Gretchen Rubin has a knack for taking a huge amount of information and making it clear and relatable for the masses. Her focus is happiness and human nature and has several bestselling books, including The Happiness Project and The Four Tendencies. Her work draws from cutting-edge science, the wisdom of the ages, lessons from popular culture, and her own experiences to explore how we can make our lives happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative.
Her podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin, discusses happiness and good habits and won a 2020 Webby Award for “best of the internet.”
She has been interviewed by Oprah, is a regular columnist for O, The Oprah Magazine and makes regular appearances on CBS This Morning. She’s crossed paths with the Dalai Lama, and had her work written up in a medical journal.
Gretchen started her career in law and clerked for Justice Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, before realizing she wanted to pivot to being a writer.
In this week’s episode, Sonya and Gretchen deep dive into the four tendencies – upholder, questioner, obliger and rebel.
“When you know that other people see the world differently, then you can figure out ways where it’s not that you’re right and I’m wrong, or I’m right and you’re wrong, it’s more like, given how we are, how can we both thrive.”– Gretchen Rubin
- Four tendencies: upholders, questioners, obligers, rebels
- How a person of each tendency handles interactions
- Working with other tendencies
- Diving deeper into the rebel tendency
- Tendencies and careers
- Behavior changes for each category
- Imaginative forms of outer accountability
- The word “motivation”
- Strategy of abstaining
- Planned exception
- Learn more about Gretchen Rubin’s work
- Listen to Gretchen’s podcast: Happier with Gretchen Rubin
- Check out her book The Four Tendencies and take the quiz!
- Follow Gretchen on Twitter
- Check out my Substack about high-performance mindset
- Sign up for my weekly newsletter!
Sonya Looney: Gretchen Rubin, one of my favorite authors. Welcome to the podcast.
Gretchen Rubin: Thanks so much. I’m so happy to be talking to you.
Sonya: But right before we hit record, I was saying how the Four Tendencies book has been a huge impact on my husband and I’s life and has changed our relationship. So I can’t wait to get into that with you.
Gretchen: Oh, terrific. I love talking about the four tendencies.
Sonya: So you’ve written a number of books, what made you decide to write a book about what motivates people?
Gretchen: Well, the book before, there was a book called Better Than Before, which is all about how we can make or break habits. And what I found is that there are 21 strategies we can use to make or break habits. And sometimes people are like, “That’s too many – give me the three biggest ones. But it’s actually good that they’re a lot because some work very well for some people and not for other people or they’re available to us at some times in our lives, but not at other times. But one of the things I started to notice is that there were these really big patterns in how people felt about habits and how people readily made habits. So, for instance, some people don’t like the idea of a New Year’s resolution because they think January 1 is an arbitrary date. And some people don’t like the idea of a habit at all. They don’t like the idea of being chained to a behavior. But the really crucial time for me was I was asking a friend about her habits, and she said, it’s strange because I know I’m happier when I exercise. And when I was in high school, I was on the track team and I never missed track practice. So why can’t I go running now? And I thought, well, why? It’s the same person. It’s the same behavior. At one time, it was effortless. Now she’s struggling. It was trying to understand patterns of habit formation that led me to understand the four tendencies. And then so that was one chapter in better than before. It’s one strategy. But then all anybody wanted to ask me about was the four tendencies. So then I went ahead and wrote a book about the four tendencies.
Sonya: Yeah, it’s funny. I actually read The Four Tendencies, like, several years ago, like, I don’t know, maybe four or five years ago. But I just read Better Than Before, kind of recently. And I wasn’t sure which one came first because I noticed that in Better Than Before you did talk about these different tendencies, and it seemed like The Four Tendencies might have come first based on that kind of information.
Gretchen: Well, I really wish it had come first, because if it makes more sense the way you read it, that makes more sense. But the issue is I didn’t pick up on the… I’m sort of the only person who sort of noticed the four tendencies, which is amazing to me because to me, they’re very blatant once you know what you look for. But it wasn’t until I started really trying to analyze these patterns of habit formation that I started to glimpse the four tendencies. And so that’s why they were written in that order, is because it was writing about habits that really gave you that insight. But it really makes more sense to read the four tendencies first. And the four tendencies is much bigger than habit formation. It relates to many more aspects of your life. It’s just that it’s particularly noticeable around habits.
Sonya: Actually, I had Katie Milkman on the podcast a couple of months ago, and I actually asked her about the four tendencies and how it relates to some of the research that she’s done. But I don’t know if she’s looked too much into the four tendencies and I think that that would really affect how they communicate behavior change. Because as you said, there’s all these different tools on how to change your habits, change your behaviors, but it really can depend on these four tendencies. And I just love how you broke them down and they make so much sense. Can you talk about them so people know what I’m fawning over?
Gretchen: Sure. Great. Yeah. So I’ll do the nutshell version. And usually people know what they are and they know what other people in their life are and they know what the Game of Thrones characters, Parks and Rec characters. It’s very obvious once you’re looking for it. But I will say if you’re the kind of person who likes to take a quiz and get a report and an answer, if you go to quiz.gretchenrubin.com, you can take this free quick quiz. Like, three and a half million people have taken the quiz, but I’ll just explain it now and most people will know where to put themselves. So what the four tendencies looks at is something very narrow but significant in your nature, which is how you respond to expectations. So we all face two kinds of expectations – outer expectations, like a work deadline, and inner expectations, like my own desire to get back into meditation. So depending on whether you meet or resist outer and inner expectations, that makes you either an upholder, a questioner, and obliger, or a rebel.
So upholders readily meet outer and inner expectation. They meet the work deadline. They keep the New Year’s resolution without much. They want to know what other people expect from them, but their expectations for themselves are just as important, if not more important. So their motto is discipline is my freedom.
Then there are questioners, questioners, question, all expectations. They’ll do something if they think it makes sense. They don’t like anything arbitrary, inefficient, unjustified. They have to know reasons, so they’re making everything an inner expectation. If it makes sense to them, they will do it no problem. If it fails their standards, they will push back. So their motto is, if you convince me why, then I’ll comply.
Then there are obligers. This is the biggest tendency for both men and women, obligers. Obligers readily meet outer expectations, but they struggle to meet inner expectations. So this is my friend on the track team. When she had a team and a coach expecting her to show up, she showed up no problem. But when she was trying to go on her own, it was a struggle. And the key for obligers is if they want to meet an inner expectation, they have to have a form of outer accountability. They want to read more, join a book group. If they want to exercise more, they have to work out with a trainer, work out with a friend who’s annoyed if they don’t show up or raise money for a charity or whatever. They just need that out of accountability. So their motto is, you can count on me and I’m counting on you to count on me.
And then finally, rebel. 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. They can do anything they want to do. They can do anything they choose to do. But if you ask or tell them to do something, they are very likely to push back. And typically, they don’t tell themselves what to do. Like, they don’t sign up for a 10:00 a.m. spin class on Saturdays because they think, well, I don’t know what I’m going to feel like doing on Saturday. And just the idea that someone expects me to show up is going to annoy me. So their motto is, you can’t make me, and neither can I. And that is the smallest tendency.
Rebel is the smallest. My tenancy, the upholder tendency, is only slightly larger. Obliger is the biggest tendency. And then questioner is second to obliger. So when you’re thinking about the world, most people are questioners or obligers.
Sonya: Yes. And for me personally, this book, if you ask me what’s one of the most impactful books in your life? And I’ve read lots of books, this actually has been a book that’s helped me so much in my business relationships, in my family, and just being able to understand because I just assumed everybody else was like me. Of course, I’m not sure if I’m an upholder or a questioner. I’ve taken the quiz and the quiz shows me as a questioner. There’s me questioning the quiz.
Sonya: But there have been things in my life, like, I got my master’s degree in electrical engineering because that’s like what you do in the family. So not because I liked it. So to me, that’s kind of like, well, that’s upholder. But then most of my things that I do in my life are questioner. So I don’t know if you can even change over time.
Gretchen: No. You know, I’m a big believer in the genetic roots of personality. And I think this is hardwired. I think you bring it into the world with you. But it’s definitely true that with time and experience, we can kind of shape how our tendency comes out or we can accommodate it. Like, a lot of times the obligers get so good at creating outer accountability that they sort of think that they’re upholders because they don’t realize that they just have that outer accountability that they need. But I do think for the most part, people stay in one or the other. But people do tip because each tenancy overlaps with the tenancies on either side. So, like you say, upholders, they also overlap with customers because they both readily meet inner expectations. And upholders also tip with obligers because they both readily meet outer expectations. And so you could be like either an upholder who tips the questioner or questioner who tips to upholder. And then there’s going to be a lot of commonality in the way that this would come out in the world because it’s sort of a matter of degree.
Sonya: Yeah. I think one of the reasons these tendencies are so important is that it affects how you communicate with people and make requests of people. And I love how in your book you had so many examples, like in business and parenting and relationships. Can we go through kind of each one with a similar scenario so people can understand how to apply this?
Gretchen: Yes. So like, let’s say you’re an upholder and you’re trying to get yourself to do something or you’re dealing with an upholder. So one thing that works, really, upholders are very focused on execution. They’re very independent. They don’t need a lot of supervision. But with all of the tendencies sort of the upside to the downside. So what you might see with upholders is you might see rigidity. You might see like a lack of flexibility. They’re often uneasy when it’s not clear what the rules are or what success looks like. They can sometimes be a little bit judgmental and cold because things come pretty easily to them that maybe other people struggle with. And they’re sort of like, hey, look, Sonya, I don’t want to be your babysitter, you just do your own work in your own way. I don’t want to have to get involved with that. And that often just isn’t very helpful. And they could be a little judgmental. And they can also sometimes have tightening, which is when their own rules get tighter and tighter around them. So you want to make sure that if you’re an upolder, you’re dealing with an upholder, they don’t start kind of drowning in their own paperwork, and they stay focused on, like, what is the value here?
If you’re dealing with a questioner, you really have to think about the why, because if you just say, oh, because I say so, or I’m the teacher. I’m the boss, or that’s what corporate says, so, or that’s what we’ve always done, or this is what the doctor says, that’s just not legitimate to a questioner. They want to know why. And I’m married to a questioner, and I know this very well. And so even something like, I remember one time I called my husband, and I was like, hey, what’s your work address? And he said, why do you want to know? And I knew the minute it happened, I knew I should have said, hey, I’m filling out that boring bureaucratic form. What’s your work address? Because he’s not even going to answer a simple question if he doesn’t know why. This comes up with questions or children. It’s like, why am I going to write this dumb book report? You know, I read the book. So you could as a teacher, you could say, well, yes, I know you read the book, but I’m giving you practice on how to paraphrase ideas in your own words. And this is a very important skill that you’ll be using your whole life. This is just an example of, like, helping you get into them to start to learn that very important skill. Okay, I get it. That makes sense. All right? Because if you don’t have that, if they’re not convinced, they’re not going to follow through. And so they have to know that way. And that’s true whether you’re the questioner, you’re dealing with a questioner. Also, sometimes what you see with questions is they get analysis paralysis. This is when their desire for perfect information makes it hard for them to move forward or to make a decision. So if that’s you or you’re dealing with a questioner, who’s in analysis paralysis, you want to do things like deadlines or limits or looking to a trusted authority or saying like, let’s just try this as an experiment and see what happens. And then either way, we’ll learn to help them move forward.
If you’re dealing with an obliger or an obliger or you’re dealing with an obliger, you have to have outer accountability to meet inner expectations. This is the crucial thing. And the other tendencies will say things like, just get in touch with your wife, be clear on what your motivation is like. Put it on the calendar, and you’ll do it. And it’s like, those are all good ideas, but they’re not going to make a difference to an obliger. They need outer accountability. And it’s not that hard to get outer accountability once you know that that’s what you need. The problem is a lot of obligers are trying to do things that don’t give them that outer accountability. So then they get frustrated. And sometimes obligers are like, oh, it’s weak for me to need out of accountability. This is the biggest group of people. There’s a ton of people in this category. It’s not a big deal. It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s just what works. So instead of worrying about whether you need to change or what’s wrong with you, there’s nothing wrong with you. Just set it up so you can succeed. Now, obligers do sometimes fall into obliger rebellion. This is when they’ll meet, meet, meet expectations, but then suddenly they snap and they say this I won’t do. And that can be small. Like, I’m not going to answer your emails for a week. Or it can be big like I’m putting a job or I’m dropping you as a friend after 20 years. So we really want to look for the building resentment and anger that obligers will feel if they are neglected or taken advantage of or exploited, and to look for ways to keep things fair so they don’t fall into obliged rebellion.
And then for rebels, it’s all what they want. They can do anything they want to do. So what works for rebels is to tie it to identity. I’m doing this because I’m an athlete or I’m an environmentalist or I’m an animal lover, I’m a responsible boss, I’m a responsive parent. I’m doing it because I’m an artist. I’m doing it because that’s my identity. Or you can give the rebel information, consequences, choice. You just tell them the information they need. You tell them the consequences of their action or inaction, and then you let them choose. And then you just let the consequences fall however they choose, which is easier said than done, but that does work for rebels. So that’s kind of the nutshell view of the four.
Sonya: Yes, my mom is a rebel, and there’s been lots of times…and my dad’s a questioner. There’s just been lots of times my dad and I have just gotten so frustrated trying to help with the decision making process of doing something and that giving the information and then saying, hey, this is the information, these are the options, but you can do whatever you want. Communicating that way has completely been a game changer. And then she has to suffer the consequences of her own decisions, which, as you said, rebels can’t make themselves do things that they want to do. So sometimes afterwards my mom is like, I wish I had done X. And we’re like, well, it’s your decision, so next time you can use that. But it’s super hard to let go of that. And I feel like lots of…in parenting if your kids might not be a rebel, but you still have to…I have a toddler, so you’re like, these are your choices, and then you have to let it play out as it’s going to play out, right?
Gretchen: No, I mean, it is really hard to do that. But so many rebels have said, like, you have to let consequences fall. You have to let a rebel experience the consequences because let’s say you’re married to a rebel who’s supposed to pay the cable bill and just often rebels hate to pay bills. Rebels are like, use autopay if they don’t like to pay bills. And it’s like if at the last minute you rush in and go online and pay the cable bill, it’s like there’s not going to be any change. You have to be like, okay, our cables getting shut down. And somebody said to me, well, that’s fine, but that’s my cable too. And I’m like, well, either you take it on as your job or you convince your rebel wife that she wants to do it for her own reasons or you suffer the consequences. But if at the last minute you fix it, don’t expect her to change because it just won’t lead to change. So it is hard to stand by and let consequences fall. But rebel after rebel is like, that’s what you have to let people do what they want and then cope with it. That’s what works for rebels.
Sonya: And I feel like these four tendencies help you have empathy for other people that aren’t like you. And the realization that people aren’t like you.
Gretchen: Yes, I think that’s absolutely true, because it allows you to understand, because I think you said this earlier that you sort of assume that other people see the world the way you do. And it’s very, very hard. We all intellectually know that that’s not true. But it’s very hard to really wrap your mind around that. You’re absolutely right that when you know that other people see the world differently, then you can figure out ways where it’s like, it’s not that you’re right and I’m wrong or I’m right and you’re wrong. It’s more like, well, given how we are, how can we both thrive? Like, here’s an example. So I’m an upolder, so I’m like, everybody should just do their own work in their own way. I don’t want to tell you what to do. You go about your business. Yeah, but I was working I have a podcast Happier with Gretchen Rubin, and I was working with somebody on the podcast. And I send emails whenever I have the idea. It’s Christmas Eve, it’s five in the morning, it’s 11 at night, it’s Sunday, whatever. And I’m like, you answer emails according to your own workflow. Whatever, you do you, I’ll do me. This is what works for me. But I was working with an obliger, and it got back to me that she was very resentful. She thought I wasn’t respecting work life balance and that if I sent her a message, I was expecting a response and that it was really unfair and she was very resentful. Well, I really valued working with this person. So then the question is, okay, we have an obliger and an upholder. How do we decide who is right? Do I convince her? Does she convince me? Do we go to HR? Do we have to form a policy? No. I learned how to use delay delivery in Outlook. So on Monday morning, she gets like 60 emails from me. I do my work in my way. She does her work in her way. We just found a way to make it work for both of us instead of trying to force one of us into the other’s mold. And I think when you understand that people are just coming from a different place, we can kind of help each other figure out how we can all thrive instead of worrying about who’s right and who’s wrong.
Sonya: And I think that with lots of things like diet or, dare I even go there, vaccines or all these things. It’s like there’s all this information and a questioner or a questioner upholder would be like, you have all the information. Why can’t you just make that decision and understand?
Gretchen: Yes, questioners will do that when they’re trying to persuade. So they’ll just give more and more and more research and evidence. You see this…I have a trainer and strength trainer, and this is his thing. And I’m like, but if someone’s an obliger, like just sending them another study about the value of strength training isn’t going to make a difference. Like, they might find it interesting and it might make them more, like, feel like they want to exercise more, but what you need is like, hey, you have an appointment every Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. and I’m going to charge you whether or not you come for the next twelve weeks. And I’m expecting you to come. And I really want to see you make progress. So I’ll see you on Wednesday. Accountability, that’s what’s going to work. Not another study.
Sonya: But obliger still has to make a decision that they want to make a change, and that has to come intrinsically, right?
Gretchen: Yes. Easiest part, right.
Sonya: So I want to make a change now, and they have to be willing to want to maybe spend money to have the accountability because it doesn’t always have to be like someone you have to pay.
Gretchen: But no, there’s so many ways to create out of accountability once you’re looking for it. But it’s funny because then that’s, obligers are like, I would like to hold myself accountable, but I really don’t want to be accountable for it. And I’m like what you’re telling me is that you don’t really want to do this habit. Like, you don’t really want to exercise. You don’t really want to set it up so that you’re actually going to have to exercise. You’re sort of comfortable talking about how you want to. But you know that if you do this because, they’re sort of like, see, if somebody is holding me accountable, I’m going to feel like a lot of pressure to actually do it. Either you want that or you don’t. And that’s to your point. Like, you have to decide, do you actually want to follow through with this or not? And you’re a grown up. You can make your own decisions no one’s saying that you have to do these things. It’s up to you to decide. But once if you’ve decided that you really do want it, then find a way to follow through, if that’s what you would really like to have, if that’s what’s going to make you happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative. You want to set yourself up for success.
Sonya: Yeah, I actually am a health coach as well. And there’s some really interesting programs. I go through a university program that is based in health psychology, and I’ve been able to identify my clients, like kind of where they kind of fall in the four tendencies. And the format that we follow for coaching is asking a lot of questions, like motivational interviewing, active listening. So really, you’re trying to ask, well, what’s important to you about this? And if they say, well, my doctor told me I have to do this, they might not actually want to do it. They have to figure out how does this link to their values, and then how can you… especially with obligers, because they might have said, I’m going to do this, but then they don’t do it. So then they lose the trust with themselves and that they’re actually able to do it.
Gretchen: Yes, absolutely. And it’s very frustrating to feel I mean, I think one of the things that frustrates obligers is they say, well, I see myself keeping my promises to other people. Why can’t I keep my promises to myself? And then they feel like they can’t count on themselves and that’s not a good feeling. So I think for many obligers, it’s a relief to realize that it’s not a sign of weakness to say that you need outer accountability, that it’s very common. And this is just a thing that some people need. And the idea that I’m going to do it because my doctor told me to, like, you can create outer accountability with things… As an upholder, I used to really kind of object when people would say things to me like, well, I realized that I need to take care of myself if I’m going to take care of others. You probably hear that a lot because I was like, you should do it because it’s important to you. It’s nice if it helps other people, but you’re important; do it because it matters to you. But now I realize to an obliger that’s helpful because they’re like, it’s a form of accountability. I am responsible to others, therefore, I must care for myself. I’m like, if that works, if that’s persuasive for you, then that’s great. Like, who am I to stand on the side and say, that’s not a good argument to use? It’s a good argument for them. So great.
Sonya: And so going back to the rebel category, I’m just thinking about the tools that people might have just had an epiphany listening to what we’ve talked about so far. But the rebel – they want to be able to make themselves do something, but they can’t make themselves do something. So you said they should look at their identity, like, who they identify as and also in habit changes, like that identity-based habits. Like, I want to be the type of, like, a runner is the type of person who does X. Like, how can people, take it a step further, how can they, a rebel, make themselves do something?
Gretchen: They can’t make themselves do anything. They have to choose. And it’s funny because as an upholder or as a questioner, it’s sort of like this idea of constant choice feels very exhausting to me. I’m like, I want to choose once and then never choose again. I eat a very low carb diet. I’m not choosing that every day. I don’t even think about it. But rebels want to choose. They always want to act from a place of choice of freedom. And so you never want to say, like, I’m going to make myself do something. It’s like, I’m going to do this if I feel like it. Sometimes they’ll do things like instead of writing a to do list, they’ll write a could do list. I can do this if I feel like it. Or they often value spontaneity and choice. And so instead of joining one gym that does spinning, they might join three gyms, or they might join a big gym that has tons of different options. And so today I feel like cardio, and today I feel like stretching. And today I feel like doing weights. And today I feel like doing the treadmill. I can pick and choose and I can go when I want.
There’s all this sense of freedom. And then they sometimes do often respond to a challenge. Like, you think I can’t run a marathon in 2022? Watch me, right? Or like, you know what? I just decided that before my 50th birthday, I’m going to bring my blood cholesterol down to XYZ. A challenge can often work because they like that. Because, again, that’s identity, that’s who I am. I’m showing myself. I’m putting myself out into the world. But it’s never the language of making, committing. Don’t break the chain. Like, don’t break the chain. Streaks work very well for the other tendencies, typically. Sometimes they work well for rebels, but sometimes rebels, it’s got the word chain in it, right? Like, it might just turn them off, right, even from just the idea of it. So they may want to choose, if you’re like, look, I’m an artist, and sometimes I love to put my work out into the world. I love to show people my chops. I like to get paid for my work. But on any particular day, am I going to sit down and write? Maybe, if I felt like it, maybe I could. Yeah, I’ve been writing every day for three years. But that’s because I have so much to say. That’s because my creativity is bubbling over. It’s not because I have to. It’s not because I committed to it. It’s not because I made myself. And I feel like for rebels, the vocabulary is very important that they really do have to. But the fact is we’re all choosing. The rebels never lose sight of that. And that is their power; they are choosing.
Sonya: And what about careers? I know you talked about this in your book. Someone might be thinking, well, how can tendencies have certain careers if they can or can’t make themselves do something?
Gretchen: Well, there’s so many things that make a person fitted to a profession. Like there’s interests and values and skills, and so much of it goes into it. So it’s hard to make generalizations. But I will say that for a rebel, they tend to like situations where there’s a lot of variety. So, like, one rebel was a restaurant manager, so nobody sort of knew where he was at any particular time. He was driving around, he’s meeting new people. It was sort of always different. He didn’t feel accountable to anybody, and he did a great job, but there was a lot of choice within his responsibilities. Sometimes rebels do well with sales because it’s like, hey, man, whatever you need to do to make that sale, they can kind of get into it that way. Find their own rules. Some rebels, kind of paradoxically, are drawn to areas of high regulation, like the police, the clergy, the military, and large corporations with lots of rules. For some rebels, they find they get their energy from pushing back from these rules that it’s kind of like pushing off from the side of a swimming pool. They don’t do well in kind of a completely open environment, whereas other rebels do well as entrepreneurs where they’re like they do what they want. And if they want to make a lot of money and be really successful, well, they can do anything it takes, and there’s no one telling them what to do. So there’s no one igniting that spirit of resistance. And it’s all just flowing from what they want. So those are some things to keep in mind for rebels who are choosing, thinking about different careers.
Sonya: What about for obligers? Because it seems like if you want to own your own business and you’re driving the ship yourself and you need external accountability, that would be really challenging. Or if you’re an athlete, this is an interesting little fact about me is, I’ve been a professional athlete since 2006, I’ve had some coaches, but generally I do better if I coach myself and I don’t need the accountability from the coach. But there are other athletes that absolutely they cannot make themselves that they’re great athletes or elite athletes, but they need that coach and and it is good to have objective views of your training and all that, but they cannot make themselves do the training unless they have a coach. So like athletes, entrepreneurs. And there’s a whole host of other jobs that you can have, of course. But what works for obligers in your career?
Gretchen: Well, a lot of times in the workplace, it automatically there’s a boss, there’s teammates, there’s colleagues, there’s deliverables. And so a lot of obligators do very well at work. They are super valuable and excel because there’s all this just built in accountability for people who are more entrepreneurial. Like you say, what often works obligers is they go ahead and get the accountability even before they’re ready for it. I’ve talked to somebody who’s like, I wanted to be a wedding photographer, so I told my best friend that I would take pictures for her wedding next summer. And I’m like, well, I better figure out how to do this and get all the equipment and get my site set up because she’s counting on me. Or you say to people on your newsletter list, oh, the first 10 people who email me will get the free webinar. And then there’s 10 people who are like, okay, when is the webinar you’re like, oh, I guess I better create that webinar. So you get students or customers even before you have a product, and then you’re on the hook for it. You can also use coaches. Just like you said, athletes use a coach. There are a lot of executive coaches, and I think one of the values, a lot of times, just like an athletic coach has strategies and skills and knowledge that you can use, a lot of it is just the accountability that they provide. And the same thing with executive coaches, they may have insights about productivity and priorities and things, but they’re also just holding you accountable. For many people, that’s super valuable. And of course, you could just partner with someone else. You could say like, hey, I’m starting a business, you’re starting a business. Or maybe you’re trying to get healthy and I’m starting a business, but let’s hold each other accountable and we’ll check in. So you can create that in a lot of different ways. But I think that the key thing in what you said is that you have to know yourself, like, you know, you don’t really need that coach. So maybe you don’t want to pay for that and you don’t want to have kind of like the friction that comes when you have to coordinate with someone else. You don’t really need it. So you can do without it. But for someone else, it’s essential for them to train. And so you have to say, like, if I need it, I need it, fine. If I don’t need it, maybe I don’t need it. So maybe I can use that time and energy some other way. That’s good to know. And again, it’s not like you’re better because you don’t need a coach or they’re better because they’re working with a coach. It’s just that different people need different things, and it’s just much more effective to say, well, what do I need and how do I get it? Rather than looking over your shoulder and saying, well, is it wrong that I need this, or would it be better if I didn’t need this? Or everybody else uses a coach, maybe I should have a coach, even though I don’t feel like it really makes a difference. But who am I to say I don’t need a coach? It’s like you don’t need one, maybe.
Sonya: And then not beating yourself up for it.
Gretchen: Not beating yourself up for it. Absolutely.
Sonya: Yeah. Something else I think that is really interesting about coaching, like executive coaching, the type of coaching. Health coaching, ideal coaching. I do think that there’s space for questioners to have a coach because questioners. They want to question things they want to work through and get clarity on what they’re trying to figure out for themselves. So creating an environment where the questioner can work through all of this data or all of this information that they have so that they can come to a conclusion that makes sense for them.
Gretchen: And that may never end. I mean, it’s the kind of thing where they can use that for a really long time. I work out with a strength trainer, and he said that he has a questioner who’s been coming to him for like four years, and every single time it’s like, well, why are we doing this and why are we doing it this way? Why is my seat here? And it’s like he wants to this is engaging this muscle or whatever. And he said it’s part of what keeps the guy coming is that he feels like his questions are being answered and he’s sort of getting the reassurance that he’s not wasting his time and his energy, that this is all very kind of like intentional and purposeful and justified. I think health coaches can make a huge difference for people, but I think sometimes people are like, well, I shouldn’t need it. I should be able to do it on my own. It’s like this is an enormously valuable, few things are more important than health. If someone can play a crucial role, that’s valuable and you shouldn’t tell yourself you shouldn’t need it, or you should like, you know, I should only do this for six months, and then I shouldn’t need it anymore. It’s like, well, then maybe you do or you need something.
Sonya: Let’s talk about this as it applies to your book Better Than Before and habits, because people love the episodes I’ve recorded with James Clear, like all the episodes about habits people really love. But I feel like the missing piece in all of these conversations was how the four tendencies apply to a lot of the research out there about behavior change. And I also kind of feel like a lot of the research about behavior change is geared towards obligers.
Gretchen: Yeah. Because they’re the biggest tendency.
Sonya: So what are some good behavior change exercises for each of these categories?
Gretchen: Well, if you’re an upholder, do you want to form a habit? It’s just getting clear on that inner and outer expectations. So if you know that something is important to you, like, put it on the calendar schedule, it make it clear what you expect from yourself, and then it’s pretty easy to execute. I will say that a lot of people who give advice about habits are upholders. And they’re like, they’re like, my system works great. And I’m like, yeah, because your system works. Any system would work for you. So I’m not sure you’re so reliable. I say that as an upholder myself, who used to hand wave all the time things. But I’m like, why can’t people do this? And it’s like, okay, because not everybody’s like me. For a questioner, it is about the why. And you see this advice a lot. Get clear on your why. What are you doing? But for a questioner that is essential. It’s like you’re telling okay, Sonya, you tell me I should get up and run for half an hour every morning before breakfast. Well, why am I running instead of walking or swimming? And why are you telling me to do it for 20 minutes instead of an hour instead of 25 minutes? Why before breakfast? I feel like doing it after breakfast. I feel like doing it before dinner. Why, why, why, why? And it’s like if you can get that questioner to the place of like, this is what makes sense to me, they tend to love to personalize and customize, really getting clear on why, how, really feeling like it’s justified, then the behavior just follows and you will see them overnight, make some huge change. Because once they’re like, you know what, that’s what makes sense. They’ll do it. And when they’re paralyzed, often it’s because they sort of really can’t make up their mind. Like, what is really the best diet to follow? I hear this, but I also hear that. What kind of exercise should I do? Maybe I should be doing cardio, but maybe cardio doesn’t really matter. Maybe I should be doing high intensity cardio. So they need to get clear, clarity. Strategy of clarity. Obligers. We’ve been talking about it. It’s outer accountability, so crucial for obligers. And I want to say I love all the ingenious ways that obligers figure out ways to give themselves accountability. Like, once they know what that’s what they need. Like, sometimes people are like, well, I don’t want to pay. You don’t have to pay. Introverted obligers are like, I don’t want to have to coordinate with other people or go to a class you don’t need to coordinate with. There’s so many ways to create outer accountability. And then for rebels, again, like, we were talking about. It’s about identity and choice. What kind of person do you want to be? What do you want to put out into the world? What do you choose? Freedom, given all your freedom, what do you want? And I’ve heard of rebels…I talked to this one rebel who was really very, quite overweight and who wanted to lose weight. And the reason that she said she was like, you know what I realized I love to travel. I’m an adventurous person. I love to go all over the world. And I realized it’s not fun for me to travel. I don’t feel comfortable in an airplane. Like I can’t get in and out of a bus easily. I just feel really uncomfortable and limited. And that is just making me feel like I can’t do what I want to do. And I thought, you know what, if I lose 75 pounds, I’ll get that back and I’ll be able to travel anywhere I want. So for her, it was like, it’s freedom. I’m choosing to do what’s going to give me freedom. And that worked very well for her. Whereas so many other kinds of arguments had not worked and then she did it.
Sonya: You mentioned streaks are really helpful for a lot of these different groups. So I’m thinking about like meditation apps. And they’ll give you a little check. But isn’t that intrinsic? Because nobody is actually checking that.
Gretchen: Ooh! That’s such a great question. Very subtle question. Okay, so it’s like, okay, it’s outer accountability, but some upholders can use very imaginative forms of outer accountability, or kind of what I would call almost abstract forms of outer accountability. So you’re right, an app is telling me I got a checkmark for some obligers that would work. That is enough. I feel like that’s our accountability. Other obligers, it won’t make any difference at all. For some obligers, paying would make them feel accountable. But for some obligers, they almost feel like if they’ve paid, they’ve kind of gotten credit for it. It’s like, well, I can work out with that trainer, but if I pay him, it’s kind of the same thing as if I actually go, no, it’s not. So you kind of have to think about yourself and maybe an app works for you, which would be great, but maybe it doesn’t work for you. So you really have to think about that. And I will say this, but typically, sweethearts and spouses do not make good outer accountability partners for a very romantic reason. It’s like you’re so close to me, you’re like me. So I’m going to ignore you just the way I would ignore me. So you need to get that outer accountability. And some have even more kind of imaginative forms of outer accountability, like my future self. Sonya today doesn’t feel like running, but if I get to my future Sonya at the end of 2022, if she hasn’t made progress, she’s going to be so disappointed in herself. So Sonya today has to think about future Sonya. Or I have a duty to be a role model to others. I want to model this behavior for other people. I want to show people what it looks like to keep your promises to yourself. If I stay till eight, how can I expect my employees to go home at six? And I want to have a good work life balance for my team, so I have to model that behavior. This is outer accountability, where it’s not someone like slapping you with a fine, but it’s a form of outer accountability in that you feel the pressure of outer expectations shaping what you’re doing.
Sonya: Yeah. It really sounds like leading by example is something that can motivate obligers.
Gretchen: Absolutely. Obligers make outstanding leaders. And I think it often does come from this place of I have to create an environment for others. I have to lead by example. Exactly.
Sonya: There’s some habits change, things that popped into my mind as we’ve been talking, like, one of them is commitment devices. So for people that don’t know it’s like if I don’t do X, then this amount of money is going to get donated to a charity. And does that work? Is that just for obligers? Because it seems like for me, I’m like, well, I wouldn’t do that in the first place, right? I would just do it.
Gretchen: You sound like… I’m getting a strong upholder vibe from you, Sonya, because you’re like, why would I bother to go through all that trouble? I’ll just do it anyway, right? Because upholders just do things. They just decide, and then they just do it. I think sometimes people are trying to get us to kind of, like, waste our time setting up a lot of systems that we don’t really need so we can save that time and energy. So good for us. But, yeah, I think it’s one of these things where if it appeals to and it sounds like the kind of thing that would work, I’m all for it. If you feel like it wouldn’t be a good use…no tool fits every hand. There’s nothing that it’s like, oh, this will universally work. The one thing that almost universally works is convenience and inconvenience. Make it very easy to do what you want yourself to do and make it hard to do the things that you don’t want yourself to do. That works for just about everybody.
Sonya: I was actually going to ask you about that. I was thinking about someone that wants to learn to play guitar, like leaving the guitar out in the middle of the room. But an obliger wouldn’t have the external accountability of that unless they’re, like, meeting with a guitar teacher or they’re going to meet with their friends. So does that work for obligers?
Gretchen: Well, I think it just makes it that much easier. But no, you’re exactly right. They need the outer accountability. They absolutely do. And it’s funny, sometimes using the guitar example, sometimes people will recruit their children in a funny way. So it’s like, I’m going to practice the guitar while you do your homework. And if I don’t practice the guitar, you don’t have to do your homework and boy, your kids will be your police. But, I mean, I think you made a great example, which is like, there’s no cure all because it might be like, make it as convenient as possible. And you’re like, yeah, but that doesn’t give me outer accountability. And that’s what I need. Or it can be in the middle of the room, but if I’m a rebel and I’m like, hey, mom, I’m not going to practice because you told me to. I’ll step over that guitar a thousand times. So you really do have to think about what works for you. But on balance, making it easier to do something like, I know, maybe you’ve heard of this, too. I thought this was hilarious: people who sleep in their exercise clothes. So it’s just that much easier to get up and exercise in the morning. I’m like, yeah, if that makes it easier to keep an important habit, great.
Sonya: Yeah. And something I have noticed is that it doesn’t seem as, I mean, I’m sure it isn’t as cut and dry as you’re this or you’re this. Like my husband, this is something we’ve talked about a lot recently, he’s a questioner, rebel type. But when it comes to training, he needs external accountability, but with everything else he doesn’t. So he’s more likely to be consistent if he has a coach or somebody where he’s like, updating a training log, but everything else in his life, he doesn’t need that.
Gretchen: Well, yes, it’s like, just do whatever makes sense. Now, if he’s a questioner, it may be that he feels like the coach is giving him that extra edge or is monitoring him, giving him feedback, and maybe that it’s playing into kind of like his questioner self in ways that it’s not so much the accountability. Like, I’m not going to do it if somebody’s not telling me that I need to show up. But kind of like, well, what’s the point if I’m not optimizing every kind of workout? But maybe he just needs outer accountability for that. I mean, you’re right. No one is like a perfect 100% example of anything. But this is more about general guidelines for how you tend to work.
Sonya: There’s this piece of advice that I give all the time, and I want to pick it apart because, again, it could be my own blind spot as an upholder type. But I’ll say, like, I initially heard this from Rich Roll. He said mood follows action. And I like to say it more motivation follows action. A lot of times people sit around waiting to get motivated to get started, but you have to get started in order to get motivated. Does this work for everyone, or is this just, like, questioner, upholder?
Gretchen: Well, see, here’s the thing. I don’t like the word motivation very much because I feel like motivation kind of conflates two very different ideas because sometimes people use motivation to mean, I really want an outcome. I’m really motivated to bring down my blood sugar level. I’m really motivated to lose weight. I’m really motivated to get back into running. Right? But that doesn’t really, like you say, that doesn’t really affect whether someone is going to follow action. And what happens is that some people think that what they need to do to actually change a habit is to whip themselves into a frenzy of desire. The more I just think about how my life is in ruins until I figure this out. But you’re right, action doesn’t follow that. So, yeah, I think it’s just much better to think about, like, well, what would I do to actually do this habit, this behavior? Like, what would actually get me to do it? If I put it on the calendar, will I do it if I sign up for class, will I do it? If I pay for training, will I do it? If I think about this is who I am. I want to get back to my true self. I’m an athlete, and I’ve kind of gotten away from that. In the last few years, I’ve been feeling, like, slow and sluggish, and that’s just not me. Like, I’m an active person. I want to feel good in my body. I want to feel high energy. I want to feel strong. I got to get back to that. Again, it’s motivation, but it comes from living up to an identity. But I think you’re right. I think thinking about why you want something does very little. You have to think about, like, how are you going to actually do it? And then you’re right. Once you start doing it, then there’s an energy that comes from having started.
Sonya: Yeah. Like, one of the examples I like giving is nobody actually wants to go ride their bike in the rain. Like, you’re not going to be like, oh, I can’t wait to just get out there and get soaked and cold and all these things. But oftentimes it’s like once you just start getting dressed and you get on and if you tell yourself, I’m going for, like one minute or five minutes, and if I don’t want to do it, I can turn around, that often gets people out the door. So it’s like, what is that catalyst and that activation energy just to get you moving into action?
Gretchen: Well, and I think another problem with thinking about motivation is the decision fatigue, because habits are easier when they just happen on automatic pilot and you just do it and you’re like, am I going to go for a bike ride? Yes, I am, because I always go for a bike ride on Wednesday and it’s raining. But that doesn’t matter. I have no decision to make here. If it’s clear, if it’s raining, it doesn’t matter, I go running. And so I’m not wasting any time and energy debating that. If you’re looking for motivation, it’s always like, am I feeling the motivation? Is it motivation enough? You’re caught constantly in making these am I opting in or opting out? And you can exhaust yourself thinking about that bike ride and then never even go, and you feel like, drained from all of just the bandwidth that it has been consumed with should I shouldn’t I? Is it raining? I went yesterday. I’m going to go tomorrow. I’ve been so good. I’ve had a terrible day. It’s like, are you going to go? Yeah, because it’s Wednesday and I always go for a bike ride on Wednesday. It just happens.
Sonya: Yeah, I like that you bring up the decision fatigue part about basically life because we have so many decisions that we have to make at every given moment. And the more we make, the more fatigued we get, and then the harder and harder it is to actually make a decision. And I think a lot of times we don’t even realize how many choices were being bombarded with. For most of us, not all of us, most of us, it would be a lot easier if we could just either automate or just make a decision and then not question that decision after it’s already been made.
Gretchen: Yeah. I think that’s why things like, if I have a class, I’m going to go to a class, you know, then there’s no debate and there’s no decision. This relates to another strategy that I write about, which is the strategy of abstaining. This is a strategy that works very well for some people but not for others. And it’s kind of in a case by case thing, but it has to do that when you’re facing a strong temptation, some people do better when they abstain altogether, they have none. And some people do better when they indulge in moderation where they have a little bit or they have it sometimes for me, I have this extremely, extremely strong, distracting sweet tooth. And I realized that for me, it’s very easy to have no sweets, but it’s very hard to have a little bit. Like, I can’t have half a dish of ice cream. I can’t have half a brownie. I can’t have one Girl Scout cookie. It’s all or nothing, but it’s easy. It’s pretty easy for me to have none. And then some people, it’s like they get kind of panicky and rebellious if they’re told they can’t have any. So they need a few French fries or one cookie. But the thing that I love about the strategy of abstaining is what you’re saying about decision fatigue. It’s like, oh, they’re free cookies. There’s free samples in the store. Oh, there’s a bowl of candy on the counter. Am I going to eat that? No, because I don’t need sugar. I don’t eat it, and I never do and I don’t have exceptions. And so it doesn’t bother me and I don’t feel like I’m deciding. It’s like I made that decision a long time ago. But that doesn’t work for everybody because some people do better with moderation. So you have to know yourself. But I will say if you tried one thing and it doesn’t work for you, try the other, because a lot of people think that abstaining sounds really hard. But if you’re an abstainer, it’s actually much easier. I cannot do moderation. Moderation is too hard for me for sweets, but abstaining is easy.
Sonya: I think that’s really interesting because for me, I don’t consider myself all or none, but I actually become all or none once I make a decision. So like, an example is like, I eat a plant based diet. But when I changed my diet, I didn’t say, I’m just going to go cold turkey tomorrow. I said, I’m just going to slowly phase the stuff out. And if I want the other thing, then I can have it. Because mentally it was just too much to say for the rest of my life or for however long I’m it’s going to be all or none, right? So having that flexibility there made me get to a place where I wanted to be all or none with it. But I have a difficult time starting from an abstaining place. But I usually get to an abstaining place once I shift in that direction.
Gretchen: That’s also very upholder because of, like, tightening and how the rules tend to become more and more enforced. But here’s another thing I would say, because I think you’re exactly right, that sometimes people, when they think about abstaining, they think they get kind of intimidated by, like, you mean, I’m never going to have sugar for the rest of my life? And that feels impossible and bleak. But what you can’t partly, I think your method works very well where you sort of edge your way into it, feel your way, and give yourself the grace to do what feels right as you move into it. Another thing to do is have planned exceptions. So this is when you’re like, okay, I’m going to have exceptions. I’m a grown up. I can make my own rules. And so occasionally I’m going to plan an exception, which means I’m going to decide in advance, I’m going to anticipate with pleasure, and I’m going to look back with pleasure. So it’s like, oh, my wedding anniversary is coming up. So when we’re at my favorite restaurant, I’m going to order their delicious tiramisu, which is one of my very favorite things. I can’t wait for Saturday. That tiramisu is going to be so great. Here it is, Saturday. I’m having a tiramisu. It’s delicious. And then, okay, it’s Sunday. What a lovely night we had. I love that tiramisu. I feel good about it. I kept my rule for myself. What is not a planned exception is, oh, I quit, sugar. I’m going to be great tonight. But, oh, I’m at this restaurant and, oh, my gosh, look at that. They have tiramisu on the menu. And I love tiramisu. And oh, my gosh, it’s their specialty. And if I don’t have it now, life’s too short not to have tiramisu. And after the day I’ve had, I think I deserve it. And I’m going to be so good tomorrow. That’s not a planned exception. That is breaking your word to yourself. And that doesn’t feel good. That makes you feel like you’re not in control of yourself. So that’s not a planned exception. But you can definitely say, it’s my birthday, we’re in France, whatever it is. But you want to say, like, the holiday is a day or a meal. It’s not like from November 1 to January 15. Oh, the holiday is the holidays, I should have what I want. That’s not a planned exception. And a planned exception is not twice a week, every week of the month. It has to be an exception. But that does work a lot for abstainers who don’t want to go all the way or feel intimidated by the prospect of it sort of weighing too heavily on them.
Sonya: In Better Than Before, you had some other sort of categorical methods like this. Can you talk about some of your favorites? I know there’s a lot, yes.
Gretchen: Well, categorical meaning what?
Sonya: Like you’re like an abstainer or you do moderation or you do this?
Gretchen: Well, one really important one that for some reason, people really overlook is are you a morning person or night person? Because I think a lot of people assume that everyone can be a morning person if they just went to bed earlier. But actually, research shows that there really are morning people and night people. It’s largely genetically determined and a function of age. I think like 30% of the population is kind of more night person and then younger people, like young adults, are night people. And so you want to think about this when you’re setting yourself up for a habit, because if somebody says, I’m going to get up and go for a run every day before breakfast, but it’s a night person, then they’re just not setting themselves up for success because they’re going to be that they’re more energetic and creative and productive later in the day. And I’m such a morning person. And I was talking to somebody the other day and I was like, how do you get your exercise? And she said, well, every day around midnight, I put on my headphones and I dance around my living room to Beyonce. And I was like, at midnight, that sounds bonkers to me, but who am I to say that? And then you see the expert advice, like, if you exercise before bed, it will keep you awake. I’m like, look, she’s sleeping fine. She’s getting her exercise. She really enjoys it. That suits her, and that suits her vibe. Who’s to say that’s not the right way to do it because it’s the right way for her. But clearly, clearly she’s a night person. I think she goes to bed at, like two or three in the morning, and I’m like practically waking up at four or five. So that’s one thing that can really make a big difference.
Sonya: You have a really unique gift of being able to look at a lot of information and then distill it down into ways that make sense so that people can learn about themselves. And like you said, the key to all of these things is knowing yourself, and it can be really hard to take responsibility for yourself or to spend the time, like getting to know yourself in that way. I don’t know if you have an answer for this, but how do you look at all of this information and then distill it down in the ways that you do? Because you’ve done it time and time again in all of your books.
Gretchen: You’re so nice to say so because that really is what I try to do. I’ll read a thousand books, so you don’t have to. It’s really what I love to do, which is to look at as much information as possible and try to crystallize it and bring it down to where an ordinary person can use it as part of their ordinary day. Because especially with something like habits and happiness, I felt like people would often say things that no one would disagree with. It’s like, I’m not going to disagree with you that relationships are important to happiness, but I just sort of don’t know exactly how to make that real in my life. Or when people say, well, it can really help to get clear on what you want for a habit, it’s like, well, I’m not going to say that it doesn’t sound useful, but I don’t exactly understand how I would put that to work. And so I am just kind of fascinated by that question of sort of how do I look through everything and try to pull out what is the most essential? With habits, tere’s so much fascinating information about habits, but as you know, it’s kind of overwhelming, and it’s going in all different directions, and it’s using all different vocabularies that don’t really match up. And it’s a lot. And so it was really exciting to feel like, okay, I really have come up with a system that’s going to synthesize all this in a way that makes it accessible to the average person.
Sonya: As a writer, do you mind sharing your process, like, how you look at all this information and then what you do.
Gretchen: So I have a process that I’ve used throughout, and it works really well for me. So when I read, I’ll take notes. So this is a huge part of my daily life, which is I’ll read a book and I’ll take notes. So once I know I’m working on a subject, I’ll have a giant document. I’ll have a giant document called happiness or habits or four tendencies, and I’ll put anything in there that seems relevant. I have a lot of documents like this. I have one called essential placebo, and it’s like, will that be a book someday? I hope so, but maybe not. But I still keep adding to it all the time. And it’s funny because sometimes I’ll be reading something and I’ll think, well, something seems really remarkable, but I really won’t know why I think it’s remarkable or I won’t really understand what it’s relevant to, but I’ll go ahead and put it in. And then often, like, years later, I’ll be like, oh, my gosh, this makes sense to me. Or sometimes I’ll read something, and then, like, a year later, I’ll be like, wait a minute, now I’ve got to go back and look that up because now I understand how it actually does relate to something that I’m working on. So when I’ll be creating a document like that, and then at a certain point and I never know exactly when this is going to happen, I start feeling like I need to get this organized. Like, I have this massive notes. Let me get it organized. And then I’ll start to get it organized, and then it’s starting to become a book, because once it starts to get organized, then I start seeing what am I missing? What are things that contradict each other? And so I have to work that out. If two things are pointing in the opposite direction, how do I make sense of that? What’s the vocabulary that I think makes the most sense to describe it? And then it starts getting sort of cleaner and cleaner and moving from notes that I’ve taken from other sources. And it starts moving into my voice and my experience and my reflection. So I never faced the blank page because I always am starting with, like, 300 pages of notes. And then the blank page is just like, oh, let me do something that’s a little bit more cleaned up just for my own ease of use. And then eventually that’s a book draft.
Sonya: And based on everything we just talked about, I’ll make a joke, but I won’t even ask, how do you motivate to get yourself writing?
Gretchen: Yeah, that’s my favorite thing.
Sonya: You know what I mean?
Sonya: You’ve written so many other great books, and we’ve barely even scratched the surface. Can you just tell people about some of the other books that you’ve written so they can go pick them up? Because every book has been really great, and that’s really hard to do.
Gretchen: Well, thank you. My best known book probably is The Happiness Project, where I spent a year test driving the wisdom of the ages, contemporary science, and the lessons of pop culture to do my own happiness project, using myself as a guinea pig. So it was a giant self experiment. See if I could make myself happier. And what is happiness anyway? That’s a book that’s wonderful about happiness. Then I wrote a book called Happier at Home, which is really focused on sort of home because it’s hard to be happy if you’re not happy at home. So that was looking at things like possessions and time. So it kind of goes more deeply into one aspect of happiness. I wrote Better Than Before, as we were saying, that’s a book about habit change. The Four Tendencies, is all about the four tendencies. And then I wrote a little book, like a fun book called Outer Order Inner Calm, because I just noticed over and over that people would say to me how much energy and optimism they would get when they just cleared their clutter. Somebody told me, I finally cleaned my fridge, and now I know I can switch careers. I was like, I know how that feels. So this is like a little book that’s just basically a bunch of hacks and why it is not for everyone. Some people are clutter blind. They don’t care about clutter. But for most people, clearing clutter just like does give them a big boost. So it’s just like a very fun, quick read about that. And my next book that I’m working on is all about the five senses, how we can tap into our five senses for more vitality and engagement.
Sonya: The Outer Order, Inner Calm – that’s actually like a mantra I’ve adopted because I do tend to have clutter. That’s not why the bookshelf is empty. It’s because my office is being renovated. Outer Order, Inner Calm. People should definitely pick that up. And then quick, one last little quick thing I want to mention is in The Happiness Project, I think it’s fantastic that it has a journaling component to it. And this is for people. And it’s like each day we’ll have multiple years on one page so that you can look back and see, like, what made me happy last year. And I thought that was a really brilliant way of doing that.
Gretchen: Yeah. If you go to my website and search for shop, you can see that I have a don’t break the change journal. I have a one sentence Journal. Different journals. If you’re a person who likes to have that kind of support, which a lot of people do; love a good journal.
Sonya: Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. And I’m so excited for people to if they haven’t discovered you yet now they have so much information, and those questioners are going to love having all that information.
Gretchen: And we talk on my podcast. Happier with Gretchen Rubin, we talk about this stuff all the time. So that’s also in addition to my books. That’s a good way to get it. Well, I had so much fun talking to you. I think we’re interested in so many of the same subjects. I felt like we could have talked all day long.