How to Grow Ideas Into Behavior Change – The Plant Metaphor

The title of this article may attract people with malicious intentions. Therefore a disclaimer is warranted: This article is written solely for the spread of positive thinking.

Let’s get started. A simple way of giving birth to ideas in people’s minds, and enticing them to behave in a certain way, is to keep the metaphor of a seed growing into a mighty plant in mind. The seed represents your ideas themselves. The plant represents others’ actions driven by the ideas which you’ve planted.

When attempting to entice others to commit to your ideas through action, the only sensible way to be successful is to make them believe the same things that you do. If your reasons are malicious in nature, it will make it more difficult to get others to believe these intentions. Truth has a mysterious way of being brought to the forefront.

 


Plant


Planting the ideas that make others do the things that you want them to involves picking the perfect time (season), perfect setting (good soil), and the perfect seeds. Test your ideas out in controlled environments prior to going out and planting them amidst element you can’t control. Attempt to gain an understanding of whether your ideas have any chance of acceptance in a controlled and safe environment. Work your ideas (seeds) through with people who are closeto you. If you can make people who know you agree with you on ideas surrounding the topic in question, then you can begin to prepare for planting these seeds in the harsh world around you.

A controlled environment, in this sense, is one within which you can anticipate the arguments against your ideas. By knowing the people you’re talking to well, and being comfortable with their presence, you’re enticed to feel safe in expressing ideas which are perhaps ‘out there’. The acceptance of your ideas in a controlled environment guarantees nothing, but it shows you that there is a chance of growth, which is all you need.

Now onto the seeds themselves. The best seeds are the ones which have been proven to grow. Ideas sourced from peer-reviewed scientific research will be easier to grow into plants (behavior change) than ideas you think up while walking down the street. Of course, nothing is guaranteed. If the peer-reviewed research you use to drive behavior change does not carry noticeable impact with it, it’s unlikely to get adopted.

The spread of ideas thereby, depends on two main factors: prove-ability, and impact. How easy they are to understand is a third factor which doesn’t play as much of a role, but is still important. Be clear with how you present your ideas, plant your seeds precisely.

For example, if you want your coworkers to manage their time more effectively during meetings, your seeds can involve citation of management articles which propose innovative ways of doing so. A clear impact of the adoption of the ideas you present should be known as well. What will cutting the fat from meetings allow your team to do that they can’t do now? Will the adoption of your ideas ensure success or merely hope for it?

Provability in real-time is important as well. Examples of this are first targeting your manager in the adoption of a new methodology to meetings at work, who is seen as an authority figure, getting their approval, and then planting the verified seed in the minds of your colleagues.

The biggest key to take away from the seed metaphor is that just like a good fertile soil, your audience needs to be primed for new ideas. Ensure your timing is right (spring season), and that there are resources to nourish these seeds (time, energy, capacity). Make the ideas seem beneficial to them and don’t push for progressive action right away. The way to change the behavior of others stems from consistent priming and work toward small changes day by day. A seed doesn’t grow into a full plant in one night.

 


Nourish


Let your seeds sit and begin early expansion. Have some down-time during which you do not mention any ideas or recommendations surrounding what you want to make your targets do. You will know whether or not to pursue your venture for controlling their behavior if you notice that your audience requires nourishment for the ideas that you planted. This phase is akin to the early hours and days of first planting a seed into a fertile soil. There is apprehension of whether it will ‘take’. It’s best to leave the soil alone and allow nature to play its course for just a little bit. You are an aide in the spread of ideas, not their governor. You’ll never possess nature’s power to govern, thereby you can only standby and play your role (provide nourishment).

The easiest way to know if your targets require nourishment for the behaviors that you planted earlier is if they begin asking you questions related to the ideas that you’ve planted earlier. These are the most overt signs of your ideas requiring nourishment, and are easy ways to fulfill your nourishing responsibilities.

Some people will be covert in their pleads for nourishment. Be prepared to nourish the ideas of those you want to influence the behavior of individually. Your targets will give you signs of needing nourishment through various different ways. Though it is difficult to say what these methods look like without knowing specifics, they will always require input from you in some fashion. Some people will raise points which serve to argue against the ideas you’ve presented. Some will even scream out in disgust. Remember, nature’s reaction to the planting of a seed is amoral, it just is. Your job is to ensure the success of the seed sprouting by nourishing it with whatever you can find to work. People who vehemently disagree with you each have a recipe of nourishment for you to figure out. The combination of ingredients is your task to figure out. Being aggressive yourself, is seldom one of those ingredients.

Even if their attempts come at you in a negative manner, you need to remain neutral to any emotions and explain why your ideas will bring forth benefits for your target audience. The nourishment phase thereby, is an attempt at consistently reminding your audience of the prove-ability and impact of the ideas you present. These reminders can come in many forms, and should be tailored to your audience.

 


Sprout


After proper nourishment of any issues, concerns, or questions about your proposition for behavior change, your ideas will begin to sprout. The way you will know that your ideas have sprouted within the mind of your target audience is when the begin to be accepted. First this acceptance will be one of agreement, then, you’ll see people slowly change their behavior slowly toward the vision that you initially laid out.

Your ideas will sprout slowly, and hopefully steadily. Do not expect your whole target audience to immediately get taken over by the ideas which you present. The sprouting phase is the first phase of accepting the ideas that you propose. If you proposed that your child should spend less time in front of a screen, you may see that the time they spend watching a screen begin to lower. If you nourished these ideas the right way, your child will begin to see how detrimental over-extended screen time can be for themselves .

When you see your ideas sprouting, know that they are at their most fragile state. Just peaking out of the soil, the flower you planted is still a pale, sensitive, fragile, little stem. You achieved success in sprouting these ideas in the minds of your audience, and should be very careful to not break the stem of this little metaphorical plant.

Make sure you protect your ideas from environmental forces that may break these fragile foundations of behavior change. Be in tune of all others who are influencing the thoughts of your target audience and prepare to protect. Be ready and willing to go back to the nourishment phase when your ideas are growing weak in the minds of your followers. A gust of wind can force you to put a clear glass jar over the fragile plant. A scorching sun can force you to put up shade from its overbearing rays. You’re the protector of the seed that’s sprouted. Your followers exposed their vulnerability to you out of trust for what you presented, you’ll feel regret if they’re let down. Be willing to adjust and do whatever it takes to ensure the continuation of your idea’s growth into behavior change.

Perhaps the plant you’ve chosen to grow depends on others of its kind to live a fruitful life. You may need to plant seeds in external/less immediate audiences in order to create a healthy and familiar environment for your primary targets to thrive in.

 


Water


As your ideas grow into tangible actions taken by the targets of your efforts, you will need to periodically water this metaphorical plant until it reaches a state when it can survive on its own. People will come back to you, as a leader, for clarifications in discoveries that they are making themselves. Their plant will begin to branch out, and if the seed you planted was one akin to a Maple tree, then its impact will be mighty on the world surrounding it. Be willing to live with what you’ve planted.

Your role at this point should be a purely advisory one which focuses on maintaining the original reasoning and integrity for the proposed change in behavior which you brought into reality. Always remember why you planted the Maple tree. Remember the prove-able and impactful reasons for your act in doing so. Be approachable, available, and serve as a guide. Since the plant is already planted, the amount of force needed to take it down increases by the day. Sooner or later, it’ll require an army of men to chop down the forest grown from your one small seed.

As a planter of ideas that turn into the behavior of others, you assume a lot of responsibility. You assume responsibility for any benefit or detriment that those actions bring onto your intended audience. This is the reason why it is required for you to be committed to maintaining the integrity of the actions that you influenced to be committed. Always be evolved in your methods of watering the plant you planted and nourished into reality, and take responsibility for what grows into reality.

Next in line: 

How to Utilize Expectations as a Method of Control

Book Recommendation: 

The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Modern Library Classics)

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