Tag Archives: Rubin Tendencies

My Fellow Upholders: Do You Experience “Tightening”?

For my book Before and After, about habit-formation, I’ve been developing my framework of the four Rubin Tendencies. I’m obsessed with understanding these tendencies. (If you want to be notified when the habits book is available for pre-order, sign up here.)

In a nutshell: the Rubin Tendencies describe how people tend to respond to expectations: outer expectations (a work deadline, a “request” from a sweetheart) and inner expectations (write a novel in your free time, keep a New Year’s resolution).

Your response to expectations may sound slightly obscure, but it turns out to be very, very important.

  • Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations (I’m an Upholder, 100%)
  • Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense (my husband is a Questioner)
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike
  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves (like my friend who said, “In high school, I never missed track practice, but I can’t make myself go running now”)

 

I’m an Upholder — which, it turns out, is a very small category. Rebel is the smallest category, but Upholder is also very small. So many things became clearer to me when I realized that fact.

Today, I have a question for my fellow Upholders, based on my own experience:

Upholders: Do you experience what I would call…tightening? That when you uphold expectations, they sometimes tighten on you?

I get the impression from other people in other Tendencies that often, as people try to meet expectations, they start off strong, but then slacken over time. They look for loopholes, they find exceptions, they become less conscientious.

This definitely happens to me, too, with some habits. But sometimes, I find, I experience a kind of tightening. It becomes harder for me to make an exception, to loosen up, to loosen an expectation. And that can be good — but it can also be bad.

For instance,  an Upholder friend had a lot of muscle pain, and I convinced her to try my strength-training gym.  She exercises regularly, but I thought this regimen might help. So she did try going, and she cured her pain, and now she wants to stop going — the gym is in a very inconvenient place for her, and she gets regular exercise elsewhere.

But, a trainer at the gym told me, although she keeps saying she wants to stop, and that it would make her life easier to stop, she can’t seem to stop.  Ah, her Upholder nature has locked in, and won’t release! Strength-training is on her to-do list, and now she can’t cross it off, even though she wants to.

I’ve seen this happen with myself. My eating habits are a long story for another day, but the bottom line is, I eat low carb. (Read Gary Taubes’s book, Why We Get Fat, if you want to know why.) Here’s the odd thing: when I started eating low carb, in the zeal of the first months of it, I was much less strict. Now that I’ve been doing it longer, I’m more strict. The rules have tightened. Which is helpful in some ways, but a bit of a pain in other ways.

In some situations, being more vigilant about an expectation is good — but sometimes, it’s not good. But maybe other Upholders don’t really have an issue with this.

Or Questioners, Rebels, and Obligers — do you face this tigthtening? or some version of it, depending on your Tendency? I’d be very curious to hear from people, about how their response to an expectation changes over time.

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Rebels, If You Feel Like It, and It Would Be Fun for You, I’d Love to Hear Your Perspective.

For my book Before and After, about habit-formation, I’ve been developing my framework of the four Rubin Tendencies. I’m obsessed with understanding these tendencies. (If you want to be notified when the habits book is available for pre-order, sign up here.)

In a nutshell: the Rubin Tendencies describe how people tend to respond to expectations: outer expectations (a work deadline, a “request” from a sweetheart) and inner expectations (write a novel in your free time, keep a New Year’s resolution).

Your response to expectations may sound slightly obscure, but it turns out to be very, very important.

  • Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations (I’m an Upholder, 100%)
  • Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense (my husband is a Questioner)
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike
  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves (like my friend who said, “In high school, I never missed track practice, but I can’t go running on the weekends now”)

 

I’m fascinated by all the categories, but right now I’m focusing on Rebels.

Rebel is by far the smallest category (to my surprise, Upholder is also a very small category).

Rebels, if you feel like it, and it would be fun for you, you could comment on your experience as a Rebel.  I’d love to hear anything you have to say, but just to get you thinking, here are some questions:

Are you amazed by what people in the other categories do? I have a Rebel friend, and it’s obvious to me that I, as an Upholder, shock her at times. I told her, “I give myself discipline to give myself freedom.” She said with a shudder, “Freedom means not following the rules.”

How do you feel about meeting expectations from yourself? Say, you want to write your Ph.D. thesis.

Is it different when someone who works for you asks you to do something, compared to when meeting an expectation imposed by someone whom you work for?

Here’s a very odd question. Are you attracted to situations where another institution sets many rules? Whenever I speak about the Rubin Tendencies to an audience, I ask people to raise their hands to show what category they’re in. Rebel is always the smallest category, and once I spoke to a group that had no Rebels.

Of all the groups I’ve spoken to, the group that by far had the largest number of Rebels was in a group of Christian ministers. Also, a commenter once posted, “You’d be surprised by how many Rebels are in the military.” I’m trying to understand this. So, so, so fascinating.

How do you feel about waiting in line?

Do you think that Rebel is the best category? Why?

If you’re married or in a serious relationship, is your sweetheart an Obliger? This is a very striking pattern. I’ve never talked to a Rebel in a permanent relationship with someone in the Upholder or Questioner category. (Makes perfect sense to me.)

These questions are only for your consideration. Answer any way you want — or not at all, obviously.

And if people in other categories have comments, please fire away. Do include your Tendency, if you know it, because it’s so interesting to hear how different Tendencies view the world differently.

You may be thinking, “The Rubin Tendencies are interesting, but what the heck do they have to do with habit-formation?” Of the twenty-one habit-formation strategies I’ve identified, the first, and the most important, is the Strategy of Self-Knowledge. To shape our habits most effectively, we must understand ourselves. And knowing your Rubin Tendency is enormously helpful in figuring out how to set up habits for success.

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A Few Questions for You Questioners and Obligers, About Treats.

I’m deep into Before and After, my book about habit-formation. One of the sixteen strategies that I’ve identified is the Strategy of Treats (which will probably be the favorite strategy of many people). By “treat,” I mean something that you give yourself as a…well, treat.

I’ve been thinking a lot about treats, and of course, I continued to be obsessed by the four Rubin Tendencies. In a nutshell:

The Rubin Tendencies describe how people tend to respond to expectations: outer expectations (a deadline, a “request” from a sweetheart) and inner expectations (write a novel in your free time, keep a New Year’s resolution).

Your response to expectations may sound slightly obscure, but it turns out to be very, very important.

In a nutshell:

  • Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations (I’m an Upholder, 100%)
  • Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense (my husband is a Questioner)
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike
  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves (like my friend who said, “In high school, I never missed track practice, but I can’t go running on the weekends now”)

 

I recently gave a talk at LinkedIn about the Rubin Character Index, so if you’d like to see me discuss each category in  a video, you can watch: for Upholders, watch here; Questioners, here;  Rebels, here, and Obligers, here.

Today, my questions are directed at you Questioners and Obligers. There are a lot of you, I know, because Obligers and Questioners are by far the largest categories. (Many things became clear to me when I realized how few people are Upholders.)

Questioners: do you have trouble giving yourself a treat if you feel that it isn’t “necessary” or “justified”? In other words, do you feel like there has to be a sound reason to give yourself a treat?

Do you find it easier to give yourself a treat if it’s justified by sound reasons? “I’m getting a massage because studies show that massage increases immune function.”

Obligers, do you have trouble giving yourself treats if you feel that the time, energy, or money is more properly owed to someone else? Is it easier to spend time or money on someone else, than on yourself?

Do you find it easier to give yourself a treat if it’s framed in terms of its benefit to others?  E.g., “If I spend the morning playing golf, I’ll be more patient and relaxed with my kids and at work.”

Feel free to mull your relationship to treats, generally! You Upholders and Rebels, too. I’d be very interested to hear what you think.

If you’d like to be notified when Before and After is available for pre-order, sign up here. But don’t hold your breath. It will be a while.

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here.

What Kind of Person Are You? The Four Rubin Tendencies.

Back by popular demand–the four Rubin Tendencies (I keep changing the name of this framework. Any suggestions or comments welcome. Do you like the Rubin Character Index Better?)

It’s very important to know ourselves, but self-knowledge is challenging.  I’m like a Muggle Sorting Hat! I sort everyone into four categories, which describe how people tend to respond to expectations: outer expectations (a deadline, a “request” from a sweetheart) and inner expectations (write a novel in your free time, keep a New Year’s resolution).

Your response to expectations may sound slightly obscure, but it turns out to be very, very important.

In a nutshell:

  • Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations (I’m an Upholder, 100%)
  • Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense (myhusband is a Questioner)
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike
  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves

 

I recently gave a talk at LinkedIn about the Rubin Character Index, so if you’d like to see me discuss each category in  a video, you can watch: for Upholders, watch here; Questioners, here;  Rebels, here, and Obligers, here.

From my observation, I can say with confidence that Rebel is the smallest category, then Upholder–this was a shock to me. I didn’t realize how few people are Upholders. Many things became clear to me once I realized this. Most people are Questioners or Obligers.

Obligers are the folks who are the most likely to say they wish they were in a different category. They say things like, “I wish I weren’t a people-pleaser” or “I wish I could take time for myself.”

Do you find yourself within this framework? If so, does it help you understand how to manage yourself better? Figuring out the Tendencies helped me understand myself, and it has also made it much easier for me to understand other people’s perspectives. Fact is, most people don’t see things the way we Upholders do.


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