It is tough to dump bad habits. The process starts with understanding:
Habits have three inter-locking steps:
• First, there is a cue, or a trigger (for example, the feeling of hunger);
• Second, a routine or behavior (in this case above it means eating); and
• Third, we get a reward (we are satiated).
Habits are self-reinforcing loops. The cue stimulates behavior, which generates a reward. That reinforces the behavior. Moreover, we develop craving for the reward, over time. About 40% of our activity is habitual. So, habits are integral to our psyches. As Will Durant said: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act, but a habit”.
True, you can break bad habits with self-control. Still, people respond better to rewards, than to control. In fact, that’s how humans evolved over 3 million years. We want food, companionship, security, power, meaning, and so forth. Humans move towards rewards.
Hence, changing habits starts with mindfulness. You need to understand the cues that trigger behavior, leading to rewards. Here is the three-step process:
Map out habit loops:
Figure out your cues. For example, if you over-eat, do you eat snacks whilst watching TV? Do you drink while eating? Do you snack between meals? Does stress make you eat?
Cues are important because the brain connects the cue to behavior, and to rewards. Craving comes from a neurological connection to the reward. The smell of a cinnamon may trigger a craving for a cinnamon bun. There are five common cues:
- others; or
- some previous activity.
Keeping notes helps: When, where, and how do you perform the habits? How do you feel when you indulge in bad habits? Do others play a role? Is the habit part of a bigger activity?
You need to be a detective, studying your behavior and recognizing the patterns. Treat yourself as a patient. The solution could mean changing behavior, whilst maintaining the reward. Or, you may find healthier, more productive ways of satisfying the craving. Each habit is unique.
Once you know your cue, the behavior, and the reward, you can restructure the habit. Then, you will need self-discipline to change your habits. Understanding starts with objective curiosity.
Formulate a plan:
Now, that you understand the process, you can devise a plan. When you feel the cue, you adopt a new behavior, but still get the reward. For example, you crave an energy boost in the afternoon. Rather than eating jelly babies, you drink green tea, or take a short brisk walk, or eat some fruit.
Changing habits means experimentation. It is tricky, too. Why? Because you are outsmarting your brain, by rewriting your neuropsychological programing. Remember all living organism look for stability – for homeostasis. So, changing habits is easier when new behavior has some similarity to what you are replacing. It’s easier to restructure bad habits than to eradicate them.
Try different combinations. You want to fulfill the craving without the bad behavior. Be tolerant. It could take some time.
Self-discipline is important. But the cornerstones of changing habits are curiosity and the desire to change.
Full understanding of our bad habits leads to roadmaps for self-improvement. You are the vehicle of your own positive transformation.
Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself. If you are on the road to improvement, you may stumble, as you move towards your goal. Keep at it.
Brewer, J. (2019). How to Break Up with Your Bad Habits: HBR Webinar. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2019/12/how-to-break-up-with-your-bad-habits
Duhigg, C. (2014). The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business. New York, NY: Random House
Frank, T. (2015). 5 Lessons from “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ws2WfeD6d8
Giving feedback (especially negative feedback) can be uncomfortable. Nevertheless, clear feedback is integral to effective leadership. Indeed, feedback helps us grow – all of us.
The BEER technique is a simple way of giving difficult feedback. There are an number of steps. But you must first summarize the situation you must address. What is the issue? Who is involved? Make this 100% clear from the outset. Read More
Delegation is the cornerstone of effective leadership. However, few people know how to delegate. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to delegate effectively:
Step One: Get clarity! What does success look like? What roles or tasks are you delegating? Define the desired result. Make the goal 100% clear.
Step Two: Get commitment from the person accepting the new tasks or role. If he is not 100% committed to assuming the additional task, delegation is doomed to failure.
Step Three: Define an action plan to accomplish the delegated task or role. (Managers must be ready to accept ideas, or new ways of accomplishing the task. This is where the person doing the delegated task can propose changes in the process for improved efficiency.)
Step Four: Dedicate necessary resources (human, financial, technical) so the person doing the task, or role, has the requisite tools to succeed. Moreover, the Manager (who is delegating the task) will commit to helping out if the person doing the delegated task needs more support. This is a safety net.
Step Five: Check results at a specific future time. If the work is well done, the delegation is complete. However if the job is inadequate, the Manager must give his colleague more training, and other resources, ensuring success going forward. This is key. Shortcomings are learning experiences.
Delegation is simple, but not easy. British comedian and management consultant, John Cleese, summarized delegation: “Take your hands off but keep your eyes on.” Read More
A recent study by Signal vs. Noise – including of 597 operations and managerial workers – discovered three powerful ways of boosting trust; namely:
Over one-quarter of the people said leaders build trust by acknowledging their shortcomings. That’s no surprise. Lencioni’s classic work on teamwork says that trust is all about vulnerability. Team members who trust each other are more comfortable sharing information about failures, weaknesses, and even fears. When people are willing to admit the truth about themselves, they won’t waste time on political games, wasting precious time and resources. Vulnerability is a shortcut to authenticity.
It is a two-way street: The vulnerable leader appears more empathetic, and trusted. Each person knows the other person’s strengths and weaknesses. It is crucial information. Effective teams have no mysteries. No one gains from keeping skeletons in the closet.
Explain the intent behind your actions.
Over one-quarter of the people said leaders must explain the intent behind their actions. Why? The labor force is increasingly sophisticated, educated, and informed. They want to understand why the leader is taking various steps. Intent is part of a three-step process. First, clarify the goal. Then formulate action plans. Finally, explain why the action steps are necessary to achieve the goal.
Ambiguity on overall intent is toxic to the team’s overall commitment. Your intent needs to be crystal clear. As Friedrich Nietzsche said: “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” Read More
What type of a meeting do you want to have?
Directed Meeting: This is quarterbacked by a single person (let’s call him the Manager). The Manager talks to his colleagues, perhaps asking questions. Usually there’s no collaboration between the participants. This is the most over-used and boring style of meeting. However, Directed Meetings are useful when managers need to address a crisis or pressing problem.
Presentations are meetings where one person presents information on a specific topic. There’s no collaboration, aside from questions, usually at the end. Presentations are useful. Just make sure the speaker knows his stuff, has pertinent material, and keeps it lively.
Status Reports are presentations, but often with several experts. Again, there is no collaboration. Use them to convey information. That’s it. Often you can accomplish the same goal with a note, newsletter, or blog. Don’t have meetings for the sake of having meetings!
Collaborative Meetings: The Manager delegates topics to his colleagues. In turn, the colleagues present those topics to the entire group. This has three big advantages over the “Directed Meeting”. First, participants learn presentation skills. Second, engagement is higher because the meeting is a team effort, rather than a Manager monologue. Third, the Manager can learn from others, rather than preach from the podium. It is an easy upgrade from the Directed Meeting. Collaborative Meetings simply more interesting. Read More