Behaviour: A Sum of Our Perceptions

vector picture showing a woman choosing between different types of mindsets: scared, sad, or happy

June 6, 2024

Do you ever wonder why we do the things we do? What drives our decisions, actions, and behaviours? It is a question that has fascinated philosophers, psychologists, and everyday people for centuries. From the seemingly rational to the seemingly irrational, our behaviours are shaped by a complex mix of thoughts, emotions, and external factors. This article will delve into the fascinating world of human behaviour and explore the thoughts behind our actions. Get ready to dive into the complexities of the human mind and discover the power of our thoughts in shaping how we behave.

How many of your beliefs are believed by ALL people?

Think about it for a moment. Do you believe in the value of going above and beyond? The importance of having fun? Should life be exciting? Or should life be comforting? These are just a few examples of beliefs that you might hold. It can be easy to go through life assuming everyone thinks how you do. After all, aren’t these beliefs common sense? You might be surprised to learn that each person lives with a great degree of private sense, the collection of beliefs and views of the world you have personally developed throughout your formative years. Whilst that makes us beautifully unique human beings, it can pose challenges when our private sense clashes with the outside world. Not sure how this relates to behaviour? Keep reading, and it will make sense, I promise!

The precursor of behaviour is our perception

Early childhood is based on pre-working hypotheses in the form of statements such as “This happened to me and therefore it means that …”. According to the psychologist Jean Piaget, we filter new information through this pre-formed hypothesis over many years. As time goes by and we become adults, we develop habitual ways of acting that result in tendencies or predispositions of beliefs and behaviours.  

Because we humans look to pattern match in all our areas of life, we develop systematically organised patterns. We have a pattern for how work, love, friendship, family, men, women, challenges, strangers etc. should be. It’s an inescapable fact of the human condition. The problem arises when our patterns become “contaminated” with “therefore” conclusions that ultimately do us a disservice in life. I have seen clients in my practice who were genuinely convinced that what they lived as children couldn’t matter anymore. After all, they’re all grown up, right? Most patterns are formed within the first 7 years of life. These paradigms are needed to help us survive and join up disconnected bits of information. But if we don’t open our paradigms to change or modification, we will become prisoners to rigid, habitual unexamined behaviour patterns.

If you want to discover the unique paradigms that drive your current behaviours, get in touch for a consultation call.

What you need to know about behaviour

Behaviour has a purpose

All of our psychological movement is pulled by a specific purpose or goal. We adapt, decide and then move in the direction of our goals. Looking at the goal of a behaviour can be more useful than trying to get to the reason for the behaviour. The purpose of the behaviour is far more telling.

Our chief motivator is striving for significance

We are all concerned with our reputation, which is how we are known and how people see and understand us. We move from an inferior or less significant position to one of recognition and value. Very often, this striving for significance can lead to overcompensation. The choice of how one becomes significant is up to the individual.

Behaviour is a function of perception

Here’s where the patterns come in. We see all our experiences from a perspective which is our creation. To quote Dinkmeyer and Losoncy:

“Perception is the event plus the individual meaning or interpretation of the event”.

Our behaviours will not be a mere reaction to an event, they will be a reaction to our unique interpretation of the event. For example, some clients are amazed to hear that not everyone gets just as upset as them when they hear certain pieces of feedback. It simply doesn’t resonate with everyone in the same way. To improve your behaviour, you need to change your perception. 

Let’s slow-walk this

It might be making sense so far, but when you’re in the heat of the moment, it takes a split second to lean into old behaviour patterns that do you more harm than good. Let’s analyse a step-by-step example: Alex is in an appraisal meeting with management. Alex is told there’s no promotion or salary increase this year. What’s happening for Alex?

  1. Kneejerk reaction thoughts/images: “What a [expletive]!”, “My work is never respected”, “I’m such a mess”, “This embarrassment is too much”
  2. Concluding beliefs: I am a victim, others are bad and making my life miserable, and the world is harsh, therefore I must protect myself
  3. The behaviour then becomes the “therefore” statement: protection by withdrawal and lashing out at others, avoidance, indulging in drinking/eating/shopping/other addictive activity etc.

In conclusion

This article merely scratches the surface of the complexities of human behaviour. To sum up, you learned a bit about how we all develop unique perceptions as children, which we pattern-match as we become adults. We create conclusions about how life should and should not be, which leads to certain behaviours we “automatically” turn to. 

That means that change is possible. The brain is an elastic organ. Through working together, we can explore rebuttals of your existing beliefs, change the spectacles you use to look at the world and enforce behavioural alternatives that will leave you more confident and content. Get in touch if you want to learn more.