We are the sum of our habits and similarly, organisational culture is formed from the sum of the individuals in that organisation.  That is why organisational change is so difficult and why so many change initiatives fail.  The collective brain of the organization must deal with the individual brains who are non-consciously assessing whether the potential rewards of the change are greater than the potential threat caused by the uncertainty of change, or the energy required to change.  Jesse Lyn Stoner explains why most change efforts do not succeed by a failure to address the human factor.  She provides some good advice to help with change at.

Making the change

Brains hate change because it takes effort, focus and energy.  Our brain likes to work in familiar ways and follow predictable patterns in order to conserve energy.  Although change is difficult, research into neuroscience and brain plasticity shows us how change is possible by literally ‘rewiring’ our brain by creating new neural pathways.

Once we make changes, there is a need to work on cementing and maintaining those changes by developing these new pathways to embed the new habits so that they become autonomic.  This can be a long process and it may take months or even years to bring about an enduring ‘new way of being’.

James Clear has suggested the 3 R’s model of Habits and states that what you repeatedly do (i.e. what you spend time thinking about and doing each day) ultimately forms the person you are, the things you believe, and the personality that you portray:  be it your health, happiness or success.  He argues that every habit you have – good or bad – follows the same 3 – step pattern:

  1. Reminder (the trigger that initiates the behavior) eg eat dinner.
  2. Routine (the behavior itself; the action you take) eg drink wine.
  3. Reward (the benefit you gain from doing the behavior) eg feel good.

Determine who you want to be

In order to form new habits the starting point is to decide the person you want to be, and then start building your identity by small habit changes – changes so small that they appear too easy.  Try this process:

  • Start by building your identity – who do you want to be?
  • Focus on small behaviours, not life changing transformations.  Pick one thing.
  • Develop a routine that gets you going regardless of how motivated you feel.  Use the 3 Rs model to pick your reminder in order to start the new ‘habit chain’.
  • Stick to the schedule and forget about the results – trust the process.
  • When you slip up (which we all do), reflect and start where you left off as soon as possible.
  • Celebrate your success.

Build mental toughness

An important benefit of delivering habit change is that it builds mental toughness through your purposeful, persistent practice.  When things get tough for most people, they find something easier to work on. When things get difficult for mentally tough people, they find a way to stay on schedule.

There will always be extreme moments that require incredible bouts of courage, resiliency, and grit … but for 95% of the circumstances in life, toughness simply comes down to being more consistent than most people.