Question. Are you too busy to really do any professional development? Do you feel like, “sure I’d love to change how I do things, but I’m too exhausted”? If that’s you, keep reading. We’re going to talk about how you can create lasting change in just two minutes a day.
In this last “spring” focused episode, I want to talk about habits. April is typically the time to plant seeds. Seeds are these tiny things that, when given the chance, grow and grow into something spectacular. And when it starts to grow, it’s hard to see any progress one day to the next, then suddenly, it’s a fully grown plant. That’s exactly how habits work.
When you do something over and over again - even if It’s just a few minutes - it starts to form a habit that has the potential to reap compound interest. What am I talking about? Seemingly small changes that over time add up to significantly improving your life.
I’ve talked about habits in other episodes, but in a nutshell your subconscious is controlling what you do 95-99% of the day. Basically, you’re on autopilot. And with any autopilot system, It runs on programs. What are your programs? Well, it depends on how you were raised, your community, the field you work in, etc. But the easiest way to know what your programs are is to look at what habits you have.
And that extends to your talents as well. Why to do they automatically show up for you without thinking? Because they’re part of your autopilot settings.
But here’s the key. Just like with your talents, if your habits aren’t aligned with your goals, you might actually be working against yourself.
So, we’re talking about planting the seeds of new habits in this episode. Let’s break this down into easy steps…
STEP 1 | First, you have to identify what habits you have that aren’t working for you - including how you’re using your talents. Or you need to identify a new talent you need to be more successful.
You can do this with our handy dandy question, “How are my talents getting in my way with _____?” Or maybe it’s something you know you shouldn’t be doing but just haven’t yet.
STEP 2 | Next you need to set up a habit script. The habit loop is very simple - cue, behavior, reward. That’s it. All habits follow this pattern. Once you’ve done something enough craving comes in too, but we don’t need it to start.
To break that down a little more, there needs to be a cue in the environment to let you know that it’s time to do a certain behavior. The subconscious watches for the cues in the habits you already have. That’s why you don’t even know it’s happened. But when you intentionally start a new habit, you’ll have to use your conscious mind to give the cue meaning.
So, a simple script goes, “When _____ (the cue) happens, I’ll do _____ (the behavior). Then I’ll do _____ (the reward).”
And just to clarify, yes, you need a reward. The reward is what trains to brain to repeat the behavior. It always wants to know what’s in it for us, so if doing _____ gets you no immediate gratification, it’s going to believe it’s a useless activity. A reward can be anything you want that you really value - going for a walk, getting a snack, or even a Facebook break. The only exception to the reward rule is if you have Discipline as a Talent Theme. That’s not because Disciplined folks are better than the rest of us. It’s just that the thing they happen to be talented at is making these changes.
Let’s say you’re working on team engagement and realized you haven’t been telling your team members how great they’re doing. If you recall from the Q12, Q4 is In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.”
A good habit script could be, “When I get my morning coffee, I’ll stop by someone’s office and give them a specific complement on a recent project. Then I’ll take a lap around the quad.”
The cue is getting your coffee. The behavior is the specific complement. And your reward is a walk around the quad. You could also simply it by making the coffee your reward. Then the act of getting up to get coffee is the cue.
The more specific you can make it, the more likely you are to stick with it. Which brings us to the last step…
STEP 3 | Finally, commit to doing that thing as often as possible. If you’ve heard the phrase, “neurons that fire together wire together,” this is what I’m talking about. The more often you run this script, the faster it gets into your programming. And that means you’ll do it automatically.
And your subconscious really doesn’t care how long you do something. It tracks how often you do it. So, with the previous example, in a month your brain would say you’ve complemented people 20+ times (assuming you skipped the weekend). But let’s say you decided to just do this once a week but you’re going to do all of your team at once. In a month, your brain would only register that you complimented folks four times. That’s going to be a much harder habit to make. So do your script as often as ppt even if means breaking it down into smaller chunks. In fact, experts recommend just doing two minutes of a habit when you’re just starting to ensure long term success.
Find a way to track your habit so you can make sure it happens on a regular basis. There are loads of apps that track habits these days. Or you can use a spreadsheet, a journal, or some visual representation like putting a rock on your desk every time you do it.
Okay so that’s habits in a nutshell. Just remember, new habits don’t have to be big to make a big difference. In fact, going big might just be the thing that gets in your way. Keep it small and do-able for yourself. Then just make sure you do that small thing as often as possible.
If you’d like to go deeper into how to use habits to be more effective at work or really anywhere, register for our summer Supervisor Strengths Institute. This Sunday, May 1st is the last day to get the early bird rate. Save $200 by registering before then. Here’s a link to more information and to register - https://www.strengthsuniversity.org/supervisorstrengthsinstitute