Episode 72: Hard Habits to Break? How to Use The Four Tendencies For Lasting Change

In this episode, Dr. Lisa and Dr. Toni discuss habits and Gretchen Rubin’s, “The Four Tendencies” framework behind why you keep or don’t keep habits. If you’ve picked up some bad habits or have let go of some healthy habits during the pandemic, you’ll want to listen in to find out why and how to start changing your habits.

Why do you have certain habits?

  1. Trigger – Automatic, autopilot, routine or low energy
  2. Behaviour – Healthy or unhealthy
  3. Result or outcome – Reward with positive feelings or negative feelings and impact

What can you do to interrupt automatic habits and behaviours?

Between your trigger and behaviour: pause; set timer, do something you enjoy for 5-10 minutes (eg. journal, go for a walk), then see how you feel

Four Tendencies, as outlined in Better Than Before book by Gretchen Rubin

  • Distinguishes how you respond to inner and outer expectations
  • Why you keep habits or don’t
  1. Upholder
  • Meets both inner and outer expectations
  • Self-starter, reliable, motivated, thorough
  • But can become defensive, rigid, impatient, demanding
  • Can experience burn out and not say no
  • Key strategy for habit change: Does well with scheduling and monitoring
  1. Questioner
  • Meets inner expectations and resists outer expectations
  • Data-driven; desire to create efficient and effective systems
  • Like to play devil’s advocate
  • It isn’t enough to be told what to do
  • Needs to know why
  • Reliable, strong-willed, responsible
  • Can suffer analysis paralysis – can manage with seating deadlines, establishing limits, consulting authorities
  • Key strategy for habit change: Strategy of accountability and clarity with monitoring and collecting data 
  1. Obliger
  • Resists inner expectations and meets outer expectations
  • People pleaser and puts a high value on meeting commitments to others—“I’ll do anything for a client/patient/family member”
  • Requires deadlines, oversight, monitoring, and other forms of accountability
  • Key strategy for habit change: Give self treats or rewards
  1. Rebel
  • Resists both inner and outer expectations
  • Independent-minded
  • Unswayed by conventional opinion, willing to buck social conventions
  • In touch with their authentic desires
  • Act as though ordinary rules don’t apply to them
  • Restless; may find it difficult to settle down in a job, relationship, city
  • Repelled by routine and planning
  • Struggle with repetitive or mandatory tasks
  • Needs any behaviour to be convenient and to add to their identity
  • Key strategy for habit change: Strategy of Identity

Consider the following Habit Hacks:

  • Approach your habits and behaviours with self-love, compassion and forgiveness, as we discussed in Episode 55
  • Be intentional and recognize your autopilot behaviours
  • Remember the why
  • Commit and schedule it in your calendar 
  • Pair it with something else – making your own lemon water while making kids’ breakfast
  • Break it up into bite-sized chunks
  • Be accountable – text a friend or post on social media, join online community
  • Monitor progress – track in calendar or journal with gold stars or check marks, post on social media (see Episode 11 to learn more about using a bullet journal)
  • Avoid “all or nothing” thinking – you can start over anytime


Take the Four Tendencies quiz by Gretchen Rubin.

The Alcohol Experiment and This Naked Mind Podcast

This Week’s Mama Must Have: 

Dr. Lisa is a big fan of Australian Carob Co carob chips to keep her chocolate intake in check. You can get them from Natura Market.

Dr. Toni loves Smart Sweets gummy bears and peach rings for a sugar free treat.

Dr. Toni’s next HypnoBirthing info session for expecting parents looking to trust their instincts and their body during labour and birth is happening in May. Join her by signing up here

Dr. Lisa’s Wild Collective in Fall 2021: get on the waitlist: wildcollectivetoronto.com

Don’t miss MomFest Digital 2021! Dr. Lisa is one of the headline speakers on May 13th at 9:15pm. Get your tickets HERE!

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Stay safe and healthy everyone!