“He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.”
This is the seventh post in a series on maximizing performance through managing energy based on the work of Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz in their book, The Power of Full Engagement.
In my November 12 post, I discussed how difficult it is to change a habit—even one that no longer serves us. Our brains are wired to resist change. Without sufficient energy and focus to move in a new direction, we remain inert. What gives us the strength to change—to exercise more, become more organized, to listen to others more carefully, to run more efficient meetings—is the power of purpose. Purpose is connecting deeply to the values that are driving us to change, recognizing what we are doing now that is disconnected from that value and creating a clear picture of where we want to go.
Purpose creates resolve and gives us the motivation and energy we need overcome inertia. Loehr and Schwartz write about an overworked executive who was overweight, flabby and irritable because of the long hours and weekends he put in at the office. It was only when he was able to reconnect to the deep love he had for his wife and children and recognized how he was failing them by his constant absences that he was able to change his ingrained work habits. In essence, he found something important to say yes to that enabled him to say no to his old habit.
According to Schwartz and Loehr, purpose becomes a more powerful and enduring source of energy when it is positive rather than negative—it moves toward something you want rather than something you fear, it is internal rather than external, and it is focused on others rather than on yourself. In another example from Schwartz and Loehr, a lifelong smoker was only able to quit when she recognized the harm she was doing to her children by smoking and she became clear about how she wanted to be there for them as they matured. It was her love for her children that was strong enough to overcome her addiction. No external motivation, not even her own health, was as powerful.
Purpose is more motivating when we see for ourselves how the old habit or behavior is no longer serving us. No habit is created in a vacuum. The behavior served a purpose and that’s why we did it often enough to create a habit. Once we recognize the original purpose and decide it’s less important than our new goal, or that we can achieve the original purpose in a different, more nourishing way, we can make a more conscious choice about our behavior in the future. Sometimes this takes a while, and it requires honest introspection and evaluation, but it makes a permanent behavior change possible.
Finally, purpose is more powerful when we have a clear picture of where we want to go. A question I often ask my clients is “what will be different when you make this change.” The more specific and clear that picture is, the more motivating it becomes. Visualizing success over and over, as elite athletes do in competition, actually anchors that picture in our brains. We rehearse the new behavior in our minds, we can see, hear and feel the results, and it actually becomes easier to do in reality.
So yes, we can change even ingrained habits when we recognize them for what they are and decide the purpose they serve is not worth the cost. We can change when we create a powerful new purpose that gives us the energy, focus and resolve to stick with it, even when we temporarily revert back to our old ways. We can change when we focus on that purpose, visualize our success and practice the new behavior one day at a time.
For more ideas on small changes you can make to increase your performance:
contact Plum for a free brainstorming session: email@example.com or 804-261-6483.
read The Power of Full Engagement, http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=the+power+of+full+engagement+
For a free or an inexpensive Full Engagement Profile, see: http://www.lgeperformance.com/assessment_diagnostic.html
For more information about the authors of The Power of Full Engagement and their work, see:
Jim Loehr is the Chairman, CEO and Co-Founder of the Human Performance Institute, http://www.lgeperformance.com/index.html .
Tony Schwartz is Founder and President of The Energy Project, http://www.theenergyproject.com/home.html .