OPINION: Excellence is Attitudinal Behavioural Science By Sy Mokadi

OPINION: Excellence is Attitudinal Behavioural Science By Sy Mokadi

In any situation, one always has two options. Change or accept the situation. Most failures come from the indecision not to change or accept a situation. Excellence pursuit is a choice not to tweak but overhaul (transform) a situation. It engenders ethos of thinking, acting and performing anew.

For this reason, it triggers two opposing forces: the force of resistance versus the force of exploration. While in some cases, these forces represent preserving self-interests versus pursuing common interests, in most cases, it is fear versus risk appetite.

The force of resistance fears to forfeit the comfort zone and protects it even at the risk of becoming irrelevant. In contrast, the force of exploration heeds the advice of Greek philosopher, Herodotus: “it is better by noble boldness to run the risk of being subject to half of the evils we anticipate than remain in cowardly listlessness for fear of what may happen”.

Although it is scary to abandon the comfort zone, the force of exploration is not willing to forfeit relevance. Relevance determines who advances and who perishes. Those who adapt, secure future existence and those who fall head into oblivion.

With time, in-between the two forces emerges the third force. The force of fence sitting; the indecision to play not to lose; the choice to be stuck between resistance and exploration.

At the outset, the force of fence-sitting is transient and appears insignificant. However, if it changes heart, it can give impetus to either of the two other forces.

Just as in democracies dominated by two political parties where elections are won or lost through the swing vote of independent voters, the force of fence sitting may join and win it for the force of resistance or for the force of exploration. This makes it a force to be reckoned with and to be ignored at one’s own peril.

Excellence is behavioural science because its primary conduit is settled character, mode of thinking and behavioural pattern called attitude. In excellence pursuit, real change is attitudinal.

Until attitude changes, excellence remains elusive. Therefore, excellence is most difficult to achieve because attitudinal change is mostly resisted. Three reasons explain why.

Firstly, the power of attitude is the power of belief. Attitude expresses people’s deepest beliefs. To change attitude is to change people’s deepest belief(s). This makes attitude most difficult to dislodge.

Secondly, as witnessed from the corona virus pandemic, it takes time to realize that change is a friend. Some people would rather perish than change their attitude. They would rather choose the fatal denialism of living as if today is yesterday; gather and drink, smoke and weaken their lungs further and hit the bars, only to go home in the morning.

Thirdly, according to Robert Greene (2006), the future belongs to groups that are fluid, fast and non-linear. Excellence pursuit seeks to make an enterprise adaptive. It prepares an enterprise to assume a vantage position in the future.

In the future triggers resistance because while excellence pursuit requires attitudinal change in the present, it promises prosperity in the future. This promise amounts to abstraction; the intangible; that which can neither be seen nor touched. Intangibility is more likely to evoke resistance than embracement.

Development of a new attitude is evolutionary alignment that mirrors the principle of causality. Robin Sharma (2004) captures this alignment with most clarity. “What separates the best from the rest comes down to habits. You sow a thought, you reap an action. Reap an action, you sow a habit. Sow a habit, you reap a character. Sow a character, you reap your destiny”.

Simply put, choose excellence habits. Practice them to develop excellence character (attitude), which (character) paves way for excellence. Bear in mind that development of new attitude is more contingent on self-discipline.

Greek philosopher, Plato, said that the best victory is to conquer self. Likewise, Paulo Coelho says that without enough self-discipline, one does not move forward. Therefore, just as the believer needs self-discipline to remain faithful to his/her belief, development of a new attitude starts with self-disciplined faith in habits; the unconditional belief that these are right fielded habits.

Where there is no self-disciplined faith in habits, their frequent practice is interrupted and discontinuity reigns. Where there is self-disciplined faith in habits habituation and attituding materialize.

Habituation is frequency of practicing habits with the objective to transform them into attitude. Attituding is frequency of living up to one’s attitude; living in character. Frequency underscores both because practice makes perfect only when the best practice is consistency.

Consistency amplifies attitude and amplified attitude paves way for excellence. In short, in habituation, attitude corresponds to habits chosen to develop it and in attituding, excellence corresponds to attitude developed to pursue it.

Habits bestow attitude and attitude bestows excellence. In reverse, if habits are flawed and the flaw is not corrected, the consequent attitude is flawed and excellence is doomed.

In conclusion, as already pointed out, excellence is contingent on attitude and attitude is contingent on habits. In turn, as the subconscious mind is the creature (incubator) of habits and attitude, habits and attitude are contingent on the subconscious mind.

Therefore, excellence pursuit is a subconscious mind mission. To this end, pioneering American psychologist, William James, concluded, “The power to move the world is in your subconscious mind”. This is why most excellent achievements are attributed to synonyms of the subconscious mind: within, inner voice and intuition.

Mozart (the great composer) said he received inspiration from within. Socrates (the great philosopher) said he was guided by his inner voice, and Albert Einstein (the genius) attributed his success to intuition.

In his study on high ranking executives, published in the Harvard Business Review, Henry Mintzberg found that high ranking executives also attribute their excellent solutions to the subconscious mind. He found that high ranking executives were “constantly” relying on hunches to cope with problems too complex for “rational thinking.” He concluded: success does not lie in that narrow-minded concept called “rationality”; it lies in a blend of clear headed logic and powerful intuition.

Sy Mokadi
Learning and Development Facilitator


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