Tag Archives: personality

Revealed! February Book Club: Keys to Good Design, a Personality Quiz, and High Fantasy.

Because nothing boosts happiness more than a great book, each month, I suggest:

— one outstanding book about happiness or habits

— one outstanding work of children’s or young-adult literature–I have a crazy passion for kidlit

— one eccentric pick–a widely admired and excellent book that I love, yes, but one that may not appeal to everyone

Shop at IndieBound, BN.com, or Amazon (I’m an affiliate), or your favorite local bookstore. Or my favorite, visit the library!

For all the books I choose, I love them; I’ve read most of them at least twice if not many times; and they’re widely admired.

Bonus book this month: with Shea Olsen, my sister Elizabeth Craft has a new young-adult novel, Flower. The tag line? “She had a plan, then she met him.” Romance, temptation, secrets, college applications, celebrity...Check it out.

Now, for the three book-club choices. Drumroll…

A book about happiness, good habits, or human nature:


The Enneagram Made Easy: Discover the 9 Types of People by Elizabeth Wagele

On episode 99 of the Happier podcast, my sister Elizabeth and I discussed the “Try This at Home” of taking personality quizzes. The Enneagram isn’t a scientific way to understand personality, but many people find it to be an illuminating framework. To my mind, that’s the chief benefit of a personality quiz: whether it helps us glimpse into our own nature. Sometimes it’s hard to look directly in the mirror, and something like a personality quiz can help us see ourselves indirectly.

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.


An outstanding children’s book:

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

I was astonished to realize that I’ve never suggested the Tolkien books as my kidlit choice (though arguably they aren’t children’s books). These are towering classics of world literature. The Fellowship of the Ring is the first in a trilogy called “The Lord of the Rings,” and while The Hobbit isn’t part of the official trilogy, and is very different in tone, it’s quite related to the high fantasy epic that unfolds. These books are unlike anything else. Read the books even if you’ve seen the movies; as always, movies can’t capture so much that’s wonderful about books. For instance, one of my favorite characters, Tom Bombadil, doesn’t appear in the movies.

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.


An eccentric pick:

The Pocket Universal Principles of Design: 150 Essential Tools for Architects, Artists, Designers, Developers, Engineers, Inventors, and Makers by William Lidwell.

This is an absorbing, fascinating, accessible book. Each page has a very succinct description of a design principle, with a fascinating example on the facing page. I loved reading this book because it made me realize why certain designs in the world around me worked well — or didn’t work. It’s so fun to know about design principles like “Back-of-the-Dresser,” “Defensible Space,” “Figure-Ground,” and the “Dunning-Kruger Effect.” These may sound dry, but they’re fascinating.

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.


If you want to make sure you never miss a month’s selections, sign up here for the book club newsletter.

Remember, if you want to see what I read each week, I post a photo of my pile of completed books on my Facebook Page every Sunday night, #GretchenRubinReads.

I just went to the library a few days ago — my reading stack is huge. What book are you most excited to read next?

Podcast 99: Take Personality Quizzes, Consider Your Email Habits, and Book Club Conflicts.

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

We’re having so much fun with our Instagram project. Every day, for the month of January, Elizabeth and I are posting a photo on Instagram of something that makes us happier (giving us a boost, helping us stick to good habits, reminding us to feel grateful, etc.).  Join in! Use the hashtag #Happier2017 and tag us — I’m @gretchenrubin and Elizabeth is @lizcraft.

Try This at Home: Katie suggested taking personality quizzes to get to know yourself better. We agree!

In episode 80, we talked about the “Five Love Languages” and why we found them so helpful. As a reminder, the Five Languages are:

  • Words of Affirmation — the love language for both Elizabeth and me
  • Quality Time
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch


We discuss the fascinating book by Daniel Nettle, Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are. In it, you can take the Newcastle Personality Assessor that measures the “Big Five.” You can take the test here.

  • Openness to experience:  The degree of intellectual curiosity, creativity and a preference for novelty and variety a person has.
  • Conscientiousness: A tendency to be organized and dependable, show self-discipline, act dutifully, aim for achievement, and prefer planned rather than spontaneous behavior.
  • Extraversion: Energy, positive emotions, assertiveness, sociability and the tendency to seek stimulation in the company of others, and talkativeness.
  • Agreeableness: A tendency to be compassionate and cooperative rather than suspicious and antagonistic towards others; a measure of a trusting and helpful nature; whether a person is generally well-tempered or not.
  • Neuroticism: The tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily, such as anger, anxiety, depression, and vulnerability. Neuroticism also refers to the degree of emotional stability and impulse control.


The Enneagram divides people into nine categories. You can take a paid test here or a free one here.

  1. The Reformer
  2. The Helper
  3. The Achiever
  4. The Individualist
  5. The Investigator
  6. The Loyalist
  7. The Enthusiast
  8. The Challenger
  9. The Peacemaker

If you want to take more personality quizzes, there’s a wide range on the Authentic Happiness website.

Here, I wrote a post about ten books of personality quizzes that I’ve found interesting.

As always, to take the Four Tendencies quiz, go here. Understanding whether you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel is very useful. If you want to be notified when my book, The Four Tendencies comes out, sign up here. I describe my framework as my version of a Muggle Sorting Hat.

We didn’t get a chance to talk about Myers-Briggs! Which is a very popular personality framework.

Happiness Hack: This may be controversial: my hack is to include only one issue per email, with a clear subject line. While some people try to send fewer emails, by fitting more issues into a single email, I (for one) find this confusing and difficult to manage.

Do you agree? Disagree?

If you want to read about the research I mention, about the benefits of using “search” instead of sorting emails into folders: “Stop organizing your email into folders: searching your email is way faster (study).”

Listener Question: Melanie and Rachel ask questions about book club behavior.

Speaking of children’s literature, here’s my list of my 81 favorite works of children’s and young-adult literature.

A lot of people read The Happiness Project in book groups of various kinds; if you’d like a discussion guide, look here.

Demerit: Elizabeth continues to struggle with her eye ailment, blepharitis.

Gold Star: I give a gold star to Eliza for getting me to do a better job of washing my face.

Bonus Gold Star: Elizabeth’s young-adult romance Flower just hit the shelves. She and Shea Olsen have written a novel that combines love, temptation, secrets, ambition, celebrity, college applications…delicious.

If you want easy instructions about how to rate or review the podcast, look here. Remember, it really helps us if you do rate or review the podcast — it helps other listeners discover us.

Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page to continue the conversation from the podcast — usually on Tuesdays at 3:00 pm ET. To join the conversation, check the schedule.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #99

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Do You Love Personality Quizzes? These 10 Books Will Help You Understand Yourself.

They say there are two kinds of people in the world: people who want to divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind of people who don’t.

Well, I’m the kind who does. I love personality frameworks. I believe they can be a great tool for self-knowledge — they help shine a spotlight on patterns of behavior and thinking.

That said, it’s important not to let categories become stifling; they’re not meant to box us in or limit our sense of possibility, but to point the way to helpful understanding or change.

Of course, my favorite personality framework is the one I created, which divides people into Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebel. Learn more and take the Quiz here.

Since Better Than Before hit the shelves, I’ve been thrilled to hear from readers and podcast listeners how much the Four Tendencies has helped them.

If you love a good personality framework as much as I do, you may be interested in reading other systems:

1. The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman.

Argues that people speak different “love languages”: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. I love this book. I’m “Words of Affirmation,” by the way. I still can’t figure out what my husband is! He is a man of mystery.

2. Beyond Time-Out: From Chaos to Calm by Beth Grossman and Janet Burton.

Argues that in families with an imbalance of family power, parents fall into four categories: Pleasers, Pushovers, Forcers, and Outliers.

3. The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Richard Riso and Ross Hudson.

Divides people into nine categories: Reformer, Helper, Achiever, Individualist, Investigator, Loyalist, Enthusiast, Challenger, and Peacemaker. I’ve heard that Hollywood writers use the Enneagram to help them create rich, believable characters.

4. Why Him, Why Her? How to Find and Keep Lasting Love by Helen Fisher.

Argues that people fall into four relationship types: Explorer, Building, Director, and Negotiator.

5. Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type by Isabella Briggs Meyers.

Based on the theories of Carl Jung, argues that people fall into sixteen types, in different combinations of four pairs: Extroversion or Introversion; Sensing or Intuition; Thinking or Feeling; Judgment or Perception. This super-popular framework is controversial, but many people swear by it.

6. Please Understand Me by David Keirsey.

Divides people into four temperament groups, with four sub-types per groups: Artisan (Promoter, Crafter, Performer, Composer), Guardian (Supervisor, Inspector, Provider, Protector), Rational (Fieldmarshal, Mastermind, Inventor, Architect), and Idealist (Teacher, Counselor, Champion, Healer).

7. Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham.

Discusses the thirty-four “strengths” and helps readers identify and take advantage of their own strengths.

8. Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath.

Discusses the thirty-four “strengths” and helps readers identify and take advantage their individual own strengths.

9. Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin.

Of course, I have to add my own book to the list! Find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, and how you can put that knowledge to use as you work on your habits. Or, even more fun, how you can help other people work on their habits. The Four Tendencies are useful to understand in the context of habits — but also, in many other contexts as well. Right now, in fact, I’m working on a book that explores the Four Tendencies at length. If you want to be notified when it’s available, sign up here.

People often ask me how the Four Tendencies framework correspond to other frameworks — for instance, how it matches up with Myers-Briggs. In my view, all these frameworks have their own nuances, which are lost if we try to map one framework onto another. So I don’t try to do that.

10.The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

Many people have also told me that my book, The Happiness Project was also a meaningful tool for self-knowledge as they embarked on their own Happiness Project. Especially the “Be Gretchen” idea from my personal commandments.

Has one of these frameworks been very helpful to you? What frameworks have I overlooked?

Want to Learn More about Yourself–and Instruct Me? Consider These Questions.

I write a lot about my Four Tendencies framework — and Elizabeth and I have talked a lot about it on our podcast. To find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, go here, or take the online Quiz here.

I so appreciate all the readers and listeners who have shared their insights and experiences — it has given me such deeper insight into the Four Tendencies.

I introduce the framework in my book Better Than Before, and ever since the book came out, I’ve been deluged with people wanting more information about the Four Tendencies, how they interact. “How do I manage my Rebel child?” “How do I hire only Obligers?” “How can Questioners avoid analysis paralysis?” “Can’t you give more ideas for how Rebels can change their habits?” are some of the questions I keep getting.

So I’m working on a whole book on the Four Tendencies. With every book I write –I think, boy, it will never get better than this, I’ll never have this much fun writing a book again. And then I do. I never forget how lucky I am.

As I’m writing, I’d love to learn more about what you think about the following issues (or anything else, really):

  • Can you think of any famous examples of the Four Tendencies? Either in real life (Andre Agassi is an Obliger) or fictional (Hermione Granger is an Upholder).
  • Obligers, I’d love to hear about your experiences with Obliger-rebellion. What triggered it — and I’m even more curious to hear — what stopped it or cured it? Or if you’re close to an Obliger (and all of us are, because it’s such a large group), how did you address Obliger-rebellion?
  • If you’re someone who’s in a long-term relationship with a Rebel (which means you’re very likely to be an Obliger), how does that work out? One particular question: Does it give you a feeling of greater control of how things are done, do you respond to that?
  • What do you like or dislike about your Tendency? What would be the motto for your Tendency?
  • Have you noticed that you get along better, or worse, with a particular Tendency, and if so, why?
  • If you use the Four Tendencies at work, I’d love to hear about that. If you use it as a doctor, in hiring, as a nutritionist, as a teacher, as a manager, etc. — tell me about that.
  • How do you think your Tendency suits you to your job — or not?
  • How does your Tendency influence your romantic relationships?
  • Finally — and this is a big one — I need help with the title. I want to call the book “The Four _____ Tendencies” or “The Four Tendencies of _____.” How would you fill in that blank? Ideally, it’s a word that’s concrete and colorful and adds a layer of meaning beyond “Tendency” really to explain what this framework is about. Similar to “The Five Love Languages.Abstract concepts or adjectives, like Personality, Fundamental, Responsive, Self-Knowledge are apt but, I suspect, not as compelling. Think away! GOLD STAR if you come up with something terrific.


This is a lot of questions, I know, but I’m so curious.

Thanks, as always, for sending my your observations. I’m endlessly fascinated by the Four Tendencies, and just can’t read and hear enough about how they play out in people’s lives. Henry James himself couldn’t invent these marvelous, precise, riveting examples.

Let me know what you think, what you’ve noticed, what you’ve experienced.


Did the Quiz Help You Decide If You’re Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, Rebel? Some Thoughts

Last week, I unveiled my Four Tendencies quiz, which helps people determine their Tendency. I developed this framework as part of my research on habits for my book Better Than Before.

I’m very gratified that so many thousands of people have taken the quiz — and even more gratified by the notes at the end. The comments are fascinating. Zoikes.

To take the Quiz, click here.

After reading those comments, I’d make a few observations.

First, the quiz is meant to be a tool. It’s not infallible. Your evaluation of your own Tendency matters most.  The particular questions, the particular wording of the questions, may lead to the incorrect answer for you. Use your own judgment.

As one reader pointed out, the quiz is helpful either because it tells you what you are, or because you disagree with the quiz, you figure out what you are instead!

I go into much greater detail about the Four Tendencies in Better Than Before, and in fact, am thinking of writing a short book that  discusses only the Four Tendencies. (Would you be interested in a book like that?)

But Better Than Before doesn’t come out until March, so if you’re interested in the meantime, here are some of my responses to the comments:

Many people argue that they’re a mix of two Tendencies. This sounds sensible. And it also sounds sensible to think that “I’m X at home, and Y at work.” But from my observation, that’s not really true. Whenever I sit down with someone who says he or she is a mix, and put them through some questions, I find that (in my view), that person is actually firmly within one category.

Here are some common combinations, and why people think they’re a mix, and how you might think about it.

If you think you’re an Obliger/Rebel: There’s a very strong affinity between Rebels and Obligers.  It’s very common for Obligers to experience “Obliger-rebellion,” a striking pattern in which every once in a while, they abruptly refuse to meet an expectation. As one Obliger explained, “Sometimes I ‘snap’ because I get tired of people making assumptions that I’ll always do things as expected. It’s sort of a rebellious way of asserting myself.” Another added, “I work very hard to keep my commitments to other people, but I’ll be darned if I can keep a promise to myself . . . Though every once in a while I will absolutely refuse to please.”

Obligers may also rebel in symbolic ways, with their hair, clothes, car, and the like. For instance, Andre Agassi is an Obliger, and in his memoir Open, he describes ways in which he would Obliger-rebel (though he doesn’t use that term, of course).

If you think you’re a Questioner/Upholder or Questioner/Rebel: True. That’s because Questioners come in two flavors: some Questioners have an inclination to Uphold, and others have an inclination to Rebel (like being “Virgo with Scorpio rising”). For instance, my husband questions everything, but it’s not too hard to persuade him to uphold; other Questioners questions so much that they’re practically Rebels, because it’s so hard to convince them to do anything. But they act from a questioning spirit, not a rebelling spirit.

If you think you’re an Upholder/Obliger: Upholders and Obligers share a tendency to meet outer expectations, so in that way, they are indeed very much the same. The key difference is: can you meet an expectation you impose on yourself, that no one else knows or cares about? If you struggle to meet those expectations, you’re an Obliger. It’s true that some Obligers have such a wide sense of external expectation that it almost looks like an inner expectation: “I have to do this because ‘they’ say I have to” when the “they” is society at large; or “this is what people have to do do.” Nevertheless, in my framework, they’re responding to an outer expectation. Very few people are Upholders; many, many people are Obligers.

An important note: It’s not possible to discern people’s Tendencies from looking at their external behavior; it’s necessary to understand their reasoning. For instance, one Obliger told me, “I’m an Obliger. I looked like a Rebel in college, but I was doing exactly the rebellious things that my friends expected of me.” A friend said, “I’m a Questioner. But I’ve had a lot of experiences where the rules were so stupid, that I looked like a Rebel. But I’m not.”

Also, there’s an enormous range of personality, even among people who share the same Tendency. Some people are more or less considerate than others, or ambitious, or conscientious, or judgmental, or controlling, or thrill-seeking. These qualities dramatically influence how they express their Tendencies. A Rebel who wants to be a successful business leader will behave differently from one who doesn’t care much about work. A Questioner who is very thoughtful will have different habits from one who doesn’t worry much about other people’s comfort or concerns. I have an Obliger friend who is tremendously analytical and intellectually curious. So she questions everything…but when it comes to what she does, she’s an Obliger.

Remember, too, this framework has to do with how we meet an expectation, not a requirement. When we must do something, we do it–even Rebels. My Rebel friend started wearing his seat-belt after he got two huge fines. An Obliger might quit smoking, on her own. No one wants to get fired.

Also, whatever our Tendency, we all share a desire for autonomy. If our feeling of being controlled by others becomes too strong, it can trigger the phenomenon of “reactance,” a resistance to something that’s experienced as a threat to our freedom or our ability to choose. If we’re ordered to do something, we may resist it—even if it’s something that we might otherwise want to do.

And no one likes to be asked to do something arbitrary or irrational. The desire to know why we should do something, to have justifications for our efforts, is natural. The fact that you question whether you should have to do something that seems senseless doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a Questioner. Again, what matters is what we do, and why we do it.

People often ask, “Can we change our Tendency?” From what I’ve observed, our Tendencies are hardwired, and while they can be offset to some degree, they can’t be changed.

Yet whatever our Tendency, with greater experience and maturity, we can learn to counterbalance its negative aspects. As an Upholder, for instance, I’ve learned to resist my first inclination to meet an expectation unthinkingly, and to ask, “Why am I meeting this expectation, anyway?” Questioners learn to put a limit on their questioning; Obligers figure out how to give themselves external accountability; Rebels choose to do things because they’ve learned the consequences of not doing them, or out of consideration for others.

Learning to make the best of our own nature is wisdom.

P.S. As many readers suggested, I’ve added a category for “Adult children, 27 years or older.” And I was very interested to learn that the term “button-down shirt” is an Americanism: it’s a shirt that has buttons down the front. ***

***UPDATE: It turns out I’m wrong about the shirt. A button-down shirt is one that has a button-down collar, as opposed to a spread collar with no buttons. Go figure.  Am I the only one who misunderstood this term?

Also, I’m collecting examples of the Four Tendencies from literature, movies, TV, etc. Please send along any examples that spring to mind! I.e., Hermione Granger is an Upholder; Ron Swanson is a Questioner.