Cue. Routine. Reward.
According to Charles Duhigg (Habit expert), you don’t change a bad habit, you respect the habit loop. “To change a habit,” Duhigg goes deeper, “you must keep the old cue, and deliver the old reward, but insert a new routine.” In BTL language, we don’t change old habits, we wire up better ones. I guess we agree with Duhigg, changing habits is about changing routines.
Yesterday, during practice 84 with a team of grapplers, I made them think about changing some of their routines. Many of them have a bad habit of playing it safe when they tire and narrowing their focus on simply making it to the finish line ahead of their opponent. The reward, you see, is still winning, no matter what they mouth. I want them to change the routine to going even harder as they perspire and see the reward of learning more and more about limits, especially perceived ones. Yesterday, only a few got the message. It was not an easy one to hear, was it Kollin?
One of my old habits was around eating sweets. The cue was hunger, especially after cycling or intense exercise, the routine was going to the pantry or fridge and grabbing something sweet like a cookie or ice cream or, even better, both! The reward was a delightful, sugar high. In my work, the cue might be in facilitating a freakin’ magic, BTL practice, the routine taking credit for it, the reward getting high on self. In my work, the cue might be (rarely) facilitating a fail, the routine of blaming others (lousy team/leader/client), the reward being I still feel good even after a fail. Do you see where this is going, friend? Not good.
The cue’s in work and life are not the problem. Neither are the rewards. I mean, come on man, we all get hungry and there’s nothing better than feeling satiated. The way toward excellence is found in finding better routines (better routes) to getting there. For me, instead of cookies and cream, it’s now my routine to grab 85% dark chocolate. Instead of a pure outcome focus to my work, it’s now my routine to move toward learning from what went well and learning from went wrong. BTW, we learn the most from what went well, especially as you move toward excellence. Think about it. How much can Kyle Snyder learn from losing when it only happens every couple years? The elite learn the most when things went well – they never stop nuancing the next expression – they just get smaller and smaller in terms of incremental gain. The elite habituate the routine of learning, of marrying the mind to the power of small, incremental gains. Good.
Cue – routine – reward.
I’m working on changing my routine. Hard on self, not high on self, or down on self. The cues and rewards are what they are. Better habits come from better routines. Stop focusing on better outcomes and, instead, focus on habituating better routines. Focus here, friend. Practice 84 went well, but it could have been so much better. It will be – next time. I’m still learning, you see.
I feel better already. Learning is beginning to feel like winning. Good…