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Most of the choices we make each day, feel like well-considered decisions, but they’re not - they are habits.
About 95% of our behaviours occur automatically, without conscious thought, so, although each habit may mean relatively little on its own, over time, whether we save or spend, how often we exercise, the meals we order, and the way we organise our thoughts and work routines have enormous impacts on our lives (health, productivity, finances, security and happiness).
Only in the past two decades have scientists really begun understanding how habits work –– and, more important, how they change. Habits emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. Left to its own devices, the brain will try to make almost any routine into a habit, because it allows us to stop thinking constantly about basic behaviors, and more on new or complex behaviours. Without habit loops, our brains would shut down, overwhelmed by the details of daily life.
The process within our brains is a three-step loop. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical, mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future. Over time, this loop –– cue, routine, reward; cue, routine, reward –– becomes automatic and a habit is born.
If you've ever tried to change a habit, and failed, you'll know how difficult it can be. This is why the discovery of the habit loop is so important - it reveals a basic truth: When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks. So unless you deliberately fight a habit – unless you find new routines – the pattern will unfold automatically.
The problem is that your brain can’t tell the difference between bad and good habits, therefore, on its own it will not try to change. Also, habits never really disappear, they're always lurking there, waiting for the right cues and rewards.
To change a habit, you must keep the old cue and deliver the old reward, but insert a new routine.
To modify a habit, you must decide to change it. You must consciously accept the hard work of identifying the cues and rewards that drive the habits’ routines and find alternatives. You must know you have control and be self-conscious enough to use it. Once you understand that habits can change, you have the freedom –– and the responsibility –– to remake them. Once you understand that habits can be rebuilt, the power of habit becomes easier to grasp, and the only option left is to get to work.
For example: If you want to lose weight, study your cue (it might be: other people getting up to go to the cafe, the clock says 10.00am, or hunger pains) and the rewards (it might be: social contact, communication, taste, or less hunger) and find another way to satisfy the reward (perhaps: eat an apple rather than cake, or walk with a friend rather than eating in the cafe).
Please let me know if you know anyone who needs to change their habits and I'll talk to them about my Irresistible Leadership Program.
In the meantime, warmest wishes,
Virtual Group Business Consultants
free phone: 0800 4 virtual or +644 570 0727 or Skype Bruce.Holland
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Key words: Leadership, leadership development, leadership management, leadership training, leadership program, leadership skills.