Practical tools

MANAGING THE IMPACT OF ACUTE STRESS ON PERFORMANCE

HABITS: STARTING & ENDING


The usual suspects

Habits are often a focus for change, whether it's starting them or breaking them.

 Starting 

  • Eating better
  • Exercising more
  • Self-care

Breaking

  • Unhealthy eating
  • Smoking
  • Overusing technology

Our brains are habit making machines, and that's part of what makes us so productive - when something's habit it can be done by rote, on autopilot. Habit puts your phone in your pocket when you leave the house, even though you don't remember it, and habit can have us reaching for healthier choices without effort.   


the process

Habit change, whether starting or ending, is difficult and takes real effort.  

To be successful, some approaches are more effective than others, and what works can be very individual. The myth is that change is all about will power and being able to "just do it", but the fact is that it takes skills, resources, opportunity, and support.  

Individualizing the process is key to starting or breaking a habit.  Habits fill different needs for each of us, and understanding how this works is an important part of the process.  


Case study: Jim

Jim, in his mid 60's when I worked with him, had always been fit without needing an exercise habit.  He had also always wanted to loose weight.  

We quickly shifted the goal of "Lose 20 Pounds" (an outcome goal) to "Develop an Exercise Habit" (a process goal).  

From there we worked out what the strategy for that process would look like.  We began by identifying anything that could be a barrier to fitting exercise into his life.  We then worked out ways to address each barrier, including actionable things to focus on. 

Putting these strategies into practice took ongoing support and troubleshooting for the first few months, but after that Jim was on roll. 

By focusing on the process, Jim was able to loose the 20 pounds, and five years later has kept it off by continuing with his daily exercise habit.

"It worked because we worked on indirect things, replacing the overwhelming 'lose 20 pounds' goal with much more doable things."