Key Point: Our habits define us. Are you conscious of and proactively managing your habits? This very idea is somewhat of a contradiction because a habit is a behavior that is nearly or completely involuntary and without cognition. For example, people who bite their nails often don’t even realize because they’re not thinking about it. We generally think of habits as bad behaviors we want to resist, but there are good habits we actually want to do, such as flossing our teeth or wearing a bike helmet. When I describe the Character Triangle as a HABIT SYSTEM, I’m encouraging individuals to consciously embrace thinking and acting with self-accountability, respect and abundance to a point where it becomes second nature. Living the Character Triangle makes it become a good habit system within us.
To build habits, an individual needs automaticity. It’s the ability to do things without occupying the mind with low-level details, allowing it to become an automatic response pattern. Automaticity is necessary for making quick decisions and actions. Research points to developing our basal ganglia (the part in our brain that stores instinctual habitual learning). How do we exercise that part of our brain for more desirable habits?
According to author and journalist Charles Duhigg, as noted in his excellent book The Power of Habit, it comes down to a simple, three part loop: cue, routine and reward. In the author’s own words, “first, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.” It maybe simple to explain but it takes conscious applied effort and the added dimension of willpower to execute on a good habit.
- Remember that both good and bad habits are in our control to change and develop. We have to be present and self-aware though.
- Create new habits that replace or override old ones. This typically involves changing the routine assisted with cues and rewards. See Duhiggs explanation in the video above if you want more insight on this.
- Look for small wins and build on those. For example if you want to be more generous and abundant, start your day by turning on your technology and sending a quick electronic thank you or recognition to someone with your morning coffee. If you followed this routine for 90 or so days, you would likely institute a habit of giving recognition. The positive response you get from folks might actually generate more ways of self giving, relationship building and ultimately being more generous with your time and spirit. This could develop what Duhigg describes as a keystone habit. Keystone habits become foundational to our make up as a person.
- In the context of The Character Triangle, one needs to develop the “cue, routine, reward” cycle for each value of The Triangle. This takes thought, action and will power. Bit by bit, it is a life long process.
The Power of The Character Triangle (as a keystone habit system),