The pull to repeat old patterns in our businesses and lives is as pervasive as gravity. Starting something new is so very difficult. Part of the reason for this difficulty is that to start something new is also to lose something old and we simply don’t want to let go of the old ways. And this is understandable -- up to a point. We talk about this often in our workshops and keynote addresses: there's a certain amount of familiarity and habituation that is desirable and serves your work well. Just think if you had to start from scratch every time you wrote an email. The internal dialogue might go something like:
- "Wait, what are these keys for?"
- "...How do I get this thing that I'm typing back to the person that contacted me?"
- "...Will they see the letters just like I'm seeing them?"
- "...Why does this button say 'shift' on it? What am I shifting?"
Some of you are getting stressed-out just reading that above dialogue. Some of you are thinking about someone in your life who has actually asked you these questions in the course of their work. Just think: if that was the way we engaged every time we went to write an email, we'd never get anything done! But because we have familiarity and habits formed around email, we're able to fire off an email relatively quickly. The problem comes when we go back to familiarity and habits when they no longer serve us.
Often we like the concept of starting something afresh and we can easily begin a new habit, but our brains will begin to look for the old pattern and then endlessly search for ways to repeat past behaviors.
Learning to let go of past behaviors is a skill and can be learned. I might suggest that we practice this in small ways so that we can develop the skill that we can then use in bigger ways in our work. For example, if you drive a certain road to work each day, choose one week and go a different way each day. If you attend church and sit in the same spot, choose a different one for the next few weeks. If you have a set routine in the morning; try slightly breaking it and doing something small but different.
If we can begin to teach our brain that letting go of past ways is ok, then we can take this skill and use it in other important areas like:
- selling more effectively
- communicating with our staff differently
- identifying more efficient processes in our work
This is the same skill that will help so many get to the gym or eat differently.
Do not buy the lie that you cannot teach old dogs new tricks. Old dogs that learn new tricks can and will change the world.
P.S. That image from above -- the one of the shoes and the surf in the background -- it's from a recent training session we did with Navy Seals on the beach in San Diego. Talk about learning something new!!