After 17 years of writing a column syndicated in Northwest CA (and on this site), I will be in my first national magazine!
You can read the article by following this link.
I know I say this every year, (admit it, you do too) but it always seems like a surprise. Stores starting setting up Halloween displays sometime around March (slight – but not much of an – exaggeration.) Christmas displays have been unveiled in the big box outlets for several weeks already. And, almost as quickly as it began, summer has left us for cold mornings, thick jackets, and wool caps.
Especially after being hunkered down for almost two years, it can be difficult to stay on track during the upcoming “holiday party season,” that period from when Halloween candies hit the store shelves until the last New Year’s party has faded with the final chords of Auld Lang Syne. This is not new. We’ve all been around the block a few times; we know how difficult it can be to get back on track come January. We could just stay on course for the next couple of months. Yet, if we all know what this time of year is like, why do we do this to ourselves every year?
To permanently change habits, we need an accurate understanding of what they are. Most people mistakenly consider habits to be repeated behaviors done without thought; developed over time. Whereby that’s partly true, it misses focusing on the more significant elements: everything which precedes the behavior. Not understanding the entire chain condemns us to be victims of our actions instead of their masters.
That said, let’s re-define more accurately what exactly is a habit: “A recurring pattern of thoughts and feelings triggering a repeated behavior, which all work together to simplify our lives.”
We are not mindless Zombies, aimlessly wandering the landscape, driven by impulse and instinct, reacting without any control. Instead, since most of us have functioning brains, we develop patterns – rituals – which allow us to lower the cacophony between our ears and think less. The benefit of which is that it simplifies our lives by putting much of it on autopilot. After all, it’s hard to constantly be “on,” we need relief.
They’re like being bundled up in warm blankets with soft pillows on a cold morning; comforting, supportive, relaxing. Who would want to willingly change that? Continuing the metaphor, it can feel like moving to a sleeping bed on a hard floor, no air mattress, and the heater isn’t working.
Since we are in a period of paradigm-shifting, life-altering, stress-inducing, overwhelming change, I thought it might be helpful to understand why it’s so difficult to get new habits to stick.
Firstly, remind thyself that all change is spawned of fear, force, or pain. No one wakes up thinking, “I love my life! Let me see how I can change it.” We change because we see no alternative and because the “old system” wasn’t cutting it anymore. Maybe the times are different. Maybe we’re different. But something must adjust, and sadly it’s us. Being inspired to change by “negative” feelings also automatically puts us at a disadvantage as we’re not thinking clearly, to begin with.
To that end, know that there are actually five levels we must tweak, each deeper than the one prior if we’re going to make our sleeping bag become a cushy, fluffy bed.
Let’s say you’ve decided to be socially responsible and be concerned with the greater good by wearing a facemask. However, each time you leave the house, you forget your mask. An example of Environment change could be relocating your mask to a hook by the front door. Now, it will prompt you to wear it. Simple. Easy.
If I don’t modify those, my Environment reverts to unsupportive.
Continuing with our illustration, upon returning home, you remove your mask and put it in the washing machine. That makes sense, but that behavior means that when you leave, Environment is no longer provoking you to wear a mask. Consequently, a Behavior change must take place, such as obtaining a few masks and placing them all at the front door, plus remembering to hang cleaned masks there when you finish the laundry. This alleviates the difficulty of “forgetting” to wear one.
“But, I can’t keep remembering to put masks all around my house,” you might reply.
Your perceived – and that’s the operative word – Capabilities determine which Behaviors will stick or fade. If your internal dialog is, “I don’t have time to do this,” or “I have too much else to do,” you’ll give up new Behaviors, putting you back to square one.
Beliefs, despite appearing as facts to us, are really not. They are feelings. They are not true for all but are to us. Continuing in our mask saga, if my Belief is that “masks are unnecessary and a pain in the behind” (um, poor choice of body parts for masks but you get my drift…), then you will consider it unimportant and pointless to amend your Capabilities to reinforce that you can indeed manage a couple of masks. Resultingly, new Behaviors fade, the Environment becomes unsupportive, old habits return. If my Belief changes to “I feel it’s important to wear a mask, no matter how awkward,” Capabilities shift, producing a positive domino effect.
With only a few hundred words, I can’t really delve deep into the concept of Beliefs, as there are so many extenuating conditions that affect them.
We possess multiple Identities in which we adorn ourselves, depending on conditions. For example, my Identity of “Romantic” is certainly welcome and appropriate when it’s my wife, yet I would be out of line with my co-worker. Identities, like outfits, adjust to the settings in which we find ourselves. Rounding out the now overworn mask tale, if my Identity is “I am too busy to deal with this,” my Belief might be “this is ridiculous;” yet again collapse the dominos. Should I alter my Identity to “I am socially responsible and concerned about spreading the virus,” then Beliefs correct to “I feel it’s important to figure out a way to do this.” My Capabilities will now line up that empowerment. Behaviors adapt. Environment adjusts. New habit locks in.
About the author: Scott “Q” Marcus is a professional speaker and founder of www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com, where he can be contacted for coaching, consulting, and presentations. During this social distancing period, he is conducting monthly on-line workshops on setting goals and getting past what holds you back. If you would like a free graphic of this topic or to know more about his workshops, go to www.ThisTimeIMeanit.com/handout
Both groups were given monologues that they were to earnestly perform for an audience. One group was well compensated for their involvement; the other was not.
The content of the scripts was what sensible, civilized, average people would find distasteful, even abhorrent. As illustration, the Jewish people should have been exterminated in World War II, or slavery was actually positive for African Americans and should be reinstated.
Using a psychological evaluation prior to their performances, each actor was rated on a one-to-five scale as to how much their beliefs were in alignment what they were about to perform. Upon completion, they were again assessed as to their level of agreement. The purpose of these measurements was to understand if the students’ beliefs moved in the direction of what was espoused in their scripts after they performed them.
So, if I let you in on my inner workings, you won’t think less of me? I mean, I’m opening myself up to being vulnerable, okay? Thanks.
There’s an expression: “Mother Nature bats last.” Well, yep, she sure does – and she hits it out of the park.
The original plan for this weekend was to drive south for a meeting with one of the companies with whom I work. Alas, the main highway between here and there is smothered with the third in a series of major rock and mud slides, cutting off traffic in both directions, with no estimated time of re-opening. It stands to reason that despite the valiant attempts of CalTrans to hold back the mountain, the road shall remain blocked, locking me in Humboldt unless I wish to add about eight hours of mountain driving each way. (For the record, I do not so wish.)