How to Change Your Behaviour to Become more Effective
How to Change Your Behaviour to Become more Effective
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, we have all been asked to change our behaviour; it also means we have had to modify some of the unconscious habits we do every day without even thinking, like not shaking peoples’ hands when we meet them and washing our hands more regularly and thoroughly - for those for whom it wasn’t already an instinctive habit! At Natural Talent all our Coaching and Training is designed to create significant and sustainable behaviour change as clients develop skills and competencies to be more effective, maximise time and even improve their work/life balance. A small change to behaviour can create a big impact, for example, a line manager giving more positive feedback to their team can result in improved levels of discretionary effort, engagement and retention; this in turn can result in increased levels of customer satisfaction leading to more sales.
So, how do you change your behaviour?
We all develop habits learned from our parents/guardians/friends/colleagues; frequently we try to change some of these bad habits and fail abysmally because we revert to type, especially when we are under pressure, stressed or during uncertain times when we want to feel comfortable and secure doing what we have always done. Much research has been conducted on how we form habits and routines, develop cravings or addictions, and struggle to change our behaviour. In his book ‘The Power of Habit’ Charles Duhigg explains how the brain converts a sequence of actions in to a habit in order to save us time and effort and limit decision making. Each day we don’t consciously think about how we carry out up to 40% of tasks, from cleaning our teeth to taking the same route to work, but certain behaviours, habits, routines and cravings become deeply ingrained and therefore are difficult to change.
In order to alter these habits and behaviours it’s necessary to take time out to examine them and identify what causes the habit to form, then change and replace the ‘reward’. The key is to really believe that you can change, for example, if you want to be healthier but always have a couple of alcoholic drinks after a hard day on Zoom calls a different reward should be found; obviously this takes willpower and self-control. As psychologist Mark Muraven said: ‘Willpower isn’t a skill. It’s a muscle…and it gets tired as it works harder, so there’s less power left for other things.’ So, it’s important to make small changes at first, such as eliminating alcohol from one evening a week to begin with, or cutting down to one glass an evening and replacing this with something else.
With so many people still working from home and enduring more lockdowns, we are all being forced to keep changing our behaviours. However, with a more optimistic outlook and some light at the end of the tunnel, many are now starting to regroup, plan for the future and devote some time to their personal development. Here are some more tips and techniques to assist in modifying your behaviour to become less operational at work, achieve your goals and become more fulfilled :
1. Identify your personal vision: Create some quiet time and turn off your phone and laptop! Take a blank piece of paper and write down the 5 or 6 most important aims, things and/or people in your life, for example, starting your own business or finding a long-term partner. What do you want to have achieved in your lifetime and be remembered for? For those key priorities write down SMART goals as to how you are going to get what you want. This exercise is also useful in finding a work/life balance.
2. Examine your Routines: Again, unplug from all devices, and think through everything you do from the moment you wake up until the time you go to sleep. Make a note of any habits or routines you are not happy with, for example you may hit the snooze button a few times before you get up and then find yourself ‘chasing your tail’ which puts you in a bad mood as you rush to clean your teeth, squeezing toothpaste down your clean shirt, then you’re running late for your online meeting and trying to play catch up all day, which adds to your stress levels.
3. From this list of your bad habits, identify what needs to change: Frequently these are simple, small steps, such as setting the alarm half an hour earlier and doing some exercise before work, or skipping half an hour of watching a soap and picking up a book or magazine instead. Or if you’ve become addicted to social media, ebay or games, such as Candy Crush during lockdown, limiting time on these activities to half an hour a day and replacing any new free time with exercise, reading or calling a friend.
4. Creating a SMART Action Plan to make Changes: One of the reasons that Coaching is so effective, is that the Coach makes the individual Coaching client accountable for their behaviours, therefore they are more likely to make changes, report back positive progress, and demonstrate they have made an effort to modify behaviours. If you can’t work with a Coach then enlist the help of your partner/colleague/buddy to monitor your progress and hold you accountable. If you tell people you are going to lose a stone and run the next local marathon for a certain charity, chances are you will keep to your goals.
5. What new ‘reward’ should you choose? Make sure that your vision and goals align; in other words, if you decide you need to work SMARTer, but also want to lose weight and exercise more you may find your goals clash and you fail, which will result in reverting to type. You may find that you start to miss your mid-morning sugary snack. Instead of regressing, to stay focused, replace the unhealthy snack with some fruit and go for a quick walk around the garden/block.
6. To keep you on track pick some of the following techniques which you like and work for you:
- As soon as you wake up visualise carrying out the new behaviours and routines
- If you can, say your favourite motivational statements out loud or write them down and read them
- Diarise just 15 minutes of creative space for yourself every day/week to work on your own personal development or business strategy
- Spend at least 10 minutes every day doing absolutely nothing, with no music, phone, TV or radio on
- Practise short guided meditations or mindfulness to clear your mind and maintain focus
7. If you find yourself giving up or beating yourself up for not sticking to a new plan or behaviour, then work on dealing with your negative voice.
8. Control what you can control: As the American philosopher and psychologist Willian James wrote ‘All our life so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits – practical, emotional, and intellectual – systematically organized for our weal or woe, and bearing us irresistibly toward our destiny, whatever the latter may be.’ In other words, triggers, decisions, feelings, reactions, responses, habits, routines and behaviours determine what we become; only we have the freedom and responsibility to take control and to try to make the best possible decisions and changes.
‘Thank you for your work with the Sales team; they are much more motivated and focused; as a result, they’ve secured some major deals, which provides us with a great ROI for the Coaching and Training interventions.’ CFO
Stay safe, stay positive!