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Patrik Edblad

The Key to Lasting Habits? Know Your Own Psychology

in Habits

Have you ever tried copying the strategies of others without seeing the same results?

We hear about a new diet, but can’t stick to it.

A colleague shows us their system for being organised, but we quickly forget about it.

We try to adopt the study habits of effective learners, but it doesn’t help.

A friend manages to quit smoking, but the strategy seems impossible to maintain.

This can be frustrating to say the least.

Why is it that the strategies, which work perfectly for others, can be so hard to adopt for ourselves?

The Four Tendencies

In her new book Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin provides a framework for change which has proved so helpful in my coaching that I wanted to share it with you.

Gretchen explains that the first and most important question about habits is ”How does a person respond to an expectation?” This is an important question to ask because every time we try to form a new habit, we always set some kind of expectation for ourselves.

There are two kinds of expectations we face: outer expectations (work deadlines, traffic regulations) and inner expectations (rise early, keep New Year’s resolutions). Pretty much everyone falls into one of the four groups Gretchen calls:

  • Upholders – Meets inner and outer expectations.
  • Questioners – Meets inner expectations and resists outer expectations.
  • Obligers – Resists inner expectations and meets outer expectations.
  • Rebels – Resists inner and outer expectations.

You can take The Four Tendencies’ Quiz here to find out what is your dominant tendency. It only takes 10 minutes to complete and then come back here and let Gretchen explain how you can use this information to become much more effective in creating the habits you want.



If you’re an Upholder, you want to know what’s expected of you and you want to meet those expectations.

Your primary habit formation strategy is to schedule and use To-Do lists. By having a clear overview of what’s expected of you every day, you can effectively get to work in a way that plays right into your strengths.



If you’re a Questioner, you are motivated by sound reason, logic and fairness. You will want to know why something needs to get done before you can effectively get to work.

Your primary habit formation strategy is to research why a particular habit is worthwhile pursuing and then decide for yourself if it is actually a good idea. Google it, check the research for yourself or ask people you have confidence in before you get to work on your new habit.



If you’re an Obliger, you are motivated by external accountability. You excel at meeting external demands and deadlines.

Your primary habit formation strategy is to get that external accountability. Starting a mastermind group, joining a community, teaming up with an accountability partner or getting a coach are some examples of how to do this. If you have a tendency to slack off until the last minute on your obligations, it can be a great strategy to ask your boss/tutor/coach and so on to set more deadlines for you to meet.



If you’re a Rebel, you choose to act from a sense of freedom and personal choice. You want to decide for yourself what you’re going to do every day.

Your primary habit formation strategy is to allow yourself autonomy and freedom. Rather than committing to a 30 day challenge, decide on a day-to-day basis what you want to do. It’s also a good idea to have several similar options available as often as possible to avoid feeling pressured into one particular activity. You could, for example, plan to exercise but leave it up to the actual moment before deciding what kind of exercise you feel like doing.

Creating Lasting Habits

The key to creating lasting, positive change in your life is to understand your own psychology. Once you understand what drags you down and what sets you on fire you can create strategies that play into your personal, natural tendencies. To change yourself, you have to know yourself.

If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.
Sun Tzu