The Happiness Project at the beach
The Journey

Habits and Happiness (16.13%)

How many of you have heard of The Happiness Project?

Even if you’re not familiar with this little blue best-seller (in which case, I strongly recommend you get familiar), chances are you’ve seen it: in book bags, at the beach, or on a bedside table.

Kari, another sister-by-choice (I have six, by the way), happened to be reading The Happiness Project at the exact same time I was… but on the other side of the planet.

When she suggested I write about the book and the subsequent Happiness Projects we each designed after reading it, I visited author Gretchen Rubin’s website and ventured down a rather enlightening rabbit hole of information about her latest project: Better Than Before. In short, the book evaluates how we, as human beings, form habits, why we struggle to maintain them, and what makes them stick.

By the second page of The Happiness Project, I was hooked on Gretchen’s writing style: she’s a bit of a nerd with a lot of finesse. A tireless researcher, Gretchen knows how to effectively pair common sense with science and does a fantastic job of trying to organize the chaos that is the human experience. I dig that.

Gretchen is also an active blogger (I dig that, too). She invites her readers on a behind-the-scenes journey through the research, writing, and publishing processes, which I find just as – if not more – captivating than the end product itself.

In January 2013, Gretchen shared with her loyal readers the beginnings of what would become a driving theory behind Better Than Before: The Four Tendencies. These tendencies (pictured below in all their symmetrical glory) attempt to categorize how people respond to external expectations (e.g., stop signs) and internal expectations (e.g., I shouldn’t be eating popcorn for dinner four night a week).

Gretchen Rubin's Four Tendencies

Image credit:

Spend a few seconds on each circle and really think about how it does or doesn’t apply to the You you think you are.

Two years later, Gretchen launched a quick-and-easy quiz so readers could plot themselves on this diagram.

In the spirit of honesty and disclosure – and as proof I did the damn thing! – I’m going to share my results:

Jessica Reimer is…

…an Obliger!

Here’s a sneak peek into the highs and woes of life as an Obliger:

Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet inner expectations. They’re motivated by external accountability; they wake up and think, “What must I do today?”

Obligers excel at meeting external demands and deadlines, and go to great lengths to meet their responsibilities, so they make terrific colleagues, family members, and friends. Others rely on them tremendously.

However, because Obligers resist inner expectations, it can be difficult for them to self-motivate—to work on a Ph.D. thesis, to attend networking events, to get their car serviced.

Hmm. Let’s overlook the fact that I’ve recently traded a structured 9-to-5 job for an entrepreneurial self-motivation-is-the-name-of-your-game venture, shall we?

Homework time: take Gretchen’s quiz and post your results below. Better yet, let’s start a conversation about why we meet or resist expectations.

Obligatorily yours,



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  • Reply Kari May 11, 2016 at 2:42 am

    Obliger – no surprise there ha
    Thanks for the post Jess! I’m definitely going to look up this new book by Gretchen!

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