Use Curiosity to Break a Bad Habit
Leadership Tip of Week #124
adapted from HBR
Why is breaking a habit so difficult?
It’s because habits are made up of three components:
- a trigger (for example, feeling stressed),
- a behavior (browsing the Internet),
- a reward (feeling sated).
Each time you reinforce the reward, you become more likely to repeat the behavior. The key to breaking this cycle is to become more aware of the “reward” reinforcing your behavior.
First, figure out your triggers. If the habit is procrastination, for example, pay attention to the circumstances surrounding you when you put things off. Do you have a big project you’re trying to avoid? Do you have too much on your plate? Then, try to identify the behaviors you engage in when you procrastinate. Do you check social media instead of working? Do you take on unimportant tasks instead of what you should be doing?
The next step is to clearly link action to outcome. Ask yourself what you get from surfing the internet for pictures of cute puppies. How rewarding is it in the moment, especially when you realize that it isn’t helping you get your work done?
Lastly, replace the reward with curiosity. Being curious helps you acknowledge the sensations you’re feeling — boredom, distraction — without acting on them.