Why Do We Do What We Do?

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Have you ever thought, “I can’t believe they, or I, did that?” Well believe it, for in that persons mind it seemed to be a perfectly logical or at least balanced choice at the moment. Whether inspired by emotion, hardship, training or calculated risk, the action that was taken was the best option apparently available to reach some desired outcome. I should obviously add one element to the action equation and that is failing to fully assimilate all relevant factors prior to taking action. But isn’t that the game of life, a game we all must play?

As depicted in the diagram below, the way we respond to a stimulus is predicated on a combination of our current environment, the society in which we live, our previous experiences, and our current work.

Our response to a situation is first influenced by our current environment, driven by our home and family life, the current dominant influences of those closest to us, and our physical, and mental, health and fitness.

Next our societal views, influenced by the prevailing views of those closest to us, the media, our perceived social status, our religious beliefs and the morale majorities latest point of view. Our views on society are constantly updated by these sources. In some situations these may have the greatest influence on our values and behaviors and can be at the root of some of our most dramatic actions, or inaction.

The next building block comes from past experiences that include our education, whether formal or informal, our upbringing, jobs or ventures we have had before, experiments we have tried, failures we have experienced, and our prior social interactions with bosses, co-workers, friends, parents, siblings, and others that we look to for behavioral cues.

Finally, our current work and our performance there, which influences our feeling of security at work. These perceptions are shown by many studies to be influenced by our feelings of belonging, the workplace norms, and our level of satisfaction, not only with the job but with those whom we work.

Do you feel secure in your job? If so, you are likely to invest more in your happiness, a new patio set, a family vacation or another child, and in general feel better about yourself. Note that the opposite may also apply.

All these factors combine to influence our processing of any given situation at that split second we make one decision over the other. They are all intertwined, and combine to provide some powerful compulsions to act or believe in one way or another, with consequences for better or for worse. This does not imply that all our reactions and decisions are from the gut, quite the opposite, if anything this better defines our “Gut”. Even if we have the time to contemplate our next action these elements coalesce to develop our unique response, action or behavior. By reflecting on our actions, or at least better evaluating why we do what we do, we can get closer to embracing who we are.

As with all decisions, there are consequences. These consequences, both good, and those perceived by us as bad, as in “Geessh, I won’t do that again!” provide continued growth and awareness into our decisions and how we have been impacted by the consequences of others. So stop beating yourself up over the bad decisions you have made, or the impacts of others, they are in the past. You now know that you have the ability to more consciously evaluate why you or someone else acted in one way or another and embrace, or work to enhance, any of these factors. You can now get over it and move forward, You’re OK.

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