Breaking Patterns: 3 Quick Ways to Stop Repeating Behaviours
“Our character is basically a composite of our habits.
Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns,
they constantly, daily, express our character…”
~ Stephen Covey
You might have listened to my interview with Charles Duhigg, author of the very fine book The Power of Habit. One of the disconcerting numbers he mentions in the book is a study from Duke University that suggests that 40% of all we do – yes, almost half – is habit. And by “habit” the mean we’re doing it on automatic.
You can probably see that’s good news (lots of what we do we don’t WANT to think about, such as how do I operate the shower) and, well, let’s call it disconcerting news (“who exactly is in charge of this thing I call myself?”).
So let me offer three quick questions that might help get you a little more conscious about the choices you’re making (and the behaviours you’re exhibiting.) These questions also work very well for a quick team debrief after something’s been done.
1. What did you intend?
This can be a simple restatement of your objectives. What were you trying to achieve?
2. What happened?
This is useful for just getting a sense of what really happened. You can rest assured that your perspective of events is only one of the versions.
The objective here is to collect both “the facts” (such as costs, number of people involved, figures, etc) and differing opinions on what worked and didn’t work, what circumstances influenced what happened, and other factors.
When commenting on others’ roles, capture specific behavioural events (what they did, what they said) rather than your conclusion about what they did (X did a poor job because…).
3. What can we learn from this?
There will be different levels of learning here, from the very specific (“don’t wear Brand X socks – they give you blisters”) to the more abstract (“this project wasn’t close enough to my life purpose for me to be motivated”).
Don’t forget to ask here “what did we do well that we need to discuss or else it will be forgotten?” It’s very easy to jump to “the mistakes.” It’s most powerful to start with what’s been working.
Capture also “what still puzzles us?” You won’t be able to figure everything out. Be explicit about what it is that still is a mystery.
Simple but difficult
Like lots of my suggestions, this stuff is simple but difficult to do on a regular basis. (Michael, I’m talking to you here.) So let me ask you – where and when do you think you might first be able to apply this?