Shifting Gears – Designing A New Habit

An eye-opening episode with an upset employee had convinced my new client that it was time to change his behavior.  He calmly explained how, as a manager in a small business, when employees didn’t do what he wanted that he would explode in frustration.  He would quickly put it behind him and not think about it again, while his employees were left walking on egg shells, afraid to upset him.

We talked about how this had been his behavior for many years.  He admitted how it had served him well to get what he wanted but that it was no longer how he wanted to act.  He wondered if it was possible for him to change.  I discussed how instead of considering it a “personality flaw” to think of it as an old habit that could be replaced by a new habit.  That perspective caught his interest and we moved forward with it.

First I had him start paying attention to exactly what the situations were in which his temper would flare.  They were consistently times when employees didn’t do what he expected them to do.  It took awhile for him to catch himself in the act.

Next I had him notice what thoughts he had immediately before he blew up with his employees.  He noticed his thoughts flashed to “She’s incompetent!” “Why can’t he get it right?” “What’s the matter with her?” “I should fire him!”

Then I asked him to pay attention to the body sensations he had right before he got so frustrated and angry.  The body is a true barometer of how a person is feeling and gives clues when one is upset.  Each person has different physical reactions and in time he recognized that his stomach felt tied in knots and his palms became sweaty.

Once the groundwork had been laid, we then determined what the new habit was that he wanted to design and put into place.  He decided he wanted to handle frustrating situations calmly and to indicate specifically what he wanted his employees to do differently the next time that would be acceptable to him.

What ultimately worked was for him to 1) catch himself right before he exploded, 2) take a deep breath, 3) literally take a step backward to remove himself from the upsetting situation and mind set, 4) think about what he wanted the employee to know to handle the situation differently and then to 5) calmly tell the employee.

While it took a considerable amount of practice, he became successful implementing his new habit.  He knew it was really working when one day an employee came to share her ideas about how a different system would improve the functioning of the office.  He was delighted since he knew that in the past his employees were too afraid to tell him what they thought.  By changing his habit, he had changed the office culture.  We really celebrated when he reported this event!

If you are ready to let go of an old habit which no longer serves you, and design a new habit to obtain the result you really want, here are some steps to consider taking:

  1. Determine whether you’re really COMMITTED to making the change or is it just a “good idea?” Is the result something you truly WANT (which is more likely to make the change successful) or is it a SHOULD (which is more likely to fail)?  This is extremely important to discern!
  2. Design a simple new habit that appeals to you (i.e.) doing some type of exercise that you enjoy.  This increases the chances for success.
  3. Develop a way of monitoring on a daily or weekly basis how you’re doing.   (ie: keep an exercise journal or jot down your actions in a beautiful Audabon calendar (like I do) to reinforce your new behavior and habit.
  4. Practice, practice, practice without “Beating yourself up” if you don’t consistently stay on track.  If you miss a few days without using your new habit, pick up where you left off and congratulate yourself for having the courage to begin again!  In time the new habit will become second nature to you.

This process is simple yet not necessarily easy.  Are you really ready to make a change?  Again, is it a true “Commitment” or a “Good Idea”?  Only you can decide.  Be sure to be honest with yourself

If you’d like guidance in “shifting gears – designing a new habit” click here.

Lorrie’s Learnings is a monthly e-article which shares my awarenesses, learnings, contemplations and anything else that comes to the mind of this life coach! Let me know the articles that give you new perspectives/thoughts/feelings, confirm what you’ve been thinking or move you into action. To receive Lorrie’s Learnings straight to your email inbox, click here!