Kicking the Habit
I have noticed over the years that many executives and leaders work hard to arrive at solid and successful decisions. They analyze data and consult learned professionals. Some decisions are high-stakes decisions that must, for the most part “be right”. And would you be surprised to know that many of their “considered decisions” actually aren’t considered? They actually are the result of what we know as habit. Duke University researchers Verplanken and Wood discovered that more than 40 percent of the actions in which people engage daily are actually not the result of independent decisions or choices but rather, habit.
The topic of habits is quite attention-demanding when you begin to consider just how much control they have over our lives. The way our brain is wired, we will never cease forming habits. Our brains are always looking for ways to become more efficient. It’s physiological self-defense for the brain to seek to turn novelty into routine, otherwise we would be overloaded by all the minutiae in our world. Repeated research over the years has shown that when habits begin to emerge, brain activity begins to decrease. Routine is becoming established. We begin to run on a habit loop.
Individuals as well as teams and organizations form and run on habits. The leader or executive committed to making 2014 their best year ever most likely isn’t going to accomplish this feat unless they can identify and manage their habits. Implicit in the quest for major accomplishment (like best year ever) is change. Distinct accomplishments require change. There are reasons that “next level” is “next level” and not “now level”. And many of the reasons are found in our habits.
Some habits may be adaptive and some habits may be maladaptive. Maladaptive habits are habits that may have at one time been adaptive but as conditions and factors have changed the habits, routines or processes are no longer useful or facilitative. Maladaptive habits tend to work against us though we sometimes find ourselves stubbornly holding on to them.
The exhilarating aspect of this focus on habits is that you and I can change our habits to get us to where we want to go. The routines of teams and organizations can also be changed. The key to authentic adaptive habit formation is to identify what triggers our habits. Habits can be changed if we understand how they work and why they are initiated in the first place.
One of the foundational aspects of an extraordinary 2014 for you and your team is your habits. It’s routine.
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