Bad Habits

Get a Hold of Your Habits


You have the power to change your life for the better. You can quit smoking, run a marathon, and become a top performing manager. Maybe you’ve heard this before but think you lack the willpower. Willpower is not the real obstacle to change, but instead a lack of understanding how habit works.

Forty-five percent of our daily life choices are based on habits. In the book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg explains habits form because the brain is looking for ways to save effort.  Have you ever driven home from work, once arriving, not recalling the drive at all?  How did you even get there?  Gasp!  Did you run any red lights while driving?

When you are engaging in a habit, the brain is no longer participating in the decision making—allowing you to focus on other tasks. The habit follows a loop starting with a cue telling your brain to go into automatic mode. Next, there is a routine, which can be physical, mental or emotional. And lastly, the reward, which tells your brain if the habit loop is worth remembering for the future. You can break a bad habit and replace it with a good one; all you need is a plan.

At a past job, once a week a new delicious treat would be brought in by a coworker for the team. One of my coworkers confessed to me he didn’t want to be tempted by the doughnuts any longer. Here’s how he successfully turned his bad habit into a healthy one.

Step One: Identify the Routine

My coworker first had to identify the behavior he wanted to change. This step was easy for him; he wanted to stop eating doughnuts.

Step Two: Experiment with Rewards

To figure out which cravings were driving his habit, he identified three potential rewards– socialization, a break, and hunger.

Then he tested these cravings to figure out which one was driving his routine. If the reward he craved was socialization, then talking with others would satisfy this. If he craved a break, then he could go to the fitness center, and if it was due to hunger, he could have a healthy snack. During the experiment, after each activity, he wrote down three things that came to his mind and then waited fifteen minutes to see if he still craved the doughnut. The craving disappeared when he went to the fitness center, indicating a break was his reward.

Step Three: Isolate the Cue

Now he needed to identify what cue was triggering his brain to go into automatic mode. Each time the urge to eat the team treat hit he wrote down where he was, the time, his emotional state, who else was around, and the action proceeding the urge.  He found that when the urge hit he was often frustrated or bored, so this was his cue.

Step Four:  Create a Plan

Lastly, my coworker created a plan. When he was frustrated or bored he went to the fitness center for thirty minutes. He is now working out at least three times a week and no longer feels controlled by the urge to have a doughnut. He is not only healthier but also happier and performing at his best.

Follow these simple steps, and this could be you.

Performance Culture helps organizations create good habits in organizations with the check-in feature. This feature allows you to create automated reminders which helps form the habit. The responses are then aggregated onto the performance review. Now, you have a summary conversation at year end, allowing for more time to focus on the future. If you would like to learn more about Performance Culture, please give us a call or email.   

Author: Madeline Alden

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