Many millions of words have been spent on changing behavior. Changing beliefs is perhaps more touchy of a subject.
We humans have a collective batch of behavior that we know to be good, and another batch that we know to be bad. Categorizing these logically is simple, behaving accordingly less so. If we had to sit in front of our parents, our children, our spouses, or our friends and label various behavior either good or bad, it would be a simple task for the most part and there would be a significant consensus among us all. For instance:
• Being polite
• Flossing daily
• Exercising daily
• Eating too much (any) fast food
• Starting fights
Yet as simple as making such a list would be, as strongly as we may want to align our actions with our words, we all tend to live a self-created reality somewhat different from what we would agree on paper is in fact logical.
It would seem that we are not all Spock.
Why is it so hard to change our behaviors if we know a certain behavior should be added or deleted? The root cause of behavior lies in belief.
Smokers may know logically that smoking has high rates of cancer, heart disease, erectile dis-function and sorts of nasty things, but smokers simply do not believe that they will be in the group that suffer any such maladies. They believe that they will be just fine. It is only when this belief is shattered through a significant encounter with the medical system that most alter their behavior.
So it goes with the tales of many a man caught on a flight of stairs thinking he may be having a heart attack. In that moment he faces not only his mortality, but the many thousands of cheeseburgers, fries, and milkshakes he’s consumed, and his belief of immortality is shattered. For many, this leads to a radical change in behavior, for others, a certain acceptance and a sort of throwing in of the towel.
If you have a behavior you want to change, dig deeper to the core belief that is preventing you from changing. Are you ignoring statistics? Are you looking for the easy button?
There is no easy button.
Anything worth doing is worth doing well, and doing something well takes effort. Often great effort.
I spent a few years of my life, perhaps longer, thinking that I would never belong in any sort of corporate job. My belief was that all men who wore suits, had a corner office and attended ‘important’ conferences downtown had university degrees, and since I did not have one I would be forever eliminated from contention for anything other than a blue-collar job. I would be a body in an organisation, never a brain.
Then, at age 36, I had one small comment from the past bubble to the surface of my mind, it was made during a business meeting a decade earlier I was asked ‘what university did you attend?’. Being 26 years old and rather proud of what I had achieved at that time, I responded quite honestly that I had in fact not attended university at all. The look on the man’s face said it all, as did the notable shift is his demeanour following this revelation. I had gone from a welcome prospect at the English country club we were sitting in to an outsider, in the blink of an eye.
At the time I took this a bit hard, internalising it as additional support for my belief that within the corporate world there was no place for the likes of me, a lowly high school grad.
But years later when this comment came back to me, it was a bit of a turning point, much needed at the time. I realised that this person’s perception of me for some time was that I had attended university. I had shattered his belief of who I was, and thus changed markedly his behavior toward me. The real revelation for me was that I had inadvertently fooled this well-educated individual into thinking I was an equal. How did I do that?
It seemed to me that it was from a combination of regular reading, writing, and perhaps my verbal sentence structure. I have always been a voracious reader; I have always written journals and letters – more recently posts and articles. Also the wonderfully complicated English language with all its nuance, double and triple meanings, irony, sarcasm, wit, tone, inflection, etc. has always been of interest to me.
So I could at the very least fit in – but perhaps I could do more than that. After all, how material in day-to-day dealings is a 20- or 30-year-old degree in a world changing at the pace that ours is today? Of little I would suggest without ongoing self-education.
Suddenly, my belief that a university degree separated me from the corporate world changed. My current belief is that we are all self-taught in today’s world, and that a dated degree is in many professions a far weaker foundation than that built of the most recent fifty books on a specific topic, all read within the past year. No doubt those with degrees have a leg up in the skills of researching, reading, and writing. These individuals have likely learned the most important lesson of all, how to learn – a massive head-start for sure.
However for someone who believes in their own ability to learn, to absorb new data and to form new viewpoints on varying topics – therein lies their power to truly change their behavior.
Change your belief in yourself for the better, your behavior will follow suit.
The results will speak for themselves.
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