I’m deep into Before and After, my book about habit formation. One of the sixteen strategies that I’ve identified is the Strategy of Treats (which will probably be the favorite strategy of many people). By “treat” I mean something that you give yourself as a, well, treat.

I’ve been thinking a lot about treats, and of course, I continue to be obsessed by the Four Rubin Tendencies. In a nutshell:

The Rubin Tendencies describe how people tend to respond to expectations: outer expectations (a deadline, a “request” from a sweetheart) and inner expectations (write a novel in your free time, keep a New Year’s resolution).

Your response to expectations may sound slightly obscure, but it turns out to be very, very important.

In a nutshell:

  • Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations (I’m an Upholder, 100%).
  • Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense (my husband is a Questioner).
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike.
  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves (like my friend who said, “In high school, I never missed track practice, but I can’t go running on the weekends now”).

I recently gave a talk at LinkedIn about the Rubin Character Index, so if you’d like to see me discuss each category in a video, you can watch: for Upholders, watch here; Questioners here; Rebels here; and Obligers here.

Today, my questions are directed at you Questioners and Obligers.

There are a lot of you, I know, because Obligers and Questioners are, by far, the largest categories. (Many things became clear to me when I realized how few people are Upholders.)

Questioners: Do you have trouble giving yourself a treat if you feel that it isn’t “necessary” or “justified?” In other words, do you feel like there has to be a sound reason to give yourself a treat?

Do you find it easier to give yourself a treat if it’s justified by sound reasons? “I’m getting a massage because studies show that massage increases immune function.”

Obligers: Do you have trouble giving yourself treats if you feel that the time, energy, or money is more properly owed to someone else? Is it easier to spend time or money on someone other than on yourself?

Do you find it easier to give yourself a treat if it’s framed in terms of its benefit to others? E.g., “If I spend the morning playing golf, I’ll be more patient and relaxed with my kids and at work.”

Feel free to mull your relationship to treats, generally! You Upholders and Rebels, too. I’d be very interested to hear what you think.

If you’d like to be notified when Before and After is available for pre-order, sign up here. But don’t hold your breath. It will be a while.

Gretchen Rubin is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Happiness Project—an account of the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier—and the recently released Happier at Home. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. For more doses of happiness and other happenings, follow Gretchen on Facebook and Twitter.


*Image courtesy of alachia.