By Mark Bauer
I’m reading Atomic Habits and was struck by a revelation in the early chapters: If you set goals and try to devise a process to achieve them without changing the way you see yourself, your old belief system can actually sabotage those new plans.
For instance, if my goal is to get in shape by running, I’ll identify a process to achieve that goal (buying shoes and running gear, determining best times and places to run, etc.). While sticking to that plan might work for awhile, I’d have a greater chance for long-term success if I first identify as a healthy person who runs, rather than running to try to be healthy.
If you habituate yourself to making decisions based on what a healthy person does, then your actions eventually lead you to become that healthy person. What would a healthy person eat? When would a healthy person go to bed? Would a healthy person workout right now or continue binge snacking while catching up on the Yellowstone series?
“Behind every system of actions is a system of beliefs,” author James Clear says in the book.
“The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity,” he goes on to say. “It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person who wants this. It’s something very different to say I’m the type of person who is this.”
So, if our habits are shaped by our beliefs, it makes me wonder what our voting habits say about what we believe as Americans. Voter turnout in the United States lags behind most other member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, a group of 37 nations that collaborate on global economic policy, according to the US News and World Report. The top countries with highest voter turnout see anywhere from 75 to 90 percent, compared to the 56 percent of voters who turned out for the 2016 presidential election (the number was higher for 2020).
The numbers get even worse the more you drill down to local elections, where only 15 to 27 percent of eligible voters turnout to cast a ballot.
It’s clear that Americans simply aren’t the kind of people who vote. The reasons for that are myriad and complex, but the lack of intrinsic motivation could also be a big culprit. If people don’t believe their vote would actually make a difference, why bother? The lack of competition in our political duopoly doesn’t do much to inspire people to head to the voting booth.
Reforming the electoral system with solutions like ranked choice voting could change that. If people felt like their vote mattered and their voices were being heard, there’s a good chance that we’d see more participation in the electoral process. And that’s a habit we can get behind.
Mark Bauer is a producer, entrepreneur, day trader and former Independent candidate for Congress in Texas. Previously he spent 10 years as a legal journalist covering the legal market in Texas and regulatory issues in Washington DC.
Mark’s primary interests involve using content and storytelling to help different groups of people better understand one another.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Rank the Vote, its members, supporters, funders, or affiliates.