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Gretchen Rubin podcast interview on The Intentional Advantage
August 22, 2017   |   Episode #:

032: Habits: The Four Tendencies with Gretchen Rubin

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In This Episode:

Author and speaker, Gretchen Rubin discusses how we can live happier lives by creating good habits through knowing ourselves. We often think it’s too difficult not only to create good habits, but to keep up with them as well. By using Gretchen’s quiz on The Four Tendencies and being aware of loopholes you may use, you’ll be able to cultivate systems and habits that work for you and your lifestyle.

Show Transcript:

The Big Idea

Play to your strengths and your weaknesses.

Questions I Answer

  • How can I set better habits?
  • Why do I struggle with getting rid of my bad habits?
  • What’s the best way to use habits to help me be more productive?

Actions to Take

  • Take Gretchen’s quiz to see which tendency you fall under.

Key Topics in the Show

  • Learn the Four Tendencies Framework: Figure out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger or Rebel so that you can learn how to best create good habits

  • Discover ten different loopholes you may be using to get out of your good habits.

  • Hear the Story of the Growing Heap – How ‘one coin’ can affect your consistency of good or bad habits.

  • How to create habits for tasks that aren’t always easy or black and white.

  • One action item from Gretchen that you can do today to successfully create YOUR good habits.

Show Transcript

Hello, hello everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your  host, Tanya Dalton, and this is episode 32. I’m really, really excited  about today’s show because we have an amazing guest on the  

show. Before I share anything about our guest, I would like to give  a quick word from our sponsor.  

 FreshBooks is the simplest way to be more productive and get  organized with your finances if you’re a freelancer or  

entrepreneur. I’ll be sharing more about them later on in this  

episode, but for now I want to jump in and introduce you to  

Gretchen Rubin. Gretchen is our guest today and she is one of the  most influential and thought-provoking writers on the subjects of  happiness and human nature.  

 She has an enormous readership, both in print and online, and her  books have sold almost 3 million copies worldwide in more than  

30 languages. Her books include the blockbuster New York  

Time’s bestseller Better than Before and The Happiness Project.  

She has a new book coming out soon all about habits and what  

she calls The Four Tendencies, which is what we’re going to be  

talking about today.  

 Let’s get started. Gretchen, thank you so much for coming on the  show.  

Gretchen Rubin: Oh, I’m so happy to be talking to you today. Thanks for having  me.  

Tanya Dalton: Of course, yes. I would love for you to share with my listeners a  little bit about your story. How did you get interested in habits?  

Gretchen Rubin: Well, for years ever since I wrote the book The Happiness Project  I’ve been reading and researching and talking to people about  

happiness, and what I’ve realized is that a lot of times when  

people face a big stumbling block in happiness it was because  

there was a problem with a habit. There was something that they  wanted to do or wanted to stop doing and they just weren’t able  to do it. That got me very interested in the role that habits can  

play in helping us to be happier, healthier, more productive and  

more creative.  

Tanya Dalton: That makes perfect sense. I totally agree with that. Now, I know  you’ve been talking about the four tendencies framework. Can  

you explain a little bit about what that framework is and what  

that means?  

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Gretchen Rubin: Yes. This is a framework that I identified in the world when I saw  all these certain patterns of people responding in similar ways, a  

lot of times in ways that really didn’t make sense to me. So, I was  trying to figure out what was going on. It has to do with how a  

person responds to expectations. We all face outer expectations,  which is like a work deadline, or you’re expecting me to do an  

interview with you at a certain time, or inner expectations, your  

own desire to keep a new year’s resolution, your own desire to  

get back into practicing meditation. So, there are upholders,  

questioners, obligers and rebels. Upholders readily need outer  

and inner expectations, so they keep the work deadline. They  

keep the new year’s resolution without that much fuzz.  

 Then there are questioners. Questioners question all expectations.  They’ll do something if they think it makes sense. They resist  

anything arbitrary or inefficient or unjustified. They make  

everything inner expectation, ’cause if it meets their standard  

they’ll do it, and if it doesn’t meet the standard, they won’t do it.  

And then, I’m married to a questioner.  

 Then there are obliger. Obligers readily need outer expectations,  but they struggle to meet inner expectations. I got my big insight  into this when a friend said to me, “You know, I’d be so much  

happier if I could get back into the happy of exercise. When I was  on the high school track team I had no trouble showing up for  

track practice, so why can’t I go running now?” Well, I would say  

when she had a team, and a coach waiting for her she had no  

trouble showing up, but when she’s just trying to go on her own  

she struggles.  

 Then finally rebels. Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner  alike. They want to do what they want to do in their own way, in  

their own time. If you ask or tell them to do something, they’re  

very likely to resist. You can imagine when you’re dealing with  

yourself or when you’re dealing with other people understanding  how an expectation makes you react is a really helpful piece of  


Tanya Dalton: Yeah. I can definitely see that. It’s almost like the Myers-Briggs,  that once you understand what type of person you’re dealing  

with, that you know how to handle that situation a little bit better.  Would you agree?  

Gretchen Rubin: A hundred percent. A key there is like … I think that there’s desire  on everybody’s part and this is like regular people and also,  

experts, to have like, “I’m going to find the one best solution. I’m  

going to tell you the best way to do it, or the right way to do it.”  

When I found more and more in happiness and habits, there is no  one right way, because I’m different from you. Maybe I want to  

get up early and do something first thing in the day ’cause that’s  ©Productivity Paradox Page 2 of 15

when I’m freshest, but you’re a night person, and you’re at your  

most productive and creative much later in the day. So, telling  

you that the right thing to do, or the best thing to do is to get up  early and do it, it’s not going to work for you.  

 Same thing with the four tendencies. A lot of times when we  approach other people, and we’re trying to persuade other  

people, we speak to them with what would work with us, which  

makes perfect sense. I know this is how I would react, so I’m  

going to behave to you assuming you’re going to react the same  way. But you might be completely different. It might actually be  

counterproductive for me to you talk to you the way somebody  

would effectively speak to me. Or, maybe somebody keeps  

saying, “Hey! You should just keep a ‘To do’ list. Sit down. Think  

about your priorities. Write it down. Put it on the counter. That’s  

going to work for you.” No! There are people for whom that is  

terrible advice. So, I think to myself, “I have no will power. I’m lazy.  There’s something wrong with me.” No! You’re just a different  

kind of person! So, something else will work for you. It’s not that  

there’s no way for you to do it. It’s just that something else is  

going to be more effective for you.  

Tanya Dalton: I love … You’re speaking my language here. Absolutely!  Gretchen Rubin: Oh, good!  

Tanya Dalton: Yes! The whole foundation for this show and really everything  that I teach as far as productivity goes, is all about personalizing  productivity for those same exact reasons, that we are all  

different. Those differences are good. They’re to be celebrated  

and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for anything, really,  

whether it’s habits or productivity or anything. I love that, and I  

love how you’ve identified these four different tendencies, the  

upholder, the obliger, the rebel and the questioner. Because I  

think that fulfills that whole idea of making it personalized and  

customizing it to you. Right?  

Gretchen Rubin: Yes, absolutely because what happens is that people get  discouraged because they’re like, “Everybody says this is what I  

should do and yet I’m not having success. Everybody says, “This  

is the way to be productive, but I find that it doesn’t work for me,  and I feel that there’s got to be something wrong with me.” Well,  no! It’s just that that’s not good advice for you. That doesn’t mean  it might not work for somebody else. Your sister-in-law might’ve  

had great [inaudible 00:06:49]. Maybe this is what Steve Jobs  

does. It doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. You could try it.  

It’s always good to try things, and then learn about yourself. It’s  

so true there is … Everybody wants a one-size-fits-all solution.  

They all want the answer, but there can be no one right answer. It  just-  

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Tanya Dalton: It just doesn’t work.  

Gretchen Rubin: … and we know that. We know that. If you stop and think about it  for five minutes you know that’s true.  

Tanya Dalton: Yep. Exactly. I knew we’d get along. I’m really excited to have you  on ’cause you’re saying a lot of the same things that I talk about  

because I feel like people see these solutions that are supposed  

to work, these one-size-fits-all ideas, and they don’t work for  

them, and then they feel like they failed.  

Gretchen Rubin: Yes.  

Tanya Dalton: They don’t look at it as, “Well, this didn’t work for me. There’s  something else out there.” It’s very black or white, so I love that  

you’re talking about this whole kind of gray area of finding your  

way and finding your path. And I know 

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah and 

Tanya Dalton: Go ahead. I’m sorry.  

Gretchen Rubin: One of the things I think is really helpful for people, it’s like my  friend on the track team, is to say, “Well, was there a time in the  

past where you did have good success?” Because a lot of times  

you can learn from the past. What I would say to my friend is,  

“Hey, when you had outer accountability you were able to  

succeed. That’s just that you’re an obliger. So if you want to  

succeed now you need to find that kind of outer accountability.  

Maybe you’re not going to join a track team, but you could take a  class where your teachers can expect you to show up, where  

you’re going to work out with a trainer, where you’re going to pay  for that time whether you go or not. Or workout with a friend  

who’s going to be disappointed if you don’t show up,” because  

looking at the past is telling you outer accountability is what  

helps you succeed. There are clues to it when you know what to  

look for.  

Tanya Dalton: That makes sense. I think this fuels this idea of the self-knowledge  that you talk about a lot.  

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah.  

Tanya Dalton: You talk a lot about strategies for self-knowledge. Do you want to  share a little bit about that?  

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah, it’s exactly what we were saying. You have to begin …  Whenever you’re thinking about how you’re going to do  

something, how you’re going to be productive, how you’re going  to get where you want to go, you have to start by figuring out,  

©Productivity Paradox Page 4 of 15

“Well, what kind of person am I?” And you’d think that would be  

the most obvious thing because all you do is hang out with  

yourself all day long, but it’s actually very hard to know ourselves.  

 One of the ways to know yourself is to know your tendency, but  there’s a million. In my book Better than Before, which was all  

about habit change, one of the strategies is called … I identified 21  strategies that people can use to make or break their habits.  

Twenty-one sounds like a lot, like sometimes people feel like  

that’s too many. They can’t deal with it, but it’s actually good  

because some work for some people and some work for other  

people. Some are available to us at some times in our lives, but  

not others.  

 One of the strategies is the strategy of distinctions. That’s just  like, think about it. Are you a morning person or a night person?  

That matters. Are you a finisher or an opener? Do you like to  

finish things or do you like to start new things? That matters. Are  you a simplicity lover or an abundance lover? Do you want to join  a gym like my gym where there’s only one thing that you can do  and there’s no music and you go in and you go out and you’re  

done? I love it, or do you want to join a gym where there’s  

abundance and there’s a million classes and a lot going on?  

 Once you know what kind of thing works for you and what kind  of thing is going to set you up for success, once you know  

yourself, then, back to your idea of customization, you can say  

like, “Well, this might work for somebody else, but it’s not going  

to work for me because it’s not the kind of person that I am. It’s  

not the kind of thing that appeals to me.”  

Tanya Dalton: Right, it’s almost building a foundation for yourself and you can  build the rest of it upon that foundation once you know what  

type of person you are.  

Gretchen Rubin: A hundred percent. Absolutely.  

Tanya Dalton: Excellent. Well, obviously I totally love that. Right? Now, I know  you’ve talked about there’s no one way to create long-lasting  

habits, again, because we’re all different. Last week I talked about  Charles Duhigg’s Method of the cue, routine and reward. Does  

this system work for the four tendencies?  

Gretchen Rubin: It’s a whole different way of thinking about habits. I don’t really  think about that cue. To me that’s not a helpful way because it’s  

like, “Well, I’m not writing my PhD thesis.” How do I use that  

framework? I think I have a totally different way of thinking about  habits.  

Tanya Dalton: Okay. What’s your best tip for making habits stick?  ©Productivity Paradox Page 5 of 15

Gretchen Rubin: Well, I think you do begin by asking what kind of person you are  and then there are these 21 strategies, as I said. I think for a big  

habit, for something like exercising or working on your novel or  

finishing your PhD thesis or quitting sugar, you might think about  using many strategies simultaneously. There’s 21 strategies. Let’s  

say that you want to throw out a habit. What do you think is the  

habit that most of your listeners are struggling to … and we’ll use  that example. What’s your big go-to habit that people want to 

Tanya Dalton: I feel like exercise is always a big go-to habit.  Gretchen Rubin: Absolutely, a hundred percent. A hundred percent.  

Tanya Dalton: We all think we should do it, but we don’t know how to do it.  Right?  

Gretchen Rubin: Okay, there’s some strategies that work very well for some people  but not for others. There’s some that work for just about  

anybody. One is the strategy of convenience. You want to make it  as convenient as possible to do it. If you can pay a little extra and  go to a gym that’s closer to your office, maybe you want to do  

that. I’ve talked to a lot of people who’ve started sleeping in their  gym clothes, so they don’t have to get changed in the morning.  

It’s just that much easier to get out the door, so make it  


 Also, make it inconvenient not to follow the habit. Like, I told my  mother, because my mother wasn’t sticking to her exercise, I said  like, “You’ve got to change into your exercise clothes before you  

can put on your day clothes. Maybe you’re not even going to  

exercise, but you’ve got to put on the exercise clothes first.” So,  

she’s like, “If I’ve got to go through the hassle of putting on my  

exercise clothes, I might as well exercise, because I’ve already  

done this.”  

 Another thing is the clean slate. This is something that’s not  available to us at all times, but it’s super powerful, so we always  

want to be on the lookout. The clean slate is when there’s been  

some kind of transition, so that the old habits have been wiped  

away. You’ve transferred to new school or you have a new job, so  that you have a new daily routine. Or all of a sudden your kids are  back in school, so your routine changes. That is a great time to  

plug in a new habit. It doesn’t have to fight against your existing  

habits because everything is wiped away. It’s a great time to start  it.  

 Another one is safe cards. This is when you say, “Okay, this is if then planning. This is thinking about why might I fail.” Okay, well,  I’m doing a pretty good job exercising, but what happens when  

the weather turns colder and it gets darker earlier? What happens  ©Productivity Paradox Page 6 of 15

when I travel for work? What happens when I’m on vacation?  

What happens when I go to my childhood home where  

everybody discourages me from exercising? What happens if my  trainer quits and I don’t have the trainer that I’ve worked with for  three years and so I have to meet somebody new?” What do I do?  I’m going to build in a safe card so that I think about everything  

that I’m going to do.  

 This is a very, very powerful strategy. How are the other people  around me making this harder or easier for me? Am I hanging out  with people that are doing this habit? Or the people around me  

are they neutral? Or are they actually kind of sabotaging me? A  

lot of times people don’t like to see people around them improve  their habits. So, you want to be very, very mindful of how other  

people could be doing it. These are just strategies that I would  

say would work for everybody.  

 Let’s say I knew you were an obliger. If you came out to me and  said, “I’m an obliger and I need to exercise,” I’d say, “Well, then  

what you need is outer accountability.” That is what obligers  

need. That is the crucial thing. That is the key thing for an obliger.  You have to have outer accountability. Then it’s problem solved,  

because once obligers have outer accountability they’re amazing  at following through. This is why obligers are the rock of the  

world. But they need that outer accountability. They can’t do  

what … A questioner could sit around and think, “What’s really  

important to me? What’s the most efficient way for me to  

exercise? I’m going to commit to that.” Then they just what? That  would work for a questioner. It’s not going to work for an obliger.  

Tanya Dalton: It’s really about finding that path that is yours and then building  on it.  

Gretchen Rubin: Yes.  

Tanya Dalton: I think you’re so right when you talk about how other people can  impact our habits in positive and negative ways, because I feel  

like that’s part of our environment. The things that they say and  

do can really change the way that we look at ourselves and how  

we’re handling our habits.  

Gretchen Rubin: Absolutely!  

Tanya Dalton: Which leads me, of course, to loopholes. I want to talk about  loopholes in just a minute, but first let me give a quick word from  our sponsor FreshBooks. FreshBooks is a cloud-based accounting  software that they’ve designed from the ground up, and they’ve  

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 I want to take a minute and talk a little bit about loopholes.  

Gretchen Rubin: Oh, that was my favorite chapter about Before and After, because  they are so hilarious. Oh my gosh! I love talking about loopholes.  

Tanya Dalton: Perfect. Well, can you tell us a little about what that means?  

Gretchen Rubin: Okay. This is one of the strategies, one of the 21 strategies that  you can use to make or break your habits. One of the strategies is  called loophole spotting. Loophole spotting is the idea that a lot  of times we let ourselves off the hook for a habit, but we don’t  

even consciously do it. It’s like these ideas are running through  

our heads so quickly that we don’t even consciously  

acknowledge, like, “Well, I said I was really committed to my habit  of exercise, but here comes a loophole, and I’m going to take this  loophole and knock myself off the hook.” We buy into that so  

quickly that we’re not even consciously aware of it. For many  

people, just recognizing a loophole is coming into view is enough  to help them fight that loophole and stick to the habit.  

 Now, there are ten categories of loopholes. We are such good  advocates for ourselves. Most of us have a couple of loopholes  

that are our go-to loopholes. In my case, my go-to loophole is  

false choice. False choice is, “I can’t go to the doctor. I’m too busy  writing.” Really? “Are you so busy writing you can’t go to the  

doctor? ’cause that sounds like a false choice.”  

 One is moral licensing, which is, “I’ve been so good on my diet up  to now. I deserve to have a day off.” The reverse of that is the  

tomorrow loophole. “Starting tomorrow, I’m going to be so good  about sticking to my budget that it doesn’t matter what I spend  

today.” Then another one is the lack of control loophole, which is,  “Well, with a boss like mine I can’t possibly be expected to take  

vacations,” or “Of course I had a couple of beers and so then I  

couldn’t control myself.”  

 One that’s interesting and it’s very hard to spot is arranging to  fail, which is you put yourself in a situation where you’re like,  

“Well naturally, there I was at this cocktail party and I was  

standing right next to the desert thing, so of course I’m going to  be reaching out and taking one after another after another.”  

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You’re like, “You’re at a whole big party. Why are you standing  

next to the desert table?” You could just go stand next to the  

window man and then they’re not going to be right in [inaudible  


 One thing is, this doesn’t count, which is, “I’m on vacation. It’s the  holidays. I’m sick. It’s the weekend.” One is questionable  

assumption, that is … I know there’s a lot, but I love them all.  

Questionable assumption is like, “All creative people are messy.”  

Tanya Dalton: Yes, I hear that one a lot from people. “I can’t be productive. It’s  part of the way I work. This is the best way I work.”  

Gretchen Rubin: Yes. “I’ve been working out. Yeah, I’ve gained a couple of extra  pounds, but it’s all muscle.” And you’re like, “That’s kind of a  

questionable assumption.” Or “I can’t start working until my office  is clean.” It’s like, “Well, I think you can.”  

 Now, back to your point about the influence of other people, I  think one of the strongest and most pervasive loophole is the  

concern for others loophole. Like, “It’s going to hurt your feelings  if I don’t have a piece of your birthday cake,” or “Well, I have to  

buy this food because everybody else in my household wants it,”  or “Well, yeah everybody at this business center is having a glass  of wine, and it’s going to make them uncomfortable if I don’t have  a glass of wine.”  

 One that is so tricky is the fake self-actualization loophole. This is  one where breaking the habit, you almost embrace it as the sign  

of living life to the fullest. You say something like, “Well, you only  live once!” Or “Life’s too short not to have a brownie,” or “On a  

gorgeous day like this, how can I possibly go inside and work on  

my PhD thesis?” You have sort of a [inaudible 00:20:08]. Or you  

say something like, “I want to embrace myself just as I am.” Well,  you can accept yourself and expect more from yourself.  

Tanya Dalton: I like that. Yeah, that’s so true.  

Gretchen Rubin: I think this was the loophole that took me the longest to identify,  but it’s actually one of the most pernicious loopholes because it  

works every time. This is a universally applicable loophole and it’s  called the one-coin loophole and it’s because of this ancient  

teaching story. I love a teaching story. The ancient teaching story  is, I ask you, “Can one coin make a man rich?” And you would say,  “No! One coin cannot make a man rich.” Then I would say, “Well,  

what if you gave a man another coin? And what if you gave a man  another coin? And what if you gave a man another coin?” At  

some point you would have to say, “A man is rich because one  

coin made him so.”  

©Productivity Paradox Page 9 of 15

 Now, the relevance of this is habits. Because what you can always  say to yourself to justify not keeping a habit is, “What difference  does this make? What is one trip to the gym? What is one trip to  the library? What’s one brownie? I’m going to ride my bicycle.  

Okay, I’m not going to wear my helmet. What are the chances I’m  going to get in a bike accident today?” And the answer is always,  “It makes no difference.” In a lifetime wearing your helmet one  

time, eating one brownie, going to the gym one time, it isn’t  

consequential. So, it’s absolutely true.  

 The problem is the only way that we have good habits is one coin  after one coin after one coin. You can always let yourself off the  

hook today, but the only way you’re going to ever have a good  

habit is by doing it over and over and over again. This is called  

The Story of the Growing Heap, because it’s “Are you looking at  

the one coin? Are you looking at the growing heap?” This is a  

very important loophole to recognize because unless you’re  

building that growing heap, you’re never going to get the  

advantage of the habit, ’cause you can always let yourself off 

today, because one coin is meaningless.  

 Those are the ten loopholes. I don’t know, do you have a go-to  loophole? One of those you have particular attraction to you, you  were like, “Oh yeah!” What’s your favorite?  

Tanya Dalton: There’s a few in there. Definitely there’s a few. I think the one-coin  one is one that applies to so many of us. Where it’s like, “It’s just  

this one thing. Right?” I agree that compounding interest of it just  adds up. It adds up over time. Like, going to the doctor because I  have too many other things going on. I tell myself things like that  all the time. So, yes.  

Gretchen Rubin: The funny thing too is that once I became aware of the loopholes  I would realize how in one conversation or even in one breath,  

people would cycle through four or five loopholes because they  

would sort of say like, “Oh, you know, I was thinking about going  to the gym, but then I thought, ‘Well, you only live once, and  

what’s one trip to the gym?’ And I thought, ‘If I go to the gym my  husband’s going to have to watch my kids, and that’s going to  

bum him out and given the week I’ve had I feel like I just really  

can’t expect myself to go, and I’ve been so busy working. There’s  no time for me.'” I’m like, “That’s five loophole categories that you  went through.” That’s lack of concern, that’s one-coin, that’s  

moral … It’s very easy to invoke these and we’re so creative. I  

couldn’t believe some of the loopholes that people came up with.  I mean, so imaginative.  

 Once you see them coming it’s a lot harder to kid yourself. You’re  like, “hmm, I think I’m going to be falling into the moral-licensing  loophole. I keep telling myself I’ve been so good I need a day off.”  

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I don’t really need a day off. This is something that I want to do all  the time.  

Tanya Dalton: Right. It’s almost like once you give one loophole they start  building on each other. It becomes easier to throw in more  

loopholes. Knowing what your loopholes are is a good way to  

combat them and to close those loopholes, so to speak.  

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah, yeah. A lot of people have something that they tell  themselves over and over. You have to be like, “Well …” I know  

somebody who was saying how … She often would say to herself,  “Well, yeah. I want to go to the gym and everything, but I couldn’t  go right now because my son wanted me to read to him, and  

that’s really important.” I’m like, “Well, it is true. They’re both  

important. Going to the gym is important, reading to your son is  

important, but are they necessarily in conflict? Because you could  read to your son later.” I mean, that’s a false choice. If you keep  

making that false choice … It’s like, “I can be a good attentive  

mother and go to the gym.” That’s actually not that hard to do.  

Tanya Dalton: Again, it’s that self-knowledge, that knowledge of yourself, not to  just know what your tendency is but also what your go-to  

loopholes are that really can make a difference in helping you  

create these healthier habits, healthier meaning, not just working  out, things like that, but healthier just mentally, emotionally,  

physically in all those regards, but really in making those stick and  continuing to grow off of those. It sounds like …  

Gretchen Rubin: Yes. Yeah, and for instance a thing that you hear a lot is people  who are like, “Well, I can’t take care of myself. I’m really bad at  

self-care. I meet everybody … I keep my promises to everybody,  

but not to myself.” This is a very common thing. If that’s true, if  

you are thinking that, then you’re an obliger. That is something  

that obligers say. The other tendencies do not have this problem.  You may say yourself something like, “Why is it that busy moms  

like us can’t take time for ourselves?” I would say, “It is not a fact.  It is not a factor that you’re a busy mom. It is an obliger thing.  

You need to tackle it from an obliger standpoint, which is have  

outer accountability.” So, if you want to read a book, join a book  

group where they’re going to be disappointed in you if you  

haven’t read the book. If you want to go get your nails done, go  

with a friend who’s going to be disappointed if you don’t show  

  1. Or tell a friend, “Oh, I’m going to do this for myself,” and your  friend’s going to be like, “Hey, how did that go?” Because you  

said you were going to do that. Or make [inaudible 00:26:09]  

with other people.  

 This was a hilarious thing. This woman wanted to get off her  devices more. So she was saying like, “I’m at work all day long,  

and I come home and I’m on my devices. I’m on my phone. I’m on  ©Productivity Paradox Page 11 of 15

my iPad, and how do I stop?” And she was an obliger, so how do  you have that outer accountability for not being on your device?  Right? I said to her, “Well, do you have kids?” She’s like, “Yes, I do  have kids. Part of the problem is they’re always on their devices  

and it drives me crazy the whole …” And I said … No! No! What  

she said was, “And they never are on their devices because I  

won’t let them do it.” Sorry, I got that wrong.  

 She was like, “I never let them do it,” and I said, “This is what you  tell them. You say, ‘I believe that we should be device-free at  

home. If you see me on my devices, you can be on your device.'”  

Of course, her kids are running around after her saying, “Mommy,  mommy, check your email.” You know what I mean, but now she’s  accountable because she doesn’t want this for her children.  

They’re holding her accountable. They’re watching her, and  

they’re seeing “Is she doing this?” Because if she is it’s going to  

have a negative consequence on them, which is that they’re going  to be using their devices, which is something that …  

 A friend of mine, I heard his grandmother wanted to quit drinking.  She wasn’t really an alcoholic, but it was just affecting her health.  She was like, “I just feel better when I don’t drink. I want to stop,”  so she told her grandchildren that if they caught her drinking, she  would buy them an Xbox. Again, her grandchildren were like,  

“Grandma, grandma have a drink! Have a drink!” which she said  

people thought was pretty weird, but it’s ’cause they were like,  

“Oh, if grandma has a drink, we’ll get an Xbox.” She’s like, “I am  

not going to spend …” what she felt was like the worst way to  

spend money. She was horrified by the thought, so she’s like,  

“There’s no way I’m buying those kids an Xbox. It’s the worst  

thing I could possibly do for them.” So she set it up.  

 There’s a lot of ways to deal with these things. Once you realize  the nuts and bolts of what’s going on, what’s tripping you up,  

what’s helping you succeed, how you set up circumstances in a  

way that works for you … Sometimes these things are kind of  

almost wordless. It’s hard. It’s not like, “Oh, every time I walk into  the kitchen, I reach for an Oreo,” and so then the answer is like,  

“Well, A, don’t buy Oreos. B, put an Oreo on a high shelf where  

you have to get a stool to get it, or put it in the basement freezer.  Put it in a bag where it’s tied really tight, so it’s a huge pain to  

open it.” But sometimes they aren’t so clear. Maybe it’s something  like, “I’m not good at taking time for myself.” What’s the habit of  

that? Sometimes it’s a little bit more diffused, so I think thinking  

broadly about how people are different and the same, can help  

you, because not everything is straightforward.  

Tanya Dalton: Right, not everything is so black and white. There is a lot of gray.  Gretchen Rubin: Yeah.  

©Productivity Paradox Page 12 of 15

Tanya Dalton: Yes. Definitely.  

Gretchen Rubin: There’s just a lot of things where it’s not so concrete. I think when  things are very concrete it’s easier. It’s like, “I keep using the  

snooze alarm.” It’s like, “Okay, well that’s a very concrete habit.”  

You can think of five ways at the top of your head, but if it’s  

something more like, “I really want to be in better touch with my  family,” how do you have a habit for that? What would go into  

that? That you have to think about a little bit more broadly. “What  kind of person am I? What’s my family like? How do we engage?  

How do we stay consistent? Is there a way I can make it into a  

true habit so that the decision-making and the will power follow  

the way. It takes a little bit more thinking about, but I think that if  you do just take not even that long, and just sit down and think it  through, a lot of times answers present themselves.  

 I think part of it is, in the tumult of everyday life we’re so  distracted. We’re doing a million things, so we don’t really even  

step back for five minutes to be like, “What is really going on  

here? Why am I not able to do this? I keep telling myself I’m going  to start managing my diabetes better, but I just don’t. Why not?”  Well, why not? Let’s think that through, because probably there’s  some low-hanging fruit, and there’s things that you could do that  would help build that habit.  

 I heard about a hilarious person wasn’t taking their prescription  medication and was trying to think about the importance, and  

was reading about the consequences. Couldn’t do it. Couldn’t do  it. And then used pairing. Pairing is when you say that something  can’t happen unless something else happens. It’s not a reward, it’s  just that two things only happen together. This person was a total  caffeine fiend. He put his medicine bottle right in front of the  

coffee pot, and told himself that he couldn’t have his first cup of  

coffee in the morning until he had taken his medication. Problem  solved!  

Tanya Dalton: Problem solved, yeah! It’s all about figuring out how to solve the  problems for yourself, because everybody is different.  

Gretchen Rubin: Everybody’s different.  

Tanya Dalton: Exactly. I love it. Let me ask you this. You’ve given so many great  examples and tips and strategies. If you can give my listeners one  action item, one thing they can do today to help understand their  habits better so they can be successful, what would that be?  

Gretchen Rubin: I would say, go to happiercast.com/quiz and that is where you  can take the super quick quiz that will tell whether you’re an  

upholder, a questioner, an obliger or rebel. If there’s somebody  

else in your life for who you want to find out what their tendency  ©Productivity Paradox Page 13 of 15

is, you can ask them to take it. I’m coming up on like 800,000  

almost a million people who have taken this quiz, and once you  

take the quiz it will spit out a little report and give you some  

ideas and clues about what you might do differently or what  

might be most useful for you to try based on your tendency.  

 Again, it’s happiercast.com/quiz. I know a lot of people are like,  “How can you divide a whole community into four categories? I’m  a mix of all the categories.” Really, no. I think really people do fall  into one of the four categories. Once they think about it, I think a  lot of people really do see that they really do solidly fit within a  

tendency, and from there, there’s a lot you can do better and  

more efficiently because you’re doing it in a way that’s right for  


Tanya Dalton: I love that. I’ll make sure to put the link in our show notes for  today’s show.  

Gretchen Rubin: Perfect.  

Tanya Dalton: I know that we need to wrap up, but there were so many great  nuggets of information that you shared today. I really appreciate  you taking the time to come onto the show. I will make sure and  

have Gretchen’s link to that quiz in the show notes, as well as  

links to her social media and her book, and of course her weekly  

podcast that she does, called Happier with Gretchen Rubin.  

 Gretchen, again, thank you so much for coming onto today’s  show.  

Gretchen Rubin: Thanks! I feel like we could talk all day our favorite subject.  Tanya Dalton: I know. Right?  

Gretchen Rubin: Yes.  

Tanya Dalton: Thank you. Wasn’t Gretchen amazing? I was so excited to have  her on the show, and she definitely did not disappoint. Now, I will  have show notes so you can get all the information about the four  tendencies. If you go to my website at inkwellpress.com/podcast,  look under episode 32.  

 I’ll also have links to Gretchen’s social media and to her books if  you’re interested in learning even more about habits and living a  

happier life.  

 Now, if you’d like to connect with me, I do encourage you to join  our brand new group. We have a community on Facebook, which  you can find at inkwellpress.com/group, where we are going to be  talking about things like today’s episode, so we can go a little bit  

deeper in depth talking to one another and sharing ideas and  

encouraging one another. I hope to see you in there.  

 All right, until next time. Happy planning. 

©Productivity Paradox Page 15 of 15

**This transcript is created by AI, so please excuse any typos, misspellings and grammar mistakes.

Tanya Dalton is a female productivity speaker. She gives keynote addresses on time management, productivity, goal setting and finding your purpose.