Your Personality Wiring is Impacting Your Habits (Habit Series 3/7)
The key to setting habits is to know yourself so you can customize your plan for change. Not everybody is the same, what makes sense for some may not work for others, what seems like a hill to you may look like a mountain to me, so it is essential to experiment and find the approach that works best for you.
One thing you can do is cast a wide net to get exposed to many ideas and then drill down on what you want to implement. For example, you may spend time exploring all of your worst habits, then pick 1–3 to do some deeper reflection and double down on changes you want to make with those. It is like deciding you want to be a better listener, you may briefly explore 10 books, but choose 2–3 to learn everything from and extrapolate main points, drown out the rest, and be intentional about applying those insights.
Before you jump into implementing habit changes, it could be helpful to explore your natural dispositions. Here are a few variables to consider:
1. Factor in your personality style. Some people may have specific traits that are more conducive to particular approaches. For example, you may be high in openness, and can more easily experiment with changes to satisfy your curiosity. You may be high in consciousnesses and may want to follow the habit with a rigid structure instead of a more flexible approach. Are you somebody that can make the change by yourself, or would you do much better with a partner? For example, we all know we should work out, but some choose to pay a personal trainer because we are more inclined to follow through when there is somebody else holding us accountable.
Beware of the information-action fallacy, which is the assumption that new information will lead to new action. You can read all the books on weight loss, but it does not mean you will enact any of the learnings, we are all human and need help, and some of us find it essential to the process. Executive Coach Marshall Goldsmith knows just how hard it is to change, that is why he checks in with his accountable buddy at the end of every day to reflect on his intentions.
2. Consider different approaches. Some people prefer a phased approach v. an absolute approach. With the former, you decide you want to give up coffee so, initially, you have coffee some days and decaf others, then after a while, you will have decaf coffee, and then decaf green tea until you break your coffee connection. With the latter, you may think it is better to stop cold turkey.
Indeed, not everybody is wired the same way. Some people think it is helpful to change a lot of big habits all at once. In his book Reverse Heart Disease, Cardiologist Dean Ornish shares a study that shows what can happen with dramatic lifestyle changes. Some of his patients found it easier to say goodbye to all of their bad habits and embrace new ones and, in less than a month, they saw dramatic health benefits. This is more the exception. Other research shows that when people tried one new behavior in one area, many of them were more successful than the people who tried to change a few new behaviors in many areas. This is especially true when it relates to what Charles Dughigg labels a keystone habit, that one thing you change which has a ripple effect on so many other things, which become easier to change. What approach compliments your personality?
3. Understand your response to change. When you are first thinking about going for a run, it can cause nervousness, but after a while, you get used to it, and it becomes quite familiar. Changes can be painful and uncomfortable initially, but eventually enjoyable. The discomfort is only temporary because humans are incredible at adapting. How well do you know your comfort level with the cycle of change? What’s your approach to dealing with change?
We all have natural dispositions that we can tap into to help with lasting behavior change. When we consider our personality styles, strategic approaches, and comfort level with the change cycle, we can chart the best course of action that works for us.
Quote of the day: “People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits, and their habits decide their futures.” -F.M. Alexander
Q: What are your best and worst habits? How do you maintain the good ones and how might you experiment with discarding the bad ones? Comment and share below, we would love to hear from you!
[The next blog in this series 4/7 will focus on the impact of the environment on habit change]
As a leadership development and executive coach, I work with people to cultivate habits that serve them, contact me to explore this topic further.