Forget about attitude, change your behaviour

Halloween Pumpkin. This image is CC0!

Since you are reading these lines, I assume you want to change something in your life. At least, you are interested in self-improvement topics. Now there is a hen and egg problem: to change your life, do you first need to change your attitude? Or will your attitude change only when you improve your life?

Many self-help approaches base on the idea that you first need to change your world view. After that, you are told to set concrete goals, and then start to act. A lot of approaches try to convince you that visualizing your dream come true is already halfway to its realization. The more esoteric ones speak about a so-called “law of attraction” to gain authority. I have not researched it, but I bet that somewhere out there even reasons with quantum physics to justify this assumption. However, this belief has been refuted by science (for example, look into Richard Wiseman, “59 Seconds”).

In Lean Self, attitude and individual values are fairly the same. I cannot question your values and will not do it. As I said before, you define value. As a natural consequence, my proposal is not to start with changing your attitude. Instead, find out what your values are and start acting towards their realization. Besides, changing one’s attitude is much more difficult than to change behavior. You need to do it in small steps. Understanding which actions create value and which are waste is the key. Continuous improvement instead of radical change is the method to reach your goals.

I want to give a simple example. All of my life, I hated making the bed, you might say that I was a typical male in that regards. After moving in with my girlfriend, who is my wife, we agreed that this would be my duty. I hated it still. Now, years later, the picture has changed. When I see that the bed is untidy because my wife did not make it in my absence, I take care of it. My attitude has changed, now I find it disturbing if the bed is not made.

Well, I am no saint. From time to time, you still find an unmade bed in our home.

This example is also about habits replacing thinking. In this case, it is a positive example. Making the bed is easier if I do not think about it. The importance of habit forming and un-forming will be looked upon later. It took me years to understand that I need not like making the bed or tidying up at home. Understanding that it helps although I hate it is enough. And if you ask my wife, with respect to tidiness I am still far from where I could be.

You may rightfully ask: “Did the guy fall into one of those value traps he was warning about earlier?” My answer: No, but for a different reason than you might think. Contrary to conservative morale, tidiness is neither a value nor a virtue. It is a means to an end, you could say a tool. I will discuss how tidiness blends in with Lean Self, but not right now.

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