Why do we do what we do? It’s a great question.
And it’s a question that psychologist Ellen Langer and her research team at Harvard University set out to answer in 1977. Their study would change our understanding of human behavior and shed light on what drives us.
It all started when Langer asked her research assistants to cut in front of innocent people waiting in line at the photocopiers in the library.
The Copy Machine Study
This is how the study went…
A researcher would spot someone waiting at the library copy machine and walk over with the intention of cutting in front of the person in line. Then, the researcher would look at the innocent bystander and ask them one of three questions.
Version 1: “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the copy machine?”
Version 2: “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the copy machine, because I’m in a rush?”
Version 3: “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the copy machine, because I have to make copies?”
When the researchers analyzed the data, they found the following.
Version 1: 60 percent of people let the researcher skip the line.
Version 2: 94 percent of people let the researcher skip ahead in line.
Version 3: 93 percent of people let the researcher skip ahead in line.
The study became famous because it uncovered one of the most powerful words we use to drive our behavior: because. Langer’s work proved that as long as we could justify a behavior in our brains (“I’m doing this because…”), we were more likely to perform the behavior.
Just a single word, can make a huge difference. Just a single thought can make a huge difference. It matters greatly how those thoughts are framed, though.
Indeed, Earl Nightingale said it best –
“A single thought can revolutionize your life as it did mine. A single thought can make you rich or it can land you in prison for the rest of your life.”
When I heard Earl make this statement, a light bulb went off for me. I got that you do not necessarily need genius in order to enjoy a prosperous life. Rather, having exceptionally valuable, single thoughts married to a reason “why” was key. It’s not enough to want a better life, you have to want a better life, because.
I thought you might be interested in some “single thoughts” that when paired with a “because”, literally changed my life. So here they are, in no order of importance as each are profoundly important.
13 Simple Thoughts
1. You can create your own reality with your thoughts, because what the mind can conceive the body will achieve. Knowing this gives you permission to create any life you want.
2. It’s good to learn from mistakes, but it’s better to learn from someone else’s mistakes, because success leaves tracks. Learn from the giants.
3. People will do almost anything to stay in their comfort zones, because it offers a (false) sense of security. If you want to accomplish anything, you have to get out of your comfort zone. This usually means doing the opposite of what you feel like doing.
4. Real regrets only come from not doing your best, because everything else is out of your control.
5. Self-deception is the worst deception, because it’s a lie told to ourselves. Taking responsibility is the cornerstone of success. If you don’t take responsibility, you give up the power to change.
6. The turning point in change is when the formerly acceptable becomes the unacceptable, because until then everything will stay the same. Disgust is a powerful motivator.
7. Work to build savings, because savings are the seeds of wealth. Then, turn your savings into investment capital to build wealth. Think long-term and watch your wealth grow.
8. Success comes to those who develop the discipline of intense, sustained concentration, because what we focus on expands. A few basic things when focused on produces the majority of our results.
9. Protect your downside and the upside will take care of itself, because if you lose money, you have to earn a 100% return on your next dollar just to get even. The first rule of wealth is to never lose money. This takes tremendous discipline.
10. To have a rich life you need a rich mind, because your mind is like a computer – if you fill it with garbage, you’ll get garbage from it. Keep an active mind, and continue to grow intellectually. You either grow or regress. Nothing stands still.
11. Assume the attitude that if you don’t reach your goal, you will literally die, because this type of gun-to-your-head focus forces you to find a way. Demand it of yourself and it will happen.
12. Time spent in quiet reflection of your goals and philosophies is priceless, because most of man’s problems stem from his inability to sit still and contemplate. Don’t allow yourself to be rushed. Make important decisions slowly and carefully and walk away if it doesn’t feel right. An hour of concentrated thought can be worth a month of hard work.
13. The right thing is usually not the easy thing to do, because you may have to sacrifice being popular or liked for being right. But you’ll lose self-esteem for agreeing to something you know is wrong. Value self-reliance over other’s often-wrong opinions. Don’t be afraid to say “no”.
We all are bombarded with making decisions daily. Simple thoughts, married with a good “because” can serve as a guide or the “words that you live by.”
All successful men and women I know have words they live by. Some people have it as a personal statement others a principle or philosophy, but that is what shaped their lives and molded their destinies.
I encourage you to create your list of credos. Make them short and to the point and always associate them with a strong “because” to get maximum benefit. These will be your strong statements that pop up in your thought without thinking and the simple thoughts that guide you to success.
Be free. Nothing else is worth it.
Ready for more tips on how to achieve the free life? Check-out these articles from the blog archives below: