Gretchen Rubin

Quiz: Are You an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

Quiz: Are You an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

Every Wednesday is Quiz Day, or Tip Day, or List Day.

This Wednesday:  Quiz: Are you an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger? 

In the course of writing my book about habit-formation, Before and After, I've come up with a character framework. (To hear when the book goes on sale, sign up here.)

I have to say, I'm so pleased with this framework. I love it. But what to call it? The "Rubin Tendencies"? The "Expectation Types"? I'm still pondering that.

In a nutshell, 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 obscure, but it turns out to be very, very important. For your habits, and for many aspects of your life.

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); essentially, they make all expectations into inner expectations
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike
  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves

 

For more explanation, look here.

Many people have asked for some kind of quiz to tell them their Tendency. It's tricky, because the Tendencies overlap, but here goes...

Check off every statement that describes you.

You’ll probably have checks in more than one category, but if you’re like most people, you’ll find that one will much more accurately describe you.

Upholder

___ I love crossing items off my to-do list.

___ I feel uncomfortable if I’m with someone who’s breaking a rule—whispering to me during someone's giving a work presentation, or using a cell phone when a sign reads “No cell phones.”

___ Usually, I’m punctual and meet deadlines. In fact, I really dislike being late or missing a deadline, even if it's somewhat arbitrary.

___ I’ve made New Year’s resolutions in the past, and I usually have good success in keeping them.

___ If something is on my calendar, it gets done.

___ I hate making mistakes or letting people down.

___ It’s just as important to keep my promises to myself as it is to keep my promises to other people.

___ I want to know what’s expected of me.

___ Sometimes other people feel annoyed by my level of discipline. I’ve been accused of being rigid.

___ I embrace habits.

___ It’s painful for me not to do something I’ve agreed to do, even if it doesn’t really matter, so I’m very careful about making commitments—to other people or to myself.

 

Questioner 

___ It’s very important for me to make well-reasoned decisions.

___ If I want to make a change in my life, I’ll make it right away. I won’t make a New Year’s resolution, because January 1 is an arbitrary date.

___ Even when a decision isn’t particularly important, I sometimes have trouble deciding, because I want more information.

___ I get very agitated if I have to wait in line.

___ If I’m asked to do something that doesn’t make sense, I won’t do it—which sometimes causes conflicts with other people.

___ Other people sometimes become frustrated by my demand for information and sound reasons.

___ It really bothers me when things are unfair or arbitrary.

___ I like to hear from experts, but I always decide for myself what course to follow.

___ I can start a new habit without much effort, if it’s something that makes sense for my aims.

___ Occasionally, I arrive at conclusions that violate conventional wisdom or common practice (which can cause problems with other people); I want to act on the basis of my own reasoning.

___ I question the validity of the Rubin Tendencies.

 

Rebel 

___ I never make New Year’s resolutions. Why would I commit myself to do something in advance?

___ If someone asks or tells me to do something, I often have the impulse to refuse—or to do just the opposite.

___ I resist habits.

___ I enjoy flouting rules and expectations.

___ Other people sometimes become frustrated because I won’t do what they want me to do.

___ If someone tells me I can’t do something, I think, “I’ll show you,” and I do it.

___ People sometimes accuse me of being irresponsible or unnecessarily contrarian.

___ I’m not particularly persuaded by arguments such as, “People are counting on you,” “You’ve already paid for it,” “You said you’d do it,” “Someone will be upset if you don’t,” “It’s against the rules,” “This is the deadline,” or “It’s rude.”

___ Sometimes I find myself attracted to institutions with lots of rules—the military, the police, the clergy.

___ If I’m expected to do something—even something fun, like a wood-working class—I have the urge to resist; the expectation takes the fun out of an activity that I enjoy.

___ My significant other is an Obliger.

 

Obliger 

___ I sometimes describe myself as a “people-pleaser.”

___ People often turn to me for help—to edit a report, to take over a carpool run, to speak at a conference at the last minute.

___ I’ve given up making New Year’s resolutions, because I never keep them.

___ I get frustrated by the fact that I make time for other people’s priorities, but struggle to make time for my own.

___ Every once in a while, I snap, and in a sudden moment of rebellion, I refuse to do what other people expect of me.

___ Promises to other people can’t be broken, but promises to myself can be broken.

___ Unless someone is enforcing a deadline, it’s hard for me to get work done.

___ I sometimes feel burned out, and it’s hard for me to take the time and effort for myself, to recharge my battery.

___ I’ll do something to be a good role model, even if it’s not something that I’d do for myself. Practice piano, eat vegetables, quit smoking.

___ It’s hard for me to tell people “no.”

___ I’ve made some good habits, but I often struggle without success to form others.

This quiz is still under construction, so let me know: was it helpful? what is it missing? any false notes?

People's responses to the four Rubin Tendencies (or whatever they end up being called) has been very encouraging. Most people find themselves within the framework -- and also find that knowing their Tendency helps them to understand themselves better.

You may be thinking, “The Rubin Tendencies are interesting, but what the heck do they have to do with habit-formation?” Of the many 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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