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INSIGHTS /// Jul 2, 2015 12:49:00 PM

The Habit of a Lifetime - Part 1

Posted by James Hayes

Habit is notorious - and rightly so - for its ability to direct our actions, even against our will; but by mindfully shaping our habits, we can harness the power of mindlessness as a sweeping force for serenity, energy, and growth.
- Gretchen Rubin

 

Hello and thank you for checking out part one of this two-part article. This two part article series is a short course on the most powerful and pervasive habits of your personality, how they work, the most important habit you could ever possess and why it’s so critical for your emotional intelligence to master it.

 

By the end of this two-part article you will know how to bring more mental, emotional, and behavioral choice in your life, and possess a simple NLP exercise for building your emotional intelligence and unlocking the habits that run your personality. Welcome to the habit of a life time.

 

By now you are probably wondering... what is this habit of a life time? The habit of a life time is seeing through your habits. Which means understanding their nature, and no longer being compulsively run by them. Imagine that, the habit of not being had by habits?!

 

There are many articles, short courses, and education pieces on the subject of habits already, but most of them are only scratching the surface. In fact, maybe you have done a short course or are thinking  "I already know my habits very well, but knowing them hasn't stopped me from doing them!”.

 

And herein lies the problem, what most people are aware of are their behavioural habits. Behaviours that you repeat consistently like biting your nails, smoking, procrastination, drinking coffee after lunch etc. But these are only the tip of the iceberg and in fact, behavioural habits are typically only symptoms of your more subtle and pervasive habits.

 

Your more subtle and pervasive habits are your habits of mind and perception, otherwise known as your habits of personality. These habits of personality determine in a nutshell how you habitually view reality, which determines what you focus on, and what you focus on you feel, and what you feel determines how you respond (or react). Your emotional intelligence is proportionate to how aware you of these underlying variables governing how you and others think, feel and act.

 

Let’s look at optimism/pessimism as a simple relatable example. People we tend to call "optimistic" in most contexts have their attention habitually focused on answering the question "what could be go right here?". Because their attention is focused on pleasurable outcomes they tend to feel more enthusiastic and thus are quicker to take action. In many contexts this is great, but unchecked it can be an enormous weakness when the context requires a review of potential problems. For example, I would not like my tax accountant, my risk analyst, or my insurance broker to be "I am sure everything will be fine!" optimistic. I would much prefer their attention to be focused on answering the question "what could go wrong here?".

 

Now obviously a person can think optimistically and pessimistically if they need to... right? Theoretically yes especially if it isn't a habit, but here's the rub. If it is a habit of mind, you will often be unaware that it is running because habits of mind affect your perceiving i.e. "how" you see. It's easy to see "what" you are seeing, but it's much more difficult to see "how" you are seeing. As a metaphor, your eyes can't see your eyes.

 

And this is the point of this article, what you "see" and thus "feel" and thus "act" on, depends entirely on "how" you see. And your personality is a set of habits that determine "how" you see. Imagine wearing rose colored sunglasses... but you forgot that you ever put them on. This is how your habits of personality work - now the world seems rosy doesn't it? Even though you may be headed into a thorn bush!  

 

That’s quite a lot of influence over your mind, body emotional system for a habit to have. When we haven’t seen our habits of personality, we lose the ability to choose the most appropriate responses for the situations we find ourselves in. This is because habits are reactions based on what has worked in the past, they are not responses based on what is most appropriate now.

 

So let's recap part one, your most powerful habits are your habits of mind and perception (personality), often they operate without you even knowing, they determine what you see and thus influence how you feel and act, and they are based on the past not the present.

 

In part two I'll be further sharing why it's so critical for your emotional intelligence to find and see through your habits of personality, how you can build your emotional intelligence in this area, short courses on NLP that will help, with some NLP life hacks you can apply right away and what you can expect from mastering the habit of a lifetime.

 

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