Human Behavior, Compliance, and Identity

Human Behavior + Identity

In thinking through how to make some changes in my business, I’ve been thinking about identity in general.

One of the strongest drivers of our behavior is to comply with the person we believe ourselves to be.

If you want to do something different, you have to adopt the identity of the kind of person who would do that thing.

What would that person focus on? How would they think? How would they behave?

If you want to quit smoking, for example, you have to take on the identity of a non-smoker. You have to tell yourself: “I’m no longer a smoker … I’m a former smoker. I don’t conform to that behavior any longer.”

If you tell yourself that you make healthy choices more often than not, you’ll begin to feel differently when you make less-than-healthy choices.

Thinking this through, I can see that in some ways I’ve used this kind of thinking intuitively. During the times when I’ve been more physically active, I haven’t had a problem with exercising regularly. Most of the time, I make myself exercise because I know I’ll be glad I did later.

But I’ve never really been very good at applying this perspective to my business work.

I’ll be busy with other projects for the next 45 days, but I’m still taking the time to think things through in advance of doing the work. I’m asking myself, how would someone who owns a business instead of someone who does everything himself behave?

What kind of different choices will I need to make to stop doing everything myself? How will I create structure out of disorder?

Note: it’s not really disorder. Everything I do makes sense to me, but the problem is that it doesn’t make sense to anyone else. Clarifying how things work in a way that is understandable to others I work with is an important early step, I think.

That’s the idea, I think. It’s a process, not a quick fix, but this is the path I’m preparing to go down.

How about you? Are you making any changes?

Comments here.


P.S. After Monday’s post I received 100+ resumes and application letters… but I’m not actually hiring yet! If I want to accept public applications, it will be later in the summer, and I’ll post it here on the blog to be fair to everyone.

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    • Kenn Wilson says:

      I’m asking myself, how would someone who owns a business instead of someone who does everything himself behave?

      This is key. We’re going through something similar this year with our own business. We’ve had assistants in the past but last year we took a step back and began to look at the business as something that could grow sustainably, which is impossible if you do it all yourself, and make changes accordingly.

      We now have two employees (one full time, one part time but soon to be full time) and are about to hire a third. More importantly, we have clearly defined roles for everyone, including ourselves, and we’re empowering our employees to take ownership of their roles rather than just being “assistants” to us. The difference is amazing.

      The most important first step is to get everything in writing. Write out your roles, job descriptions, everything, into an operations manual. Even the things you’re going to continue doing yourself. It takes time but it clarifies things immensely and makes getting help much easier.

    • George Gurdjieff says:

      Having owned a couple businesses, been both employee and employer, independent contractor and consultant, I’ve found that rather than try and change my essential character, remain open to suggestion when it comes. More often than not it does arrive, the challenge though is recognizing it. Sometimes it’s friendly, other times it’s a kick in the wherever needs kicking. Seems like we’re receivers more than transmitters and the challenge is to find the right wavelength.

    • Britt Reints says:

      I’ve found that taking the time to acknowledge that you’re changing your identity is helpful, especially because that isn’t always easy. Even identities we don’t like can be hard to let go of, because they are familiar.

    • Renee Casterline says:

      Thanks for the great post. I am also thinking about how to make this kind of fundamental shift – what would it be like if I showed up differently? How can I change the way I approach various aspects of my life to live them with the passion and verve that I feel on the inside?

      It certainly is a process. My question for you: as you’re thinking this through, do you have any material you’re reading that you can recommend? This is one of those things where I don’t expect to find the solution or the way forward simply by looking inside, I need external stimulation too.

      Thanks a bunch. Feeling super fired up for WDS!

    • Ree Klein says:

      Ah, Chris, I love this topic! I’ve long believed that to change behavior, accomplish a goal or stay focused on a desire it’s important to clearly state it as if it’s true today: “I am debt free” or “I thrive on adventure” or “My business runs perfectly without me” are examples.

      Visual cues for me have been really powerful in my life. I sandblasted some coasters with these types of statement and have them around the house. Recently I posted a topic called Visual Cues Matter because I really believe in the power of claiming, in writing, what you want.

    • Caroline Frenette Master Intuitive Coach says:

      One of the most powerful & fun exercise I do with my clients is an exercise that I call the Mentor Exercise where we emulate the qualities of someone we truly admire & respect.

      For example, since Richard Branson is someone I admire I ask myself: “What would Richard do in this situation?”

      Snaps me out of my small thinking and propels me into much bigger possibilities instantly!

    • rhkennerly says:

      You kinda have a choice.

      You can be like, say, J.K. Rowlings who labored in obscurity for decades on “the dole” but believed her talent would shine through.

      Or you can be like J. Paul Getty: I’d rather have 1% of the effort of 100 men than 100% of my own effort.

      The real problem is when you’re stuck between the two. I guess most of us are. I get so bored with the working with people, pushing people, dealing with people business, that I let good projects go to seed. So the Getty route seems to be closed to me.

      However, I’m not sure I have the tenacity and belief in myself of Rowlings either.

    • Joanne Whitlock says:

      I always associated having a team of people working for me as way too much responsibility and being a complete pain in the neck. But maybe it’s sometimes the best way to serve people?

      It’s not such a change in identity then to continue to want to serve people the best you can.

      I have just started scouting for my support team and so far it’s fun. I have no expectations of any of them being perfect, so at the moment we are just playing and seeing what happens. Everyone knows there is little or no money in it at the moment so they only turn up if they really want to. And (and this is the best bit for me) they can contribute ideas on anything – not just their specialist area.

    • Antonia Lo Giudice says:

      Absolutely agree, Chris! For me, I have to be honest, just thinking about a different, although helped, wasn’t enough. I had actually be around those kind of people. When I quit my job of 10 years in the corporate world, before leaving for South America, the first month was very hard. I was around people who were getting up every morning to a 9 to 5 job while I was at home working on my stuff. There was no one in my surroundings who I could relate to. Once I arrived in South America, it was a burst of energy. I was surrounded by people who had also left everything behind to travel and start a business…Now, thinking about my different identity really got me going!

    • connie says:

      In general I agree and it’s similar to NLP where we adjust our language to the true reality. But there are exceptions. My first year overseas was a very dramatic change and I went with hesitation, but I was profoundly changed through the experience and since then, have found my sense of identity to be altered. So it can work in reverse if you take the plunge in spite of feeling that you’re not that kind of person.

    • Dr.Maxwell Maltz says:

      Great idea! It actually works. Change your identity (view of your own identity) first and the rest will follow!

    • L. A. Silberman says:

      An important lesson learned early on from another entrepreneur. When hiring resist the temptation to clone yourself. It’s so easy to hire people whose skills and abilities match your own. You are more likely to like person and to agree with almost everything they say.

      But in fact what needs to happen going forward is for you to allocate the majority of those tasks that play to your strengths and delegate all the rest (that don’t entire delegate the running of the company.) So try to find people who have strengths were you perceive you are weak. They will probably excel at those tasks and you both will be happy.

      Lost a great job as an Executive Assistant to an entrepreneur in my 30s when she explained to me that she would love to hire me but the assessment her company created showed we were too much alike. LOL. And over the year realized she was correct in her decision.

    • Chris says:


      Great lesson! I like it.

    • JenA says:

      Sometimes showing up with a different identity means letting go of the idea that my way of doing things is the right way. (Yes, I can be a control freak.) It is very interesting to note that almost any project has endless pathways to completion. Just because someone I’ve hired does projects differently, doesn’t mean that those projects have less value. In fact, many projects turn out better than expected because my vision of the project was limited. My mantra on control freak days is: “I’ve hired creative people I trust, let them do their job.”

    • Kristine says:

      Start now with every task you do that you might be thinking of delegating, make a checklist of the steps from which to write procedures. It’s one way to get out of your head what you do and the kindest way to pass it on to someone else, in writing! I’ve been and independent contractor most of my life but have also do temp jobs everywhere, the most successful times are when there were written procedures or checklists to follow. That’s how you give opportunity without being in control by holding it all in your head. That’s what I’ve found. Good luck.

    • Joseph Bernard says:

      I feel I have learned to trust several inner sources to guide my change process. One source is my intuition which you mentioned. I think of intuition as my soul’s voice, the voice of my higher nature. This voice represents a level of knowing the extends beyond my ordinary ego-mind which has its inherent limitations. When I listen to this deeper knowing I make contact with the part of me that is infinite and eternal, the part that has direct access to the collective consciousness of all soul’s. I would extend this wisdom to include the wisdom from the Source of all creation.
      The more I move upward from ego to intuition, to soul, to collective consciousness, to Source the more I expand my possibilities.

      The second source is awareness. Self-awareness provides me the information I need to act in alignment with who I am. If I am aware of who I am, then I can make clear choices and from those choices change naturally flows.
      Awareness = Choice = Change

    • Mitzi says:

      One interesting way to figure out what to delegate is to make a list of all the things you do in a week or two of work. Then decide what you want to continue doing yourself and what you want someone else to do.

      Six years ago, I was hired as the operations manager of a manufacturing company with no other operations employees. I received orders from the sales manager, did purchasing, receiving and parts pulling for assembly, sometimes building product myself, testing, packaging and shipping, customer service, repairs, international logistics. Over time, each of those core job functions moved to other people so that now about 40% of my time is planning, 20% future projects, and 40% fall back and problem solving for my team.

      One key sign that it was time to hire for a new job function was when that particular function was the consistent bottleneck in our process. Growing from $1M and 4 employees to $4M and 14 employees in six years meant there has almost always been some function we are outgrowing.

    • Kathryn says:

      It’s a fabulous growing step.

    • Patrice Federspiel says:

      Thank you Chris! This is Just what I needed to hear as I work to uplevel my art business. I’ve been coached to ask “What would my future self do?” in different circumstances, and your question of “How would someone who owns a business, instead of someone who does everything himself, behave?” is another perfect example.

      Mahalo nui loa! Patrice

    • Takis Athanassiou says:

      Essentially, Chris the problem is to do more things, to pursue more stuff, to do more in general (in business and in life) without loosing yourself. It can be done (as you suggested) without losing you (I believe), but I think you need to change identity. I don’t suggest to change as a person, but our identity is been formed by a million little bit of wants, pursues, habits, routines, thought and ideas, mannerisms, wishes, values, scopes, objectives, etc that serve us in a point. If you want to change a behavior we should change something in this cloud [?] of features and start thinking in the new terms, dictated by the new features you choose to implement.

      Just a thought!!!

    • Nancy says:

      I don’t own a business but I’ve definitely used this method to become more of a sociable and adventurous person. I am a natural introvert and have always liked my comfort zone, but I admired people who traveled lots and did amazing things and could just meet strangers easily. So I basically adopted the identity of a sociable traveller and faked it till i made it! And what do you lnow, here I am traveling for 10 months around Australia, Asia and New Zealand and having a blast meeting people every day. It certainly doesn’t mean I’ve lost who I am, but I think I have changed my identity to better fit my desires in life.

      Thanks Chris, your blog definitely helped me through all my recent experiences and I wish you luck on your new projects!

    • William says:

      It’s a good point. I did P90X a couple of years ago and shed a lot of weight. Since then, I’ve been able to keep the weight off I think in a large part because I TELL myself and my friends that I don’t really eat sweets.

      Even when I look at a dessert menu I don’t really find any of it appealing and usually just wind up putting it back.

      My affinity for sweets is pretty much gone these days. And I think its in a large part because I was vocal about it – to myself and with others.

    • Ethan Pepper says:

      Whatever you want to do you have to you have to have the mindset to get there. Imagine someone who has already achieved what you want then ask yourself “How did they get there?” and “What were they thinking along the way?” by imitating success you’ll be successful. The problem is often you’ll reach a point where the next step makes them uncomfortable this is often what separates those who accomplish what they want from those that don’t. Develop a plan and push through.

    • Will says:

      Hi Chris, I have recently started an online business that helps individuals get out of personal debt, using their own money. I am changing, and I feel the change. I usually focus on the person I want to become. The change is uncomfortable at times, but I know its for the best. I would like to be successful financially, but at my age, a senior, I feel just being able to share my ideas, and be helpful to others is an intangible, I find agreeable. Keep up the good work.

    • Mike@WeOnlyDoThisOnce says:

      Great disclaimer on disorder, I think. Habit-forming is one of the hardest things to do, and I try to take it small steps at a time with smaller milestones to larger goals.

    • Taylor Quinn says:

      Great post Chris, very well said. I fight the problem of always knowing the progress of all the different projects I am working on, but not explaining to those around me what is going on. Regular communication, be it daily, weekly, or monthly, depending on the project, is something I am trying to do to fix it.

    • Akinsola says:

      I missed reading this post and I read it this morning, such a lovely post.

      Anyway I have been making changes on how I use my time, working on Time efficiency right now.

    • SJ Scott says:


      For type A personalities letting go of the control in a business is one of the toughest things in the world.

      But you really can’t do it all alone.

      Personally I devise a series of small tests upfront, and micromanage the results to be sure I get the results I desire.

      Then it is just a matter of the toughest part. Taking a deep breath, trusting others and letting them do their thing.

      Not easy.


    • Lisa Jackson says:

      Completely agree Chris! I have to actively change who i am for short bursts at a time so that i can be different and think differently.

      I recently did a DISC personaility profiling asessment and it showed me who i am and how i act in a certain situation. It really opened up my way of thinking and how you can change yourself and project yourself forward into another identity.

      Caroline Frenette – I really like how you use a mentor or idol and ask what they would do in this situation. Something i’m definitely going to try!

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    • run 3 says:

      The more I move upward from ego to intuition, to soul, to collective consciousness, to Source the more I expand my possibilities.

    • MS-600 Braindumps says:

      Thinking this through, I can see that in some ways I’ve used this kind of thinking intuitively. During the times when I’ve been more physically active, I haven’t had a problem with exercising regularly. Most of the time, I make myself exercise because I know I’ll be glad I did later.

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