How Context influences Behaviour
“It is not what happens to you that matters, but how you RESPOND to
what happens to you that determines your whole life.”
~ Brian Tracy ~
According to David Hawkins, in any situation there are the conditions and there is the context. The conditions are all the objects and ‘things’ in the environment, whereas the context is about the space in which the objects exist and how all the things are relating to each other. As humans, we create the context in any situation by deriving meaning from it;
we somehow figure out what all of it means to us. This meaning then influences how we act and behave. This is basically the first law I already described in the new model that Werner Erhard (2009) has suggested: My behaviour is concomitant with how a situation occurs (shows up) for me.
By examining how things occur for me in Life, I can change the way I relate to things in Life. By assigning different meanings to the conditions, objects and things in my Life, I can change how they occur for me. When the occurring is altered, the possibilities for my actions are altered as well.
Every day, when I wake up, I have a context for how that day is going to look. I have a general idea about what I anticipate (expect) my day to be like. I have a basic estimation of how my day is going to go. It’s not something that I focus on very often, but it’s there, this subtle expectation of what this day is going to be like. I will also have a general idea about how I probably will be behaving today. This expectation of what my day will be like is determined by what I have experienced in the past, plus any new plans that I may have on how to conduct my life today. My behaviour is geared towards succeeding in making this day go the way I want it to go. If I succeed in my plans for today, I can go to sleep satisfied at the end of the day. If I don’t, cognitive dissonance will arise as reality did not confirm my expectations and I will have to re-adjust my map of the world. When I wake up the next day, I have fresh, new opportunity to anticipate, expect and estimate how Life will go for me today.
Erhard, Zaffron, Jensen and Granger (2010) call this estimation of how Life will go a ‘future that you’re living into’. This anticipated future influences our behaviour. The authors furthermore state that: “the brain generates being and action in the present to be consistent with realizing the future it predicts, that is, a past-derived future.”
So in order to alter my behaviour, I have to convince my brain that something new is going to happen in the future and not that which has happened in the past.
But before I get into that I want to make it more apparent that behaviour is directly determined by what my brain anticipates (expects) is going to happen and only optionally by what has happened in the past. Let’s look at the core idea in which behaviour is considered to be determined by past conditioning.
In classical conditioning, Pavlov’s dogs start to salivate when a bell rings not because in the past they have learned that the ring of a bell means food. They salivate as their brain is anticipating (expecting) food to be brought to them right now. Their behaviour is concomitant with a very proximate future in which they expect to receive food. It is what they are anticipating (expecting) right now that determines their behaviour, not the fact they have been conditioned in the past.
Yes, if the dogs did not learn this (bell means food) earlier, they would not have this (salivating) response, but that’s only because what is learned in the past is often a good predictor of what is expected to happen in the future.
If I want to change behaviour however, it is crucial to realize that my way of being and acting is determined by what I anticipate (expect) is going to happen next.
In a world with a lot of consistencies, it is only natural that what I expect of the future is more of the same (that I experienced in the past). The past is usually a good predictor of what will happen in the future and knowing that I will get more of what I’ve seen in the past helps me to feel safe and secure. When things happen in the way they’ve always happened I can feel like I’m in control and I trust that:
Whatever happens, I’ve dealt with it in the past and will probably be able to deal with it again now. Expecting more of the same and anticipating that I will get more of the past thus serves my need for predictability.
The anticipation and expectation of the ‘future-that-I’m-living-into’ is (like any other set of concepts) rooted in a schema.
The content for this schema is by default given by what I’ve experienced in the past. It is filled simply by repeated suggestions of what was happened up-to-now. It is however possible to fill it in with new concepts of what I want the future to be like. This is the core idea of Napoleon Hill’s classic ‘Think and Grow Rich’. Hill’s method for creating riches can be summarized roughly in the following steps:
1. Create a Definite Major Purpose (DMP) (which is simply an idea and vision of something that does not exist yet, but that I want to realize)
2. Mix Burning Desire with the Definite Major Purpose (idea and vision of what I want)
3. Repeatedly expose myself to the idea and vision by continually suggesting it and dwelling upon it to the point that it becomes an all-consuming obsession.
4. Use this auto-suggestion to convince my brain that the DMP will be realized, which will create Faith.
5. Faith and Burning Desire will ensure that I act in such a way that is consistent with me realizing the DMP.
Rewriting the future
As a human being, I am in the fortunate position that I can create new concepts and imagine a vision of myself and the world that does not yet exist. By doing so, I can fill my self-schema and future-schema by means of auto-suggestion.
If I repeatedly do so, I can convince my brain to anticipate and expect that something new will happen in the future. When my mind’s anticipation and expectation for the future changes, my behaviour changes right with it, as it is concomitant with what I expect to happen at any given time.
By rewriting my self- and future-schema, I can alter the context of my Life, even though nothing has to change in my Life’s conditions. According to Werner Erhard (2009), this context will then call me into effective action in realizing the new reality.
To ensure that auto-suggestion goes on continually, it is wise to design a practice for rewriting the self-schema and the future-schema and continually work to refine it, dwell on it and fuel it with Burning Desire, which will lead to Faith and an expectation and anticipation of the realization of the new reality (the Definite Major Purpose of how I want to be and how I want the world to be). In creating a practice, I shall now turn to the second principle on which the 0.1% of influence on my behaviour is best invested.
Putting it all to Practice
“Knowledge is not the same is wisdom. Wisdom is doing.”
~ Dan Millman ~
Tony Robbins says there is a difference between ‘knowing what to do’ and actually ‘doing what you know’. In practice, I simply will not be doing what I know until I can find a way to internalize the new strategies, so that they become a habit and are a part of the automated 99.9%.
Conscious willpower has to be focused on highly specific action strategies that can become automated habits after having been executed for an extended period of time. Gollwitzer and Brandstatter (1997) state that people with implementation intentions (written plans for when, where and how to implement new goals) have a higher rate of succeeding at new goals than do people who don’t have written down their intentions for implementation. This is especially true for more challenging and difficult goals.
Therefore, the core principle in changing behaviour is to (1) consciously design action practices, (2) make written plans for their implementation and (3) then consciously doing those action practices one day at a time until (4) they have become automated habits that you don’t have to think about anymore. How to exactly go about doing this will be described in the next Part, along with several suggestions for action practices.
The next book piece drops at Monday February 13th and kicks of the fourth and final part of the Identity is Dynamic book series, it’s on the topic of Self-Change Projects…
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