Gretchen Rubin: The 4 Ways to Successfully Adopt New Habits

About this presentation

When someone (even yourself) gives you a rule to follow what do you do? Are you a Rebel, refusing to follow all directives? Or are you more of an Obliger who will respond to outer rules, but so much to inner rules? In this 99U talk, bestselling author Gretchen Rubin shares the four personality types when it comes to adopting new habits or “rules.” Knowing your personality type and its pros and cons are instrumental to adopting new habits and behavior.

About Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin is the author of the blockbuster New York Times bestsellers, Happier at Home and The Happiness Project—accounts of her experiences test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. Rubin is an enthusiastic proponent of using technology to engage with readers about ideas, and she has a wide, active following on social media. Not only that—The Happiness Project was even an answer on the game-show Jeopardy!

A graduate of Yale and Yale Law School, Rubin started her career in law, and she was clerking for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor when she realized she wanted to be a writer. She has written several books, including three novels that are safely locked in a desk drawer.


The Happiness Project 
TODAY show Interview 

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  • clover

    Interesting talk.

    I wonder how many other people, like me, have found their attitude toward rules evolving as they get older and more experienced with rules. I was definitely an obliger when I was younger, but as I’ve gained life experience I’ve become much more of a questioner.

    As I’ve moved into positions that involve MAKING rules, I’ve come to realize that rules are often developed through convenience, expediency, a temporary need for clear guidelines, or other parameters that make the rule not particularly useful over the long term. Often, the rules we make live beyond their useful lifespan and have no genuine intrinsic logic or value anymore.

    This is the down side of habit, I think. Even good habits may only be good for a limited time. They’re worth re-examining periodically to make sure they still make sense.

    • hash modha

      How very well said! Evolving attitude continuous working of our minds,changing lifetimes, circumstances,situations arising.We only know what is to know,Questioner first asks the Question to oneself,looking inwards! Yes As I get older it is truly possible to live without rules!,sadly the world around us and me doesn’t let it be! Re-examining all the time makes the way bearable!

    • Philippe Tremblay

      I’ve always been extremely resistant to authority, but it has started to shift at some point, and in more significant ways somewhat recently. I’m just more aware (and mature, I guess), and I’m reaching a point where I don’t need to resist others and where I am free to conform if I see fit. The bottom line is that you’re not free if you let other people, or outer circumstances determine your conduct.

  • Gabriel Costa

    This was indeed a very interesting talk. Certainly self knowledge is the first and an essential step to creating habits. I could identify myself. =)

    I just have an honest feedback. I think the title of this video does not really reflect the content of it. Gretchen does not teach/talk about 4 ways to adopt new habits. She does speak about the ‘four types’ of people, how they respond to rules and how that have some influence in creating new habits.

    Besides that, amazing talk. :)

  • Jillian

    Reminds me of an extension of the True Colors personality types:

    Upholders = Gold
    Questionners = Green
    Rebels = Orange
    Obligers = Blue

  • Judy

    I found Gretchen very knowledgeable and engaging. Very interesting talk. However, like Gabriel (below) I found the title to be misleading. I had thought the speaker was going to share tips on how to actually adopt new habits.

  • Todd Clarke

    Some visual notes for this talk…to remind me later of these useful points.

  • Mandana

    I am a bit of each category how can I determine which one am I really?!

  • Triana

    This is an amazing video, thank you. I’m on my late teenage and just realized that I’m an obliger. I found it hard to stick with the rules I’ve made for myself, even the simplest rule like sticking to the learning schedule I made, and it annoys me so much. As a result, I often take aside my own priorities to fulfill others’. I feel happy afterwards but also regret it at the same time. What am I supposed to do? thank you so much.

  • hyperdude

    Thank you for the talk. There’s a bit of each category in all people but in my case I am a majority questionner.

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