Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What's Your Habit Routine?

Why Do We Do What We Do in Life and Business is the subtitle of The Power of Habit, which I wrote about on Monday. I've never been as interested in the whys as in the hows. Insight doesn't produce change, which I've known early on in my days as a therapist. Even if we know why we smoke, or are negative self-talkers, or fall in love with the same, wrong type of partner, it doesn't help us to STOP smoking, NSTing, or falling for the "bad" guy. If instead we ask, how can I stop this smoking habit, this NST pattern, this wrong partner pick, we might make progress.

(We hardly ever ask why do I look so good today? Why did I do so well on that test? Why am I such a fast runner? OK I'm off on a tangent, but it's interesting. When you ask yourself the why question about yourself, you're usually into self-criticism, not really self-awareness or insight.)

Back to the point. Duhigg's book is not a self-help book. However, he does include an Apendix, which he titles "A Reader's Guide to Using These Ideas", by which he means the ideas he's put forth in the book about altering habits. He says that any habit can be reshaped with time and effort.

The first step is to identify the routine. Whether it's eating 10 cookies, rehashing negative self-criticism, or clenching your jaws and teeth you have to know you do it and begin to think about what is the cue, what's the trigger? A preteen I asked a month or so ago said a bad test grade or a missed soccer goal was the usual cue that sent her into self-criticism. I just found myself with clamped jaws and tight shoulders as I'm writing this blog. I never noticed feeling stressed writing before, but maybe it has become so habitual that it feels natural. Now that I know a bit more about my routine, maybe I can figure out how to lessen the discomfort and the pattern.

I'll keep working on the clamped jaw habit and I'd like you to work on any habitual routine you'd like to weaken, although I'm particularly interested in the negative self-talk habit. I don't do it, so I can't notice. Let me and readers know what you find out about your NST routine as you begin to consciously NOTICE.
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