pixabay yes no

I know I should be….

I spend a lot of time talking to people about their health goals and their primary and secondary food choices. And one of their most frequent comments is, “I know what I should be doing, but I just can’t seem to do it.”

pixabay yes noThis past week during one of my walks, I listened to an interview with Gretchen Rubin, author of The Four Tendencies. It’s easy to roll our eyes and think, “Oh no, another way to classify human personality types!” but I thought that her concept of how we meet expectations—both internal and external—was an interesting one.

Rubin found that people tend toward one of four positions with respect to expectations imposed on us and by us, and naturally, we can float somewhere in between these types (hence her visual representation uses a Venn diagram rather than a spectrum).

In summary, we can be an obliger (easily meets external, meets internal with difficulty), an upholder (responds equally well to internal and external), a questioner (meets expectations only if they have all the information to make sure the expectations are not “arbitrary” by their standards), or a rebel (tends to resist all expectations).

There is no “right” type to be: all have advantages and “dark sides.” The question is how to harness our strengths and mitigate our weaknesses to get stuff done.

pixabay weightsAs she spoke, I automatically determined my tendency and thought about where my husband and children might fit. Then I promptly moved on to the myriad other things in my day.

But the next morning, my brother texted me the link to the Four Tendencies Quiz, which he’d heard about on a different podcast, so I figured it was a sign I should probably dig in a little deeper. Especially after I said, “I’m definitely an Upholder!” and he replied, “So you self assigned without taking the quiz?”

I took the quiz. (That right there should tell you I was right about my prediction!)

And I’m recommending that my whole family take it—I suspect we have 1 of each in our family of 4. So far my suspicions have been on point. Of course, the one I suspect of being a rebel has refused outright. QED.

So what does all this have to do with health coaching?

pixabay blueberriesOne of the principles of Integrative Nutrition® is that we are all unique: what is nourishing for me might be toxic to you; what motivates you might not motivate me.

The Four Tendencies might be a good place to start if you want to poke a bit at why you don’t meet your health goals even if you know what you should be doing.

And to that point, a good place to start would be to look at that word, “should.” Is that an internal should—I know I feel better when I exercise regularly, so I should form that habit? Or is it an external one—my trainer says I should work out for 30 minutes a day 5 days a week, so I should do that?

You could remain stuck in the 80s bemoaning how hard it is to break bad habits (you’re welcome for the earworm), or if you’re looking to form new, healthy habits—especially if you’re struggling to form them on your own—I invite you to tell me about your experience: drop a comment below, email me your response, or better yet, sign up for a free consultation by going to my booking page and clicking on “YOURstory” to find a date and time that works for you.


  1. Marine Yanikian-Sutton

    Intriguing. I think you are right. I can see the four members in my family holding a different tendency. I can only assume that “nurture” shapes this to create a familial balance. By the way, I’m an Obliger.

    1. Elizabeth Baker

      Fascinating, isn’t it? I do wonder about the nature/nurture aspect. And I wonder if, as in Meyers-Briggs, we shift over time depending on our experiences? Because I think as a child I was definitely an obliger.

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