Podcast discussion: New Years Resolutions with special guest Gretchen Rubin

Just a quick post about this week's podcast (which I listened to on the treadmill - it does make the miles go faster!). Sarah and I were thrilled to interview Gretchen Rubin, author of The Four Tendencies, and The Happiness Project, about resolutions and goals, and how people of all different personality types can make changes for the better. Among the episode highlights:

Our most extreme Upholder moments. Gretchen, Sarah and I are all pretty strong "upholders" -- that is, people who meet both outer and inner expectations. So we decided to share the incidents people might find most bizarre.

Another fun Upholder moment: We scheduled the taping for 3 p.m. (on a day back in November). All three of us were on the line by 2:55. This is not remotely unusual for upholders.

A point of contention. Gretchen says that keeping resolutions is easier for upholders. But I'm not sure it's ever "easy." It's not like waking up at 4:30 a.m. to run some days is a walk in the park!

How other tendencies can make resolutions more doable. Questioners need to figure out their "why." Obligers need external accountability -- and not their spouses (more on that in a moment). Rebels can either find a foil ("My sister doesn't believe I can lose weight -- I'll show her!") or embrace a practice as part of an identity ("I am an athlete. And what do athletes do? They work out, even if it means getting up at 4:30 a.m.")

Why an obliger spouse can appear to be a rebel. I had my husband take the "Four Tendencies" quiz. I thought he'd be a questioner, or possibly even a rebel, but he turned out to be an obliger. I asked Gretchen about this, since my thought was that if I have an obliger spouse I should be getting a bit more obliging! But she said that obligers ignore their internal expectations, and the closer someone is to them, the more they treat the person like themselves. So it's kind of romantic, in a way. I'm not sure I believe that, but it's certainly a more charitable way to view the tendency! If this is the case, it also means that an obliger should not choose a spouse as an accountability partner. Because the obliger might not actually feel a strong obligation to that person (at least for creating new habits).

How to manage a questioner spouse. Both Gretchen and Sarah are married to questioners. Gretchen talks about how a simple tweak (always giving a reason) can get a lot more cooperation from a questioner, and also prevent arguments.

I know it's the holidays, so you may not have a commute, but this was a fun episode, so if you're out doing errands, or running on the treadmill, please give it a listen!

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11 Responses to Podcast discussion: New Years Resolutions with special guest Gretchen Rubin


  1. Linda M says:

    My 2 favorite blogger/authors together-Laura and Gretchen. Oh joy! I loved this episode. I’ve known ever since she came up with the four tendencies that I am an obliger ( I would have been on the line at 2:55 also) but I still love making New Years resolutions/ goals even though I have a hard time keeping them. I really like your idea of quarterly resolutions and I tried that last year. I’m looking forward to seeing your list for 2018. Great episode.

    • @Linda M – aw, thank you! It was a fun episode to do. And I’m working on 2018…we shall see!

  2. Robin says:

    Great episode and perfect topic for Gretchen Rubin! I really enjoyed it! I’m an obliger, with undertones of questioner. I really love the practice of making resolutions, but like the obligers Gretchen discusses, I’m often disappointed in myself when I don’t keep them. When you suggested quarterly resolutions, Laura, I tried that model, and have been much more successful. I really liked Sarah’s distinctions between resolutions, too, and I think I’ll try to add more nuance to my list for Q1.

    • @Robin- those sound like great ideas! I think it’s all about knowing yourself. What works for you…works.

  3. ARC says:

    Ooh, I’m looking forward to this episode. Gretchen’s tips on dealing with a Rebel child have been *so* helpful 🙂 I am an Obliger who sucks at keeping resolutions but also HATES external accountability that involves another person, probably because I’m also an introvert and don’t want to force myself to be social. Haven’t figured out a good solution for that yet 🙂

  4. My greatest fear as an Obliger is the feeling that it is harder to be successful as an Obliger, as most successful/high ranked people I know are Upholders. I understand that it is not directly correlated, and we all could thrive for the live we want. It just sometimes funny when an Upholder said that a potential disadvantage of being Upholder are they potentially pressure themselves too much. While an Obliger almost always feel stressed, guilty, inadequate, used by others and fall short for their own needs due to their inability to meet their inner expectations.

    • Linda M says:

      Ohmygosh, your last two sentences Kristanti, so true!

    • Robin says:

      I so agree with this! As an obliger, I find it really tough to say no, and the thought of disappointing someone really stresses me out. After having kids and struggling to find time for myself, my husband—who had also read Gretchen Rubin—argued that I have to set aside time for myself “for our family.” I even needed someone to reframe that so it would be a priority.

      • I know right! In the podcast Gretchen talks about Upholders can be thought as being cold by others. It is really funny as they don’t actually seem to be that care to be perceived as cold anyway, so that isn’t a downside at all.

  5. Virginia says:

    I am a Questioner married to an Obliger…quite the combo! My Obliger husband also must view me as “inner” LOL!! As I said to my father when I was a teenager, “I can be disciplined when I want to be!” It’s an interesting combo. Society definitely rewards each tendency in different ways so I don’t feel it is productive to wish one were born another tendency.

  6. Margot says:

    Great episode! I took the quiz (I was pretty sure the 4:40 alarm to run says it all) and confirmed I am an upholder. Listening to the way Sarah and Gretchen described their husbands, I was certain mine would be a questioner and made him take the quiz. I laughed out loud when he was taking it and said, “why do they need this information at the end?”

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