[3 min read - If you prefer you can listen to this as a podcast here.]
In trying to improve our professional results or increase our personal happiness we face two challenges. First knowing what to do. Second actually doing it.
Even many successful, capable, senior people spend far too much time on the first because that is usually the easier step. We spend far too little time on the second because our personal experience has taught us that this is the much tougher step. In fact, it is so tough that we allow it to deflect us from finding the perfect solution to the first step. Instead we look for the easy solution in the hope that we will actually stick to that one. We would never dream of taking that approach in business. There we have the good sense and discipline to find the optimal solution. So why would we allow ourselves such a flawed approach.
The answer is like so many things with humans: this is a learned response. We have all learned that personal change isn’t easy. Everyone has something about themselves that’s resisted change for years or even decades. However hard we try, sooner or later we revert to our old patterns of behaviour.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be like that. Our understanding of how human beings change radically altered decades ago with the advent of cognitive behavioural psychology. Part of my mission is to save people from the unnecessary self-esteem damage that results when we conclude that we failed in the goal because we weren’t strong enough, or don’t deserve it. Because sometimes that leads to people settling for less then they are due and are capable of. That’s not what goes wrong. We fail in our goals because we use a fundamentally incorrect approach.
Succeeding with change is only 10% about strength. It is 90% about having the right approach: the Inputs approach. And the Inputs approach is much simpler then you might expect.
Focus on the Inputs
Humans naturally focus on the behaviour or mindset they are trying to change rather than what is driving how we are thinking and behaving. To achieve lasting and reliable change we need to switch our attention from our actions and attitudes. Instead we need to focus on what creates those patterns. In other words: focus on the inputs, forget about the outputs.
When we know which inputs are relevant we can learn how to take control of them. Then it’s relatively simple always to choose inputs that will drive the outputs we aspire to. This sounds deceptively simple. There is a fair bit of our genetic programming that we need to override before we can truly master the technique.
So it’s simple but not always immediately easy, although it rapidly becomes easier overtime.
It’s going to involve understanding why we are so attracted to the wrong inputs and how to outmanoeuvre that. You will also need to actively and constantly manage the inputs you allow into your brain. Plus make some small and significant changes your daily routine, making it easier to succeed with your inputs, and largely eliminating the risk of unconscious backsliding.
On the face of it that could be just another willpower challenge but there is a fundamental difference. The traditional willpower challenge never gets easier because simply trying to force ourselves to override the old behaviour does nothing to weaken what drives that behaviour. Indeed, it may actually make the drivers stronger. However in the inputs approach we are constantly weakening what drives the wrong outputs and strengthening what drives the outputs we aspired towards. So it gets easier and easier to choose the inputs we want.
For more on this listen to my podcast https://soundcloud.com/graham-keen-6932960/behavioural-change