At a recent work event we were given a book, “The Power of the Habit.” Charles Duhigg, the author communicates some powerful teachings that have really helped me this week. I’ve actually developed his teaching a little further. Here are a couple of my personal insights from the book. The author says all habits have three parts, the cue, the routine (craving) and the reward. He states the cue and the reward can stay the same but changing the routine will bring change. I have modified his belief by saying we have the cue, the routine and primary or secondary reward. I also believe there is an overarching thing we are trying to achieve (that is the primary reward or outcome). Let me explain.
Though we have been married 41 years, dealing with conflict or perceived irritation in Gayle has not been very successful for me. The cue for me is, 1. I hear a tone of voice that sounds negative, 2. I see a look of irritation. My routine is, 1. I assume I did something that is the cause of the tone or look, 2. I get defensive, 3. I withdraw or attack. Because this is an unproductive habit I get a secondary reward, either lack of conflict (because we both retreat) or not having to deal with a difficult issue.
Through analyzing this habit, I’ve come to see the overarching desire is for us to be able to resolve issues in a healthy way (primary reward) not just postpone or hide from the issue (secondary reward). The book talks about Starbuck’s training of employees. New employees are not left to resolve issues by what comes up naturally in the moment. They are trained to deal with angry customers, or those who are irritated and a host of other scenarios. So, I started thinking about this. When I see the cue(s), instead of my normal routine listed above, I’m tweaking my routine to look like this, 1. Don’t assume I’m the cause. 2. Invite Gayle to our dining room table for “table time.” This is a very positive place of discussion for us. 3. Listen to what the look or the tone represents from her side. 4. Ask, what I can do to help. The reward will change to the primary outcome desired which is connection and resolution.
By planning ahead, the cue(s) trigger a new routine and bring a more beneficial reward. In one week, I have modified several patterns with one or two simple tweaks. This week I’ve had a more productive devotional time in the morning, a better connection with Gayle at dinner time “Table time,” and have reintroduced a work out routine in my schedule resulting in 3 lbs. weight loss. Each of these routine changes came simply by changing one simple thing in my routine.
In summary, identify your primary desired outcome in any matter. Identify the cue(s) that launch a routine and look at the reward, both what you get and what you desire. Tweak the routine to produce the desired outcome. There is a lot of power to change in this pattern.