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read an interesting article recently which put forward the idea that,
in times of great change and transition, it pays to focus on your habits
and routines to keep you on track. It stated “daily or weekly habits
aligned with your long-term goals can keep you on track even when it’s
hard to think ahead, and they can add stability in an otherwise unsteady
chimed with me a lot as a coach. Coaches often support clients to take
small steps towards a long term goal, asking them questions such as
“what would be one step closer towards that goal?”. If individuals are
going through a time of great upheaval and transition, creating some
short-term (good) habits can help them focus and cope with the broader
change that’s going on.
say “(good) habits” because, of course, many people come to coaching
wanting to eliminate their bad habits. However, there is some good news
on this later in this article so keep on reading!
The habit low-down
are habits? Habits are the things we do regularly that are unconscious
and automatic. A study by Quinn & Wood in 2005 revealed that
approximately 45% of behaviours tend to be repeated in the same location
almost every day.
do we have them? The main reason is that they free our minds to make
us more efficient and productive and free up our capacity to process new
information and to think.
how are they created? Research shows that it’s down to our brain
activity: ‘Neurons that fire together, wire together’. The more we
repeat our thoughts and actions, the more the neurons fire repeatedly,
forming stronger neuronal circuits which our brain can automatically
follow without having to “think”.
The good news
mentioned that we are focusing on creating good habits in this blog.
The reason I am not talking about bad habits for now is this: you
eliminate bad habits by creating new ones. How great is that? But how
do we do it?
Let’s break our habits down into their three constituent parts:
Charles Duhigg in The Power of Habit, calls this the “Habit
Loop”. Central to Duhigg’s approach is the “Golden Rule” which is that,
in order to change a habit, you keep the same cue and reward but change the associated action(s).
me share a personal example with you. When I work from home, I have a
habit. As soon as I enter the kitchen (trigger) to make a cup of tea, I
open the fridge and help myself to some tasty cheese (action) which
releases some lovely endorphins (reward). Now, logically I know that
the endorphins are not going to last and I will feel guilty (and my
waistline will suffer) in the long-term. However, I follow this routine
I need to train my brain to do a different activity when I enter the
kitchen, particularly now we are in lockdown! For example, I could do
some quick physical activity (jumping jacks, jog a couple times round
the garden). This would still give me the desired “rush” from the
endorphins released but curb my cheese habit...
What to do now
love to hear about your habits and your successes (or failures) in
improving them. In return, I’ll let you know how I’m getting on with my
(Duhigg, C. (2013). The power of habit: why we do what we do and how to change. London: Random House.)
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