Tag Archives: work

Do You Face These Common Problems in Happiness and Habits? Here’s Your Answer!

For years, I’ve been reading, writing, and talking to people about their happiness and good habits. My preoccupation is: how can we make our lives happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative?

The Happiness Project, Happier at Home, Better Than Before, and now The Four Tendencies — all, in their own way, address this fundamental question.

And as I’ve talked to people, certain challenges keep coming up, over and over.

For years, I was so puzzled by them, I couldn’t stop thinking about them and trying to figure out the answers. Perhaps some sound familiar to you:

  • People can rely on me, so why can’t I rely on myself?
  • Why do people tell me that I ask too many questions?
  • How do I work with someone who refuses to do what I ask?
  • Why do people just do whatever they’re told to do, like lemmings, without demanding good reasons?
  • Why can’t I make myself do anything?
  • Why won’t you change what you’re doing, after I’ve explained the serious consequences of failing to change?
  • Why do people keep telling me I’m uptight?
  • Why do I have writer’s block?
  • How can I deal with someone who keeps telling me what to do?
  • How can I stop my teenager from dropping out of school?
  • How can my team become more effective, with less wasted time and conflict?
  • Why is everything an argument with my child?
  • I’m deeply committed to doing this thing (working on a novel, exercising regularly), so why can’t I do it?
  • Why can’t other people just get their own s!$* done?
  • Why can’t I convince my patients to take their prescriptions?
  • Why does my mother keep emailing me articles?
  • My child is so smart and does well on tests, so why does he refuse to do his homework?
  • How can I help my spouse to lose weight? To exercise?
  • Why can’t I start my side hustle?
  • Why am I always the one asked to pick up the extra work around here?
  • Why is it taking me so long to make this decision?
  • Why can’t my sweetheart be more spontaneous?
  • Why does this person refuse to answer my questions?
  • Why do my co-workers refuse to act with common courtesy — how hard is it to put your mug in the office dishwasher?
  • Why can’t I keep my promises to myself?
  • Why does this employee keep challenging every decision I make?
  • My spouse will do anything to help a client, so why can’t I get any help?

Why You Act, Why You Don’t

Perhaps it seems unlikely, but it’s true — the Four Tendencies framework sheds light on all these questions.

With every single one of these questions, I have an answer that I think can help, using the Four Tendencies.

To take just one example, I received this email about a teacher who used her knowledge of the Four Tendencies to change her way of working with a Rebel — in a way that allowed that Rebel to succeed:

I’m a teacher at our local county jail, mostly GED and high school diploma courses. Recently I had a student who was getting in her own way—arguing with the guards and not completing assignments. I believed her when she said that she really wanted to get her GED—yet she wasn’t making progress.

It dawned on me that she is a Rebel. I shared your theory with her, and it really helped her see herself in a new, more positive way. I stopped asking her to do homework and let her decide each day how she wanted to study: computer software, group lesson, independently, or not at all. As I write this, she has passed five of the five tests, and thus completed her high school equivalency.

When you know if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, you understand yourself much better — why you act, why you don’t act, why you feel the way you do.

And as the example above demonstrates, when you understand other people’s Tendencies, you gain great perspective on why they act, why they don’t act, and why they feel the way they do.

To a degree that astonishes me, simple tweaks in language and circumstances can allow people to do a much better job in dealing with themselves and others.

I certainly use the Tendencies myself. I’m married to a Questioner, and I’ve learned that I always need to explain the reason if I want him to do something. Even just yesterday. I was filling out a tiresome form that asked for his work address. I called him and asked, “What’s your work address?” He answered, “Why ?”

Now, if he’d asked me a similar question, I would’ve just answered. I wouldn’t ask why. But my husband wasn’t going to meet even the smallest expectation — tell me your work address — without knowing why.

That used to bug me. Why wouldn’t he just do what I asked? Why did he slow down the process? Now I don’t get annoyed with him, because I understand his nature.

Managing yourself, and others, is much easier when you know what to do — and why.

 

Want to find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel? Take the quick Quiz here.

Want to learn more about the framework? Order my book The Four Tendencies. All is revealed!

Want to talk about the Four Tendencies with other people? Join the discussion on my free Better app.

 

A Little Happier: Don’t Check Every Box.

One of my most important Secrets of Adulthood is: The opposite of a profound truth is also true.

Examples: I keep an empty shelf; I also keep a junk drawer. I try to accept myself, and also expect more from myself. If I want to keep going, I must allow myself to stop.

Last week, in “A Little Happier,” I talked about some valuable advice I got from my law-school roommate’s ex-boyfriend, to “Check every box.” That idea has helped me a lot during my career.

Many listeners wrote to remind me of another important idea: Don‘t check every box!

Don’t imagine that I have to check every box before I apply for a job or try something new.  It’s important to stretch, to challenge ourselves, not to limit our sense of possibility because we think that we just don’t have enough credentials.

We don’t have to check every box.

Excellent advice. Thank you, listeners.

This mini-episode is brought to you by The Happiness Project — my #1 New York Times bestselling book that stayed on the list for two years. Intrigued? Read a sample chapter here, on “Boost Energy.”

Want to get in touch? I love hearing from listeners:

 

 Happier listening!

 

A Little Happier: More Advice about How to Be Successful–Check Every Box.

Last week, I talked about some excellent advice I got very indirectly — from my law-school roommate’s ex-boyfriend. You never know where good advice will come from.

Here’s something else he told me: Try to check every box. If you want a job or a position, make yourself the easy, non-controversial, inevitable choice by meeting every criteria possible.

This advice sounds rather obvious, but I’ve been surprised by how often it has come in handy.

This mini-episode is brought to you by The Happiness Project — my #1 New York Times bestselling book that stayed on the list for two years. Intrigued? Read a sample chapter here, on “Boost Energy.”

Want to get in touch? I love hearing from listeners:

 

 Happier listening!

Podcast 120: Very Special Episode of Listener Questions about the Four Tendencies.

Update: Congratulations to our beloved producer, Kristen Meinzer — her hilarious, addictive podcast By the Book got picked up! She and her co-host comedian Jolenta Greenberg choose a different popular self-help book and report what it’s like to live “by the book” — for their pilot, they lived by The Secret, next up, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Check it out, subscribe!

Every tenth episode, we do a “Very Special Episode” that’s different from our usual structure. For this VSE, we discuss listener questions about the Four Tendencies.

Want to take the Quiz, to find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel? It’s here.

Want to listen to the episodes dedicated to each Tendency?

Upholder is episode 35 — “Are you like Gretchen and Hermione?”

Questioner is episode 36 — “Do you always ask why?”

Obliger is episode 37 — “Can you meet a work deadline, but can’t go running on your own?

Rebel is episode 38 — “Do you hate being told what to do?” Note: we weren’t able to interview a Rebel as part of that episode; if you want to hear from a Rebel, check out this interview with the brilliant Chris Guillebeau (bestselling author and host of the podcast Side Hustle School) about his perspective as a Rebel. Start listening at 25:15.

My book The Four Tendencies hits the shelves in September. As I mention (often!), if you’re inclined to buy the book, it’s a big help to me if you pre-order it. Pre-orders build buzz among booksellers, the media, and other readers; it makes a very big difference to the fate of a book.

Questions we discuss in this episode:

“How can a doctor quickly figure out someone’s Tendency?”

“How can I as an Upholder parent better understand my Rebel child?”

“I’m an Obliger who works for a Questioner. How can I feel less frustration?”

“As a Rebel, how can I tell myself to eat healthfully and exercise?”

“I’m an Obliger, and I’m resisting the new office policy that we show a badge. Is this Obliger-rebellion?”

“An Obliger friend keeps busting through her budget — because she owes it to other people to spend. What’s up?”

“I’ve realized that my Obliger Tendency is affecting my dating life, for instance, by being too accommodating. How do I create a balance?”

If you’re intrigued by the Four Tendencies, and want to join the lively discussion on the Better app, sign up! It’s free. You can start or join an accountability group (Obligers, I know many of you want to do that), ask questions, have discussions about your own Tendency or dealing with someone else’s Tendency.

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth wanted to start hiking on the weekends with friends; it hasn’t happened.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: Gold star to everyone who has provided me with their perspectives, examples, and questions about the Four Tendencies. I have a lot more insight into other people — and myself.

 

Resources related to the FourTendencies:

  1.  Try the Better app — it’s free, fun, and informative.
  2.  Take the Quiz to learn your Tendency.
  3. Buy a Tendency mug — complete with the Tendency’s motto! So fun. (Scroll down.)

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.

I do 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 #120

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Want a new podcast to listen to, with the same vibe as Happier? The Onward Project is the family of podcasts that I’ve launched, for podcasts that are about “your life–made better.” Check out these great shows: Side Hustle School and Radical Candor and Happier in Hollywood.

HAPPIER listening!

A Happiness Reminder from Charles Darwin: “I Have Worked as Well as I Could.”

“Whenever I have found out that I have blundered, or that my work has been imperfect, and when I have been contemptuously criticized, and even when I have been overpraised, so that I have felt mortified, it has been my greatest comfort to say hundreds of times to myself that ‘I have worked as hard and as well as I could, and no man can do more than this.’”

–Charles Darwin, The Autobiography

I often comfort myself with the same thought — and often, in advance. When I’m preparing for some challenge — say, one of my books getting published — I think, “I should do everything I possibly can, because that way, if things don’t go as well as I hope, I can comfort myself with the thought that there just wasn’t anything else I might have done.”

Does this reminder strike a chord with you?