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Avoiding Behavioral Drift

May 18, 2017
By Daryl Leisey

Categories: Leadership & Organizational Development

Avoiding Behavioral Drift

There is a great quote from John Maxwell that states, “Experience is not the best teacher… EVALUATED experience is the best teacher.”  Or, as I heard a speaker say one time, “Experience makes us older, evaluated experience makes us wiser.”

As people, we are often changing or modifying our thinking, behaviors and habits – and as leaders, influencing personal change in others.  However, in doing so, we face the challenge of what psychologists refer to as “behavioral drift” – the tendency to go back to old behavioral patterns when we are making changes.   The start of behavioral drift is often so subtle that it is easy to excuse or to let go unnoticed.  The truth of the matter is that in reality it probably, in and of itself, is not really an issue.  However, the path that it puts you on may very well be.  The power is in the subtlety of the pull toward an end that you do not desire or plan for.

In the book Living Smart (a book about changing your health habits), authors Klapow and Pruitt identify 3 key ways to deal with behavioral drift:

  • Anticipate the causes of the drift
  • Have a plan to deal with the drift
  • Catch the drift in its earliest stages

As people and leaders, it’s important to take a few moments at the end of every day, every week, and every month to evaluate:

  • What have I learned or observed about myself?
  • Where am I relative to where I want to be?
  • Where am I beginning to drift?

Engaging in just a few moments of regular self-reflection and evaluation will be a significant step in our own personal development and in avoiding behavioral drift.

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