ARGGGGGGG! When something is triggering you...

Tom screamed out to his fellow employee, “Fine! You figure it out.” And it was in that moment of my observation of this leader that I knew he had a huge trigger, a Habitual Why or profound dysfunctional reason for why he overacted to specific feedback from his team. It would not be until we sat together alone over lunch that Tom revealed to me his deep Habitual reason for why he behaved the way he did. While he was a very successful leader, this one barrier was holding him back from true fulfillment, and it was not only showing up at work, his marriage was also suffering I knew we had to act fast and break that habit.

Can you recall the last time you, like Tom, lost your temper, yelled at someone in traffic for cutting you off, or under your breath felt that you only wanted to scream at someone? Well, I have news for you, these profound habitual reasons for your destructive and pointless behaviors, which hold you back from your potential of success, are based on things in your mind that you can change and control. Like Tom, you can turn these Habitual Whys into Intentional Whys, but you will need first to discover what caused them.

Charles Duhigg, in his book The Power of Habit, explores the science behind why we do what we do — and how habits of thought are formed in the mind.

Charles writes, “It turns out that every habit starts with a psychological pattern called a "habit loop," which is a three-part process. First, there's a cue or trigger, that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and let a behavior unfold. Then there's the routine, or the action, which is the behavior itself. The third step, he says, is the reward: something that your brain likes that helps it remember the "habit loop" in the future, like the dopamine effect of screaming.”

In my client, Tom’s case his habit loop started at a very young age. When he was a child, he had a learning disability and his family, even his father, reminded him of it each day even going so far as to call him stupid. This embedded two habits, one was a sincere desire to achieve and overcome his disability, and the second was to develop a defensive strategy for attacking anyone around him who triggered the emotion of “I am stupid” was a habitual way of thinking he developed as a child. 

So I spent time with Tom going over ways he could change the Habitual Why for all his dysfunctional behavior into a more profound and more powerful Intentional Why.  He then went to work applying my three steps to an Intentional Why.

1) Discover what started the Habitual Why – The Trigger: Like I asked Tom to work on, you will need to look at your past and find those moments, usually as a child, when your trigger was installed. Was a parent verbally rude to you? Did you get bullied in school? Did your sibling call you stupid frequently? Did you nearly die in a plane crash? Regardless of the moment, the Habit Loop was formed it can be broken if you first identify it’s origin.

2) Is this true?: The second step for Tom and you if you have a deep habitual negative belief driving your life, is to ask, “Is this true?” In other words, if you feel a deep sense of “I always fail” you will need to ask yourself at the exact moment it arises, “Is that true?” Always the answer will be NO because you have not failed at everything. You did not fail at getting out of bed. You did not fail at answering email or drinking your coffee. So you, in fact, do not fail at “everything.” Tom asked a co-worker one day after he disagreed with him in a meeting, “Did you say you thought I was stupid or my idea?” The co-0worker then said, “Not at all, I was saying we need to tweak the idea.” Tom suddenly realized that his trigger of “I am stupid.” Was not based on the reality of the present moment.  By discovering the reality that this is in fact not true at all, you further break the loop of habit and start to head toward the third and final step.

3) Build the Intentional Why: The third step is to build a new core driver for why you take actions. For Tom it involved him getting clear about why he wants to be successful in his business and personal life. He found that it was far more important to have a loving happy marriage and get promoted to SVP at his company than it was to stay in the habit of dysfunction. The same is for you. There are things in your life which are far more critical than screaming at people or causing destruction which is mostly self-inflicted in your life. You will need to find an Intentional Why that is powerful enough to overcome the Habitual Why which will still attempt to inflict damage in your life. For me, I find a why that is so big and elicits so much emotion that no adversity can overcome its power. You must do the same. If you want to be a better spouse, parent, or merely achieve better results at work, you will need to ask yourself what is most important and why do you want that most of all. 

Remember, if you want to be in a new place in life, achieving more than you are now in ANY area, you will need to create new behaviors now. Where you are now is a result of years previous and the same is true for the future you are creating. Every time you break a negative habitual loop to create a new Intentional Why in your life, you are driving toward a new future. When you make a mistake based on a Habitual Why, don’t compound it with other excuses. Instead, own it. When you are applying this learning in your life: own it and make the change into more intentional ways of behaving. I believe our society is missing this core element in day-to-day, moment-to-moment interactions. We fail to take ownership over our contribution to the collective society. We instead revert to a narcissistic point of view.  That is no longer acceptable for you, because starting today, you are going to begin taking more and more calculated risks leading to a Disrupted life that is fulfilling.  

To watch the entire story about Tom, click the video below. 

Todd Mitchem