This interesting article by Johnathan Rowson at the RSA caught my eye. Those of us who are awake in the world are often frustrated when we encounter people who aren’t and desperately search for ways to influence the behavior and choices of those who seem to be oblivious to their effect on the world. Understanding a little bit more about behavior in the macro sense, as well as perfecting our ability to master our own behavior are important first steps in the crusade to inspire better choices and behaviors in others.

Our actions define our character. Habits make up a large part of our actions. From the obvious physical ones we do all day (breathing) to the judgements, reactions, and other mental positions we rarely examine but are heavily invested in, our habits can be beneficial or destructive. Being vigilant about the habits you form and the ones you shake is a great way to become more mindful in your life. As Rowsen points out:

Habits are important because they define who we are, but also because they can be changed. You breathe automatically, you see automatically, but you think, decide and act habitually. Confucius captures the point nicely when he says:  ’Men’s natures are alike; it is their habits that separate them.’ But habits are acquired and conditioned behaviours rather than strictly automatic. They are second nature rather than first, and therefore amenable to the influence of deliberation and reflection.

To bring changes to our behaviors, our perspectives, our lives and our world, sometimes the path is deceptively simple. Just start small. Shake up your routine in easy and non-threatening areas. Rituals can be comforting and even productive, but they can also discourage growth and evolution. Take a different path to work, drink out of a different cup, sit in a different chair, or go so far as to brush your teeth with the other hand.

These little blips on your comfort radar can help wake your senses and shake the auto-pilot coma we call living.

No matter how much knowledge, reflection, and deliberation you bring to bare, you need behavior to change behavior.  Thought alone will rarely change a habit, because willpower is scarce and depletable, and rarely sufficient to turn the thought into action on an ongoing basis.

Dwelling on breaking the bad habits can be a drag and put you off the whole exercise. In the Net Positive spirit, we need to focus as much (if not more) attention on creating the habits we’d like to have. Rowsen suggests that there is a threshold of 66 days to form a new habit. Which means a behavior that is automatic and no longer needs to be consciously chosen, in short it’s a part of your character. This article he sites from Psyblog is an expansion on the concept of time frames for behavior modification.

For laughs. And a reminder to be thankful it’s not the ’50’s!

An incredible analysis of the macro issues in human behavior and influences can be found in a new documentary called Zeitgeist: Moving Forward. It’s a far-reaching documentary that covers so many of the topics critical to a Net Positive awareness and deserves to be watched in its entirety (despite the epic length of 2h40). The first hour or so focuses exclusively on human behavior and presents a comprehensive analysis delivered by compelling experts. If you’re at all interested in why we are the way we are, view this as the foundation to your quest.