What Do You Tend To Do?

Jun 03, 2020

If you’re like most mothers out there, you have a laundry list from here till tomorrow of things to do.

Some are in the “if I don’t do this then me/my kids/my husband wont have food/clothes/etc.” category.

Some are in the work category.

Some are in the social expectations category.

Some are in the self care category.

Others might be in a variety of other categories, in varying levels of ranking on your list.

But regardless: you’ve got to get all of them (or at least some of them) done.

So how come, if we’ve all got to-dos, some people seem to be able to check things off so much easier than others do?


Which sounds like you?

Sara woke up one morning and decided she should go to the gym that day. She added it to her list of things to do, found a time slot to fit it into, and packed her bag.

The appointed time arrived, and off she went to the gym. She got her workout and felt great.

Rivka woke up one morning and decided she should go to the gym that day. She looked at her schedule, found a time to fit it in…

But the time came and went, and she couldn’t manage to get herself to go. Till her friend Chana called, and asked if she could accompany her. 

That was the push Rivka needed -- she grabbed her bag and off she went to the gym. She got her workout and felt great.

Rochel woke up one morning and started her day. As she puttered around, she heard her phone ringing. 

“Hey Rochel,” her sister asked, “A new gym opened up, and I was thinking about going. Want to go?”

“Go to the gym?” Rochel replied. “But isn’t it better to walk? Why would I use contrived machines instead of the body that Hashem gave me?”

Rochel took a walk that day. She got her workout and felt great.

Leah woke up one morning with a nagging voice in her head saying she should probably go to the gym. Her friend was counting on her, it was in her schedule, and she even had read up on why this gym really was good for her body.

But she just didn’t want to. So she didn’t.

Later that day, she was in the mood to do some jump rope, so she grabbed her rope, and spent a good 30 minutes jumping rope. She got her workout and felt great.

Same gym. Same “Should go”. But Sara, Rivka, Rochel and Leah somehow didn’t follow the same script beyond those two factors.

And that’s not coincidental. And it’s also not because any of them are lazy.

That’s because of their tendencies.


Four Tendencies

NYT Bestselling author, Gretchen Rubin, took notice when, while investigating human nature, the question she most often asked was: how do I respond to expectations?

Since there are two types of expectations (internal and external), and two possible responses (upholding and resisting), she boiled them down into Four Tendencies.


Upholder: Meets internal and external expectations

If you have no idea why people struggle to get things done, you are probably an Upholder.

Upholders, like our fictional Sara above, will readily meet (or uphold) both internal and external expectations.

They’ll do what people around them ask or expect them to do, and will do whatever they put their minds to.

Upholders do best when they know what to do -- once they have that, they’re good to go. They don’t need anyone to babysit them or stay on top of their progress: if you give it to an upholder, it will get done!

The weak spots of an Upholder? Well, since they tend to be rule-followers in the extreme, sometimes those rules can limit them. Also, since they need to know what to do in order to do it, if they don’t know how to carry out a task, they can feel paralyzed.


Obliger: Meets external expectations, struggles with internal expectations

Buddy systems and accountability work great for you? You might just be an Obliger.

Like Rivka, obligers are great at meeting external expectations, but struggle more with internal expectations.

Obligers do best when they have someone else who is expecting them to carry out a specific task. Not because they need the applause or pat on the back, just because they will find it a lot easier to actually do the thing when they have an external expectation.

Finding some kind of outside accountability - a friend, your husband, boss or even your kids! - is a great way to make sure that you get done what needs to get done if you’re an Obliger.

For some Obligers, simply setting a deadline, maybe writing a task on a calendar in a public place, will create that external expectation that will motivate them to do the task.


Questioner: Resists external expectations, meets internal expectations

If you’re a Questioner, you’ll find yourself mostly doing things because they sound right to you.

Questioners want to understand why they’re doing something: does this make sense? Is it logical?

Like their title, Questioners question everything. Any external “should” is brought under the Questioner’s microscope of “why?”.

Once the questionnaire decides that this does make sense, though, then they’re all in, and you can count on them to carry through as much as any upholder.

One of the difficulties for Questioners and those around them, though, is precisely in the questions: sometimes the person that the Questioner is asking will interpret those questions as rebellion, not wanting to do it, or lack of trust. Other times, the Questioner herself will find it difficult to actually ask the questions, and, not getting the answers she needs, will find it difficult to be motivated.


Rebel: Resists both external and internal expectations

“You can’t make me, and neither can I.”

That’s a pretty good summary of Rebels.

If you’ve tried various motivational or habit-building strategies without success, if you find routines and daily tasks difficult to complete (even though you’ve been doing these forever!) you may just be a Rebel.

The difficulty of being or living with a Rebel may seem obvious at first.

But before you dismiss being a Rebel as all bad -- let’s take a look at some of the superpowers that come along with this tendency.

Rebels are very in touch with themselves -- their needs and wants -- and, an honest Rebel can turn even a mundane experience into something enjoyable for herself, creating a situation where she wants to do it.

Letting go of outside expectations and everyone else’s “shoulds” allow the Rebel to find what will work best for her and her family, without outsiders’ opinions swaying her.

Rebels also are great at living up to a challenge, which can be a great way for her to motivate herself -- or for others to motivate her.


A Caveat

Of course, within these four basic tendencies are endless variations and gradations.

If you’d imagine the four tendencies as a clock, with Upholder at 12, Obliger at 3, Rebel at 6 and Questioner at 9, your personal tendency can be anywhere around the circle (Upholder can lean toward Obliger or Questioner, Obliger can lean toward Upholder or Rebel, etc.)

And, of course, these are just tendencies -- this is what your nature finds it most easy to follow. Finding the way to channel your tendency is key -- and that’s what’s next up: how the four tendencies come into play in your life as a mother.

So: what tendency are you?


You can find more details on Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies, or to take a quiz to find out which tendency you are, on her site.

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