Changing Behaviors to Change Belief

Today is my one-year running anniversary. If you had told me 18 months ago that in a year I would complete not one, but two half-marathons, a 10K, a three-mile race, and logged hundreds of miles, I would have laughed in your face and called you silly.

My year of running has transformed how I approach life’s issues, problems, opportunities or whatever they are called these days.  

A couple of years ago I attended a seminar at Stanford University. It was a social experiment class taught by Hayagreeva (Huggy)Rao. One of the purposes of the class, Creating Infectious Action, was to create a goal and see if they influence people to achieve the goal. The social action goal that semester was trying to kill our dependence on gas. 

While I’m not sure of the success of the class, something Huggy said that day really stuck with me. One of his premises was that to change someone’s belief, you must change their behavior first.  

Wait what??? Isn’t that backwards? Isn’t the correct premise that to change someone’s behavior you change the belief first? Naturally assuming that the change in behavior will then follow suit.  

Rao’s theory was put to the test when I started running last year. I was not a runner. I believed I wasn’t a runner, I knew I wasn’t a runner.  According to Rao I had to begin running to see if my belief in myself as a runner could be influenced.  A year later, I now understand his point.  

Tie in Rao’s theory with my year of running and this is what I’ve learned: 


When I started running, I joined a running group. Knowing that I have a group of people to consistently encourage me and hold me accountable is huge! On days when I didn’t want to run, they encouraged me. We celebrated my little successes. I’ll never forget the day I finished my first five-mile run. In turn, my posting of runs (IMap My Fitness) on Facebook and Twitter encouraged several of my friends to get active. We created a perfect storm, if you will, of mutually beneficial influence.  

The same beneficial influence can occur in the workplace as well. Create work groups to encourage and motivate. There are definitely different people I can count on to encourage me and to help me be creative in my workplace. 


A good coach can help you set goals, help you focus, assist in your training and kick your butt when they need to. My (informal) coach did this for me!

At work, my coach is my boss. I work in an amazing environment. My boss constantly allows me the freedom to mess up, so that I can achieve great things. Our motto is: Fail Fast, Fail Smart. If you fall down, get your butt up and try again. Awesome!


Setting an early goal for me in my training truly helped me to focus. I knew what my goal was and I had a deadline for accomplishing it. From the deadline, I backtracked and set up the training needed to complete my goal. 

We do the same at work. What is goal? New blog post? New video? Know what you have to accomplish and then create the deadline. Be realistic in your timeline. Have your work group or coach help you. 

I now believe that I’m a runner. Why? Because I set out to accomplish something and did it. My behavior over the last year changed my beliefs.