And now, as a questioner, I need more information. I am in the process of reading “better than before” but I am fascinated by the idea that my husband and I are an odd pairing (although maybe not surprised if I’m honest). Is there anywhere else I can go to hear or read more about rebel relationships?

    We actually really understand each other when we make off the wall choices that go against mainstream because I have researched and feel good about it and it makes him oddly happy to do something unexpected. On the other hand other decisions like car choices can hang us up. I will drown in research and he will be terrified at the prospect of being “bound” to the same car for any period of time.

    We both frequently agree that what anyone else says will not dictate anything about our lives. Outer expectations mean nothing to us. SO eye-opening!

    He is a classic rebel and wasn’t that successful in the corporate world but has thrived as an entrepreneur and now owns several businesses and works from home. I stay at home and take care of my kids because, no matter what anyone says (who cares, right?), the research and my gut tell me that is a good choice for our family. Ha! Anyway, that means I take care of the mundane tasks that rebels rebel against but it’s ok because they are a deep seated inner expectation for me and they happen easily.

    Anyway, please include information in your next book about other rebel pairings besides rebel-obliger. It absolutely fascinates me!

  • Lindsay Wilcox

    I thought of a good way to describe how I manage the endless list of things to do.

    I’m a huge fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done because it’s helpful to get everything out of my head, BUT I think my attitude toward my list of things to do is a little different than his and most people’s.

    I don’t use the project structure nearly as much as I use the filters for the amount of time and energy I have available. It’s SO useful to me to have an app that, when I feel like I want to do things, presents me with a great list of things I’ve already thought at some point might be worth doing so that I can CHOOSE what *I* feel like doing NOW.

    I’m an opener’s opener, so the fact that the list of, for example “Things I can do in two hours or less with medium energy” is endless and covers such a wide variety of things helps keep me from feeling trapped by having to work on any specific thing.

    Eventually, I either feel like doing each of the things on the list, or at some point I’ll look at a particular item and decide I don’t care to do it.

    I don’t respond terribly well to habits or structure or routine (shudder!), but it turns out I do get around to doing about as many things and making changes I want to make as non-rebels when I frame it right.

    • gretchenrubin

      Great solution for Rebels.

  • I was reminded of a time when I was in College studying something I’d always wanted to study. I was doing quite well (averaging a score of 95 on my tests), when the teacherca lled me into his office and told me I “could do better.” I was so angry, and from then on my grades just continued to drop. I kept doing well, but nowhere near the 95’s. I lost a lot of my enthusiasm for the course. I felt like if I were to do well and get the 100 he was looking for he would be winning somehow, which is silly, of course.

    It’s interesting what you said about the Rebel and the Obliger always getting together. I am a Rebel, and my husband is a Questioner. That may seem like a volatile situation (and really it is), but it works. We are both very headstrong and independent, but it can kind of be a “we against the world” thing most of the time. Not always healthy, but, oh well. We are proud of our quirks and strong opinions. I think the fact we both have the same spiritual beliefs helps. Sure, there are clashes – a lot – but I actually like a good clash. We find those clashes help solve issues that might not be solved if one of us just did what the other wanted all the time.

    Love your podcast! I’m a bit of a late starter, but at least I have episodes to listen to while I wait for the next one!

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks for your insights – and your kind words.

  • Karen Maxon

    Rebel motto: Me do it meself. Apparently those were some of my first words. I could not tie my shoes yet, but I refused to let anyone else do it either. A life-long tendency about all sorts of things ;-0

  • Rebecca

    I was disappointed in this podcast. This was about how other people deal with rebels, not how to successfully deal with other people when you ARE a rebel. Also why is it ok for everyone to try to change who rebels are, as if there is something wrong with us? Just stop it. This podcast made me sad and angry. I feel judged and set up to fail by being measured against standards I have no aptitude for. It’s like measuring the skill of an engineer by how well they write poetry. I have been trying all my life to fit in to the ways other people do things, and it never works and never makes me happy. I can’t do it the way you do it, so I’m not going to anymore.

  • mellen

    Motto: Rebels: Reinventing the wheel since 3000bc. I relate very strongly to this aspect of being a rebel, that everything I do has to be done in my own way.

    • gretchenrubin

      I LOVE this motto.

  • Lindsey Reader

    I’ve just realized a kind of meta-rebel tendency that I employ to either change my perspective or do something I don’t want to. Rather than NOT doing what other people do, try doing something that YOU would never do. I hate washing dishes, and I’m grad-student poor: so I buy really fancy smelling dish soap that I LOVE. Ten times more expensive than makes sense, always from the specialty cooking store. An added plus is that I now have a very specific sensory memory associated with doing something productive, which is a great mood booster/motivator just by association. Enjoy stepping out of your own character. I also have a collection of demotivational posters that I can straight-up laugh at when I am worried about the very things they convey…”Keep Calm and Freak Out”? HAHA. Nice try. I’m gonna calm the hell down, thank you very much.

    • gretchenrubin

      Brilliant! I love this approach.

  • Alex Fitzgerald

    I found that if I have nothing to rebel against I’m fine. No one cares if I go to the gym so I go all the time. I love working for myself. Struggle working for others.

    • gretchenrubin

      Fascinating! In my book about the Four Tendencies, I write about this kind of thing…I think you’re what I deem a “REBEL/Questioner.”

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