Thinking and Lasting Behaviour Change

Lasting behaviour change is difficult if you aren’t also being intentional about your thinking.

Let’s suppose you’re taking an online class on personal knowledge management. One of the ideas they might talk about is that one of the challenges of personal knowledge management is over-consumption–the hoarding of other people’s ideas you find in books, articles, podcasts, etc and the tendency to continue seeking other people’s ideas ideas instead of developing and using your own. And to address this, they might suggest reducing your collecting of other people’s ideas to only the handful of ideas that you personally find most valuable.

So let’s also suppose that you try this new behaviour. The next time you read a book, instead of highlighting every single passage that seems like it might be useful to someone someday, you instead decide to really question if this passage is of super high value to yourself.

You may try this new behaviour because it’s something you feel you should do. You may try it out so you can honestly say you gave it a shot, but you don’t really believe it’s going to work. As you’re reading the book, you may be worrying that the things you didn’t highlight this time but would have highlighted in that past might be important for a future project and by not highlighting them now, you may lose them or create more work for future you. You may try this new behaviour despite an experience of FOMO as you keep thinking about you’re not highlighting.

When your thinking looks like this, it’s going to be hard to maintain this behaviour change going forward. When you look through your notes, your mind is going to think of all the cool ideas you remember reading but aren’t present in your notes. You’re going to think you took a step backwards–you’ve now created more work for yourself because you have to now re-read the book to capture those highlights that you skipped last time. You’re going to think that you’re doing this new behaviour wrong–there’s some subtle nuance about the behaviour change that you’re not understanding, and that’s why it didn’t work for you this time. You’re going to feel anxious about what you didn’t capture. You’re going to feel bad that you weren’t able to implement this practice properly. And you’re not going to be able to develop your own thoughts or use your own thoughts to create anything–you’re always going to feel the need to keep capturing all the ideas out that that you don’t yet have in your notes.

You’re not going to want to try this new behaviour again.

Now instead, let’s suppose you may try this new behaviour because you want to develop your own thoughts and use your own thoughts to create new things. You decide to trust your intuition about what are the most valuable ideas while you’re reading, and you only highlight those select few phrases that really call out to your subconscious. When you finish reading the book, you create new notes to develop your own thoughts focusing on the highlights that you have already collected in your notes. And you’re able to create new things using the notes already in your possession.

When your thinking looks like this, it’s going to be easier to maintain this behaviour change going forward. You’re going to look at what you were able to do–both your thinking and your creating–with the reduced number of highlights you took. You’re going to start to see yourself as someone who is able to produce great insights and create new value in the world. You’re going to feel good about collecting only the most valuable ideas from other people and how that allows you to spend more time on the activities that are truly important to you.

You’re going to want to try this new behaviour again.

Getting the reps in is important when you’re trying to make lasting behaviour change. However, perspective is key to ensuring those reps are having the impact you truly desire.

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