Sometimes the biggest obstacle between us and our vision for what we want to create in the world lies smack dab between our ears. We all have self-limiting habits and perspectives.
For example, for me a big one is lapsing into the habitual harangue of my self-critic, Brutal Bart (and mistaking his spiel for reality). For someone else, it might be perfectionism, or chronic pessimism, or making negative assumptions about other people’s motivations, or a mistaken belief about how they “should” show up.
In my role for the last dozen years as a Passion Catalyst helping people create careers and lives that energize and inspire them, I have had a front row seat on the wide range of habitual ways people get in their own ways. I have also discovered a process that works consistently well in shifting those habits.
Step 1: Identify the habit
This seems like a no-brainer, I know, but it’s important. Get really clear on what you want to shift.
Step 2: Learn to notice the habit
If you don’t notice it playing out, you’re a puppet on a string being yanked around by the habit. For many people, those limiting habits are so ingrained that they notice them as much as a fish notices water. It’s just their natural state of affairs. So this step is about creating awareness.
Sometimes it’s enough to say, “I’m going to notice when I do that / think that.” Often though, it’s such a fluid part of our experience it’s like trying to remember to notice the oxygen in the air.
If that’s you, start by noticing after the fact. For a week, do an end-of-day review. Look back at your day and say, where did that habit come up? Think of it as training your brain to notice. Over time, you’ll start noticing it more naturally in real time.
Step 3: Practice shifting the habit
Ultimately your goal is not just to notice the habit in real time, but also to shift it. Often easier said than done. The solution? Again, it’s about training your brain.
Just like you trained your brain to notice, you can train your brain to shift by doing it after the fact. At the end of each day, look back and pick a time when the habit reared its head. Then start asking questions.
Let’s say your habit is self-criticism. You would identify a time when it popped up and ask things like, “Was the intensity of that criticism valid? If I were looking at someone else in the same situation, would I be as caustic and mean with my criticism? OK, so I flubbed that – what might some other ways to respond have been besides beating myself up? What would the kind response to this have been? What are some more productive ways I could have responded to that?”
The aim here isn’t to give your critic more fodder for criticism (you should have done it this way!). It’s to give your brain a chance to practice different alternatives when it’s not in the heat of the moment. Think of it as taking repeated training runs for more positive and constructive responses, giving your brain a chance to build “muscle memory.”
Step 4: Shift the habit in real time
At some point you’ll not only catch the self-limiting habit in real time, you’ll be able to start choosing different alternatives. Sometimes you’ll see the hole before you fall in. Other times you’ll fall in, but climb out again before you get too lodged in it.
Don’t expect to be perfect with it. It’s less of a light-switch approach to change and more of an evolutionary one.
Remember: It takes time
Keep in mind that this process doesn’t look at the shift as an immediate gratification kind of thing. It’s a way to create that shift over time. I will often take a week by week approach with my clients. “OK, this week, just notice. No need to fix anything. No need to do anything different. Just build that noticing muscle.”
Separating the steps out instead of trying to do it all at once both makes it more manageable and more likely to succeed.
Join the Ripple Revolution TM
- Subscribe to the Ripple Revolution Podcast feed.
- Subscribe to Ripple Revolution Blog feed.
- Sign up for the Ripple Revolution e-mail newsletter.
Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM
Time for a career change? Start with The Occupational Adventure Guide