Gretchen Rubin

Want to Read More? Consider How You Respond to Inner and Outer Expectations.

Want to Read More? Consider How You Respond to Inner and Outer Expectations.

Do you love to read? As I was researching my book about habit change, Better Than Before, I realized that many people want the habit of reading. We want to do it, we just need to get back in the habit.

If you're trying to get more reading done yourself, harness the power of the "Four Tendencies" -- my personality profile that divides people into four categories: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels.

Don't know your Tendency? Are you an Upholder like Hermione Granger? A Questioner like Steve Jobs? An Obliger like Oprah Winfrey? A Rebel like Susan Sontag? To take my free, quick quiz to learn your Tendency, it's here—more than two million people have taken it.

In a nutshell, this framework distinguishes how people tend to respond to expectations: outer expectations (a work deadline, a “request” from a friend) 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--essentially, they make all expectations into inner expectations
  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet the inner expectations they impose on themselves
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike

You can use your knowledge of your Tendency to read more.

Upholders:

Scheduling and to-do lists work very well for Upholders—as I know well, as an Upholder myself. Add "Read on the porch" to your calendar, or add a book title to your to-do list, and you'll get those books read. I just had my "Summer of Proust," and by adding "Read all seven volumes of Remembrance of Things Past" to my summer to-do list, I got it done.

Questioners:

Questioners need to know why. Think about why reading is valuable to you, and why it's a great use of your time. Questioners love to hack themselves, so consider: should you read first thing in the morning or before bed at night? Do you prefer e-book, audio-book, or print? Questioners love justifications and customization, so figure out exactly what works for you.

Obligers:

Obligers need outer accountability to meet inner expectations. Crucial! To read more, join a book group. Tell your children you're going to read the books assigned in their classes, so you can discuss the books as a family. Use the library, so you have to finish a book to return it by its due date. Use the Goodreads Reading Challenge to challenge yourself in public to read a certain number of books in a year.

Rebels:

Rebels can do whatever they want, and they don't like to be controlled. Like everyone else, are you addicted to your smartphone? No, you're reading books! People think you can't read 50 books in a year? You'll show them! And remember your identity as a reader. If you're a true book-lover, no one can keep you from reading. That's who you are.

Have you found good ways to get yourself to read more?

I introduced the Four Tendencies framework in my book Better Than Before, and after that book came out, I was inundated with questions and observations from readers and listeners of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast.

So I wrote a whole book on my personality framework:  The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People's Lives Better, Too

I recently went back to add notes and highlights in the Kindle to The Four Tendencies. I so appreciate the opportunity to make side-comments to readers. You can read them on the Kindle version of the book or directly on Goodreads here.

It's also helpful to be able to add notes about what I've learned since a particular book was published. In the case of The Four Tendencies, I still think constantly about the Four Tendencies—I'm always evaluating my framework, and looking for further examples, and trying to deepen my insights.

In my annotations, I highlighted some things I've learned since publication. For instance, I'm even more struck than before by how often Rebel children are close to their grandparents.

I've continued to learn more about the pattern of UPHOLDER/Obliger-rebellion (far less common than straight-up Obliger-rebellion).

Also, I'm always looking for examples of the Four Tendencies in the behavior of the people around me—or in pop culture. For instance, I loved thinking about the popular TV show Game of Thrones and the Four Tendencies. (Want to read my analysis? Look here.) And in the notes, I was able to answer the question, "Do the Four Tendencies map onto the Four Houses of Hogwarts?" (Short answer: No!)

Just a few weeks ago, I came across a terrific example of a Rebel making a dramatic habit change for health, and I was pleased to be able to add that reference to the notes. Rebels often get frustrated by their Tendency when they're trying to change a health habit, so it's great to be able to point to a successful Rebel example. Want to read the book yourself? I highly recommend Presto! How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales by the magician and performer (and Rebel) Penn Jillette, of the famous Penn & Teller duo. Learn more here.

My hope is that these notes will make reading The Four Tendencies even more useful and interesting for readers. Nothing is more exciting than reading a good book with valuable information, and I'm thrilled to use any tool to enrich the experience for readers.

I love to write books, and even more than that, I love to read. Curious about what I’m reading, or looking for good book recommendations? Follow me on Goodreads.

If you're reading The Four Tendencies on Kindle, I hope my notes make the experience richer. More reading for all!

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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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