Calling All Control Freaks…

If you haven’t noticed, we’re nerds about this behavior change stuff. So much so that in January, we started a project to make sure every person on our staff has the opportunity to get even nerdier.

We call it our “Determinant of the Month,” and we use it to highlight real-world examples of the Twelve Determinants of behavior change in action.

By “real-world,” we mean personal experiences.

Our first focus was control, which is a pretty simple one–when it comes to behavior change, people like to have choices because although they’re being asked to do something new, they’re still in the driver’s seat. It’s the reason your mom let you choose between a bowl cut and a mullet growing up. Tragic either way, but you determined your fate.

Each team member submitted an example of how they’ve seen this determinant at work in real life.

Here’s the winner (determined by staff choice– we practice what we preach people):

“Little known fact about me: I did competitive Irish Step Dancing for 7 years. My teachers were intense – think Dance Moms x 10 and throw in some thick Irish accents.

Like all good instructors, they placed special emphasis on perfect technique and discipline. During one practice when I was about 9 or 10, I was working on new choreography for an upcoming competition. After what felt like repeating everything 20 thousand times, I told my teacher I was tired and sore and wanted to stop. She said, ‘You can stop when your technique has improved. How many more times do you think you’ll need to repeat this tonight until it is competition-worthy?’

We agreed on a number and it quickly turned into my own little personal competition. When I finally finished, she told me I’d improved a lot and was really close but still had a few sections to focus on. Then she excused me to sit down/stretch until class was over.

I sat for about a second, then popped right back up and started dancing again. She had given me the “control” to decide both how hard I needed to work and how much repetition was necessary to succeed. She also planted the idea in my head that I was already close to my goal, so I just kept on going.

Our teachers did this a lot but their methods worked: my team later went on to win third place at our first-ever regional competition. Some of the girls I used to dance with have qualified for (and placed in) Worlds in Ireland multiple times. Another girl tried out for the Riverdance Tour and made it to the final round.”

Meisha Thigpen is a Creative Director at Marketing for Change.

12 Determinants of Behavior

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