Habits can sometimes be very helpful. Other times they trip us up and get in the way of accomplishing our goals. In the Mindfully, I AM Evolving coaching program I support clients to recognized both and learn how to use, or modify them.
What is a Habit?
A habit is behaviour we do without thinking. It is an unconscious response to something. Habits are part of a triad identified by behaviour researchers such as Charles Duhigg. Our minds perceive a stimulus which creates a reaction and that in turn creates behaviour which we understand to be the habit. In his book, The Power of Habit, Duhigg identifies the cue, routine, reward loop which represents our habits. Our mind perceives a cue, we respond with a routine reaction and receive the reward that the mind has learned will be produced. A habit is a learned reaction to a cue which results in us receiving a reward.
Unfortunately, as we all know, not all habits help us get to where we want to go. Anyone with a sweet tooth knows how hard it is to break the habit of eating the free candy of the hostess desk in a restaurant. For many it’s picking up their smart phone and finding themselves mindlessly scrolling a social platform without even realizing they are using up work, play or study time.
On the other hand, some habits help us to reach our goals or to stay safe or become a better version of ourselves. The habit of checking that the door is locked when leaving keeps us safe. Looking left then right then left again before crossing the road keeps us safe. For members of the Robin Sharma 5 am Club, getting up early helps them move forward in personal and professional development.
Mindfulness, Awareness and Habits
The Mindfully, I AM Evolving coaching program is a proprietary coaching program. The program helps clients self-coach using a four step model. Mindfully, refers to developing awareness. I stands for Intention, identifying who they would be as their best self. The A refers to Attention or where to place their energy, what strategy is required, to become that person. Finally, M stands for Mindset; what do you need to know, understand or believe in order to make that Intention a reality.
When it comes to habit, the first challenge is to identify that a habit exists. Using mindfulness – defined as paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment without judgement – one starts to develop awareness of one’s unconscious actions, behaviours or thoughts. Unconscious actions, behaviours or thoughts are, in fact, habits.
So What? Now What?
That’s great Carolyn but what do I do with all this?
With awareness, we can decide if we like how the habit impacts our life. If you like the outcome, great, do more of it. If you don’t like the outcome, modify, manage or eliminate the habit to get a better result. Awareness allow us to decide what to do. When we don’t even notice we are doing something, its impossible to change it.
To help yourself become more aware of your habits, try an experiment. See if you can develop the awareness to catch yourself using a habit. Reserve judgement, just be aware.
What did you notice?
How does it impact your ability to be successful?
Is it causing you to trip or to thrive?
What would be a better action or what can you do instead?
What will you do next time? How will you catch yourself?
Using these few questions you will develop the mindfulness to catch yourself in a habit which you can then arrange to modify if need be.