Meeting Habits With Self-Awareness

23. Change Habits

Meeting Habits with Self-Awareness

How we think, feel and act has direct impact on the outcomes we experience and yet it seems to be our human condition to meet a challenge out of habits and not conscious choice. Here are some simple steps to help develop awareness in working with habits.

Think of a specific habit that is causing you dissatisfaction and unnecessary stress at work or in your personal life. It could be either an emotional habit such as anger, worrying, irritability … or a behavioural one: interrupting others at meetings, procrastinating, commanding/coming-hard on your direct-reports and peers or something you may be over-doing such as over-eating, over-smoking …

If not sure what specific habit to focus on, refer to your 360 assessment, a recent appraisal at work or talk to a trusted colleague or simply choose to make it a point of reflection over the next few days.

1. Remember a recent episode that you engaged in this habit and answer the following questions to create more awareness:

  • Can you remember what set off the behaviour? Was it something someone said or did? Write.
  • What did the impulse feel like? Did the urge to react snowball and gather momentum or was it sudden like a flash?

* One way to strengthen an awareness of impulses without giving-in to it is through formal meditation practice – when experiencing an itchy nose or face and watching it without submitting to scratching it. Such witnessing then helps with recognising an impulse in daily life).

  • Can you remember the self-talk or thoughts that were racing through your mind?
  • How the did the bahaviour unfold? Write the specifics of the behaviour. For example if you interrupted someone at the meeting: what did your gestures, tone of voice, choice of words … look like?


2. Given that our reactions/habits are often an attempt to satisfy a need. What need you were trying to fulfill? What else? What else?

Here are a few common needs to think about:

  • manage or lower stress
  • have control/power/influence over others, a situation or a decision
  • defend your boundary
  • increase self-esteem
  • gain recognition
  • seek approval or fit in
  • avoid something, someone or some thoughts/feelings, i.e. failure, fear, anxiety


3. Looking back at that specific scenario and the similar ones before that can you observe a pattern? How effective has this behaviour  been in meeting that need? Rank the effectiveness on a scale of 1 to 10.


4. Finally, If this habit were no longer your first reaction for satisfying that need, what else could you choose to think or do instead? How effective would this alternative feel like? Rate on a scale of 1 to 10.


By cultivating awareness through these steps we are more likely to develop insights and understanding of our motives and needs that propel our habits and choose to be more selective and in harmony with our values when satisfying those needs.