No Smoking Day 2013: A day when thousands of smokers will attempt to quit smoking. As anyone who has tried to stop or start a new habit knows, it can be a fraught journey. After all, habits tend to stick with us because of the amount of time and effort we spend forming them in the first place.
The trick to breaking or making new habits is to be intentional about it and specifically plan to make those consistent behaviour changes. Even the highest levels of willpower needs a helping hand now and again: I’ve met countless leaders and managers who’ve told me they want to do more x or less y, but despite their very best intentions their habits have dwindled to nothing.
There is a wealth of information out there on behaviour change but here are my suggestions to making change stick. Overall, the attitude needs to be that you are starting something new and exciting (your new habit) – not stopping something you’ve trained yourself to do over many years. Launching something new that breaks an old behaviour is the key. Good luck!
1) Be clear about the outcome you are trying to achieve
If you know the outcome you want, the process of how you’ll get it feels much more positive: if you want to rely less on internal email for example, is it because you want to save time navigating your inbox or is it because you want the chance to talk to colleagues and get to know them a little better?
2) Check you really want to do it
If your change is being fuelled by “I could, I should or I must” you probably won’t be as successful as ‘I want to, because…” Have a desire of at least eight out of ten.
3) Plan ahead
Change can be a lonely journey. Think about your ‘triggers’ (those situations or people when the easy option is to go back to what you did before) and mentally run through what you will do when the situation inevitably arises. For example, who are the people who are most likely to derail you, consciously or not? Make sure you have the tools in place to help you create the new habit – do you need any equipment or anything else to be in place first?
4) Keep it simple
Taking up a new habit doesn’t need to be complex: start with small actions first and build up. A leader I coached was uncomfortable with walking around the building and chatting to his teams, even though he knew how important it was that he was visible. He started by simply taking a different route to his desk each morning and saying hello as he went.
5) Do it anyway!
There will probably never be a perfect time to do things differently: life and work just isn’t like that. But there is a case for planning to start – and committing to it. For example, why not ask you line-manager to include it in your objectives and ask to be measured on it, building momentum as you go. If you manage others, you could suggest this as a strategy for helping someone keep their focus as well as checking in on their progress.