5 Questions Guaranteed To Help You Know Yourself Better

The key to happiness is to be more of who we are. That’s what Gretchen Rubin, author of ”The Happiness Projects” tells us. Gretchen says that in order to know who we are, we must ask ourselves a few key questions. Try writing down your answers to the following questions she lays out for us.

1. Who do you envy and why?

When someone has something you want, that’s very useful information about who you want to be. Rather than focusing on the negative aspect of envy or the judgment you might put on yourself for feeling that way, focus on being grateful for this additional information about what you value and care about.

2. What do you lie about?

Anything we try to hide is a big red flag. The lie is a disconnect between your behavior and your values.

3. What would you do for fun?

It is a sad fact about happiness that when you say to adults, “What would you do for fun?” many adults are truly mystified. HINT: If you don’t know the answer, answer this—What did you do for fun when you were 10 years old?

4. Are you an abstainer or a moderator?

Think of something you find very tempting — chocolate, cigarettes, sex, alcohol, Cheetos, shopping — whatever.

Gretchen says there are two types of people — abstainers and moderators. To avoid temptation, abstainers have to go cold turkey. They can’t even get started with a bag of potato chips or they’ll eat the whole bag. Moderators, on the other hand, can eat just one square of dark chocolate and be happy, and if they abstain completely, they get totally cranky. Moderators feel rebellious if they’re not allowed to have just a little bit.

Since part of what makes people unhappy is trying to resist temptation, it helps to know whether you’re an abstainer or a moderator. If you know yourself and your own nature—and you OWN it—you’re much better prepared to handle temptation. In other words, just accept your own nature and act accordingly.

5. What’s the nature of your relationship to the expectations of yourself and others?

When you are trying to change a habit, you’re trying to impose an expectation upon yourself. But there are two kinds of expectations—outer expectations (work deadlines, a request from a loved one) and inner expectations (what you desire for yourself).

Gretchen explains that there are 4 categories of expectations:

• Upholders

These people respond well to both outer and inner expectations without much fuss. They just do as they’re told, whether their motivations come from internal or external expectations. These are your classic “goody two shoes,” who follow rules pretty blindly. If a sign is posted, they will obey it. If they set a New Year’s Resolution, they’ll just do it.

Upholders are motivated by fulfillment. They feel good when they meet expectations. They hate to be blamed or let people down. They want to know the rules, and they’re great rule followers, but they’re unhappy if they don’t know what is expected of them. They’re good self-starters. If they make up their minds to do something, they do it. But the dark side is that if upholders don’t know what’s expected of them—if things are ambiguous, they feel paralyzed. There’s a grinding quality, a relentlessness, to upholders. They need to stay within their comfort zones to feel happy, and that includes knowing what is expected of them.

• Questioners

These people question all expectations, whether internal or external. In order to change a behavior, they must be persuaded. If their questions are answered to their own satisfaction, they can be persuaded to meet an expectation. If the motivations for change don’t make sense to them, forget it!

Questioners can have either upholder tendencies or rebel tendencies, but most lean one way or another.

Questioners wake up in the morning and think “What needs to get done today?” They want to know why they should do something. The questioner is saying, “Why are we doing this at all?” They love information and research. If they accept an expectation, they’re good at fulfilling it. They endorse everything internally if they sign on. But their upside is also their downside. If you don’t get a questioner on board, they’re not going to meet expectations. It’s hard for them to act if they feel they don’t have enough information. This can make them seem totally arbitrary.


These people resist all expectations, inner or outer. A rebel wants to do what a rebel wants to do. If you set an expectation for a rebel and tell them to do something, they’ll actually go out of their way to disobey you and fail to meet the expectation, just to prove a point. The upside of the rebels is that they’re willing to think and behave outside the box. They can be creative nonconformists who push the envelope. But they can be incredibly frustrating! Gretchen says rebels can be manipulated by challenging them and suggesting that they CAN’T do something. Tell a rebel she can’t do something and she’ll be all, “Well, I’ll show you. Ha!”

Tell a rebel, “I don’t think your team can get that done by Friday!” Then watch them be ready by Wednesday.

Although rebels are not motivated by following the rules, rebels may occasionally (and shockingly) choose to do something purely out of love for you — not because you asked them to do it, but because they love you. But not always. So don’t get your hopes up.

• Obligers

These people readily meet outer expectations but have a hard time meeting inner expectations. So they’ll go out of their way to please others, but they do at the expense of what is in their own best interests. These are the typical “people pleasers” who sell themselves out for the approval of others.

Obligers wake up and think “What do I HAVE to do today?” They are motivated by external accountability. They’re great to have around —  great team members, great friends, great family. They hate to make mistakes. They bear the brunt of it on themselves. They hate being people pleasers but they can’t stand to let someone down. An obliger needs to build in external accountability for inner expectations. So if they’ve made a New Years Resolution, they need to tell everyone by blogging about their intentions, for example. Then they’re motivated to please those they’ve promised, even though they’re really serving themselves. Obligers are not good self-starters. They need deadlines, coaches, late fees, check ins. They’re also very susceptible to burn out. Everyone else takes advantage of the obligers. So if you’re in a relationship with an obliger, be mindful of that.

Certain combinations of people and jobs work better together. Rebels are almost always married to obligers. Upholders must be in relationship with upholders or questioners with upholder tendencies. Otherwise, it’s a disaster in the making!

In the end, we can only build a happy life on the foundation of our own true nature. To learn to understand yourself is the adventure of a life—to love ourselves, to accept ourselves, and to live in accordance with your true nature.


I’m definitely a questioner with upholder tendencies. What about you? Did you learn anything from answering these questions?

Lissa Rankin, MD, is a physician, author, speaker, teacher, and founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute. She is passionate about what lies at the intersection of science and spirituality and is committed to awakening consciousness not just in the field of health care, but in how we align with our soul’s purpose in all aspects of our lives. She teaches several teleclasses, including Medicine For The SoulFind Your Calling, and Visionary Ignition Switch. Her next book, The Fear Cure, will be published by Hay House in 2015. When not spreading the word, she paints, practices yoga, skis, and hikes. She lives in Marin County, California with her daughter. To subscribe to Lissa’s blog or learn more about her other programs, sign up at LissaRankin.com.


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Carole R.
Carole R.9 months ago

Interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Welcome T.
Past Member 11 months ago

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Jordan G.
Jordan G.about a year ago

Unusually useful.

Lady Kaira
Lady Kairaabout a year ago


Val M.
Val M.about a year ago

Thank you!

Darren Woolsey
Darren Woolseyabout a year ago

Very interesting. . .

Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgenabout a year ago

Thank you :)

Magdalena J.
Magdalena C.about a year ago

Thank you!

Francesca A-S
Past Member about a year ago

I really genuinely can't find a category I fit into, although labels are can be restrictive.

Francesca A-S
Past Member about a year ago

Thanks for sharing