Wednesday, October 29, 2003

If you want to change the world.

If you want to change the world, start in small steps by positively reinforcing every instance of behavior that you see that "matches your values but doesn't necessarily affect you at that moment".

"Changing the world is no more difficult than changing your own behavior. ... You do it one behavior at a time."
(Audrey C. Daniels. 2001. Other People's Habits. NY: McGraw-Hill)

Daniels says, that in a book by "R. M. Axelrod, "The Evolution of Cooperation", has in it some advice that may help you create opportunities for deliberate acts of kindness. ... He discovered that those who are effective in creating conditions of cooperation do the following: 1. Always assume cooperation 2. Reinforce any act of cooperation 3. Do not reinforce any act of non cooperation 4. Are quick to forgive noncooperative acts.

According to my behavioral counseling professor, we all do what we are reinforced for doing. His quote: "Behavior flows where reinforcement goes." We get more of whatever behavior we reinforce. And we ourselves continue the behaviors that get reinforced - gravitate towards those people and those things that give us pleasure and stay away from those things that feel like punishment.

My pleasures and yours are unique and individual , so what is a reward or reinforcement for one behavior for me, may not be for you. Positive reinforcement might be as simple as a thank you or anything that the other person thinks of as a reward.

All behaviors have consequences and antecedents- the things that come after and the things that come before. The consequences are why we repeat a behavior the next time we encounter similar antecedents. There is some payoff for us.

Behaviorism is a unique perspective and while I think it has a huge handle on people's motivations, it does ignore what and why things become a motivating factor in our behavior. If you want to fix a bad habit or change something that has become an automatic way of responding, these are the tools in the toolbox that one would use. If you want to understand why, it will give you the first layer of the onion, but not get to the core.

If you want to change the world, start by giving out rewards and reinforcements for the behavior that you find suits your views about how the world ought to be. The worst that could happen is that you find yourself moving through your own life in a little easier fashion.

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