Behaviour Vs Identity

Identity and behaviour – not the same thing

Have you ever met someone who has got a ‘type of personality’ based on their behaviour? Someone who ‘is’ an introvert, or maybe somebody who, ‘is’ , an extrovert. How about someone who ‘is’ smart or someone who ‘is’ dumb.

I’ve heard that too many times, and in my own experience I’ve found that when people are given a label and they accept it, they tend to actually behave in ways that are consistent with what people expect from them after having been given that label.

As explained by Robert Cialdini in his bestselling book Influence, we have a deep desire to be consistent. For this reason, once we’ve committed to something, we’re then more inclined to go through with it.

Too many times I’ve seen people do things and then rationalize about them saying something like ‘Well that’s just the way I am’ or ‘I’m just not smart enough, everyone knows and stupid’. I’m sure you’ve heard it too.

One of the most painful things I have heard coming for a person I feel immense appreciation for was saying the following words:

‘There’s no point in trying, everyone knows I am just a mess’.

Well apparently this is a person who’s been called ‘messy’ or ‘a mess’ a few times in his life and decided to accept a repetitive behavior as his ‘identity’. Therefore he behaves in a consistent way that represents that behavior. Until the last time we had a chat.

We sat down together and started exploring a couple of things and at some point I decided to present him with a curious idea that I learnt during my early days in the fascinating field of NLP. It says:

“There is a distinction between you and the behavior you exhibit. Behavior is something you do, not who you are”.

Have you ever thought about this? If you haven’t please take a minute to do so, you’ll thank yourself later.

Just because you’ve felt sad for some time doesn’t make you depressive and just because you’ve made a few mistakes in the past doesn’t mean you’re a mess; and it certainly does not mean that will keep on being a mess in the future!

Exceptionally effective people know this. They know that behavior is contextual and that no matter how generative or sloppy their behavior might seem today they can always improve it at any time. Their behavior is not who they are, it is simply how they act in a given context.

So you can act the same way you’ve been acting so far, or you can choose to change the way you act from now on, and into the future. More importantly, whatever you choose to do remember that it is just acting and not ‘who you are’.

Now it’s your turn!, take your next step towards Exceptional Effectiveness. You now have a new way in which to assess your behaviour and create more options., 

Remember this is practical advice not just another theory, so do go out and try it, and, let me know how you went., 

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