Changing habits happens when three parts come together.
- Intellectual – You logically understand the change and decide to make it.
- Emotional – You build emotional connections to the new pattern and understand the roots of the emotional connections to the old pattern well enough to let them go.
- Habitual – You cultivate new routines that push you into the desired behaviors.
My coaching client explained his mistake of the week. It was the same mistake as the week before. The exact same thing. And we had come up with a strategy to address it. And what did he say when I asked him if he used the strategy?
It took him under a week to forget the very thing he had found so important just seven days earlier. Of course, none of us are really that different.
What did you learn last week? Can you remember?
I bet there was something. Something you wanted to hold onto. Something important. (Maybe something I wrote.) But we forget.
Our memories do not correlate with importance.
Value does not predict retention.
Unless we make it so. I used to laugh about my colleagues who had post-its all over their monitors, reminding them of little lessons they picked up in life. But that made sense. They were ensuring that memory and importance actually connected.
Me? I still have a clean desk. And a mind like a sieve.
My posts are often mundane. I write things you probably already know.
So where’s the value?
There’s a big gap between knowing and practicing. We do what is comfortable, easy, habitual, routine. Even when we know we should do otherwise. Sometimes being told the obvious helps us break those routines and bring what we practice in line with what we know.
Do you ever drive fast because you are late? Do you ever rush to get to the next meeting? Do you ever consider the consequences?
Generally we rush not because of any real need but simply because we are programmed (some of us) to want to get there on time. To not keep people waiting. To not look disrespectful or disorganized.
But what difference does a minute make?
What if you were to drive normally and show up 1 minute later? Focus on your breathing. Pay attention to safety.
What if you took a minute to compose yourself before rushing into that meeting? Again, focus on your breathing. Slow down your heart rate. Show up as your most alert, aware, understanding, and compassionate self.
Actually a minute makes a big difference.
But not by adding value because you got there earlier. Rather by making you better by showing up one minute later.
My sister is a therapist and has a technique similar to my “thank you monkey” process.
Essentially, our chemical selves – hormones and neurotransmitters – sometimes go into overdrive. Without realizing that has happened these chemicals can spur behavior we would never choose when in our right minds.
My sister points out that women get this more than men do because they have the experiential evidence of PMS. (Men have this vicariously, but I agree that we don’t learn the lesson so well about our own chemical reactions taking over our behavior.)
Her solution is to teach her clients to “Ride it out.”
If you ordered a decaf triple espresso and upon finishing discovered it was full caf, you would know you were in for a gittery, hyper, excitable time. If you were smart you’d avoid important decisions and confrontations for the next couple of hours.
You’d ride it out.
We can learn to do the same thing with our body reactions. A mantra like “ride it out” (or “thank you monkey”) can help you stay clear that this is a chemical challenge that requires some patience. If we can get through the chemical rush (usually a minute or two or three) without doing anything foolish, we can get back to normal and then create much better results. We just need to ride it out.
Last year I posted a list of 20 books that I planned to read and review in this blog. I am now older and wiser.
Following are the books I might read and review. They currently intrigue me. But I now recognize that I might also get distracted and read completely different books as the year unfolds.
- Rewire Your Brain, by John B Arden
- Brain Rules, by John Medina
- Buddha’s Brain, by Rick Hanson
- The Happiness Advantage, by Shawn Achor
- The Essential Gandhi, edited by Louis Fischer (reread)
- Zen in the Martial Arts, by Joe Hyams (reread)
- Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman
And for fun.
- Noble House, by James Clavell
- Skinny Legs and All, by Tom Robbins
- Narcopolis, by Jeet Thayil
- The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes
- Room, by Emma Donoghue
- NW, by Zadie Smith
- Cain, by Jose Saramago
As this is a living list, destined to change, let me know what books are on your list and should be on mine.
In June I wrote Quiet Down and Speak Up, bookend posts with advice for those who are reluctant to speak in meetings and for those who take up all the airtime in the first place.