“First we make our habits, then our habits make us.” ~ Charles C Noble
If you’re like me – something has already slipped between the cracks. Oops. Don’t feel bad. That’s part of being human. Whether we resolve to change habits in our personal or professional selves – the odds are against us actually keeping those resolutions.
Until we understand how to shift the brain programming behind those habits.
With a bit of knowledge and a few simple practices – we can change anything and everything!
The Program Behind those Habits
First let’s chat about why those habits are, well, habits.
With over 2M bits of information coming into our brains every second – we can’t possibly process everything we experience. So our brains look for ways to decrease what they have to oversee by creating repetitive behaviors. After all – we don’t want our brain so busy focusing on making coffee or driving the car that we miss a potential threat.
We create habits in both our personal and professional worlds. As humans in business we also create habits in our business cultures – from the way we perceive our markets and value to the processes we use to operate.
Our brain creates what Neural Linguistic Processing (NLP) calls “chunks’ of behavioral responses or routines. For example – we chunk the actions required to drive to the office and store them as a single routine. All of our behavioral chunks are stored in our brainstem (the basil ganglia) and are repeated whenever we experience a specific type of trigger in our world – unconsciously and as a rote response.
Once a habit is created it acts as an automatic loop that plays repeatedly when activated. Here’s how our brain works when it comes to those pesky habits.
- We experience a specific trigger. The phone rings. The dog barks. A competitor shifts pricing. A new product must be launched.
- Our unconscious responds with a chunk of behavior. We answer the phone. We check to see if someone is outside. We call a meeting to change our pricing. We pull out the last launch plan and begin updating it.
- We’re reinforced and repeat. We create a response that stops the ringing, shuts up the dog, responds to the competitive threat and checks the box for that launch plan.
But what if we didn’t need to cut prices? What if we could have uplifted value and raised prices? What if that last launch plan isn’t going to work in this year’s market? We may never know because of the power of habit to take control of the daily running our lives and our businesses. That behavior that worked three years ago becomes the repetitive chunk we repeat this year – whether it’s appropriate or not. From personal habits to business processes – routines take over whenever our brain says we’re in a repetitive situation. For example:
- We feel the stress of more to do with less time. We head for the coffee pot, diet coke, cigarette outside or that candy bar stashed in our desk.
- We hear from a top customer that we need a specific feature to stay competitive. We add that feature to the top of the list and start planning.
- We see that our sales have slipped in a specific product area. We brainstorm ways to add more product value, cut the price or increase our distribution. That’s what we’re supposed to do, right?
Changing the Pattern
Changing habits isn’t that hard. But it takes more than simply deciding we’re going to change. To change a habit we have to interrupt our brain and it’s programmed loops.
Tomorrow we’ll talk about how to do just that, along with some specific tools you can use to bring those New Year’s resolutions back on track for success!