A.J. Jacobs, Esquire writer and author of two hilarious books is a man after my own heart. As he explains in this TED Talk, he spends much of his time immersing himself in learning experiments, such as what it's like to outsource your life (the best month of his life) or to be "radically honest" (the worst month of his life). Not only do these become fodder for his writing, they also teach him some important lessons.
Jacobs' most recent book is The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. As he reveals in his TED Talk, one of the major things he learned from this experience was that the "outer affects the inner." That is, if you change your behavior, you change your mind.
This is one of those deceptively simple, profoundly important realizations. It's the "fake it till you make it" school of thought that says if you want to become something different, you have to start by behaving differently. We tend to think the opposite, that our beliefs must change first and then our behavior will come along later. Much of professional development is about trying to change people's attitudes by "training" them them that they should think differently. This is often unsuccessful because in many cases, we need to first change our behavior before we can change our beliefs. I'm not going to truly believe in the power of exercise until I actually begin doing it. I have to start with acting differently and it's the process of engaging in new behaviors that helps me start to develop new attitudes.
Think, for example, of trust. Yesterday I wrote about how I think many of our failures of development are the result of a lack of trust. In comments, Roberta asked what we can do to change this. The simplest and best answer I can come up with is for us to start behaving as though we trust people and for us to behave in ways that encourage people to trust us. Act trusting and trustworthy and trust in yourself and in others will follow.
Same thing with using social media. We talk a lot about getting people to change their attitudes towards blogs, wikis, etc. This is really asking them to change their beliefs about these tools. What if, instead of trying to talk people into seeing value, we simply said, "There may be no value in these at all for you. But can you take a week to be open to using this tool, can you act as though there is value for 7 days? Just an experiment of immersing yourself in this world. If at the end of the 7 days, you still see no value, then it's back to your previous life." What if we could get people to "fake it" long enough for them to see how their outer changes are impacting their inner attitudes? That could create some really great changes.
Where else can this apply in our lives? How can we use outer changes to affect our inner thoughts? Is this something you've tried yourself? How has it worked?