We are creatures of habit. Habits are formed first by having an experience – positive or negative - and then acting on that experience; when one consistently acts the same way relative to that experience a habit is formed, and by constantly acting out habits others begin to describe our character. To change a habit, we must feel some ‘tension’ to change i.e. we must value the change more than the habit.
With the advent of technology, we have developed a whole new set of irritable habits. Here are a few examples relating to what I have termed “Smart Phone Telephonites":
texting friends while at work or while driving (which, by the way, is illegal in most places); scrolling and answering emails during meetings; keeping an eye on in-coming calls during a meeting; stepping out of meetings to answer telephone calls; driving with the telephone tethered to one's ear; and, keeping the telephone in hand while socializing, and keeping connected 24/7.
All of these examples are learned habits - and for some, "telephonites” has turned into an addiction. These habits are: "time cheating” habits for those inappropriately texting on the job; "rude" for those keeping their telephone active while in meetings or socializing with others; or down right "dangerous" and unlawful for those driving while texting or talking on their telephone. All of them do some harm to our relations with others.
The good news is that we can change habits. Since habits are learned, they can be "unlearned" and replaced with more appropriate, acceptable and healthier ones. Sometimes, though, our habits are well wired within our psyche and behavior and we might feel it's too hard to change them.
I credit Dr. Wayne Dyer in his book, "Excuses Begone", for outlining an approach for those wishing to change habits. I have used a similar approach in my coaching practice, and have broken it down to four steps: Identify the habit you wish to change, Self-Examine it, Prepare for a New Approach and Commit to Action.
Identify: Often you have some knowledge about a habit you wish to change. You know because you are not satisfied with the way the habit makes you feel. For instance you may not feel right because you: constantly nag, arrive late for appointments, squander time at the water cooler, pick your nose - what ever it is, you don't like it or others have commented on its negative impact.
Give a name to the habit you wish to change. Naming helps clarify and identify with the habit. Use a name that generally describes the habit, for example: nagging, tardiness, squandering, nose-picking.
Once you have identified and named the habit, it's time to examine where it originated.
Self-Examine: Do some soul searching and ask yourself: "Where did the habit come from?" or "How did it come about in the first place?" Here you take ownership of the habit without blaming others. It's your habit, not someone else's. Honestly ask yourself again, "Am I satisfied with this habit?"
If your answer is "yes," you don't have to go any further as you have decided there is no need for change.
If your answer is "no," then ask yourself: would a new habit or approach work better for you than the existing one? Are there positive reasons for changing from the old habit to a new one?
Perhaps you are undecided and you feel it could go either way. In your mind's eye, it's "maybe yes" or "maybe no." Then go with "yes" as you have at least a 50% chance of succeeding, and besides you have nothing to lose.
Finally ask yourself, "What will happen if I continue applying the existing habit?" If you can't foresee any changes or benefits for taking on the "new" than stay put with your existing habit. You are not ready for change.
Once you have decided it's time for change then take the next step.
Prepare. Having named the old habit and examined its origin, it is now time to prepare a new approach. What would your new habit look like? Describe it detail. Visualize it. See yourself living with it. Will people relate to you differently? If your answer is in the affirmative then ask: "Can I make the change? Is it possible? Can I live with it?" Be clear about two things: Does the change make sense to you? and, Can you discipline yourself to make it happen?
Once you have gone through the thinking process then get to the feeling level. Will you feel better with this new habit? Will it make me and others happier? Will I feel more fulfilled? Name your new habit, then let the old one go and move on.
Commit. It's commitment time with a large dose of self-discipline. Yes, you will need to diligently work on the change process. It often takes at least three weeks to change a habit. For some of us, it takes longer. We may be a bit more stubborn or we are wired too tightly to the old habit. The good news is that there are instances where we can make the change almost instantly. An instant change occurs when we have a clear commitment and a strong will to act. This is like someone quitting smoking "cold turkey" - smoking is considered both an addiction and a habit. It isn’t easy to change a habit this way, but it does happen.
Sometimes it isn't easy going it alone. If you find you need some reinforcement then search for a support group or someone close to you who you trust - perhaps someone from your family, circle of friends, or co-workers - to encourage you while you are on the journey. Share with them what you are trying to change and ask them for support. Don't look for someone who will let you off easy. Find someone who will be there when you fall back, support you as you get back on track, and confront you when you become lazy.
Renergize your commitment with positive affirmations. When old habits are deep seated get to your inner spiritual core and call out for help and support - this means calling on a Power beyond yourself; some call this Power, God, and others a Source from which they draw spiritual strength and energy.
Finally, act consistently with your new habit and it will become part of you. People will begin to describe you differently; and, because your new habit is better than the old one you will act with renewed vigour and feel more satisfied.
If your irritable habits fall within the scope of "telephonites" consider one of Priority Workload Management programs. If you start making excuses about commiting your new habit to action read Dr. Wayne Dyer's book 'Excuses Begone."
Author: Richard Fontanie MSW, FCMC, up-date rom the Fontanie Learning Solutions Archieves