Make Behavioral Changes That Last
“Look for internal validation instead of external approval.”
– Jay Shetty
We’ve all done this. We look at ourselves in the mirror and say that we are going to start doing X, or stop doing Z.
For the next few days, we will be diligent. We are deliberate with our actions and we start to make progress towards creating this behavioral change.
But then life starts to happen; we have a long week at work, or we get busy with life responsibilities.
Suddenly the two-inch pour of whiskey is back on a Thursday night because it’s been a long week and you’ve earned it.
Why do some habits stick and others get dropped after a few days or weeks?
The answer is that not all change is created equal; changes in attitudes and actions occur on various levels.
Variation in the acceptance of change corresponds to the process an individual undergoes when they adopt a new behavior.
What does this actually mean?
A behavior may appear the same on the outside, but the motivation behind the change is different. This makes all the difference in whether or not a behavioral change will last.
This article examines the three different processes that lead to behavioral change and which one has the strongest effect on creating lasting behavioral adaptation.
We are social creatures and we have a strong desire to fit in. I believe your tribe is critically important; the people with whom you choose to surround yourself can either serve or deserve you.
We are all complacent at some point in our lives. Compliance occurs when we accept influence from those around us because we desire a favorable reaction from another person or group.
Think “Just because all your friends are going to jump off the bridge, are you going to as well?”
This is an extreme example, but the answer is likely yes with smaller actions.
What is the true motivation behind these behaviors? Social approval.
You do not adopt this action because you believe in its content, but you do so because you expect to gain a specific reward by conforming.
For this reason, compliance is the weakest motivation for creating behavioral change.
It is not what you do when everyone is watching that matters. What counts is how you act when you are alone.
That being said, it can be an extremely beneficial skill to have in your toolbox. The key is to maintain self-awareness and understand the reason behind your behavior.
Let’s say you want to start training 5x per week. If your current friend group does not prioritize exercise, by getting around individuals who train daily, you give yourself a higher chance of success.
To create a lasting behavioral change, you have to start somewhere. Compliance can be a jumpstart to holding yourself accountable.
Identifying a Model
Mentorship matters; it is the single fastest way you can expedite your career and can aid in creating lasting behavioral change.
In a recent research study, the National Institute for Health found that mentorship has the single largest impact on career trajectory. Professionals who report having a successful mentorship typically outpace peers by three to five years in terms of promotions and reaching the executive level.
Why is this the case? The answer is rooted in behavioral psychology.
Identification occurs when an individual accepts influence because he wants to establish a satisfying relationship with another person (or mentor).
The motivation behind these actions is associated with the desired relationship, person A sees and desires the life that person B lives. Therefore, person A begins to adopt the induced behaviors of person B in the hopes of becoming more successful.
The feelings of satisfaction are derived from conforming to the actions of another person, and not because it is intrinsically rewarding. Identification can be extremely beneficial to begin implementing behavioral changes, however, the individual tends to only perform these actions during important decisions; when conscious thought is required.
The key to leveraging behavioral change is holding yourself accountable, not only with your major decisions but also with instinctive responses.
Change From the Inside Out
The most powerful (and successful) motivation for behavioral change is caused by internalization, or when an individual makes a change because the idea or action is intrinsically rewarding.
The only way to really make a change in our lives is to decide for ourselves that we are going to do X. The hardest part is making that decision.
Intrinsic motivation will always be greater than external validation. Regardless of how badly your girlfriend, business partner, or coach wants you to do X, until you decide that it is important to you, the change will not occur.
The reason internalization is so powerful (and difficult) is that the changes occur in congruence with your value system. You are not making these behavioral changes to fit in, or to become more like someone else; you are changing because you believe in the content of the new behavior and that it will help you become a better version of yourself. The satisfaction is tied directly to internal validation.
Therefore you are more likely to perform the actions under all conditions, regardless of whether or not others are present, or if decisions are small and require little thought.
Lasting change comes from within.
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