Are You an Upholder Like Me?

Gretchen Rubin who wrote the awesome book, The Happiness Project, is out with a new book called Better Than Before*. Her emphasis is “how to make good habits and break bad ones.” In the new book, she identifies twenty-two strategies that we can use to change our habits. I just finished it and really liked how she has strategies for tackling habits and how they are customized by how your tendencies and how you typically hold yourself accountable.

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She says:

“For changing a habit, one important question is: How do I respond to an expectation?” When we try to form a new habit, we set an expectation for ourselves. Therefore, its crucial to understand how we respond to expectations.

We face two kinds of expectations: outer expectations (meet work deadlines, observe traffic regulations) and inner expectations (stop napping, give up sugar).”

Rubin breaks people into 4 quadrants based on how they react to expectations

Rubin breaks people into 4 quadrants based on how they react to expectations (source)

She gave some great examples throughout the book on how our tendencies drive our approach to starting new healthy habits/eliminating bad habits. She is an “Upholder” but she gave examples of friends and family members who exhibit the other tendencies. Check out her “Happier” podcast episode on this topic here, too. There is a great free online quiz you can take to see where you fall (click the link in the “tweet” below). Truth be told, I have a hard time with multiple choice quizzes (I always want to answer some combination of two). Regarding habits, I fell into the “Upholder” bucket, too. I can also be a “Questioner” – especially at work. I am not a fan of arbitrary things.

The book is chock full of wisdom on making and breaking habits. She also has some great downloadable summaries and recommendations for common areas where people are looking to make changes: eating, working, exercising and reading. There is even a manifesto! Like the Happiness Project, Rubin provides here rules/strategies for success. Here is the manifesto:

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Here are some of the themes from Better Than Before. In the text, Rubin gives great examples of how these work and can backfire, too.

If you like this post, you can follow Gretchen Rubin on Twitter  or like her Facebook Page. I love the newsletter and blog! Get the newsletter HERE and click “Subscribe.” Also, if you like to think about and read about habits, check out Finds’ friend, Don’s, new blog Habit Engineering and join the conversation.

*This book was originally planned to be called Before and After.



  1. Definitely. need to read this book! She also had a podcast, did you know?

  2. Kelly says:

    Just took the quiz and I’m an Obliger.

    • Erica A says:

      Interesting – do you think the description applies? You do what others’ expect or externally driven things but not internally driven ones?

  3. Rosie says:

    This book sounds awesome – not the usual that you’ve read everywhere online, etc. I want to check this out! Great find!

  4. Amanda C. says:

    Me too 🙂 I don’t think this is particularly surprising for runners….

  5. Amy Lauren says:

    I’m not quite sure what I am- I’d have to think about it for awhile. And it seems like it’s one of those things like myers briggs that changes in the seasons of your life too. Thanks for letting us know about the book though1

    • Erica A says:

      I agree. I have an issue with all of these types of things because I am sometimes amazing at changing habits and am sometimes a total rebel and sometimes a questioner. That said, I enjoyed the book and her principles make sense, too!

  6. Don says:

    Thanks for the great post Erica! I need to start reading Gretchen Rubin’s books. I have a hold on the Happiness Project at the Library.

    And thanks for the plug too! 🙂

  7. This looks like another book I will have to add to my list!

  8. I love reading Gretchin Rubin’s blog and have really enjoyed her discussions on habits! I am an Obliger!

  9. Amber Ludwig says:

    Wow… I think I need this!! I have some bad habits that Id love to break!! One being my procrastination 😉 the next is my mildly OCD cleanliness habits!! Maybe this book would help me!!

  10. Megan says:

    I haven’t taken the quiz yet, but I think I’m an Upholder. We’ll see!

  11. ellen beck says:

    I need to read this book. I think it would hellp. I try and stay positive but cant alwways maintain it. I also give more of myself to others and forget me.

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