Our grandson is the classic example of a three year old. Thrilled by reward, validation and the love of others.
Oh wait- that’s all of us.
As we discussed last week, our habits are not going to stick based solely on good intentions. We mentally and physically require rewards along the way.
We laugh at the active response children have to something as small as a piece of candy, but we fail to carry rewards systems into adulthood. We tell children to eat their vegetables and then they’ll get some dessert. But are we eating the vegetables of life without that reward at the end? I fear many of us are. Usually these posts are built on principles of leadership. These next posts on habit are no exception. Our characters and the characters of our team members are built with habits. This is fundamental to leadership, and furthermore, vital to your wellbeing.
Only you can know the rewards that will encourage you to go on. Our daughter worked at the paint shop at her university and on long weeks when students lacked motivation due to paint fumes or three hours of sleep the night before, the boss would promise donuts for the job getting done quicker. If rewards work for 23 year olds they’ll work for the rest of us. It may seem simplistic, but it works!
A common misconception of forming habits is that you can just take something out of your life without finding a replacement for it. This is completely false. Everything we take out of our lives must be replaced by something else. Our brains don’t do well with empty spaces. I saw this early in my career when doing addictions counseling. People would strongly declare that they were going to leave behind their addiction. Sounded good! Who couldn’t support that?! However, if they did not have something to replace that with, which was rare, the pull of the former behavior was just to strong.
We need replacement. Replacement with something of equal enjoyment to you. My brain isn’t going to like it if I say, “Well I can’t eat that cake, but I can go on a run I hate instead.”
The brain doesn’t like the word “but” because it’s just another form of “no”. The word “and” is much safer. Here are some examples:
– I’m not having this cake and I’m going to make a great smoothie instead.
– I’m not going to eat this cake and I’m going to watch my favorite show.
– I’m not going to lose my temper right now at the fact that they’re doing ‘X’ again and I’m going to take a walk and listen to my favorite podcast.
– I’m not going to be short with my patient and I’m going to eat one of the 50 M&Ms in my pocket.
If you have an idea that you think could work, go for it! Good habits are too valuable to let them slip away from us.
Written by Emma and Karl Pister