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

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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Find out if you’re an Upholder, Obliger, Questioner, or a Rebel.

The Four Tendencies explain why we act and why we don’t actOur Tendency shapes every aspect of our behavior, so understanding your Tendency lets us make better decisions, meet deadlines, suffer less stress and burnout, and engage more effectively.

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