On 19 Jul 96 at 18:38, joris wrote:
> One of the theme's I have always been very interested in may be
> stated very simply : "Why do people not behave the they want to? "
> We find references to this problem in all different fields of
> interest and behaviour. One finds it in religious contexts : St.
> Pauls : "Why do I do the things I do not want to do, and do not do
> the things I do want to do?".
I think the answer is, at one level, very simple. St. Paul did not
WANT what he wanted enough, and wanted something else, perhaps for
> This problem has been stated in different ways already during the
> discussions on "values and behaviour" in this group. What strikes
> me is that the following question is never being asked : "How does
> it come?" that behavior differs from what one wants (=values)? ( Or
> it may be that I have overlooked that part of the discussion).
Behaviour differs from what we SAY we want or what we BELIEVE we want.
Ultimately, when we do not do what we think we want, we are pursuing some
other goal or purpose. Most research that I have seen indicates that
behaviour is highly situational.
The problem I see with the phrasing of your question (my own personal
opinion which people may likely disagree), is that it suggests that
despite the fact that we may want to do something (whatever the right
thing is), when we do not, we ascribe the reason to something outside of
us, rather than saying: I guess I didn't want it enough. This results in a
potential abdication of responsibility that can reach horrific
repercussions. The Nazis who killed because it was their job ,for example.
In my view, integrity, and principled action begins with taking
responsibility for one's actions, and pursuing the right course
(consistent with one's values), even when one has to endure unpleasant
As a smoker who has "tried to quit", many times, I have been through the
"well, I will start smoking because I am under stress, overworked,
unhappy, happy, sad, angry....you get the idea. I now know that when I
truly WANT to quit, I will. That's commitment, not lipservice.
> Saying that is nothing
> more than saying that one does not "really" want it. My question
> concerns things that we "really want" to do, but still do not do. I
> may feel really very much motivated to stick to the diet which must
> make a much lighter person out of me, and still... You may feel
> very motivated not to quarrel with your kids again, and still...
In your examples, you might lack the skills and knowledge necessary, but
that aside, the ONLY measure of what we want is what we pursue.
The Olympics opened today, there are many examples of the level of
commitment that I speak about, and the personal responsibility and
sacrifice. > Argyris in his books ("Organizational Learning", etc.) seems
to have > found an answer in saying that one source of 'doing the thing
one > does not want to do' is automated behavior ("skilled incompetence")
> which could be unlearned, and one could be re-trained almost as one >
can learn to play tennis.
I can't speak to Argyris, but I can speak to automated behaviour, or
overlearned behaviour or whatever term you prefer. Skipping the
psychological jargon, they are bad habits, and can be broken with
consistent new behaviours. Eating, smoking, and lousy interpersonal
interactions are, or can be, habitual. But to break the habit, so to speak
requires commitment, and discipline.
Robert Bacal, CEO, Institute For Cooperative Communication
email@example.com, Located in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
"Robert Bacal" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <email@example.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>