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Act First, Become Later

One of the most interesting things about humans is how hypocritical we are. We study after study and get results after the result, but we still do not implement the study’s findings. For some reason, we have amazing curiosity when it comes to developing insights and ideas, but we chicken out when it comes time to execute them. Unless some crisis comes along to force us into it, we don’t budge. We fear change that much.

Case in point: there has been study after study that states that your external environment dictates how you act. Messy spaces and messy surroundings have made you more creative, while clean and orderly surroundings make you more productive. But do companies do anything different based on the type of work? No, we are all placed in open offices, designs stolen from the “cool silicon valley startup,” hoping that this new configuration will promote collaboration and innovation.

Or study after study (one of which I spearheaded at Stanford) indicates that an employee’s health, wellness, innovative tendencies, and productivity soars when they are allowed to choose where and when they work. Work from anywhere (not work from home) was always better than working in an open office – where the first thing an incoming employee does is buy an excellent headset to cut out the outside world and focus on work.

Humans are like that. Whether by mimesis or by their surrounding environment, they tend to act a specific way based on outside influences: their location, their colleagues, their city, etc., etc.

This is great when you are ok with your life and your company. But what if you aren’t. What if you want to change? What if you want to build a more innovative culture? What are you want to move your company into the future? What if you have a goal that you want to reach but seem stuck?

When interrogators want to “unstick” their subjects to get them to talk, they isolate them from the environment that they are in. Your best opportunity to change is when you change your environment. Your best opportunity to reinvent yourself is when you physically go somewhere else – whether it’s a new job, a new city, a new country. When you are indifferent surroundings, you tend to change. Or be more open to change.

It’s like that TED talk where invoking a “power pose” (you know the one like Superman, back straight, chest out, hands-on-hips) makes you literally feel more powerful. You change your outward posture, and bam – you feel like a different person.

If you want to change – don’t just do something different. First, go somewhere different. Then, put yourself in a new place. It might not be as radical as getting a new job or moving to a different country, but changing your physical location or state does more to trigger change than staying in your happy comfort zone.

Don’t start by talking – start by walking. Act first, and it will help you become later.


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