The book The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (And Other People’s Lives Better, Too) by Gretchen Rubin presents a personality profile framework that explains how people deal with outer and inner expectations.

The framework doesn’t try to

“cram too many elements into their categories. By contrast, the Four Tendencies describes only one narrow aspect of a person’s character—a vitally important aspect, but still just one of the multitude of qualities that form an individual. The Four Tendencies explain why we act and why we don’t act.”

The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

The book suggests taking a quiz (here is the link) to discover our own tendency. It takes only five minutes.


“I do what I want, in my own way. If you try to make me do something—even if I try to make myself do something—I’m less likely to do it.”

According to Rubin The Rebel Tendency had the fewest number of members, around 17% of the population.

If someone is a rebel, and you ask him to take the Four Tendencies Quiz, he will probably not take it, unless you convince him that he wants to. I have one child who didn’t want to take the test, and this fact alone hints to the fact that he is probably a Rebel. It sounds harsh to classify someone as a rebel, but to be a Rebel in the Four Tendencies framework doesn’t mean to be bad. It’s only a way of reacting to expectations, even if it can lead to some unpleasant consequences when the tendency is not channeled in the right way. But this is true of the other tendencies also.

One of the messages of the book is that

“Knowing our own Tendency can allow us to show ourselves more compassion by realizing, “Hey, I’m this type of person, and there’s nothing wrong with me. I can make the best of it.”

“One Rebel explained:

Realizing that I’m a Rebel revealed why years of therapy failed. We’d analyzed my dearth of discipline, tried and rejected techniques that backfired (accountability? ha). It’s not just that some techniques don’t work for Rebels. It’s that we’re told (and often believe) that something is deeply wrong with us…But your framework assures us it’s not. It’s been freeing to focus on what works for me rather than what’s wrong with me.”

So what does it mean to be a Rebel?

“Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike. They choose to act from a sense of choice, of freedom. Rebels wake up and think: What do I want to do today?”

In other words, “rebels” rebel even against their own expectations, their own plans, not just others’.

“Rebels place a high value on authenticity and self-determination, and bring an unshackled spirit to what they do. Rebels work toward their own goals, in their own way, and while they refuse to do what they’re “supposed” to do, they can accomplish their own aims.”

Rebels don’t easily accept compromises, they tend to insist on principles and freedom. They make great revolutionaries. But we don’t always need to start a revolution.

Rebels have the capacity of doing anything they choose to do, and they try to live up to their own identity and their values.

But Rebels often frustrate others, because they can’t be asked or told to do anything.

“Unless it’s a matter of living up to their values and identity, they aren’t persuaded by an argument such as: “People are counting on you,” “You said you’d do it,” “Your brother will be upset,” “This is the deadline,” or “Everyone has to do this.” “

I have learned with members of my family that asking or telling Rebels to do something, often makes them do just the opposite. It is very easy to accidentally igniting their spirit of opposition, because they resist control, even self-control, and enjoy ignoring rules.

“For the most part, they don’t respond well to supervision, advice, directions, reminders, nagging, or routines, or doing repetitive tasks. They prefer spontaneity to scheduling. They may act as though the rules don’t apply to them.”

While they resist expectations, they prize what they want to be (even if they are not). Therefore, Rubin suggests to

“appeal to their identity—many Rebels place a high value on idealistic identities such “I’m a loving parent,” “I’m a strong, engaged boss,” “I’m a successful entrepreneur”)”

Instead of telling them what to do, and force choices on them, it is better to give them enough information, then explain the consequences, and finally let them choose. It may be hard with children to allow them to make certain types of choices, but the older they are the more effective this system become, even if we need to eventually watch them make poor choices and learn the consequences.

A member of my family once told me: “It takes longer for me than for others to learn from my mistakes and make better choices.” It sounded like a strange comment to me at the time, but in light of this framework, I can now understand that it’s not unusual for a Rebel. For him it is hard to meet even its own internal expectations, inclusive when he understand the negative consequences.

Clearly we all “rebel” once in a while, and most teenagers would seem to fall into this group. But I have noticed that some people keep manifesting the characteristics of this tendency even when they get older, confirming that it’s more than an age-related phenomenon, it’s a question of personality.


  1. Upholders. They meet inner and outer expectations. They love rules, having a clear plan and are self-motivated and disciplined.
  2. Rebels. The defy both outer and inner expectations. Above all, they want to be free to choose and express their own individuality.
  3. Questioners. Meet their own expectations, but resist outer ones. They need to see purpose and reason in anything they do. 
  4. Introduction to The Four Tendencies


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