Let’s start with a couple of “duh” statements:
If you’re not where you want to be, something has to change.
That “something…” is not your spouse, your kids, your boss, your friend, the economy, the government, the world, or anything else… it’s you.
We could stop right there and you’ve got the formula.
But you and I both know, changing yourself permanently is harder than that.
Let’s get a little vulnerable here…
Just over nine years ago I quit drinking. The reason was simple: I am not my best self when I drink. I was looking forward to wine a little too much, and alcoholism runs in my family.
I have not had alcohol since.
At first, as with any change, will power is extremely important… you have to choose to change your behavior and just plain act on it regardless of how you feel about it.… that’s self discipline.
In the long run will power alone rarely works.
While we may need to start with will-power, last week I told you that the key to behavior change is mindset.
You can’t change the way you act without changing the way you think.
That means so far we have two steps to behavior change:
- Will power: Do or stop doing the thing you want to.
- Change your mindset. Choose to think like the change you want. How does the top salesperson, a best-selling author, a millionaire, or a non-drinker think in all circumstances?
There is one more absolutely critical step to permanent behavior change, most people miss it, and it flows logically from mindset:
Any permanent change of behavior ultimately requires a change of, or radically redefined, identity.
If all I did was force myself through will power to not drink, my change would be precarious at best and for me, likely to fail.
However, if I choose to not drink, and then begin to think like a non-drinker all the time, especially in situations where I would have – end of the evening, after a show, hanging with my buddies – ultimately I BECOME a non-drinker, meaning I now IDENTIFY as a non-drinker; it’s part of my identity.
For a professional example, when I switched from being solely a guitarist and comedian, to using guitar and comedy as a professional speaker, yes, I had to start thinking like a professional speaker all the time, especially on stage.
However, the real change happened once I began to identify as a speaker, meaning, when I was asked what I do for a living my answer became, “I’m a professional speaker.” My identity had changed.
You’ll know the change has taken place when it’s no longer what you do or don’t do, it’s who you are.
Solomon in the bible had it right thousands of years ago: “As a man thinketh, so is he.”
The way you think makes you who you are.
If all I did was change my actions through will power, I would have a permanent internal conflict because my identity would still be a drinker, or an entertainer, and I’d always be relying on will power.
Ah, but this is way bigger than just changing habits
Organizations work similarly.
I’ll use my two most oft used airlines as an example.
Southwest made a decision early on to be “the people airline.” They’ll have fun, make jokes, and make their customer service positive for everyone. Southwest employees are taught from the beginning to treat people like gold… it’s the way they think and has long been… their identity.
By contrast, which airline calls itself “The Friendly Skies?” United (which I fly more than any other, by the way). However, over the years we’ve seen some viral, public, brutally incongruent examples of United being, well, less than friendly.
I submit that for United, “The Friendly Skies” is a nice brand but it is not yet, even after all these years, their identity.
And thus, they have some very necessary behavior changes to make.
(By the way, almost all United employees are truly awesome. I would love to present for United one day, as a million miler, 1K customer who knows how they can make their brand a reality).
So, for permanent behavior change…
- Decide and make the change.
- Change your mindset to that of the change you want.
- Encourage and embrace the change of identity which will flow from your new mindset.
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Live Truly, Truly Live,