Do Habits Change Occur Differently in Disciplinarians and Free Thinkers

smiling men

Photo by Yogendra Singh on

Are soldiers better at adopting new habits compared to creative people like writers, filmmakers, painters or even cartoonists?  Does our occupation and personality play a role in deciding our flexibility in trying out new patterns?  I have been working as a Trainer for more than 13 years now and my father was in Army for more than 22 years.  In fact, half of my family works in defense including my two uncles and one cousin and I can safely say that they did acquire certain personality traits unique to people working in forces.

Hierarchy and obedience play a critical role in defense and soldiers are trained to be compliant from day 1.  Almost all of them undergo a transformation after the first few years of their training, which not only shapes their personality but also create a mindset which values certain traits and qualities over others chief among them being loyalty, patriotism, discipline, obedience and team spirit.

full body of creative female artist standing against drawing on easel placed on floor in spacious workshop

Photo by Polina Zimmerman on

Creative people on the other hand are naturally predisposed to being free willed and resist working in constrictions.  They prefer to use their innate abilities in their unique way and express it in a form they desire without pressure or expectation from others.  This was proved in one of the studies when some of the great works produced by painters occurred when they did it for self-satisfaction and not when they were asked to paint.  Weight of expectation and fear of getting judged impaired their natural abilities to a certain extent.

If we were to get a group of people – one group comprising of people having worked in a strict disciplinarian environment and the other in a free flowing milieu with little or no controls, which group do you think will be more adaptable and open to new habits?

The question does not have a straightforward answer and is contingent upon various factors including environment, expected results, belief and above all will power.

Advantages for Disciplinarians

  1. They mostly trail instructions. If they are given clear directions and asked to follow, chances are they would mostly abide by it leading to changes in their routine.
  2. They do not ask too many questions if the instructions are coming form an authority figure whom they revere or respect out of seniority or even love.
  3. They do not want to let their team down, so if a goal were a shared one for the entire group, the pressure of achieving it would motivate them leading to much broader acceptance and execution.

Dis-advantages for Disciplinarians

  1. Most of this would be opposite of what works. If the instructions are not clear or have scope for self-interpretation, chances of acceptance would be lower.
  2. Most of the motivation is extrinsic as they derive their value from the opinion of others. Their work ethics are designed to gain approval of people who matter.
  3. They would seek constant validation from their peers and if it is missing or is not available, would become difficult to get them to sustain their changed routines.



Advantages for Free Thinkers

  1. If they believe in something to be worth pursuing, they will put their wholehearted efforts in following it to a logical conclusion.
  2. Instead of telling them what to do and pursue, a better idea is to propose and let them decide. Giving them space where they can feel in control makes it easy for them to accept a new routine.
  3. Since they love to experiment, trying out a new routine can be another way to pursue that interest of theirs which can be delicately kindled with non-intrusive suggestions.

Dis-advantages for Free Thinkers

  1. Are difficult to persuade, thus, the discussion with them requires subtle handling way without any indication of authority.
  2. Can be careless at times and may not take a new routine with the seriousness it requires. Having a mind of their own, they can be difficult to rein in.
  3. At time their eccentricities can be tiring especially when you want to persuade them into doing something new especially activities which may initially require extrinsic motivation as they are driven mostly by an intrinsic desire to achieve.

This is a very limited explanation for people living their life wearing different cloaks of personalities.  We however, can design an experiment with a control group and identify cognitive and behavioral saliency in people who identify themselves in one of the above two groups.  Would be very glad to collaborate with somebody to conduct such a study/experiment.


(The views expressed in the article is my personal opinion)


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