September 01, 2021


On June 1st, Katie and I planted a few flowers and a vegetable garden on our small patio space. And since then, we've eaten breakfast on that patio nearly every morning (the same fruit, yogurt, and granola I’ve eaten for years). Today, on September 1st, I paid especially close attention to how some of those things have grown and blossomed, while others have stagnated or even wilted away.

Growth is a natural part of life. And yet, it happens more fully when we tend to it. We’re all trees growing this way and that way — and (most of the time) we have the ability to decide how we want to grow.

But how does growth happen?
There’s a social science theory called Theory of Planned Behavior. It looks like this:

In short, the Theory of Planned Behavior posits that growth is dependent on our behaviors: what we choose and how we stick with it. And those behaviors are impacted by our mindsets: what we believe about ourselves and our environment. I'll get to why this may be one of the most important frameworks for your education, career, and daily life in a moment, but first let's break down the model.

The Attitude
First, you begin with an internal question or desire — a college degree, a new career, a Playstation 5, a bigger home. Anything you want in life starts with how you see that thing. This part of your mindset is called your Attitude.

The Norm
Your Attitude towards something is based on whether or not you believe this thing will actually be good for you. Does it make sense? Do I need this now? Much of the Subjective Norm is influenced by outside forces. What are other families doing? What about your colleagues and friends? What about people you admire and respect? If they’re doing it or encouraging you to do it, your mindset will shift too. You’ll believe it’s a good thing. This is why your five closest friends matter so much.

The Ease of Control
Finally, there’s the ease of making the decision. Are you able to handle it? Does it feel good when you’re experiencing it? This is why campus visits, car dealerships, Apple stores, websites, etc. are so focused on the user experience. The better something feels in your hands (literally or figuratively) and the easier it is for you to “use”, the more your mind feels comfortable with it.

Back to the Attitude
All of these forces create your mindset. And when all three forces are present, your behavior will change. If one or two are absent, your behavior will stay the same.

Looking Back
With this in mind, you can look back at any number of decisions you’ve made: buying your iPhone, choosing your college, taking up Yoga, etc. You had a need, there were outside factors, and the decision became easy enough to make.

You can also think about the decisions you did not make: sticking with your exercise routine, writing practice, or completing your quarterly performance reviews, etc. Something was missing for that behavior to stick and growth to happen. You didn’t really have a need, you didn’t believe it was actually good for you, you didn’t have outside forces encouraging you, or you felt it was too challenging to do the behavior.

Break it Down
What growth are you or your team hoping to achieve next? And what behavior(s) are necessary for that growth? Try breaking it down from large commitments to simpler steps at these key inflection points. And then watch how things grow.

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