On-Demand: How to Increase Your Resilience, Especially Needed During Times of Change
- Aug 6, 2020
As mature professionals, much of the way in which you conduct your daily business has been consistent, maybe even routine. But what happens when you are forced to change, without warning and precedence? With COVID-19, we were thrust into a new environment practically overnight. During this webinar, you learn how habits are created and how these habits may give rise to unintended consequences. We will discuss how you can effectively change your habits to adjust to this new normal. Be prepared to challenge your assumptions and consider new ways to support a different way of working.
Morning everyone. We're going to talk about resilience and change, because well, both are needed right now. Partly because change is happening to us, whether we're talking about work from home, return to office, physical distancing, masks. A bunch of vocabulary and vernacular we didn't use to have, and that's kind of evidence because of what we're going through. Resilience is a buzzword, and everyone says we need it. Today we're going to talk about a few ways where we can get it, maintain it and hone it within us. I'm also going to introduce the concept of what I like to call Resilience 2.0, it might even be better than resilience, but that's left for you to decide. We will have a Q&A at the end. It also won't distract me if we're talking about something for you to just pop a question in for more clarity, that actually might make our discussion today a little more robust.
Natalie McVeigh:I just wanted to level set about what changes, it's just to make something different or to make it radically different. It's a disruption to establish expectations or patterns. Change is actually a neutral concept. Change in itself isn't meaningful, it's just what it changes becomes really meaningful to us. For those of you working at home today, if you loved the office, that's a meaningful change. For those of you who wished you could be home more, and you are now, that's a meaningful change too, but one is positive in your opinion, your experience of it, and one is negative in your experience of it.
Chang is neutral, how it impacts us is how we load the meaning and value for it. We're going to talk about the individual and the environmental level of this change and our resilience or ability to adapt to that change. Studies show we often overestimate our individual ability to make change, to do things, to create habits, to succeed. There is willpower and there's also something called way power, the vision for us to kind of get it through. But studies show that our environment makes a significant difference for how we can stick together on some of these things.
In fact, most people who are successful at quitting smoking, who are successful at losing weight, they do so with a group of people who are also on that journey. One of the things I'd encourage you to do even while we're physical distancing, is to find your group to help you be accountable for any changes you may want to make as a result of this webinar. Now, we can't change COVID and physical distancing and all of that, that's the environment we can't control, but what we can control is the environment that we invite into our lives. What is resilience? Resilience is simply the capacity to prepare for, recovery from and adapt to stress, challenge or adversity. There are different levels cognitive, physical, emotional. But it's really a squeezing or a bending and bouncing back into our original form. That's where resilience has some limitations, because we change every day.
I've mentioned this before, half of our genes we were born with are called template genes. And half of our genes are transcription genes. They change throughout our life, they change hourly, they change daily, and especially daily. Something happens when we go to sleep at night. There's two processes. One is neuro-synthesis, where I take everything I've learned today, and I try to make sense of it in my head. Then there's neural-pruning, the things that we don't use anymore we lose, and children lose a lot, in fact, throughout their lives because they're really learning a lot of information. Adults also lose a lot. So it is true, if you don't use it, you lose it when it comes to our brain. The idea that I want to bounce back into the version of me from yesterday is what resilience is. But the version of me from yesterday isn't as good as the version of me today.
Hopefully, maybe the version of me today is not amazing, but my hope is I'm getting better every day as a person. And even an example of creating this presentation. I sent this deck to our learning development team on Monday, and I made some slight changes this morning to it because how I've been thinking about it is changing, so that's resilience is I'm going to bounce back to who I was right now or before this X Y and Z happened. I mentioned the vernacular issues earlier. The world we live in is completely different than the world that it was. I don't want to be the Natalie of three months ago, to deal with life three months ago, because today is completely different. What we really want is antifragility, it's a resilience 2.0. It's not about becoming who we were, but it's about going through what's happening, and turning into something different.
Antifragility is really about complexity. Organic living systems are complex, and they're constantly changing. It's really useful in business, it's useful in institutions, and so on and so forth. It's really how we face these challenges and how we learn and how we adapt to them. In fact, some chaos is actually what we're looking for and antifragility. It's what we go through, how we incorporate that and become better versus, "I'm going to keep sitting in the thing that I've always known and done and hope that somehow today, that'll work." We're running into that resistance, we're seeing what happens when we don't wear masks. We're seeing what happens in some of these phases as they open up, when we don't do it as though the world is different.
I mentioned in a different webinar, that our brain responds better to bad news than uncertainty, so I'm going to give you some bad news today, and you're going to feel angry for a minute and then relieved right after. And the bad news is our world has changed, it will never go back to the same way that it was. Now, there are things that we can have from that life that we had before that we can have now, but how we go about getting that is going to be really important. I'm going to introduce you to a model. There's several different models of well-being throughout the years developed by positive psychology or happiness studies. It is up to you which model works. Some people use the PERMA model, I use the spire model. They all really have to do with the same science.
These are the parts of our life that exist, our spiritual life which has meaning. It's not religion. I'm not asking you to have a religion. If you do, that's great. But it's really where we make meaning into things. Do we have a vision, a mission, a passion in our career. There's the physical, our actual body. How well are we taking care of that. Whether that's rest, nourishment. You've heard the phrase 'You are, what you eat,' so on and so forth. Then there's in our intellectual life. Believe it or not, they've done studies that show that when there aren't intellectual pursuits in our life, people are much more susceptible to depression, and so on and so forth. Then there's our relational life, we are social animals. We absolutely, even introverts, desire to spend time with people and when we don't, this doesn't mean physically, although that's a challenge right now, we can get into some of that.
We desire to have meaningful in depth connections with people, and those that do not actually usually have a lifespan 10 years shorter than others, as well as many other chronic illnesses. Then there's our emotional life. I've mentioned many times from a neurological perspective, there is no difference between our emotions in our body. In fact, so much so that I could call you a jerk, or punch you, and it will hurt the same. In fact, it'll probably hurt more if I called you a jerk because I'm not terribly strong. With the spire model, what this really says, is that if any one of these five areas is out of whack, we're going to have some challenges.
One of the things I'd encourage you on your journey to make changes if you want to make changes and you might not, is really to do what we call a spire check in. The spire check in is really saying, how are we doing against these things today? You want to first describe it. How am I being present? That could just be your spirituality right now. How am I being present to what's coming up in the world right now? Am I able to focus? And you would ascribe a number to it. Maybe your numbers five because Natalie is boring? Ascribe it and then describe what you need to make it different. Natalie must be more engaging. Well, that's your prescription really. The number is five, describing is I'm boring, and then you prescribe something else. And so somebody can gently put me in the chat and say, stop being lame.
And then their physical well-being. When did you take time for rest and recovery is really important here. I can't over emphasize the amount of rest and recovery that is needed in life right now. We're having overwhelm, information overload, overwhelm emotionally. And when you rest and recover, as I mentioned earlier, that's when your brain does its work. It is really important for us to clear out the day to make sense of information, to have insights by sleeping, by giving ourselves some time that we're genuinely not doing other things. Being innovative and being creative don't happen in prescribed timelines, they happen when we have space to really take these disparate ideas.
Then our intellectual being. Are you engaging in deep learning? Why I pick the deep learning versus new things is studies show depth whether it's in relationship or in learning, actually is much more meaningful than quantity, so the quality. Right now we can't do a lot. That's just the fact of what's happening with being under long term stress. Our ability to do as much isn't as possible, so why don't we do certain things well? How are we spending time with others regardless of if that time is the way we'd like to? Then how are we dealing with our pleasurable and painful emotions? I'm going to spend some time in a minute talking about both our pleasurable and painful emotions, because our emotions are actually teaching us something.
We don't want just pleasurable emotions or just painful emotions, and they go through the same channel, so denying either one really blocks information from the other. I actually run through this check in every morning, in fact, sometimes before certain meetings or things that are going to be challenging. I'm checking in here because what we want to do is you want to raise your awareness, because when we have awareness, we can then do something with the information. If you think about the spire model, we all default to one area, so my default is intellectual. I love to learn.
But sometimes I'm sitting and learning and reading which involves a lot of sitting, my physical gets out of whack, or my relational gets out of whack when ideas are more interesting to me than people. So really monitoring your propensity, which is your strength, but also saying what might be shortchanged during this process, and how do I enhance that? As much as possible there's a balance. We're coming back to antifragility, and antifragility is both focusing on the positive and learning from the painful. Susan David is a wonderful researcher on what is called Emotional Agility, which is the ability to vacillate between both positive and negative emotions, or painful and positive emotions. You can see here in this checkbox, what do our negative emotions, teach us? Well, they help us form quite good salient arguments. When I'm being really happy, I'm not trying to be critical of you.
Not to say that I'm encouraging you all to be critical, but that criticality really allows us to discover to deepen. We remember negative things more times than remember positive things, so it improves our memory. It encourages perseverance. The idea that I might not succeed actually often helps me succeed. They can also make us polite and attentive. The reason that the more painful emotions can make us polite and attentive, is because we understand pain, and we have a measure of empathy when we've experienced pain. They encourage generosity, because one of the ways that we get through our toughest emotional experiences that other people have helped us. They make us less prone to confirmation bias, because when I'm trying to poke holes in your arguments, I'm just skeptical in general, so I'm going to be skeptical with myself.
Now, the beauty of not just the painful emotions is that the really positive emotions help us create future successes. We're going to work on a model today that tells you how our success in the past can really dictate success in the future. What have I done really well? What makes me feel energized? What are those moments of flow, and how do I harness that and learn from that? Also, when we are in a positive physiological state, and psychological state, it is a powerful force for change. So yes, we want to learn from and understand our more depleting emotions, but those ones that energize us when we can be both physically and emotionally positive as we engage in change, that change will stick.
Our attitudes impact behaviors. If you leave after this and like, "Well, I'm going to start doing really good change because Natalie suggested it, and she knows research, so I probably should." Your change isn't going to really work that well. Our attitudes help us embody those things that happened. This is why change is hard. Because it's great to say, "Let's go change, everything in the world is working out well." Done and done. We would have all done it. In fact, studies show that most people do not complete their new year's resolutions by January, it's some 70%. It's 80% by February, and by March 90% don't. And there's a small percentage of people I believe it's under 3% that actually complete their new year's resolutions.
There are a couple reasons for that. Sometimes we do too much. It's very hard to upheave our whole life, although our whole life is being upheaved right now by COVID. But part of its right here, these are the reasons, it's our behaviors. Behaviors are what we do, they're our habits, and we're not as aware of them as we'd like to think. Then there are biases. They're the things that have worked for us at some point in time that we're still holding on to as though they're the gospel truth. It worked then it'll work now, but again, we're different people, we're living in a different world. Then there the models. There are these models that we created throughout life that seemed to make a lot of sense. They're really rational, and we're clinging to those models that we've built instead of creating new models.
Then there's the complexity. This is the complexity within ourselves, whether it's through adult development or our role in companies, and the complexity of the environment around us, whether that's COVID, or our organization. These four little things joined together to distract us from making sustainable change. I don't have to make a huge business case as to why we have to change, but if you're wondering besides why you're here from the CPUs, is that changes here, it's all around us. We can either engage in it or fight against it. But the fighting isn't really going to be too productive because it's still going to happen around us.
These are some common reactions to change. These are what you're seeing with your teammates, your colleagues, your friend, your family. There's often a loss of commitment, because it's very hard to do what we used to do. There's an increase in accidents, and why there's an increase in accidents, and we'll get into some of the behavior research later, is because we behave really automatically in many cases. In fact, most accidents happen within five miles of our houses. The way that you show up sometimes to your house. You don't remember even driving there, because we're in this part of the brain that's called procedural memory. Then there's a drop in accuracy, details really hard, a lower morale. Just keeping high spirits as all of this is happening is very difficult because we're in love with what we used to do.
We really have thrived in that environment. We might not be as antifragile yet, and it's hard to reach resilience when the bouncing back isn't the world we once were in. There's a decrease in productivity, because it takes more time, an increase in stress, and an increase in conflicts et cetera. In fact, right now, because we're all experiencing isolation, which some of us might be interpreting as loneliness, when we're lonely, we have a 250% increase in being short with people, with anger and paranoia. One of the things is try not to be lonely during the time that you're isolated, and they're very different. The difference is the quality of your connection. Really try to get some deep connections with your teammates, with your colleagues, with your family and with your friends.
If you're experiencing any of these, you're in great company. We're all experiencing all of these. Now, the plus with this is that we can actually during these moments of realizing we're having accidents, accuracy issues, productivity issues, we can learn from that. We can see new ways of doing things that before when it was working, if it's not broke, don't fix it. We might have just been going along to get along. There weren't any questions, mostly comments about my Jeopardy skills, good or bad, yet to be determined. We're now going to jump into those four areas of change challenge that really show up for all of us and again, in different measure. One of the things I'd like to mention about some of your colleagues or friends that you know that are really thriving during this time period, ask them what and how is really helping them to thrive.
Now, it doesn't mean that you should do it because we're all individual people, and it shows up differently for everyone. But here are four aspects in which really impact us. One is behaviors and habits. Before I get into the data, which you can read for yourself, and I find fascinating, which you might not, I just want to talk about a challenge we have around our behavior and habits. We believe that we're very rational. We believe that we're very self-aware. In fact, there was a study on self-awareness that was done recently by Tasha Ulrich, that says 95% of people think they're self-aware. In fact, only 15% of people are. Now I'd love to say that everyone on the webinar today is self-aware, the likelihood that this small group in this organization are the 15% in the world is not so good.
We all have room to grow in that. In our desire to think that we're self-aware, we believe that we really control our behaviors. We assume that we read to our children every night because we love them, or that we buckle our seatbelts because we're coming concerned with safety. We believe that our thoughts and feelings really project how we behave. That's not quite true. In fact, it really is our habits. Our habits 43 to 45% of our waking hours, two separate universities did these studies say that we are spent doing habits. Well you all are better at math than me, so remembering math, when we were in grade school, if you got a 65 or 67, that was a D+, which is not a passing grade.
We have not a passing grade of non-habitual behaviors every day, not just daily, weekly, monthly, because some of our habits have those routines. Any of you have pets who give your dog or cat, they're flee or tick pills or heartworm pills, whatever the pills they take, they're monthly right? But they're habits that we remember and we do. It's also the reason why sometimes we can't remember we've left the stove on, or if we've locked the door, because we've done these things so much, we literally cannot see them. A habit is how you perform the behavior, not what the action is, which is another layer of confusion here around habits.
Consider that it is how you perform behavior, not what the behavior is. Checking our phone is a behavior, but how I perform checking my phone, maybe the moment I wake up, right? It may be after every time I've sent an email. That's what we're talking about. We're not talking that you check the phone, but it's how you check the phone, how that shows up for you when, and habits are amazing. They have tons and tons of factual basis. I think you all know that I used to be an EMT. There's a reason that habits are great for EMTs, we can get in we can do CPR without thinking about it. There are things that just come off the cuff. It's the way that you can put an IV in or you have this other knowledge that just shows up out of nowhere.
Habits are good for us. They're saving us time. They're meant to help us. The problem is when they get in upheaval, because we've created these neural pathways that are so deep, that tell us to do this one thing this one way, we don't actually know what else to do. It's the reason we're so tired right now, is because we're not able to use this procedural memory part of our brain, and instead we are starting to use a more cognitive part of our brain, and we're creating new neural networks. These new neural networks take time, and they take effort. We say, what fires together wires together. We're doing a lot of firing right now trying to create new neural networks. One of the complications about COVID and not really facing reality that we're also dealing with, is that we're not fully finishing habits. They take a lot longer than you'd think to create.
Studies show the shortest time it takes to create most habits is 65 days, but many of them take 99 days. Now we'll get into habits a little bit further and the science of creating them and so on and so forth. There is some mercy there, there's some grace that that doesn't mean that if you fall off the wagon one day, you can't get it back. But part of our challenge with creating new habits is we're playing this yo-yo game. We're waiting for the world to be the way that we'd like it to be. I'm not really creating a habit yet because I'm doing this temporarily. I have all this rationalization around it. What I'd encourage you to do when we get to the habit creating section is face what today is. This is the new normal or the next normal, and it will be so until definitely the end of 2020. But some researchers are talking about some parts of this physical distancing and so on and so forth are going till 2024.
Don't delay your habit creation today because you're hoping that life will look different tomorrow. But here are biases. There are 188 biases that exist in many categories of logical fallacies. Biases are logical fallacies. They're things that sound real rational because we love to think we're rational. That's the biggest fallacy in life is that we're rational human beings, we actually aren't. Now do we have a brain that can think and rationalize? Yes, but rationalize means I'm going to tell myself a really good story about why I'm doing the thing that I'm doing. It might not be the actual reason because we don't understand our emotional response or our physiological response. Those things just do happen to us. It's like the tail that wags the dog.
Now, don't leave thinking that I've said you're not smart, you are absolutely smart. You are probably way smarter than me. But we're also so smart we're really good at self-deception. Biases are logical fallacies. They sound really reasonable, but they're not quite reasonable. I'm going to mention a couple that come up in business a lot. The status quo. If it's not broke, don't fix it, let's keep doing things as they are. They're not invented here. If this didn't come from our organization, or often we use the organization as a ploy from my head, I don't want to do it. Argument from authority, which you've often heard this. They don't want us to do X, Y and Z, and sometimes we'll name the person. Maybe we'd say Charlie says we can't do this. But often there's this unnamed authority which is much more insidious, which is they don't want us to so I can never find out who the 'they' is, and you don't really know who the 'they' is but it stops things.
Argument from age. That can be argument from I'm really young so I get it, it could be argument from, I have all the age and the wisdom and there's actually neurological evidence for those of you in the room who, have some grays and believe you have wisdom. That wisdom is a real neurological phenomenon related to age, but just because you have a doesn't mean you know all of the things to have, or just because you're young doesn't mean how to cope with everything right now. Overconfidence. We all believe we're smarter, better looking, more awesome than we are. We also believe those terrible things won't happen to us. It's why we sometimes keep doing things that hold risk that maybe we should stop doing. Then there's the confirmation bias, where I'm scanning the entire field inside of you to really say, "How do I take what you think and make it support what I think, so that I don't have to change my opinion, instead of actually listening to you really hearing you trying to understand?"
Then there's the closeness communication bias, this happens on teams, and this happens in families. Is that I know you so well. It sounds really good, this is a really tempting one. I know you so well. We're so close and I love and admire you so much that I know everything that's going to come out of your mouth, so I don't have to listen. Then the narrative bias. This narrative bias is the one that I brought in, because it's the one that's going to help you. Our brains are wired for story. We really listen to story more than facts and data, and we get seduced by story. When you start doing this change work, really telling yourself the story of why it's compelling, what's meaningful for you, is going to be how you're really, really successful.
We create models throughout our lifetime. In fact, I mentioned children, they're constantly asking us why and it's really cute until it's not. They're trying to build models of the world. They're trying to figure it out using, life Legos for lack of a better phrase, and at some point in time, usually in our teens, and then it happens again later in our 40s, we start being model defenders. We have these nice, neat little boxes, we followed all the directions to get there, and we really want to make sure that these things we believe in, stay stable. They're the things that we're standing on. They are so important to us that when you threaten these models, the same part of our brain lights up, that lights up if I was being attacked by a bear.
One of the things I'd really question you to do right now is figure out when are you model defending? How can I use my choice to enhance scenario planning or decision making? And how do I know when I'm not model defending? What will help me understand that this is a model I'm defending versus objective truth? Or is this a bias coming in? So really questioning yourself is going to be important going forward. This is that complexity piece I mentioned. There's the external world complexity of COVID that's happening. This is unprecedented. We've never ever seen that. But there's also complexity in our organizations, what our organizations are asking us for. You see there's two axis here. There's a complexity axis, and a time axis. These have a reciprocal relationship.
But in our organizations, we're often asked to be socialized. We're meant to be team players, we're meant to be faithful followers, direction seeking really saying, "Oh, should I do this?" So on and so forth. That doesn't allow us to be adaptable, that doesn't allow us to change. Most people do make the self-authoring mind switch. Organizations have a little tension around that, depending on the organization. Where you have your own compass, your problem solving and your independence. The challenge with independence is for me to be independent, it is to say that I'm different from you. Independence looks a lot like this. It's why teenagers get real rebellious, because I only know I'm me when I'm not doing you.
Well, we as adults do the same thing. Now to handle a complex change in organizations, we need what's called a self-transforming mind, where you can hold multiple contradictions. I call them inconsistent truths. These inconsistent truths really are things that sound the same, but are different. I always use the same silly example, my sister is not on my insurance with USAA, she got kicked off, she's a terrible driver. But my sister is who I will call if my son needs to be picked up when he used to attend school before COVID when I couldn't. Now both involve a car and driving and it's an inconsistent truth, because I know my sister would never do anything to hurt my son, she's also a terrible driver.
There are these inconsistent truths or contradictions in business as well, in our lives, in our world. Holding those as both true and letting them sit in the same space is important. And then becoming interdependent. When I'm independent, I mentioned that it's we're this far from each other and there's me and there's you. Being interdependent means we can actually come together and have these challenging discussions, and it's not going to threaten my sense of self or your sense of self, to really get through them to hear one another. When you're handling complexity within yourself, first you want to know where you are on this scale, but also where the organization you're in is on the scale, that could be your place of work, that could be your family, that could be your place of worship. Whatever community that you're in, these two may not match.
Now, I can tell you during COVID work from home returning to office, we need self-transforming minds. That's where we all need to be, ideally, to get through this. It's not linear, which is why there are these ebb and flow periods, but that's where we're trying to go forward. There are several different types of change. There's the technical change. All of you are great at technical change, you're mature professionals in an organization. Technical change takes months, sometimes seconds depending on the technical change, right? It is a new job, it is a new device. It's exactly what it sounds like, the skills meant to do this new thing. It's quite rote. It becomes procedural memory very fast, not a challenge.
Then there's adaptive change. This adaptive change is the one that talks about that self-transforming leader, where I really need to examine how I behave, I need to question how I think, and I need to not be model defending. I need to not be looking for things that support my view, but how do I actually take this thing that you're giving me, and how do I integrate it and do something different? That's a much more challenging change. This is the kind of change that takes no less than 65 days, often 99 days, and in some cases, it's real neuroplastic change. Everyone talks about neuroplasticity and we say, "Yes, we can make neuroplasticity, what wires together, fires together, and so on and so forth." But real deep seated neuroplastic change can take up to 18 months. That's what we're talking about with adaptive change.
Now the hardest change, are these competing commitment changes. Now, I can't answer competing commitment change for you. But I think this is why COVID is so challenging for most people. There may be some competing commitments. I can tell you my competing commitment, when I am at home, and I've always made this rule in my family, I spend time with my son, and we do story time at noon. That has always been the case. Well, pre-COVID I traveled 95% of the time, and most of the time I was home was a weekend. Those few days where it wasn't, I would take my lunch break and read this. Now I'm home all the time. My competing commitment is when I'm home reading to my son at noon. It was really important to me to figure out how to change that for me.
What was important about reading at noon? And how to understand that, because it's usually not the behavior, it's the why behind the behavior, and if I was going to move that, how was I going to move that? For you when these changes are hard, examining is it an adaptive change or a competing commitment change, because competing commitment changes take a lot more work. Now we're getting into the juice, we're getting into how do you make change, right? I've already told you it's difficult, and why it doesn't work. But here is an appreciative goal setting process. It's deeply rooted in positive psychology, happiness studies, for how you make sustainable change.
This actually came around studying organization. A lot of people when they hear positive psychology, want to think woo hoo, whatever, whatever. It's fully researched, but what it says is when we're studying why organizations didn't do things well, we were looking at the wrong things. For example, there was an organizational study that was looking at an organization that people were making a lot of mistakes. What they thought is we should raise the lights so that people can make less mistakes. They found out there was an increase in productivity. They raise the lights even more, there was an increase in productivity. Then somebody noticed that there was some productivity after the lights weren't still on.
Then they put the lights down to the original, low setting. What they found out is there was still productivity. They went through all the tapes and all the filming to understand what had happened. What had happened that first time the lights went up, is people could see each other better, and they created community. The thing that was actually making them make less mistakes was more communication. The light happened to be the initial trigger for the talking, but the talking was really what went well. What went well in the past so we can create success in the future versus figuring out what's wrong. You want to remember your positive past. That's what you did well, when you worked harder, when you were more motivated, and when you were more interested in what you were doing, because if we can take some of those key learnings and use them now, we actually build the positive momentum sustained for creating.
It also allows some social bonding to usually happen. We feel much more desirable of connection with people when we are more motivated. Then you imagine a fantastic future my-I didn't create the alliteration, although I appreciate alliteration. This is Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar's a model but he also likes alliteration, so it's easy to remember. It's imagining your fantastic futures, what would happen if you knew everything were going right? You actually write it down. Some people do a vision board, but writing it down with as much detail as possible. If I were to have done x, if I were to be successful through COVID, what would that look like? What would it look like for my family? What would it look like for my organization with as much detail as possible, so that we actually can start seeing it.
It ends up creating what's called a best possible self-journal, which allows you to understand the possibilities. But in fact, this best possible self-journal, we've shown people be much more engaged, we've seen them being much more productive and much more motivated, even in the face of setbacks, because that's the thing that we're striving for. Now. It's not fantasyland, even though you can be as fantastical as you want with it, because we've remembered the positive past beforehand. We've actually done due diligence on ourselves and our efficacy in the past. We're rooting this in reality, and then generating concrete commitments, which really says, "What am I going to do between now and then?"
Too often when we do these processes of my fantastic future, we're looking at a year. So we're going to break that down into smaller subsets like on a daily basis, on a weekly basis on a monthly basis to say, "What happens?" And, "Can I change just a little bit?" In the late '80s, the Lakers were a terrible team, before they became the best team, right? They won two years in a row. What their coach asked them to do is change 1% in five areas, 1%. Imagine what changing 1% would be for you. For me changing 1% about this presentation would be changing the color scheme. Maybe it's changing the order, maybe it's changing the notes. But I do it in five different ways, and it becomes a better presentation, and I continue to do that sustainably over time, and I become a better presenter, period.
The 1% is nothing, it's negligible. These concrete commitments need to be manageable, meaningful and sustained. Then realizing authentic action. They've studied the most failed, I was going to say most successful, the most failed CEOs. It wasn't that they weren't smart, it wasn't that they weren't brilliant and it wasn't that they didn't know how to strategize. It's that they didn't know how to implement those changes. The question becomes, after we do this exercises, how do we implement it? What do we actually do that's tangible, that includes our passions, our strengths, and that we're good at. There's going to be a link to a strength test at the end of this. If you don't already know what your strengths are, you can identify those.
Studies show that if you can use just 6% of your strengths in the workplace, you're 60% more effective. Instead of shoring up all of your weaknesses, which of course you want to do developmentally, just focusing on your strengths is really meaningful. Now, I know this sounds really abject. It's kind of a loop but it'll restart some positive paths, but you can go back. Whatever concrete commitments or authentic action aren't working, then you need to go back in the sequence to try to figure it out. There was a question that said, who is the author of the model we were just looking at? It's Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar. It's rooted in the research of appreciative inquiry. But there's a way that he's changed this to be just an appreciative goal setting model.
He's a mentor of mine, for my certificate in happiness studies that I just finished recently, which sounds really lame, but it's mixed with economics, behavioral science, as well as, a lot of these researchers here, but also I like to be happy so, here's the thing you're all probably looking for. How do I make a new habit? The simple piece is it's context, repetition and rewards, that's a habit. Now the challenge just like I mentioned, the competing commitment challenge is understanding what our context is. A lot of people don't actually know their context. I grew up in Italy, so everyone smoked in Italy. We all smoked at the bar, but not like the bar at night. We went to the bar in the morning and we got our cappuccino, our latte macchiato and we smoked at the bar.
The context was being with my friends at the bar. That was the context for when we were smoking because I didn't smoke alone. It wasn't interesting to me. I just smoked when everyone else was smoking. When I decided that I wasn't going to smoke anymore, what I had to do was stop going to the bar in the morning with my mates, but I didn't want to lose my mates, so I started engaging with them in different ways. We would hang out at the Mensa for lunch instead. Now it doesn't mean that smoking didn't occur then but that wasn't my context cue for smoking. The same thing happens with other people's context cues. They're these habits we call anchor habits. Sometimes, one is flossing your teeth or making your bed in the morning.
A lot of people don't know the context cue for how they do those things. Understanding the context, or the cue for the thing that makes you do X. I gave a negative example of smoking if you believe smoking is bad, science as it is, but making your bed is a really positive habit. But either way, there's a cue that sets us off to doing that thing already, before we even know what's happening. Then we repeat it and, then we get a reward. It feels good, whatever that feeling good was. For me, I never actually enjoyed the smell of smoke. In fact, I would smell like it even if I'd use perfume and all that or whatever it didn't work. That wasn't the reward for me, the reward was spending time with my friends.
You want to make sure the reward is bigger or better than the reward of that time of action. That's what gets us a habit. We repeat habits regularly, so often that it becomes a challenge and we're starting to create new habits. To create a new synapse, a new neural pathway in our brain, it takes 122 to 144 repeats. Listen to that 122 to 144 repeats, unless it's done in joy. Then it's 10 or 20. The more fun you can have with these new habits, the more fun you're going to have when you create them. It's asking you to think of three habits that you'd like to develop no more than three, because we can't change our whole world, it's not sustainable. There's a question about habits. There's a saying that it takes 21 days to start or to stop a habit, is that true? No, that is unfortunately not true. That is a misnomer.
There was a large study that talked about habit creation, and there are two or three things that can show up within three weeks. They do not usually stick, so they don't have what's called transformative change. But in two or three weeks, you can do several very simple things, but not many habits. What it is, is 65 to 99 days. Someone asked how can we relate this to losing weight? There's also research that says you don't want to create negative habits. I don't want to create a habit that says, "I'm never going to eat cake," because what my brain is thinking of is eating cake. What I want to do, is I want to create a habit for eating healthy, that's my habit and my vision or value for eating healthy might be too increase my overall fitness or to work on that spire model, because apparently physical health is important, and that's what I neglect. You want to create a positive perspective for what you're looking for, versus focusing on the thing that you're deciding to not do.
Because when we focus on the thing we're deciding not to do, our brain has already decided that we're going to do that thing. It is also wired to do that thing. Now, something to understand here and why we want you to focus on some of those positive emotions more, is that we don't ever remove our negative neural pathways, those bad habits, like biting our nails or whatever else they just weaken. We weaken these negative neural pathways by doing much more productive things, and being much more aware. The habit stack is really I want one, two or three things, and I want to do them the way that I normally do something. Someone asked about losing weight. Maybe I snack, I'm a snacker right?
One of the things that they've suggested is that if you're going to snack you use your left hand or your non-dominant hand. It's not necessarily that you will eat less, but it's not automatic, so it creates an awareness in your brain that I'm snacking. Then you have a conscious choice about whether you want to snack or not. Again, you're not uprooting the thing that you usually do. This example of put on my running shoes when I walk my dog in the morning, I already walked my dog, and I already put my whole gym outfit on. If I decided to not run, when I don't run, I have to go through this whole layer of other efforts. Take a thing that you do, add something on top of it that works.
I had a client recently of faith, who was saying that she felt her faith is being tested during COVID and she'd stopped praying. I asked her if she wanted to start praying again and she really did, and I said, "Well, when did you use to pray?" She said in the morning. I said, "What's replacing your prayer now?" It was her getting on her phone to look at the news. Her habit stack was to every time before she went to bed, she put a sticky note on her phone that said, "Pray first." Every time she picked up her phone it reminded her to pray first. She's still got on her phone. Then check in how the habit is doing. I would say try each one of these strategies for the habit you're creating for at least a week. I mentioned earlier that you don't lose momentum. Now you do if you did one week and you take a week off.
But if you lose a day, two or a day or two here, you actually still can build on that habit because we've got some of those repeats in. Again, if you can make it fun, if you can make it silly, you don't need as many repeats but you do still need that time to sustain it. You want to focus on your bright spots, what's working, what's the vision for the future, co-create small successes. The most successful habits actually are joint habits. They're habits that we do with one another. Someone asked, and this is a good question, "Can you discuss the timing of the reward?" The timing of the reward one, it has to be bigger and better than what you got from what you had previously, but it has to be immediate. It can be nonsensical.
A lot of people whose goal is to be healthier and do that by exercise, their reward can be chocolate. Maybe dark chocolate, because there's more health benefits to dark chocolate, but it has to feel good and it has to be immediate, so that's really important. It can't be, I'm going to do this thing this morning, and I'm going to treat myself tonight with a drink. That doesn't work for most people. But you want to co-create these small successes. You actually want to share what you're working on with a small group of people whenever possible, because emotions have a collective existence. They aren't just isolated, and in most cases when people do quit smoking, or get healthier, they usually have a positive social environment. You have a running club or you have X, Y and Z. The same is true for negative emotions. When you're spending a lot of time on social media, in which you're being grumpy about things it shows up.
The most effective way to communicate with people and bring them in, because a lot of why we're not being successful right now has to do with our feelings of isolation, is to be vulnerable, create casual times together, share your goals, create these social networks that are going to help you to achieve. I'll just close out with a little quote, which might sound like a downer, but it says resilience is accepting your new reality. Even if it's less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you've lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that's good.
Now the story I'll tell you what, this is my family was in the military and we moved about every two years. I was 12 my brother was 14, we moved to Italy, which is pretty cool I thought at the time, because I was a kid and I was dumb, and I also have what my sister calls idiotic optimism. I think it's meant affectionately, but we'll see. My brother was 14. That's that age where you start having friends and they're very important. My brother was so angry that we lived in Italy for five years. We were there for a long time. My brother didn't learn Italian. We're Spanish too, so Italian is not that hard to learn when your Spanish, and my brother when we would go to these places because my dad was in the military, and we had a little more money because the lira was so cheap then wouldn't go with us.
He saw the Parthenon through our hotel room where we went and actually saw it. My brother now is older, and he's trying to learn Italian when it's much harder because it's much easier to learn languages beforehand. It is true that it was sad and terrible, he got ripped from his friends in the States. I didn't know resilience or antifragility, then, but I also knew that I couldn't change any of that. I learned a new skill, I got to see a lot of things that my brother is now spending a lot of money, trying to relearn and re-see. Nobody's traveling during COVID but he had to go back to these places that he doesn't have a recollection of seeing. Our new lives don't have to be terrible even if they feel terrible. There could be something really wonderful about them.
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Natalie M. McVeigh
Natalie McVeigh is a Managing Director in the Center for Individual and Organizational Performance and the Center for Family Business Excellence Group within the Private Client Services Group and has more than 10 years of experience as a consultant and coach.
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