One afternoon, after I gave a talk about the four tendencies, a man asked me, "Which tendency makes people the happiest?" I was startled to realize that this very obvious question had never crossed my mind. "Also," he continued, with an equally obvious follow-up question, "which tendency is the most successful?"
I realized that the answer is—as it is so often—"It depends." It depends on how a particular person deals with the upside and downside of a tendency. The happiest and most successful people are those who have figured out ways to exploit their tendency to their benefit and, just as important, found ways to counterbalance its limitations. For all of us, it’s possible to take the steps to create the life we want—but we must do that in the way that’s right for us.
I’m haunted by a single line spoken by the novelist and rebel John Gardner: "Every time you break the law you pay, and every time you obey the law you pay." Upholders, questioners, obligers, and rebels: We all must grapple with the consequences of our tendency—with its strengths and its weaknesses, its foibles and its frustrations.
When we understand our tendency, we’re better able to grasp how, and when, and why to pay—and how to build the life we want.