Pick Up Good Habits
In “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business,” author Charles Duhigg states that 40 to 45 percent of what we do is out of habit. Without a doubt, bad habits cause us to stumble — the kind that repeatedly cause you anxiety, frustration and trouble, not to mention holding you back from achieving your professional growth goals. So how do you break such a cycle of behavior that seems to be “hard wired” into your brain? First, identify what habits you want to lose. Second, determine what triggers them. Then third, figure out what will motivate you to change and create a new habit tied to that specific motivation. This self-discovery exercise will help give you a sustainable strategy for empowering your professional growth and success.
Habits are often hard to break for a reason. We might repeat a behavior because it’s so convenient that doing it’s opposite puts us out. Some habits are complex in nature and require us to let go of some sort of joy, be it perceived or real. The following outline gives you an idea of three key components behind habit-forming behavior.
#1: The Trigger. Every habit gets triggered. For example, a habit among some leaders is taking ownership of other people’s problems. More often than not, this is triggered or initiated by a situation in which a direct report comes to the leader with a problem, often in a panic over whatever has gone wrong.
#2: The Action. This is whatever happens in response to the trigger. So in our example, the action is that the leader then takes ownership of the problem, responding to the direct report with “I’ll take care of it, don’t worry about it.” That transfer of ownership from the original owner now to the leader is the action associated with the habit.
#3: The Reward. Every habit satisfies a need that’s physical, emotional or a combination of both types of needs. So when a leader has a habit of regularly taking ownership of another person’s problem, this practice is perhaps feeding some inner need to be in control or to feel important. While feeding the need may feel good in the short term and even seem like the fastest, best solution, this habit can create painful consequences in the long run. Consistently taking ownership of others’ problems prevents that leader from being empowered and stifles his or her own productivity, performance and professional growth. As well, this approach adds more to the plate of the leader, who must now spend more time putting out fires or solving problems versus carrying out more critical leadership responsibilities.
In looking at your professional habits, know that simply quitting a bad one isn’t enough. To succeed, you’ve got to replace it with a good habit. So if you were the leader in our example above, MAP would coach you to replace your habit of taking ownership of others’ problems with consistently challenging your team members to come up with their own solutions. Then, you’d want to support them as they implement solutions that they now truly “own.”
To read more about what’s behind our habits, check out Duhigg’s interview with the Harvard Business Review.
What further helps you to sustain your good habits?