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What's Your Tendency?

A couple of months ago when quarantine started, using the time to "reset" was a common theme emerging in the media. As I sat and thought about all the activities that could fill my new found time, I thought it would be great to get them all down on paper. The idea was that each day I would pick one or two things and by the end of quarantine I would be filling all of my free time with healthy habits and creative endeavors.

I’m happy to report that my apartment is spotless, my dog is exceptionally well exercised, I’m extremely well fed, I’ve developed a daily exercise and mindfulness routine, I’ve embroidered almost everything I own while watching documentaries or listening to audiobooks and now spoken to most of my friends and family that I rarely get the chance to speak with. However, there is one thing on this list that I have completely avoided…writing this blog.

I started to ask myself why I couldn’t get myself to sit down and write this blog post? It’s such a simple task. My annoyance with myself grew. I couldn’t be the only person who struggles with this. Surely, there must be others like me. So, like any inquisitive millennial would...I googled “why can’t I get myself to do something that I want to do?”

A Reddit string caught my eye. “I can’t get myself to do anything and I’m f***ing sick of it”, seemed a little harsh given the circumstances...But hey, maybe the situation was more dire than I thought? After I spent 20 minutes going down that rabbit hole, I was grateful to find that my inability to get myself to do something wasn’t quite as bad as some of my fellow humans. A new found compassion grew within me. I realized maybe I was closer to my goal than I thought. Still, I hadn’t quite found what I was looking for so I kept digging...

Somewhere on page 3 of those search results I came across a book with a magical claim. In its title, it revealed How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People's Lives Better, Too). Normally, I would write this off as yet another self-help book. On second thought, I decided “what the heck, I’ve got nothing but time here.” Within 10 minutes, I had downloaded The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People's Lives Better, Too) by Gretchen Rubin. For the next four days, I listened to this book during every free moment and with each passing minute, I became more hooked.

This book didn’t just change my life. I found myself on these pages. It explained everything about my life, past and present, that I could never explain but always wanted to know about myself.

In the book, Rubin explains that people in this world fit into four tendencies: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels.

Turns out, our tendency shapes every aspect of our behavior. Learning about our tendency gives us the ability to make better decisions, meet deadlines, suffer less stress and burnout, and engage more effectively. Rubin goes on to explain that the Four Tendencies explains why we act and why we don’t act. This book was just what I was searching for.

As an Obliger, I thrive on meeting other people's expectations, but I sometimes struggle to meet my own expectations of myself. Looking back, I recognize that I discovered this tendency sometime around middle school, subconsciously creating strategies to hold myself accountable.

In my life today, here’s how that goes: watching the pages pile up in my journal. I find it satisfying to see the number of completed pages so it compels me to continue. I’ve had experience with this strategy so I know it works for me. With my daily workouts, I compete with other people on an app and share which workouts I’ve completed each day. I feel bad if I skip a day because I feel like someone is counting on me. At home, I know that doing 50% of housework, chores, etc. makes me a good and helpful partner and of course I want to meet my partners expectations. It’s easy to meet expectations when someone else expects it! But what about when they don’ this blog post. Was my team really expecting me to come through with STELLAR CONTENT?! Maybe. Maybe not….but here I am meeting my own expectations to write this post, despite all odds!

The Four Tendencies has completely changed my understanding of everyone I interact with. I’ve told everyone I know (and some strangers) about this book...and now I’m telling you. Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to read the full book. There is one simple thing you can do: take The Four Tendencies Quiz. If you’re like me and you’ve ever wondered why you have a tendency to do (or not do) certain things, you won’t regret it.

To all my fellow Obligers out there - I see you.