When asked or given pause, we admit it is true, but we rarely are aware of the fact that our lives are replete with habits.
From postures and movements to attitudes and the words we use to express them, much of our responses to life are habitual. (How often have you responded to someone asking, “How are you?” and immediately wondered why you responded that way. Or have you even bumped into somebody and barked out a “Be careful” or worse, only to realize a moment later you were the careless one. Isn’t that habitual?)
Habits function automatically. We don’t think about them. Nor are we conscious of the muscle tensions needed to make them happen. These habitual movements, thoughts, and emotions are a force in our lives our lives. They can define how we see and respond to life... both at work, at home and at play... our golf swings are nothing more than habit in motion.
Athletes know habits are formed through repetition. What is fed grows. The more we do a particular thing, the stronger it gets. Our deepest habits began when we were growing up. We are built on a foundation of habits.
Habits, by their nature, are neither good nor bad. Even a habit normally seen as good, such as an hour of exercise every day, would be hurtful if the need was for complete rest. The value of any one habit is based on whether it is helping you achieve your aim in any particular moment. (More on this in a future blog.)
Improving performance, reaching a new goal, succeeding in any change in any aspect of life begins with coming up against and recognizing existing habits. How can it be otherwise?
That is where the coaching process can really help people succeed in reaching their goals and improving performance. Through active listening, coaches can hear the habitual and help it be recognized. Then together, client and coach can determine potential new responses and alternative behaviors that can lead to the breaking of the habits – whether physical, mental or emotional – that have kept them from achieving the success they wish for.
I was talking to another writer the other day about the differences between writing on a computer vs long hand. While we both agreed how much easier it is to edit and rewrite on the computer, we couldn’t decide if that was a good thing or bad because we both found that computers make it difficult to stick with an ancient writing truth that I formulate as “If you start to edit before you’re done writing, you’re done writing.”
Writing and editing are two different animals. They use different parts of the brain. Writing is a creative act. It demands a willingness to be open to any possibility, the freedom to move in any direction. It has a whole other sense to it than editing. Editing applies rules and critical thinking. It is a solid; creativity is fluid. Both are needed. They just can’t exist at the same time.
Creativity, or inspiration requires not giving into internal or external critical voices, like the ones that want to correct typos, Coaches and creative directors know this (or should).
That’s why in a creative coaching and brainstorming sessions, I create a “No Negativity Zone.” Responses to statements must be either neural or positive. No “noes”, “buts”, (even “yes, buts”), or “be practicals.” Practical is for later.
“Yes, ands...” are the preferred response. Anyone who can’t stay positive has to leave (or sit in a corner.) When a group sticks to the rules for 45 minutes to an hour, something magical can take place. The room takes on a different feel. One person begins an idea, and it bounces around the room like a beach ball until suddenly an idea, or direction appears that never would have occurred to anyone without people exchanging freely.
It’s often harder than it sounds and, for some, it’s just about impossible. You have to leave your ego aside because it can’t be about you. It’s not about right or wrong. There is no wrong and everything is possible... even if you misspeak.
And for writing on my own, I invoked a “No Mouse” zone. I lock my track pad and mouse in a drawer for a specific length of time and type away, ignoring typos, spelling errors, and that little negative voice in the corner of my mind that is holding a red pen and waiting his time to edit.
From ad copy and campaigns to presentations, slogans and web sites, there are ways to create messages that people remember.
Writers and presentation coaches learn them instinctively. Educators and authors, Chip Heath and Dan Heath documented them in their book “Made to Stick.” I fashioned them into the S.E.C.R.E.T.S. to making messages memorable.
S. Keep it Simple. Get to the core of what you want your audience to remember and put it into a sound bite. It’s not easy but it is effective. Think of “Just do it.” Once we hear it, it’s a no-brainer. A trick to help: when you think you’ve gotten to the core ask “Why?” or “What’s behind that?” Then repeat, repeat, repeat.
Remember the essence has its own energy. An outside ear is a big help.
E. Make it Emotional. People may or may not remember facts, but they remember how you make them feel. Get to the heart of the matter. Why should your audience care about you or your message? How can you get them to experience that? Tie it to your facts and they will remember.
C. Are you and your message Credible? An audience has to trust in order to care. What is going to make your audience feel like you are trustworthy? The real deal? Bring your Cred to the game.
R. Keep your message Real. Put your message into the reality your audience lives day to day. Yes, that means you actually have to know the reality your audience experiences.
E. Add the unExpected. Nothing attracts our attention faster than a surprise. Whether it is a turn of phrase, an image, a sound or an event, we enjoy the unexpected and we remember them! How can you bring your message in a way that’s unpredictable? If I believe I know what is going to happen next, I have left the building.
T. Create a presentation that’s Tangible. We have 5 senses... at least. Touch them all! We remember the visceral. The more senses touched, the greater the chance we’ll remember. Great story tellers bring the senses alive.
S. Tell your story through Stories. Stories provide context to your message. They capture our imagination, inspire us, warn us and enliven us. Stories are the lifeblood of cultures, families, histories and BRANDS! Tell us your story, make it our story.
When messages are told that are
Tangible and delivered through
They become unforgettable.
Let's aim for that.
Check out the book “Made to Stick” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.
A special thanks to Tim Wilkins, graphic artist extraordinaire, who worked with me guiding presenters to new heights of creativity and effectiveness and afterward introduced me to “Made to Stick” as kindred spirits. “You will so love this book.” And he was right. I did.