Have you been asked to do more with less this year? Most people who work for large organisations have experienced at least one of these this year – restructures, retrenchments, mergers, technology changes, funding cuts, or my personal favourite “productivity dividends” (very Orwellian!!). Most predict it will be more of the same next year.
Change fatigue has become a common outcome from these initiatives. Is it possible to immunize ourselves from these disruptions? All the evidence indicates that we can, but there is a catch. To cope better with change, we must change ourselves. We must do things that feel bit uncomfortable (new things always do), but it is worth remembering that great rewards exist just outside our comfort zone!!
To change ourselves we must create new rituals that stick. How do we do that?
I have previously written about rituals to improve our resilience.
Related: 7 Rituals of the Resilient Leader
In my case I discovered that my ONE Thing that keeps me centred in uncertain times is meditation. For you it may be something different, but for the purpose of this exercise let’s consider how we could create a meditation ritual we can stick with.
Dr. BJ Fogg directs the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University and has created a new model of human behaviour change, which guides his work. His behaviour model shows that three elements must converge at the same moment for behaviour to occur: motivation, ability, and trigger (MAT).
When behaviour does not occur, at least one of those three elements is missing.
Core motivators are pleasure/pain, hope/fear, social acceptance/rejection.
Ability factors include time, money, physical effort, brain cycles, and non-routine.
Triggers include facilitator, alarm, and signal.
Here’s an example of considering the elements of MAT when I want to create a meditation habit:
- Motivation. There are a number of studies that show that regular meditation is incredibly good for you. It been shown to decrease stress, improve sleep, and improve creativity and perspective. I can watch videos to gain greater insights from that or speak to regular meditators to hear first-hand the benefits they receive. I could also connect with a meditation group or link up with friends to support and encourage each other in creating this new ritual. Ability. The most important thing you can do is decide when and where you are going to commit to this daily ritual. Research by from Peter Gollwitzer, a psychology professor from New York University shows that deciding when and where (in advance) you are going to do something increases the probability of doing by 300%. You should start with a small commitment – nothing too onerous. For example, commit to just a 10 minutes meditation to start with. Once you reach this goal, you may gradually increase the time. To help facilitate better meditation you could also download a meditation app (Headspace is a good example of one that incorporates MAT principles). As most people carry their phone with them during their waking hours, it is accessible virtually anywhere.
- Trigger. After deciding when you are going to meditate why not put a daily appointment in your diary or phone which provides an automatic trigger? This doesn’t mean that you absolutely have to do it every day – but if you have this as your default, you vastly improve your probability of success.
Should I resolve to increase motivation or ability?
As you can see from the BJ Fogg model above, if we want to increase the likelihood of us creating a habit we can either increase our motivation, or ability, or both.
Fogg who has helped over 40,000 people change behaviour has found that we are more likely to change our behaviour if we increase our ability to do something new. So although it is wise to consider increasing both, it is much harder to increase motivation in isolation.
How can I utilize triggers to increase ability – and stick to rituals?
It is worthwhile considering what has prevented you from sticking to a resilience ritual in the past. In my case, I find around 5am to be the best time to meditate, but often when the alarm goes off (especially in winter) it is very tempting to stay in bed. BJ Fogg recommends setting up small responses to triggers like these:
- AFTER I brush my teeth at night, I will put warm clothes beside my bed, and ensure a blanket is on my meditation chair.
- AFTER the alarm goes off in the morning, I will get up straight away, and put my warm clothes on.
- AFTER I have my warm clothes on I will walk to my meditation chair, sit down, and put the blanket over me.
Make it easy to do your tiny behaviours this week.
It is also essential to *instantly* celebrate each one. Why? Because positive emotion makes the tiny behaviour become more automatic.
For example instant celebration could look like this – thumbs up, victory sign, fist pump, clap once, a short victory dance, say a word or phrase out loud such as “awesome!”, “great job!”, “way to go!”, say a word or phrase inside to yourself such as “nailed it!”, “you’re a legend!”, sing the a victory song like “we are the champions”, etc.
These mini celebrations reward the action and tell the brain they are worth repeating.
So choose one resilience ritual you would like to commit to, and make sure you simultaneously combine motivation, ability, and trigger.
Graeme Cowan is an author and speaker who shows leaders how to create rituals that build their resilience, mood, and performance. To download his speaking brochure click here. If you have questions about his availability or suitability for presenting to your organisation please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +61 2 8005 0344