Thursday, September 18, 2008

Behavior Change and Self Awareness....

Right now I've been particularly torn about convincing people to change their behavior through education and mandating the correct path through legislation and the architecture of our society vis a vis laws (I do love the phrase vis a vis, which means face to face suggesting a strong connection as in directly in the eyes). I'm a little down on behavior change through education, because I know damn well from my own personal experiences the limitations of it. Since despite my better educated self, I've engaged in risky behavior in many contexts. It's like the line from Scent of a Woman, that goes "invariably I knew what was right, but I didn't because it was too damn hard." So is there hope for behavior change? Perhaps.

I've been thinking about how do I change my behavior and one common theme in my own behavior change has been the act of documenting my behavior, in collecting data. It works for me with my personal finances, and it works for me in my exercise. Now note I said collecting data, not analyzing data. The act of recording is enough to make me conscious of my actions, and to serve as a correctant (is that a word, probably not according to my inline spell checker, but I like it and I'm keeping it). This thought came from an article on rampant recording of everything. Which then led me to think about Seth Robert's work on Self Experimentation (Full disclosure, I know Roberts but wasn't aware of his research style until I read about him in the New York Times. Lesson, people who seem ordinary in your day to day may be extraordinary in contexts you are not familiar with. Think J.K. Rowling unemployed in a coffee shop, you get the picture). In his work on sleep issues and weight loss Roberts used the most convenient research subject himself, and he collected vast amounts of data that led to some interesting conclusions. In looking at this work, I came upon a powerpoint and the quote that gets me is "Was making progress without knowing it."

Those are powerful words. Sort of like my exercise regimen of typing my workouts into a spreadsheet. I had every good intention of looking at the data. But I don't. Supposedly Beethoven wrote down everything, but didn't re-read his notebooks. The act of recording is the act that matters. Would recording our daily carbon count change our behavior. I know that when I record my garbage it makes me think, that's a lot of garbage. But I don't count. I just know.

Is the act of recording the act of ownership, I wrote it, I did it. Does it rewire ourselves. Is that the path to behavior changes. If people collect data on their own carbon actions, would they make progress without knowing it. Thoughts anyone?


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