Stop Trying to Fit In

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

Oscar Wilde

There is a real problem with trying to fit into a role or corporate culture that is misaligned with your values. Fitting in takes more willpower than you have available. You cannot tap into your natural motivation to find the role satisfying. You cannot force yourself to fit in for the long-term if you are fighting your nature.

We each are born genetically prewired with an individual preference for 16 basic human desires. This is according to the extensive research conducted by psychologist, Professor Steven Reiss, Ph.D. Our early cultural and family experiences also shape our values and needs. By the time we arrive at puberty, our values-guidance system is fairly well established and will not likely change dramatically as we age. We spend the rest of our lives attempting to satisfy our needs. We form habits to do what we find most satisfying. While we are motivated to pursue the temporary satisfaction of our needs, we can temporarily use self-control or willpower to delay our significant needs’ gratification temporarily.

Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. studies willpower and wrote, “The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It,” found that people who believe they have the most willpower are actually most likely to be surprised by setbacks and give up on their goals when they run into difficulty. McGonigal believes that willpower is actually three distinct mental powers, “I will,” “I won’t,” and “I want. These three powers enable us to make desired positive changes to ourselves. McGonigal writes that “I will” and “I won’t” power are the two equal sides of one’s self-control. She adds, “To say no when you need to say no, and yes when you need to say yes, you need a third power; the ability to remember what you really want.” This brings us back to Reiss’s motivational research and the “I want” power. The heart wants what the heart wants is a proven fact when it comes to understanding why we humans are motivated to do what we do and don’t do.

Where There’s a Want We Make a Way If We Have Enough Willpower

When you want one thing (to fit comfortably into your favorite jeans) and another part of you wants something else (lots of delicious chocolate), then you experience what McGonigal calls a willpower challenge. She writes, “Your present self wants one thing, but your future self would be better off if you did something else. When these two selves disagree, one version of us has to override the other. The part of you that wants to give in isn’t bad–it simply has a different point of view about what matters most.” Unfortunately, our brains are somewhat lazy and naturally prefer to do whatever we perceive to be the easiest thing to do in the present moment. HELLO MR. M&M! Sadly, we do not even recognize we are making a conscious choice most of the time.

A key finding of McGonigal’s willpower research is that willpower can be dramatically reduced by poor sleep, inadequate diet, sedentary lifestyle, and anything that keeps your brain and body stuck in a chronic stress response. McGonigal states, “Science also points us to a critical insight: Stress is the enemy of willpower.” Fighting one’s nature in a vain attempt to fit into a corporate culture or job role is perceived as triggering insecurity and frustration. Fitting in is a tremendous wasted drain on willpower and will leave you subject to impulsive temptations and immediate gratification of your strongest needs.

You Can’t Fool Yourself

There is a danger in a mindset of, “Fake it until you make it.” You know you are faking it. In your attempts to fake it, you use precious quantities of your limited willpower to do something you do not naturally want to do. This, too, raises your stress levels and insecurities, all leading to prematurely depleating your willpower. Now you are a prime candidate for burnout.

Align Who You Are and What You Want With What You Do

I use The Science of Motivation®, developed by Prof. Reiss, to help my clients increase their motivational intelligence and self-awareness. They come to understand and accept their unique values-guidance system to decide what they want to do or won’t do. We can evaluate all aspects of current or potential roles and determine the amount of motivational alignment. The more a role will allow someone to be authentically themselves, the more satisfying and engaging the role will likely be. Motivationally aligned roles allow you to live your working hours in the land of want to and is intrinsically satisfying. This leaves willpower available to delay gratification or choose better options to satisfy your needs. I typically begin working with my clients by completing a Reiss Motivation Profile®. Armed with this powerful and scientifically accurate data, we can evaluate and craft both working and personal environments where you can thrive.

Adapting to a work environment or culture that does not force you to struggle daily against your own values is much easier and less psychologically costly than trying to deny your nature and futilely try to fit in. Your nature has more want to power than your will to power. In the end, it’s not a matter of if your nature will win; it is only a question of when your true nature will win. Our heart’s desires are accurately called needs for a reason. They are not optional to our well-being.

If you would like to increase your self-awareness and motivational intelligence, then let’s set some time to have a conversation about motivation. It’s why we do what we do!

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