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I recently read that deciding in advance what you will and won’t eat at a restaurant actually helps you stick to that plan. Looking at the menu online and selecting healthy options will help you keep that commitment to yourself and resist the temptations of certain foods and drinks.
This makes sense because we are wired to stick to commitments. In the Robert Cialdini book Influence, he describes how we perform operations in support of our commitments, and make decisions every day without thinking, because we have already decided how we feel about something.
In his work, he found that if someone asked your permission to put a sign on your front yard for a politician running for office, that you would become even more committed to voting for that person. By agreeing to the sign, you have already decided your loyalty.
By deciding what you are committed to and making a public statement about it, you will follow through. This is similar to making a health improvement plan. If you tell someone, it becomes easier to follow through on your commitment to eat healthy and exercise.
Another way this plays out is that if you have stated and committed publicly that you are pro-science, you will automatically judge things through that lens because that is your view on the world.
Our society values consistency. Once we make a choice or take a stand, we encounter personal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment. Those pressures cause us to respond in ways that justify our earlier decisions. We convince ourselves we have made the right choice and feel better about our decisions.
How can you apply this to your career? One way is with meetings. Before a meeting, decide ahead of time what outcome you want to achieve. Take time to consciously imagine that successful outcome, enjoying and relishing that thought. Prepare your notes and questions for the meeting after deciding the positive outcome you desire.
Then, if the meeting starts to go off track, you can think back to your vision of the desired outcome and stick with your goal for that meeting, instead of allowing it to derail. Just as you stuck with your healthy plan to skip dessert at the restaurant, you can make the right choices in your meeting. Using your natural tendency to meet commitments with yourself and to behave like you say you will behave, helps you stick to the goal.
Another example is to publicly commit to your team that you will work to improve an aspect of your leadership, e.g., to listen better. Just knowing you made that commitment will help you stick to the goal and follow through on it.