The Power of Community and Group Challenges: A Catalyst for Transformational Change

Dec 11, 2023 | Life Balance

As a society, we are fascinated by change. The Internet is filled with books, articles, and experts explaining how to think your way to success. The science of positive thinking, mindfulness, and visualization techniques have taken center stage, and for good reason: thoughts do manifest as actions. But there’s another angle that’s often overlooked—the power of conscious action. It’s one thing to know you should change; it’s another to take consistent steps toward that change. So how do we bridge the gap between knowledge and action? Enter the transformative forces of community and group challenges.

The Battle with Routine

Many of us start each day with the best intentions: today is the day we’ll hit the gym, complete that important task, or make more time for family. Despite these ambitions, routine often takes over, deeply rooted in our unconscious minds, dictating our actions and distracting us from new, positive behaviors. Behavioral psychologists, like B.F. Skinner, have long examined the patterns that make up human action. Skinner argued that behavior is strengthened or weakened by the consequences that follow it—a concept known as operant conditioning. In essence, our routines are hard-wired patterns that have been reinforced over time.

The Importance of Conscious Action

Renowned psychologist William James once said, “Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.”

Taking conscious steps, even when you don’t feel like it, triggers a powerful cognitive response that starts reprogramming or reconditioning your unconscious mind. A study published in the “European Journal of Social Psychology” found that it takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit, underlining the significance of conscious action.

The Power of Community and Challenge

But even with this knowledge, consistently implementing conscious action can be challenging. This is where community and group challenges come into play. Research published in the “Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology” showed that individuals who engage in group-based weight loss programs were significantly more successful than those who went at it alone. The community not only provides a support system but creates an environment of accountability.

Weekly or monthly challenge projects that require check-ins compound this accountability factor. This setup, backed by research, shows that social accountability can result in higher commitment levels and ultimately lead to more successful outcomes. Social psychologist Robert Cialdini’s principle of “commitment and consistency” suggests that once people make an initial commitment, they are more likely to follow through for the sake of consistency.

Practical Steps to Implementing Community and Challenge

  1. Identify a Like-Minded Community: Social media groups, local clubs, or even workplace initiatives can be great starting points.
  2. Set Shared Goals: Make sure everyone in the group has a say in what the shared objectives are. This helps create a sense of ownership.
  3. Design Weekly or Monthly Challenges: These should be small enough to be achievable but big enough to cause meaningful change.
  4. Implement Check-Ins: Regularly update the group on your progress. The fear of social accountability is a powerful motivator.
  5. Celebrate Wins, No Matter How Small: Rewarding positive behavior reinforces the cycle of action and thought, further promoting change.

The science is clear: if you want to make a change, you can’t rely solely on thought alone. You need the dual power of conscious action and a supportive community. A well-structured group challenge amplifies these benefits, making it easier to replace bad habits with good ones and bridge the gap between knowledge and transformative change.

By utilizing these insights, we can harness the transformative power of community and challenge to make our aspirational selves our actual selves. So why go at it alone when the science and power of community beckon?

References

  1. Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C. H. M., Potts, H. W. W., & Wardle, J. (2009). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40(6), 998–1009.
  2. Wing, R.R., & Jeffery, R.W. (1999). Benefits of recruiting participants with friends and increasing social support for weight loss and maintenance. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 67(1), 132-138.
  3. Cialdini, Robert B. “Influence: The psychology of persuasion.” (1984).