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Throughout our lives, we are constantly changing. These changes help us learn, help us grow, help us mature, and help us succeed.
As social, storytelling animals, human beings are adapt at fabricating reality with each other, and also within ourselves. Why we change and how we change is based largely on the roles we play, roles we want to play, and groups we choose to belong to. In other words… by putting ourselves into a new role, we can figure out the behaviors of that role and start to change our behavior. This can lead to transforming ourselves and growing into better versions of ourselves.
This ability to transform through self-categorization happens as we grow up and continues throughout our life. You have been doing it even if you didn't realize it.
As we grew up, we kept adopting roles that changed our behavior. These roles we adopted helped us figure out how to behave given certain situations. When we first started going to school, our behaviors changed into what would be acceptable as a student. What worked at home, did not work at school.
We also began to join groups of friends, sports teams, clubs, and other groups where we adopted behaviors and beliefs. These behaviors and beliefs impacted how we interpreted what was going on around us and what that meant to us at the time helped us make decisions. We were able to see the worlds we occupied in a different way depending on the lens that was important to us at the time. You behaved differently depending on which role was most important to you at the time, and in the situation.
Everyday we had to pick and choose the identities that were important to us at the time and used those identities to guide our behavior. As we grew, we adopted more and more identities and these identities impacted what we did.
These processes of adopting new identities and roles, in many cases, just happened as we wanted to experience new things and have new friends.
If we wanted to play sports, we started to adopt that team identity as our behavioral guidance.
If we joined the band, we adopted that identity to make sense of what we needed to do to play a musical instrument with a group.
If we wanted to get good grades, we had to adopt the identity of a good student.
Then we continued to mature and that maturity came with a greater understanding of self, but the process of adopting a new role remained with us as social storytelling animals. We told ourselves stories. We heard stories from others. These stories put us into characters that could help us reach goals we had set for ourselves.
Did we want to get a different job?
Did we want to promote?
Did we want to be a better leader?
Did we want to have a family?
All of these questions that came up about who we wanted to be and where we wanted to end up drove us to figure out what we needed to do to become what we saw we wanted to become. With this line of thinking, we can now take a proactive approach to our own transformation. We can consciously and methodically adopt new roles and behaviors for a number of positive reasons.
If we want to change careers.
If we want to promote.
If we want to improve our family life.
If we want to impact our work-life balance.
If we want to hone our performance in our current jobs.
In order to do this, we can use the four steps to self-categorization and use it for self-improvement. First, we define ourselves as a member of a distinct group. Second, we learn the behaviors that correlate with that new role. Third, we assign these behaviors to ourselves. Until finally, the behavior becomes more normal as the role we have adopted becomes more important to us and makes more sense in more situations. This new role begins to fit more often with the world we construct around us.
Using this process of self-categorization, we can transform our own behavior and fit the roles we want to play in our own lives.
For more on self-transformation, please listen to this episode of the Crucial Talks Podcast: