Friday, September 10, 2010

Step Two: Identify Reasons for Perfect or Near-Perfect Individual Adult Performance

“Here is what I have found,” says the Preacher,
“Adding one thing to the other to find out the reason, ….”

— Ecclesiastes 7:27 (NKJV)

Many people feel incapable of answering questions about
the reasons for certain behaviors. They quite accurately
perceive that they are not scientists, nor are they
particularly familiar with scientific research.

When called on to explain observed behavior, even those
with some ideas don’t want to be embarrassed by
someone who knows more than they do. As a result,
many people will just sit quietly hoping the questioner
will change the subject rather than reply as best they

Relax. Scientific explanations are not what you need to
appreciate the sources of perfection and near perfection.
You simply need to identify the predictable patterns that
underlie examples of individual perfect and near-perfect
behavior. If you can apply common sense to
understanding why you do what you do that’s perfect or
near perfect, you will supply helpful answers that you
can apply to improving performance in other

Let me help you get started by providing some reasons
for individual adult perfect and near-perfect behaviors,
while I leave you the fun of identifying even more
sophisticated and original explanations:

• Natural instincts (Before they are born, babies can been
seen sucking their thumbs in sonograms; and few babies
fail to learn to suck … the most efficient way for
newborns to obtain milk from their mothers or a bottle;
as a result, we shouldn’t be surprised to see that adults
can suck liquids through straws.)
• Reflex reactions (Few can resist either kicking out a
foot after being tapped on the knee with a rubber
hammer by a physician or giggling after being tickled.)
• Conscious awareness that is focused by some physical
needs until you act (Urgent needs to excrete and urinate
will concentrate your attention on finding a bathroom or
a private place to perform these bodily functions.)
• Dislike (Most people avoid what’s unpleasant, such as
the odor from a skunk’s scent gland.)
• Comfort (You can stand in the driving rain unprotected
while holding your closed umbrella, or you can open and
stand under it and not get so wet.)

• Emotional gratification gained through your action
(Throwing out your arms while greeting someone will
almost always lead to a heart-warming hug.)
• Avoiding embarrassment (A man whose pants aren’t
zipped will almost always take care of the oversight as
soon as he realizes his circumstance.)
• Being guided by the crowd (If you see people looking
up, you’ll feel an irresistible urge to look up, too.)
• Desire (Few men will look away from and ignore an
attractive woman who is determinedly trying to get
their attention while not wearing very many clothes.)
• Enjoyment (Most people are drawn to performing a
favorite activity that’s fun such as moving in rhythm
to favorite music.)

• Economic self-interest very obviously favors taking
action (You will be much worse off if you don’t take the
action, such as when you have an unredeemed winning
lottery ticket … you won’t get paid unless you turn it in.)
• Seeking social connections (Behaving well when first
meeting people will help to make a better first
• Wanting safety (Learning to perform certain activities
can make you more secure, such as those living in a home
surrounded by nearby water learning to swim.)
• Avoiding inconvenience (If there are two checkout
lines in a store, people will either go into the shorter one
or the one that is moving much faster.)
• Perceiving that overwhelming advantages of many
kinds favor the action (An example of such a choice is
deciding to live in a building rather than in a cave.)

I encourage you to add to the list. Doing so will deepen
your understanding of what the most powerful human
motivators are. I particularly encourage you to think
about the last category that I listed: overwhelming
advantages of many kinds favor the action. That
behavioral motivation is the key concept for structuring
situations so that individual adults will perform
something perfectly or almost perfectly.

Some people may react negatively to thinking about
human motivation, imagining that applying such
information is always manipulative and unethical.
Before dismissing the appropriateness of applying this
knowledge, realize you can increase motivation ethically
by providing people with more of what they want that’s
good for them while being totally open about how you
are doing it. For instance, most people would like to
spend more time having good, clean fun with their loved
ones. If you add to their own motivations to help them
in a transparent way to spend more time with loved
ones, what’s the harm?

Copyright 2010 Donald W. Mitchell, All Rights Reserved.

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