Spark A Chain Reaction of Change - Pure Performance Training

SPARK A CHAIN REACTION OF CHANGE

Productive, happy, and healthy human beings tend to make decisions based on two things: they identify the choice as part of their self-image and they have an internal locus of control.

Identity-Based Habits

Identity-based decision-making and inertia tend to influence the daily life of a human being. At the beginning of any given day, there is a routine that unfolds as a person wakes up, makes their coffee, and brushes their teeth. The routine is a normal, safe, and predictable cycle that the brain feels most comfortable playing out.

That routine will also set into motion more routines that occur daily. A bed will be half-made, a dish will be left in the sink, the dog will be walked at a certain time, a turkey sandwich will be eaten at lunch, and there will be some seemingly good reason to skip the gym that evening.

But what if something different occurred one morning? What if the coffee had no sugar in it, the bed was made, or there was lunch prepared in the fridge and ready to be brought to work?

Well, that would feel different.

And the brain would notice. After a few weeks of that, a person might also dust the bureau after they made that bed, or scramble an egg to go with their coffee or prepare a dinner to complement the healthy lunch.

Their brain would start saying, “I’m the type of person that makes a nice healthy lunch. So, I also eat nice healthy dinners, too.”

Or, “I’m the type of person who cleans-up. I’m neat, and I like it that way.”

The seed for change in the day was planted when the inertia shifted—when the momentum stopped replaying the old loops and created something a little new. And that change comes because all habits align with self-image.

When we change our self-image, even just a tiny bit, we open up the door to do new things. This is the core of identity-based decision-making and habit formation. Our brains identify with our behaviors and then use that inertia as a domino effect every single day to guide all of our decisions and beliefs.

This can play out for better or for worse. When a person wakes up late in the morning, struggles to get out of bed, skips the gym, doesn’t pick-up, has to order takeout at mealtimes, and relies on sugary lattes to get through the day, it’s because their brain is saying “I’m not the type of person that makes my bed, scrambles an egg, goes to the gym, gets to bed on time, or makes my food at home.” Our brains can easily develop a narrative that it then reinforces with decision after decision after decision. Even when we don’t know it. And even when we don’t feel happy.

Internal Locus of Control

In his book Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg discusses how the military utilizes the concept of internal locus of control to create capable and confident leaders.

In Marine Corps Basic Training, incoming potential candidates have never had to lead others in safe, let alone dangerous, settings. If they pass basic training, their future holds ever-changing warfare settings and tactics, challenging climates, unclear battle lines, and life-threatening situations. Their lives depend on their ability to be extreme self-starters capable of rapid, independent decision-making.

To achieve this, the Marine Corps specifically works towards developing a strong internal locus of control in each Marine. An internal locus of control is the belief that one has complete control over their decisions and outcomes. Their mind feels empowered, capable, and willing to take full responsibility for any negative outcomes. They don’t wait for instructions—because often, none are coming—and they can self-motivate to lead.

“Internal locus of control has been linked with academic success, higher self-motivation and social maturity, lower incidences of stress and depression, and longer life span,” a team of psychologists reported in Problems and Perspectives in Management in 2012. People with an internal locus of control tend to earn more money, have more friends, stay married longer, exercise, eat healthier, and report higher rates of professional success and satisfaction.

During their final challenge in boot camp—aptly named “The Crucible”—Marines endure three days of climbing, marching, crawling, lifting, ambushes, only a few hours of sleep, and little food. Anyone who lags behind or fails to move is dropped as a potential candidate. If a civilian were to watch The Crucible unfold from the sidelines, they would hear resounding shrieks of “why?” emerging from beneath the smoke. Marines are taught to ask each other “why?” when what they’re doing feels impossible. That way, they can cry out their motivation, their goals, and their values in the heat of suffering. They can proclaim that they have a reason to do what they’re doing—reminding themselves and their teammates that they’re all there for a reason.

This “why” is incredibly purposeful. When a person makes a decision on their own, research shows that it makes self-motivation emerge, which makes someone enjoy their decision more, and then execute properly. This provides the impetus for an internal locus of control, identity-based decisions, and inertia for more decisions that reinforce the self-image.

Having an external locus of control is to believe that one’s life is primarily influenced by events outside of their own control. It evades a sense of responsibility to self and others and stifles confidence and motivation. An external locus of control is correlated with higher levels of stress because an individual perceives every situation they’re in as beyond their ability or power.

Your Action Steps

If we know that at their core, habits are rooted in self-image and are therefore very malleable, and we know that making choices for ourselves elicits self-motivation, and that having a “why” keeps us committed to our choices and self-image, then our task is to string these items together. The key to making these changes a reality is to start small and then build. If we suddenly try to have a new day on any given morning, our brain is going to balk at us.

Have you ever started an extreme diet and by dinner your mind had convinced you: “We don’t eat this way.” Have the alfredo!”? Because if you have, it means you’re human!

That’s because the change was not coaxed with self-image and motivation. Instead, we have to start small and keep that promise to ourselves every single day. And let it permeate. Then, we can allow that momentum and shift in self-image to bloom.

Here’s how to spark a chain reaction of change:

  1. Undertake a very small habit in your day that you are most motivated to do. It has to be small, almost to the point where it seems silly. Examples are things such as making your bed, buying a vegetable at the store, removing sugar from your coffee, going for a walk around the block, or having a big glass of water upon rising. Keep this habit as a sacred promise to yourself with a sense of personal responsibility.
  2. Once that habit has taken root, let it bloom into another part of the day. After making the bed, pick-up the socks. Skip the sugary scone and scramble an egg with your coffee. Prepare a salad for lunch. Again, keep this promise to yourself with a sense of personal responsibility.
  3. Repeat this process with unwavering commitment. Create momentum. If your momentum crumbles it’s because you’ve picked a habit too large, you’ve picked a habit you don’t actually care about, or your sense of ownership is evaporating. Return to something smaller or more meaningful if this happens. Momentum is key.
  4. When there are moments to be a leader, even if just with yourself, don’t run from them. Even if it’s a small decision. Do you know how many people can’t decide what to make for dinner? Millions! Be the person who states a dinner idea, buys the items, and executes the action steps. Practice this over and over and over.
  5. Have a “why.” If you aren’t the one who made the choice to change something, or if you aren’t the one who decided why it matters, you won’t make an ounce of improvement. Ask yourself what you care about, value, and envision for your life. Who do you want to inspire? What kind of example do you want to set? Who do you want to be?

You will see who you can be when you start changing tiny habits in your day. And you might shock yourself! The keys to sparking change in your life are to know your why, develop a strong internal locus of control, self-motivate, and start very small so that you have the opportunity to shift your self-image.

Together, these things can help you grow and develop in profound ways.

SPARK A CHAIN REACTION OF CHANGE

Productive, happy, and healthy human beings tend to make decisions based on two things: they identify the choice as part of their self-image and they have an internal locus of control.

Identity-Based Habits

Identity-based decision-making and inertia tend to influence the daily life of a human being. At the beginning of any given day, there is a routine that unfolds as a person wakes up, makes their coffee, and brushes their teeth. The routine is a normal, safe, and predictable cycle that the brain feels most comfortable playing out.

That routine will also set into motion more routines that occur daily. A bed will be half-made, a dish will be left in the sink, the dog will be walked at a certain time, a turkey sandwich will be eaten at lunch, and there will be some seemingly good reason to skip the gym that evening.

But what if something different occurred one morning? What if the coffee had no sugar in it, the bed was made, or there was lunch prepared in the fridge and ready to be brought to work?

Well, that would feel different.

And the brain would notice. After a few weeks of that, a person might also dust the bureau after they made that bed, or scramble an egg to go with their coffee or prepare a dinner to complement the healthy lunch.

Their brain would start saying, “I’m the type of person that makes a nice healthy lunch. So, I also eat nice healthy dinners, too.”

Or, “I’m the type of person who cleans-up. I’m neat, and I like it that way.”

The seed for change in the day was planted when the inertia shifted—when the momentum stopped replaying the old loops and created something a little new. And that change comes because all habits align with self-image.

When we change our self-image, even just a tiny bit, we open up the door to do new things. This is the core of identity-based decision-making and habit formation. Our brains identify with our behaviors and then use that inertia as a domino effect every single day to guide all of our decisions and beliefs.

This can play out for better or for worse. When a person wakes up late in the morning, struggles to get out of bed, skips the gym, doesn’t pick-up, has to order takeout at mealtimes, and relies on sugary lattes to get through the day, it’s because their brain is saying “I’m not the type of person that makes my bed, scrambles an egg, goes to the gym, gets to bed on time, or makes my food at home.” Our brains can easily develop a narrative that it then reinforces with decision after decision after decision. Even when we don’t know it. And even when we don’t feel happy.

Internal Locus of Control

In his book Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg discusses how the military utilizes the concept of internal locus of control to create capable and confident leaders.

In Marine Corps Basic Training, incoming potential candidates have never had to lead others in safe, let alone dangerous, settings. If they pass basic training, their future holds ever-changing warfare settings and tactics, challenging climates, unclear battle lines, and life-threatening situations. Their lives depend on their ability to be extreme self-starters capable of rapid, independent decision-making.

To achieve this, the Marine Corps specifically works towards developing a strong internal locus of control in each Marine. An internal locus of control is the belief that one has complete control over their decisions and outcomes. Their mind feels empowered, capable, and willing to take full responsibility for any negative outcomes. They don’t wait for instructions—because often, none are coming—and they can self-motivate to lead.

“Internal locus of control has been linked with academic success, higher self-motivation and social maturity, lower incidences of stress and depression, and longer life span,” a team of psychologists reported in Problems and Perspectives in Management in 2012. People with an internal locus of control tend to earn more money, have more friends, stay married longer, exercise, eat healthier, and report higher rates of professional success and satisfaction.

During their final challenge in boot camp—aptly named “The Crucible”—Marines endure three days of climbing, marching, crawling, lifting, ambushes, only a few hours of sleep, and little food. Anyone who lags behind or fails to move is dropped as a potential candidate. If a civilian were to watch The Crucible unfold from the sidelines, they would hear resounding shrieks of “why?” emerging from beneath the smoke. Marines are taught to ask each other “why?” when what they’re doing feels impossible. That way, they can cry out their motivation, their goals, and their values in the heat of suffering. They can proclaim that they have a reason to do what they’re doing—reminding themselves and their teammates that they’re all there for a reason.

This “why” is incredibly purposeful. When a person makes a decision on their own, research shows that it makes self-motivation emerge, which makes someone enjoy their decision more, and then execute properly. This provides the impetus for an internal locus of control, identity-based decisions, and inertia for more decisions that reinforce the self-image.

Having an external locus of control is to believe that one’s life is primarily influenced by events outside of their own control. It evades a sense of responsibility to self and others and stifles confidence and motivation. An external locus of control is correlated with higher levels of stress because an individual perceives every situation they’re in as beyond their ability or power.

Your Action Steps

If we know that at their core, habits are rooted in self-image and are therefore very malleable, and we know that making choices for ourselves elicits self-motivation, and that having a “why” keeps us committed to our choices and self-image, then our task is to string these items together. The key to making these changes a reality is to start small and then build. If we suddenly try to have a new day on any given morning, our brain is going to balk at us.

Have you ever started an extreme diet and by dinner your mind had convinced you: “We don’t eat this way.” Have the alfredo!”? Because if you have, it means you’re human!

That’s because the change was not coaxed with self-image and motivation. Instead, we have to start small and keep that promise to ourselves every single day. And let it permeate. Then, we can allow that momentum and shift in self-image to bloom.

Here’s how to spark a chain reaction of change:

  1. Undertake a very small habit in your day that you are most motivated to do. It has to be small, almost to the point where it seems silly. Examples are things such as making your bed, buying a vegetable at the store, removing sugar from your coffee, going for a walk around the block, or having a big glass of water upon rising. Keep this habit as a sacred promise to yourself with a sense of personal responsibility.
  2. Once that habit has taken root, let it bloom into another part of the day. After making the bed, pick-up the socks. Skip the sugary scone and scramble an egg with your coffee. Prepare a salad for lunch. Again, keep this promise to yourself with a sense of personal responsibility.
  3. Repeat this process with unwavering commitment. Create momentum. If your momentum crumbles it’s because you’ve picked a habit too large, you’ve picked a habit you don’t actually care about, or your sense of ownership is evaporating. Return to something smaller or more meaningful if this happens. Momentum is key.
  4. When there are moments to be a leader, even if just with yourself, don’t run from them. Even if it’s a small decision. Do you know how many people can’t decide what to make for dinner? Millions! Be the person who states a dinner idea, buys the items, and executes the action steps. Practice this over and over and over.
  5. Have a “why.” If you aren’t the one who made the choice to change something, or if you aren’t the one who decided why it matters, you won’t make an ounce of improvement. Ask yourself what you care about, value, and envision for your life. Who do you want to inspire? What kind of example do you want to set? Who do you want to be?

You will see who you can be when you start changing tiny habits in your day. And you might shock yourself! The keys to sparking change in your life are to know your why, develop a strong internal locus of control, self-motivate, and start very small so that you have the opportunity to shift your self-image.

Together, these things can help you grow and develop in profound ways.