V6 Discipleship: Social Influence (Part 2 of 3)
This three-part article is looking at six sources that influence change, for better or worse. Research has shown that the more of these sources are functioning at the same time, the more likely you will be propelled forward on your journey (see VitalSmarts Influencer training for more in depth theory). That’s why I like to think of these six sources of influence as a V6 engine: if you can get all six cylinders firing at the same time, you’ll really have momentum!
All change—discipleship or otherwise—requires both motivation and ability. You have to want to do it, and you have to be able to do it. In Part 1, we looked at personal factors that influence your motivation and ability. But personal factors are only two of the six cylinders! Social factors can also influence your behavior.
And it’s a good thing, too! I was telling you about my friend who lost some weight and managed to keep it off with real life change. But when he started, he didn’t have with personal motivation or personal ability.
Discipleship can be like that: you can want to change, but not really want to do what’s necessary for change, or not even know how to do it! Don’t throw in the towel. Let’s look at how Social Motivation and Social Ability can help you move forward on this journey of faith.
So my friend knew he needed to change, but he didn’t want to change and he didn’t know how to change. He needed help. (Don’t we all?)
The third cylinder of our V6 change engine is Social Motivation. These are the people and relationships that help you want to do the kind of things that bring positive change. I like to think of this source of influence as Your Cheering Section, the people in your life who help motivate the right kind of habits and behaviors.
Once my buddy made the decision to change, he needed people to cheer him on. In this case, his wife was also on board with losing weight and getting a little healthier. That’s a huge plus. When you interact with someone you care about daily, and they encourage the change you want, and they want the same change, it starts feeling like you have somebody on your team.
Again, discipleship is like that. Discipleship is a team sport. We follow Jesus better when we follow him together, for lots of reasons. Encouragement, support, sharing burdens, forgiving sins, speaking truth in love, listening with compassion—all of those elements of discipling relationships fit in this third cylinder of Social Motivation. (Check out We Are the Coals for another take on the importance of mutual encouragement on your faith journey.)
But all the encouragement in the world won’t bring about change unless you also know what to do: change takes motivation and ability. So the fourth cylinder of our V6 change engine is Social Ability and includes all the ways relationships help increase your knowhow.
When my friend went to lose weight, he knew he had to pay attention to what he ate, but he didn’t know what tool in the diet bag would be a good fit for his family. He told me about some of the conversations he had with friends at work who were fired up about different kinds of diet plans that involved everything from no carbs to balancing fat intake to eating kale three times a day… But ultimately he used Reddit to get this Social Ability cylinder up and running.
Reddit is a group of online communities organized around interest areas. These interest groups, or Subreddits, discuss specific topics, and the quality of the content and the kinds of answers that get seen most are determined by the group itself. You don’t have to add your two cents to the discussion to follow along, and my friend checked out some Subreddits on losing weight just to get a handle on all of the information out there.
Although those communities were online, they functioned in the Social Ability cylinder; they helped move the needle on my friend’s own Personal Ability when it came to losing weight. Based on what he read, he chose a kind of intermittent fasting as a primary tool on his utility belt for losing weight. He doesn’t eat or drink anything but water or black coffee between 7:00PM and 11:00AM. Cutting back on late night snacking and a free doughnut in the morning workroom of course cuts down on calorie intake, but there are other benefits as well. (I’ll let you explore Reddit if you are interested in learning more…)
The point is, my buddy didn’t have the Personal Motivation or the Personal Ability to lose weight, so he found a way to affect both of those areas through relationships. His relationship with his wife brought significant and daily encouragement to the change he was trying to effect: she is definitely in his Cheering Section! And the internet provided a community of specific shared knowledge that, with some trial and error, allowed him to gain skills he had never had before. That’s why I think of this fourth cylinder as Your Reference Section: it’s the place you can go to learn how to do what you need to do from people who are already doing it.
Is there an aspect of your faith walk that really needs an upgrade? Is there an area of your relationship with Jesus that is really exciting right now, and you want to build momentum? Is there a next step you feel the Spirit is inviting you to take on this journey? To take even a small step, you will need Personal Motivation and Personal Ability.
But that’s only one small part of the equation. We follow Jesus better when we follow him together. You’re going to need people on this journey with you, people who will encourage you and cheer you on and pick you up when you fall down. And you will need people who know something you don’t, people who can help you experiment with and learn new ways of growing and new tools for change.
Can you think of people like that in your life? Who’s in your Cheering Section? What kind of help do you get from your Reference Section? Who are the people that increase your ability or your motivation to take a next step following Jesus?
If you have all four of these cylinders firing together, you are well on your way to positive change in your discipleship walk. But wait! This is a V6 discipleship engine! In Part 3 we’ll look at how your motivation and ability can be affected by other external factors. The more cylinders you have firing together, the more inevitable the change will be!