How to Manage Habits

In The Leading Brain, Friederike Fabritius and Hans Hagemann explain several ”powerful science-based strategies for achieving peak performance.”

In Chapter 4, Fabritius and Hagemann offer these key points:

o Our brains prefer the path of least resistance. In order to trailblazer a new neural pathway, the brain must be convinced that all that extra effort is worth it.

o Establishing good habits and getting rid of bad ones involve the same basic skills: goal stetting and motivation, getting started, and staying on track.

o Goals that look good on paper have no guarantee of being achieved. In order to be successful, your goal must be emotionally relevant.

o People who don’t have an emotional stake in the process are unlikely to change. Unless they can anticipate meaningful reward or threat, they might go through the emotions but fail to make the necessary effort that change requires.

o The biggest obstacle to getting started is procrastination. The way to outsmart the brain’s natural aversion to change is to use kaizen, which involves taking very small steps. That enables you to steadily make progress without stetting off your brain’s evolutionary alarm bells.

o If you want to make a change that lasts, good intentions aren’t enough. You need to attach your new routine to a trigger. These trigger/routine combinations are technically referred to as “implementation intentions” but are better known as “if/thens” or “when/ thens.”

In this context, I agree with Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Also with Samuel Johnson: “The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”

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Friederike Fabritius is head of the Neuroleadership Practice Group. To learn more about her and her work, please click here.

Hans Hajemann is managing partner/cofounder of the global leadership consultancy firm Munich Leadership Group.
To learn more about him and his work, please click here.

The Leading Brain: Powerful Science-Based Strategies for Achieving Peak Performance was published by TarcherPerigee/Penguin Random House (February 2017).

I also highly recommend Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, co-authored by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool and published by Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2016).

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