I've been thinking a lot about what compels people to behave a certain way. In business. In personal relationships. In life. I'm certain there are countless books espousing countless metaphors for thinking about the issue. For me it comes down to some common themes.
Perspective is perhaps one of the most important human traits. Along with tool building and self-awareness, it's one of the core things that separate us from the animals. It allows us to switch angles, points of view, lenses, frames of reference or ways of thinking in order to evaluate an idea or circumstance in multiple ways.
Often times when you're feeling down, confused or looking for a better option, simply try changing your perspective and your attitude or feeling can change almost instantly.
Our priorities can affect our actions in fundamental ways. In fact just re-ordering a few subconscious priorities can dramatically change our behavior, loyalties and outcomes.
When you hear someone say "they've changed" it's likely that the person in question has changed their priorities or their perspective because the rest of the items on this list are pretty hard to change without a lot of conscious thought and self-evaluation.
Patterns are about what a person has seen in his or her past and is either repeating or trying to break away from. You might also see patterns from your peers or they might even imprint them on you directly with advice. In the worst cases this is peer pressure.
Perhaps it's their parents. Perhaps it's a previous business failure. Whatever the case, human beings are pattern recognition (and repeating) machines. We are doing it all the time. It's very, very easy to fall into them and almost impossible to change them - particularly the fundamental ones.
Patterns are not just about behaviors. They are also about subconscious ways of thinking and the way we might emotionally identify with situations.
In many cases our behaviors change, but the underlaying emotional pattern is the same. Some patterns are probably fairly immutable without a LOT of pain and conscious thought.
There are certain temperaments and personality traits we're born with. Some babies are irritable, some sleep through the whole night. This isn't learned behavior, it's genetic. Our chemical make ups have a profound impact on our patience, personality and actions.
Sure you can take pills to help with depression or anxiety. Ideally, though, you use exercise or other meditation techniques to adjust your brain chemistry but the core genetics are obviously locked in stone.
Pride is a powerful force. It can stop us from reaching out, reaching in or just fundamentally seeing the truth. Pride often times leads us to our worst fears and can block us from getting what we want. It's like a poison that can fundamentally break our lives in ways we can't understand and may never be able to repair. It's based on fear (detailed next) but it's so specific that I thought it deserved it's own section.
Fear is an overriding motivating factor. Fight or flight can shut down all other factors listed here and drive us to do crazy things. When we think our person, personality or future is at risk, we can lash out, cut off and fly away from situations or people faster than you can say 'hey relax, you're no longer fighting for your life out in the prehistoric caves'.
Living in Love is the highest form of decision making. Highest form of living in general really. Making decisions based on your highest hopes and grandest version of yourself is hard to do because everything in your brain and body tells you to run like hell. When your perspective is wrong, or your priorities are shifting or your patterns are locked in or your predisposition is messing up your clarity or your fear is shutting down your brain and forcing you to simply react, or your pride is getting in the way -- finding your love, much less acting on it, is near impossible.
Find it you must, though.
[Update] Love also has another effect. When you truly love someone else, they become part of you. Part of your definition of self. The way you treat/behave towards yourself is vastly different than the way you would treat anyone else. This can dictate your behavior in ways that even supersede fear.
[Editors Note] I left this out when originally publishing the post but a couple of hours after writing it I attended an inspiring dinner where it was clear many people were trying to use this factor to drive their behavior - it was an oversight not to include it in the first place.
Purpose is, in many ways, the easiest way to manipulate your own behavior. In fact In many ways it's the only way to practically (in material ways) determine success because by clearly defining your purpose (and change the world or be important is not clear enough) you can carve a smooth trajectory for your life, make your actions more consistent and ultimately give you something to succeed at. After all, the definition of success is first stating a goal and then achieving it.
Having a grand purpose also helps inspire those around you to action as well. In many cases our purpose is defined by the factors listed above and just as often the factors above block us from achieving it.
Did I miss any?