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Habits: Holding you back or moving you forward?

habit_Directional signMaybe it’s the sub-zero temperatures, but my recent hibernation has had some benefits, including a TV binge – 3 seasons of Homeland in 7 days (Is Brody really dead, or was it a ploy by Javadi to make us think he is dead?) and also a reading frenzy including Wild – a pretty amazing story of Cheryl Strayed’s solo trek across the Pacific Crest Trail and The Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg.  It’s a good time of year to think about what chapter to write for myself in 2014.

As a coach, people pay me to help them develop habits. It might be to help them achieve a specific goal that they haven’t been able to do up until now, or maybe hone a skill or behavior that is important to them. No matter what it is, effective coaching involves shifting habits in some way.  Developing new habits asks us to be different in some way, a better version of who we already are. It’s tough, though, since we are changing or letting go of how we think, feel or act.

If you want to change something, start by becoming an observer of yourself; sharpen your ability to simply notice what’s going on. What are your thoughts? What keeps circulating in your head? What are you feeling? Make no judgments, only notice…Watch your urges, your habits of mind.

I liked Charles Duhigg build on the habit loop – what MIT researchers call a simple neurological loop at the core of every habit. a loop that consists of three parts: a cue, a routine and a reward. He says to identify the routine first, and then experiment with rewards. We may think we know what we are getting from a ritual, but in fact, it may turn out to be different from what we think it is. I used to think it was the energy from the junk food I craved when I drove long distances – Stops became not only a place for gas, but for a whole lot of empty calories!  When I experimented with some almonds and apple slices from home, I realized that what the reward was a break from boredom, and healthier snacks would do the trick.

Understanding our habits and the underlying beliefs sitting underneath our choices holds a powerful opening for us. Before we rush for action, take some time to experiment and increase your awareness of what’s going on below the surface.  Listen. Deeply Listen.  Hone in on what’s really important to you.  What do you  really, really want and believe you can get? Honestly answering these questions can show which habits you are ready to let go and which ones to grab hold.

So what habits will show up in 2014?  What do you really want? How will your habits hold you back or move you forward?

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