Why taking inspired action can change how you think about yourself
Did you know that your actions help define how you think about yourself?
Now you might be thinking — “Wait a sec, isn’t it the other way round?? Doesn’t the way I think about myself define the actions I take?”
Yes, young Padawan, that is correct too! But it actually works in both directions. That’s how intertwined your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are. They aren’t one-way streets. All the mindset elements influence each other.
So what we’re going to explore today is a concept that is called “Self-Perception Theory” and was developed by social psychologist Daryl Bem in 1972.
In essence, it’s all about how people come to know themselves. How do you know all the things you know about yourself? How do you know you enjoy certain things but dislike others? How do you know your values?
Now according to this theory, you know your own attitudes, values, and preferences because you INFER them from your own behavior and the conditions under which they occur.
Say you go running every day. Well, this probably means you like running, right?
Well, maybe. But it could also be your friend really enjoys it and you don’t what to her down. Or you get rewarded for running by having to pay less for health insurance…
Anywoo, it’s fair to say that there are certainly external factors that make it more difficult to infer your inner states from your behavior.
But what if there are no external incentives and you don’t have any strong opinions about certain topics.
For example, you find yourself reading all those self-development books lately. It’s something you haven’t done before and haven’t had any strong opinions about. It sort of just happened.
No one holds you at gunpoint and forces you to read them. No one was disappointed if you stopped reading them and there is no extrinsic reward for reading them.
Now it’s a pretty safe bet to say, you like to learn about self-development. How do you know? Oh well, because it shows through your actions, right? You wouldn’t be doing this if you weren’t interested. Thus you infer your inner states from your behavior.
When you find yourself reading self-development books you come to think of yourself as a person who is interested in self-development. So you come to know yourself better by observing your own behavior.
Just like you would interpret someone else’s behavior and infer things about that other person. Like “Oh that young man organized a demonstration for a civil right movement — man, he must be brave, driven, and very interested in politics and civil rights.”
How to use self-perception theory to your advantage
Now you can use this to your advantage and help create massive inner shifts. Say you commit to doing something that you might not like YET and that might even be a bit daunting, like doing FB LIVES for example.
So you start doing one and survive. You do one each week. And after a while you come to the conclusion that you are someone who does regular FB LIVES, that is who you are and therefore you must be pretty confident. Because only confident people put themselves out there like this, right?!
Well, I can tell you from my own personal experience — this works!
When you see yourself doing brave things, that only confident people would do, you come to think of yourself as a brave and confident person.
Congratulation! You’ve just changed your perception of yourself by observing your own actions and inferring your characteristics.
Now, this can be hugely powerful, right?!
Another time that I’ve experienced this effect first hand, was when I finally decided to make a big scary investment and work with a coach: This resulted in huge internal shifts!
Because seeing me invest in myself and my business resulted in the knowledge that, oh, if I made that kind of commitment, I’m done dabbling. I’m someone who takes this seriously now.
It felt surprising, exciting, and terrifying all at the same time! I wonder if that’s how lobsters feel when they outgrow their shells… LOL
Isn’t it amazing how you can still surprise yourself after all the time you spent BEING yourself?!
Originally published at https://peartreepond.com on November 25, 2019.