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Habit's and their corporate cousin, cultures, are formed for a reason
  • Habits, and their corporate cousin, cultures, are formed for a reason. Replace that reason (root cause) with another desirable one, and you will see more motivation to get over the habit. The ‘muscle memory’ may continue for some time, but with the re-directed motivation, you have the spirit of the person working with you, not resisting you, or the change! It is for this reason that we focus on changing the hard and soft infrastructure of the organization that influences the motivations, and not on changing behaviours directly.

Here’s what James Clear, author of Transform Your Habits, says: “All of the habits that you have right now – good or bad – are in your life for a reason. In some way, these behaviours provide a benefit to you, even if they are bad for you in other ways.”

Yves Morieux of Boston Consulting Group, echoes the same idea, in his Ted Talk. Speaking about the spirit of cooperation, he says, ‘When people don't cooperate, don't blame their mindsets, their mentalities, their personality – look at the work situations. Is it really in their personal interest to cooperate or not? If, when they cooperate, they are individually worse off, why would they cooperate’?

  • Find the reason and the desire that drives it and replace the reason (easier) and/or the desire (difficult) with a new one, and you will see change.


Removing anything leaves a void. Nature replaces a void with the nearest available stuff! This is all the more applicable to things in our mind, as any psychologist or behaviour scientist will tell you. However, working on behaviours alone can be limiting. To be effective, one has to understand the underlying motivations or desires that prompt the behaviour. For, if you remove a behaviour, you wouldn’t know what to replace it with. Another behaviour would qualify for replacement only if it is able to meet the same underlying desire or trigger.

This resonates with Clear who says, ‘Because bad habits provide some type of benefit in your life, it’s very difficult to simply eliminate them. (This is why simplistic advice like “just stop doing it” rarely works)’. That is why Clear recommends replacing a bad habit with a new habit that provides a similar benefit. For example, if your team has the bad habit of running to you for every little decision, you can’t cure this by just asking them to stop it. You need to understand why they do it. Did you support them the last time they did make a decision? Have you provided them with enough training to enable them to take the right decision? Do you continue to give them a decision every time they do come to you? Pay attention to these questions, and you will see them change their bad habit! They may be seeking your decision now because they perceive that as being the easiest way to move forward and avoid trouble. Once you train them on the subject and support their decisions, they will stop asking you… and once you stop giving them decisions whenever they ask, the muscle memory, too, will fade. To quote Clear again: ‘If you expect yourself to simply cut out bad habits without replacing them, then you’ll have certain needs that will be unmet and it’s going to be hard to stick to a routine of ‘just don’t do it’ for very long’.

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