Our default behaviors are, by definition, those things we do without thinking about them. It’s a good idea to step back from time to time and examine your defaults. You may want to change some of your “settings”.
Default Settings – Making Life Easier
My phone is old by cell phone standards. But I still remember when I got it, trading in my old flip phone for a smart phone. And it was smart. The technician at the store took about 15 minutes to set it up and save all my contacts. He handed me the phone and it was ready to go. Such convenience.
One big reason the set up was so quick and easy is because of default settings. Default settings, or “factory presets”, according to Wikipedia, give a pre-determined value to user-defined variables in a computer program or an electronic device, the new phone in my case.
Thus, I didn’t have to select a ring-tone, install a browser, or choose English as my language. I didn’t have to say how long to keep the screen active or how bright the display was to be. Like most people, I simply accepted the default settings and began using my phone.
Your Default Settings
Default settings in our phones, our apps, our computers, and other devices make us productive quickly. Imagine if, when I got my new phone, I had to sit down and select a value for every setting, then for every app my phone uses. I might not be using it yet! But, thanks to default settings, we are able to quickly and easily access all the devices we have in our lives today.
You and I have “default settings”, i.e., default behaviors, as well. Consider what it would be like if we had to stop and think about every decision point we face each day. Most of our day would be used up thinking about and re-making decisions we should’ve already made. Fortunately, our default behaviors take away much of that burden.
Our beliefs and the habits we’ve developed based on our beliefs make up our default settings. “Beliefs are the hidden scripts that run our lives,” Marie Forleo tells us in her book Everything Is Figureoutable. “A belief is something you know with total and absolute certainty. It’s a thought you’ve decided – consciously or unconsciously – is The Truth. Our beliefs are the root of our reality and results.” [Forleo]
Our beliefs become our reality – the way we view our world – and we act on them without having to think too much about it. They are our defaults. You may recall the T-BEAR model of Thoughts <-> Beliefs <-> Emotions <-> Actions <-> Results that shows how each of these elements helps determine the others. Forleo presents a similar model, except she begins with Beliefs: Beliefs -> Thoughts -> Emotions (she calls them Feelings) -> Actions -> Results. Either way, our beliefs and thoughts determine our actions and our results. If you aren’t getting the results you want in any area of your life, maybe it’s time to examine your default settings.
Identifying Your Defaults
Okay, you know you have default behaviors. How can you identify them? Default behaviors, by definition, are done unconsciously, or nearly so. Therefore, it may take some conscious effort to see them as they are.
Think about the things you do as second nature, without thinking about them. What routines do you go through when you brush your teeth, get dressed, start your car, and perform other daily activities? Look for patterns of behavior that have become ingrained over the years. [Wendzich]
Examine your environment and your community. Think about what you eat, what you wear, what you buy, places you go. Look for things you do “because everyone else is doing them”. [Wendzich]
Compare yourself to others, not to feel superior or inferior, just look at what you do differently than most of the people you know. Some of these could be default behaviors. [Wendzich]
Working With Your Defaults
Now that you’ve identified at least some of your default behaviors, what do you do with them?
- Keep the ones that are working.
- Change the ones that are not.
- Install new ones to help you.
Changing Your Defaults
Once you become aware of them, you will no doubt identify some defaults that would be beneficial to update or to change. Some may have worked for you in the past but are now outdated. Some may be limiting you, making it harder to reach a goal or become the person you want to be. How do you go about changing them? Here are three steps.
- Seek new exposures. The first step is to realize there are other options and you need to know what they are. Seek out new experiences. Talk to people you don’t normally talk to. Do things that take you out of your routine. In each case, look for beliefs and behaviors that differ from your default settings and consider if there might be a change you want to make. [Wendzich]
Then try on the new belief or behavior. As Rad Whendzich says in his book, Your Default Settings, “Experiencing something new isn’t just about seeing new things, it’s about trying new things.” [Wendzich]
- Reflect on your new experiences. Step back and contemplate how you feel about them. Consider the pros and cons about the new belief or new behavior. What was helpful? Could that become your new default? What was not helpful? How can you avoid repeating it? [Wendzich] Have a long-time perspective. A new behavior might be difficult to begin but get easier with practice.
- Once you select a new default behavior, commit to making the change. Since these behaviors are habits, you must strengthen the new default and weaken the old. Examine your environment and determine changes you can make that help with the process. Make the new behavior easy to do and make the old one as difficult as possible.
Installing New Defaults
Selecting new default behaviors is the same as installing any new habit. Recall these steps from James Clear’s Habit Model:
Cue = prompt
Craving = motivation
Response = ability
Reward = result of performing the behavior
Cue: What external prompt will remind you to initiate your new default behavior? Remember, if you can tie this cue to an existing habit, you are more likely to repeat it.
Craving / motivation: Are you motivated to add the new default setting? Make a list of the expected benefits from adopting your new default. You selected this as a desired new behavior, so if your motivation is low, ask yourself if this is really an important change for you?
Response / ability: Make the new behavior as easy as you can. You can increase the difficulty over time but start with a tiny, tiny improvement.
Reward: Be sure there is a reward built into performing the behavior. Congratulate yourself when you do the new behavior and feel good about the improvement you are making.
A More Effective You
Remember, it isn’t a matter of if you want default behaviors or not. They are already there. The question is are they serving you well? Some are. Some most likely are not. Keep the ones that work for you – even improve them if they could work more efficiently or effectively. But change the ones that are not helping you; or drop them altogether.
Become aware of your default behaviors and adjust them to help you be a truer, more effective you. That is embracing the Excelerated Life™!
Excelerated Habits™ — automating your best behaviors — is one step in creating your Excelerated Life™, a life of flourishing and well-being, and a life of meaning, purpose and service.
Clear, James. Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results. New York: Avert, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 2018.
Forleo, Marie. Everything Is Figureoutable. New York: Portfolio/Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC, 2019.
Wendzich, Rad. Your Default Settings: Adjust Your Autopilot To Build A More Stable And Impactful Life. Rad Wendzich, 2019.