Light Touch: Breaking Habits

breaking habits

Why is introducing a new way of doing something (even when the result can be great) so often experienced as a challenge, maybe even as a threat?

We are such creatures of habit. Last month James Clear’s Atomic Habits helped me to see better how the habits we choose help to create our identities – in itself a pretty stimulating concept. Since then I’ve been more aware of how my habits around when and with whom I think can encourage or discourage both my identity and my capacity as a thinker. 

Likewise when I am seeking to introduce these concepts and Components to a new group, with the express purpose of inviting them consciously to change the way they are with each other in order to improve both how they think and the outcomes of that thinking, implicitly and explicitly I am also inviting them to change their behaviours, and therefore their habits.

Implicit in the invitation do something differently is something I’m going to call a threat. A threat in an evolutionary sense. Our habitual behaviours help us to feel safe. New behaviours can feel unsafe and we know we are wired to avoid what is unsafe. 

Unsafe makes us feels vulnerable. Vulnerability is truly hard to accept or manage, especially in a workplace.

No wonder some people can be reluctant to change. It’s a very big ask, and one we need to articulate and respect in a Thinking Environment®. In the context of groups this means I’m asking people to change the habits (however unsatisfactory) which have served them so far for something different that may make them feel unsafe in some way. It’s temporary, and the experience of thinking in a Round or in a Thinking Pair will of itself start to soothe that anxiety, yet it is real for many people as we begin to introduce the Thinking Environment as a ‘way of being’ with each other.

As real, and in the moment perhaps as fragile as this beautiful thistledown.

Assuming that they will want and welcome something so different, something that potentially leads to change, something that will almost certainly feel strange on first attempt is not the right assumption to start from.

If I knew instead that each person needs some time and a positive experience in order to absorb enough of these new ideas to be able to change their habits, where would I start?

Where do you start?

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