Are You An Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, Or Rebel?


It’s been so satisfying to have Better Than Before out in the world. (And, I must admit, also very satisfying that it’s a bestseller.)

It’s fascinating to me to hear how people respond to it — what ideas they find most helpful or most surprising, and how they use the habit strategies themselves.

In particular, many people have asked me for the starter kit, for people who want to launch a Better Than Before habits group, where people work on their habits together.

It’s clear to me why so many people want it. For many, many people, the secret weapon of habit-change is outer accountability.

In Better Than Before, I identify the “Four Tendencies“: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Your Tendency makes a big difference when it comes to how you can most easily change your habits. (To take the quiz to identify your Tendency, go here.)

The biggest group? Obliger. Obligers readily meet outer expectations, like work deadlines, but struggle to meet inner expectations, like a New Year’s resolution.

Like my friend who never missed track practice in high school, but can’t get herself to go running now.

Understand the Patterns in Your Behavior

For Obligers, it’s often a huge revelation to understand the pattern of their behavior: When they have external accountability, they follow through. When they don’t have it, they struggle.

Change our habits, change our lives.

And, once Obligers understand that external accountability is the key to sticking to their good habits, they often want to figure out ways to give themselves that crucial accountability. Which is a great idea.

One of the best ways to build good habits and happiness effectively – and also one of the most fun ways – is to join or start a habits group.

Some solutions to getting accountability — like hiring a coach, working with a trainer, or taking a class — work extremely well, but they carry a cost; starting a habits group is free.

Consider a Habits Change Group

For this reason, I created a “starter kit” for starting a Better Than Beforehabits change group. If you’d like the starter kit, email me at gretchenrubin1 at gretchenrubin dot com.

Better Than Before habits groups swap ideas, build enthusiasm, give energy and encouragement, and —  most important — provide accountability. (Think AA and Weight Watchers.)

People in the group don’t have to be working on the same habits; it’s enough that they hold each other accountable. One person might need accountability to write a novel; another, to get a massage; another, to give up fast food.

Track Your Habits

Another tool that I created to help people stick to their good habits is the Better Than Before Day-by-Day Journal. It has writing prompts to help guide you through ways to strengthen your habits, and helps you track your habits — I particularly like its “don’t break the chain” feature, because that approach works for so many people.

If you do form a habits group, you could use the Journal to help kick off discussion and to help people report back accurately. I don’t know about you, but if I don’t write something down, I forget it immediately.

Accountability can be useful for most people, but it’s true that for some people (Rebels) it can be counter-productive, and for some people (Obligers), it’s essential. This is a good example of something from my Habits Manifesto: We’re not much different from other people, but those differences are very important.

Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life. Research shows that they shape about 40% of our daily experiences, so if we have habits that work for us, we’re far more likely to be happier, healthier, and more productive. TC mark

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