Last week I reflected on my learning about changing habits as a result of changing my shaving ritual from using an aerosol can of shaving cream . . . to using shaving soap and a shaving brush. To recap, I offered the following requirements/suggestions for changing a habit:
- Be personally committed to change the way you do something.
- Ensure there is a rational benefit or advantage to doing something differently.
- Maintain attention on your intention to change.
- Take whatever time is required to keep your commitment to change a habit.
- Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day attempting to create a new habit.
- Accept the initial discomfort or awkwardness that comes with doing something new.
- Respect the challenges of change! Initially your performance may decline slightly before the benefits of the new habit kick in.
Unfortunately, someone commented on my article and suggested they had gone even farther, and reverted back to using a safety razor. I recalled that being the type of razor I used when I first started shaving several (many?) decades ago. It required the use of a bare razor blade that has to be handled carefully when being placed inside the razor. Oh yes, and being more attentive when shaving!
The first time I tried it, there was blood—and lots of it! I had obviously forgotten how careful one had to be. I was about to say to myself “forget it, you’ve already changed one habit, don’t push your luck”. Then I reflected back on my reflection (not the one in the mirror, but rather the previous article I wrote)! I realized I was not paying attention to my own recommendations (obviously an opportunity for personal growth). For example:
1) I was not personally committed to using a safety razor–I was doing it because someone else presented me with a challenge. 2) I wasn’t sure if there was a rational benefit or advantage. 3) I wasn’t paying sufficient attention to the change and 4) was not willing (at least initially) to take the time required to change the habit.
5) Although I wasn’t beating myself up, I was bleeding a lot! I wasn’t too sure I wanted to accept the pain. 6) And my performance was definitely declining as measured by blood and the time to complete the activity. 7) Finally, I wasn’t sure I was prepared to hang in there until some advantage was to be experienced.
However, I decided to stick to it a little bit longer. As it turned out, if I took my time, each day I bled a little bit less. It appeared my face was starting to get a little tougher and my technique was improving.
Herein lies the next part of the shaving metaphor. The longer I stick with attempting to change a new habit, the tougher I get. And interestingly enough, because of my successful experience of moving to shaving soap and a shaving brush, it was actually easier to attempt changing another habit, one that was a bit more challenging. I am hoping that willingness to toughen up will be extrapolated to shifting more meaningful habits in my life.
An Emerging Theory of Resilience . . .
I am thinking there might be an article here about building personal and organizational resilience. If one starts with changing small habits, I think there is a possibility it may increase the willingness and capacity to attempt to change even bigger ones. Many organizations run workshops on creating a resilient organization and set the goal a little bit too high with the mandate that “you must become more resilient for us to succeed in the future”. The principle makes sense–the execution is elusive.
My new theory is that by starting with changing very small habits (that may not make a huge difference to the individual or the organization), it will build the confidence and capacity of the employees to get comfortable with changing increasingly bigger and more important habits. I have often heard the comment “we may have to go slower to speed up”. This could be a concrete example.
NOTE: In case a translation is required, this article isn’t really about changing my shaving habits; it’s about sharing some of my insights about changing any habits—perhaps an essential skill for thriving in a world that just won’t stand still.
As always, your comments are appreciated. If not by me, certainly by someone else!