Behaviors drive Attitudes

It’s been said that a Weatherman is the only job where you can often be wrong and still keep your job. How often is your local forecast far from what transpires? (or perspires)

"Out of the mist" by Jeremy Segrott, Flickr, CC-By-2.0
“Out of the mist” by Jeremy Segrott, Flickr, CC-By-2.0

Two people meet in the road.

“What a beautiful day!” exclaims the first, looking up.

“Oh, but I think it might rain,” laments the second, looking down at his phone.

And they go on their ways.

This short exchange highlights two vastly different mindsets of the characters.

One is willing to see the reality of the moment and the beauty of the life we inhabit.

The second worries about an unknown future. While he might have a weather app to inform him, he is missing the present moment, focusing on the negatives that haven’t happened yet. They may never happen.

Your focus determines your happiness and energy.

Every cloud has a silver lining. Focusing on negatives can help to avoid pitfalls and can help us plan until the end, to be sure.

Unfortunately, this same negative focus causes us to freeze. Stress or outage overtake our logical thought. Freezing prevents us from enjoying the moment… or from taking action.

Your human brain has as amazing ability to adapt to uncomfortable situations. It only takes a few occurrences of an event for us to normalize it as common.

This is a prime example of Confirmation Bias. Humans, you and I, like to make stories to match our experiences. It doesn’t take many experiences, just two or three, for us to create patterns explaining how we view the world.

The Law of Small Numbers tells us that these experiences may be outliers. Small samples of three do not represent the reality of large data sets. But we can’t help it, it’s human nature.

If a friend asked you to attend a church (or other religious) service with him, would you go? Attending a religious service without any expectation to change your attitudes about religion… would sway your brain towards accepting that service. It can quickly become a habit.

The holds true for exercise, or for wearing “lucky socks” to job interview. These behaviors become a part of who we are, a part of our story.

Once our brains have created a story, we tend to disregard information that doesn’t match, and accept information that does match our notions.

“You can get used to anything… even hanging”

This dark phrase has a kernel of truth. While we may not easily accept new information that doesn’t match our understanding, changing our behaviors will bring our brains along to a new understanding.

Facts don’t change minds. Action changes minds.

When people act differently, and see the outcomes, their brains will understand these connections far more readily than if they tried to change their attitudes first.

Behaviors drive attitudes.

  • Create structures for people, structures for yourself, to lead towards better outcomes.
  • Checklists demonstrate every step required for success. These break large tasks into manageable steps.
  • Visual reminders such as post-it notes or cheesy inspirational posters help to keep us on track.
  • Build social expectations — people will fail themselves far more than they will let others down. Tell others of the goals you’re working towards.
  • Work as a team. People work harder in group settings where peers or coaches are encouraging your success.
  • Rules, however contrived, allow us to evaluate our emotional behaviors based on our previous logical plans. “I don’t do that, it’s against my rules, (or values, or plans)” is a strong and affirming response to pressure.
  • Gamification, creating games and artificial “points” to enhance the fun factor, is a great way to increase intrinsic motivation. How can you increase your score?
  • Rewarding small steps in non-monetary benefits increases the pleasure we gain and increase our likelihood to continue that behavior.

What new, small behaviors can you adopt to change your attitudes about work, relationships, exercise, food, or screen time?


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