Creature of habit

“Whenever you meet new people, you have the opportunity to be a little more you.”

Someone told me that many years ago, and I have remembered ever since.

The thing is, that we are all creatures of habit, and not only when it comes to eating habits, what we watch on tv or how we brush our teeth, but also when it comes to our psychological and social behaviour.

Habits are a great concept! We save time and energy, when certain behavioural patterns happen automatically, without the need for awareness, pause and deciding before action. The problem is of course, that not all our habits are in consonance with the life we want to live, or our true personalities.

This last year, I have had the chance to look into the subject of Positiv Psychology. I attended the Fourth World Congress of Positive Psychology in Orlando in june, and I have had a lot of inspiring discussions with people who have studied PP for a long time. A lot of them encouraged me to take a test to map my character strengths. Actually I was overbearingly laughed at, and thought to be the only attendee at the conference who had NOT taken the test.

With awareness is the key as one of my mantras of course I had to take the test. Getting a closer look at my character strengths might not surprise me, but surely it would be a good reminder. And a chance to reevaluate my habits.

I took the test! And my top 5 character strengths (there are 24 in all) turned out to be:

  1. Creativity
  2. Integrity
  3. Social intelligence
  4. Bravery
  5. Perspective

At the bottom of the list (but still strengths I mind you..)

  • 22. Humility & modesty
  • 23. Appreciation of beauty & excellence
  • 24. Self regulation..

Hmm… No –  it was not surprising. But it did make me reconsider some of my habits and especially what I focus on in my professional life.

Working with tasks where I use my top strengths bring out the me in me. That´s where I feel energized and do my best work.

Am I in the habit of using my top strengths when it comes to my work?

Well, not as much as I would like to – I will work on that!

Back to the part about meeting new people, and the opportunity to be a little more you.

As I am sure you experience it too, my relationships become “habits” pretty fast. They get stuck in patterns in the shape of roles; I am the boss, sister, friend, daughter, lover, ex-wife, best friend, niece, etc.

Depending on who I spend time with I have a “fully-prepared-social-behaviour” package ready, and the package seldom changes.

In every individual relationship and in all group relationships, we usually have the behaviour “set” – and once it is set, it becomes a habit that can be really hard to change.

Just think back at a reunion you have attended. Even 20 years after highschool or university, when a class meets, they instantly fall into the same roles and behavioural patterns that they had when they went to school together. They have all changed, but they keep each other (pretty much unaware of doing so) stuck in old social habits.

Can the habits be changed?

I guess it is possible, but it surely takes awareness, time and effort. Not only do you have to change your actual behaviour, you also have to “make” the other person (or even harder; group) see the difference, because he or she is in the habit of seeing you in a certain way. The change has to be quite noticeable.

When I meet new people I remind myself to be as authentic as I can – from the beginning. And in the relationships I am already in – i do the same, and try to create small changes of habit over time.

Who, and doing what, brings out the you in you?

“Choice is creation. To choose is to create. Through my choices I create my reality. At every moment in my life I have a choice. Moments add up to a lifetime; choices add up to a life. What kind of life do I want for myself? What choices will create this kind of life?” – Tal Ben-Shahar

Author: Camilla Hilbrands

Camilla formed the company At Work A/S in 1992 at the age of 20 and has been active as a wellbeing expert ever since. She has followed and been involved in creating the development within health and wellbeing in the workplace from its modest beginnings at the start of the 1990s, and she has, among other things, been an expert at National Centre for Workplace Health Promotion (Nationalt Center for Sundhedsfremme på Arbejdspladsen). Camilla is an experienced leader, teacher and speaker and spends most of her time developing and arranging courses and concepts that aim at increased wellbeing for individuals and groups. Creativity, honesty and social intelligence are Camilla’s strong points, and in addition to this she is known for her passion for and book about pancakes. Her focus is basically resource-oriented and innovative and her tal and workshops are based on the most recent research in the fields of positive psychology, neuroscience and behavioural science. Camilla is an informal and humorous speaker, and with her solid professional background she always leaves her audience with aha moments and specific tools they can use straight away. Camilla is an active participant and networker at various conferences, including TED conferences, and in addition to this she has been enrolled as a member of Richard Branson’s “Change Makers and Rule Breakers”, and she is a strong supporter of the motto: Be the change you wish to see in the world.

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