Habits and Attitudes

- June 2020 -

Written By: Bill Pierce

Lets' look further into the personal leadership trait of self-awareness. Last time we explored blind spots, how to recognize them and how a high-performance person learns to screen out the static and focus only on what is important to him or her.

We all develop habits and attitudes that affect our behaviors every day as we encounter issues that require us to take action and make a response. We can define an attitude as a predetermined response or reaction to an action or issue. These habits and attitudes are an automatic function of our subconscious and we do them without even thinking about it. Think of any sport that you have played for a number of years, you develop habits that become automatic and require no conscious thought on your part. Ask the experienced golfer before he/she hits his or her tee shot whether they inhale or exhale on their downswing and watch them miss the shot because they never thought about it before and your question brought their swing out of their subconscious fluid motion into their conscious thought process.

Once we learn a skill it becomes automatic and free flowing with no conscious thought about it. That is why pilots train over and over on how to react (recover) from an emergency. We landed in King Salmon, AK one day and blew the front tire. We could see the pilot as he reacted immediately to apply the brakes, keep us in a straight line and at the last minute, as the fence approached, make a smooth turn to bring us to a stop. He then looked back and said “looks like we have a flat tire” as calmly as could be. My pulse was racing and my “fight or flight” reactions were at top speed but he was calm. Why was this? He had practiced reacting to a flat tire (recovery) hundreds of times in a simulator and on his many flights over the years. He did not have to think of what to do when it happened, his subconscious took over and his muscle memory went into action.

These habits and attitudes are neither negative or positive until you set your goals, then you will need to evaluate them against your goals and determine if you need to change any of them. The more experience we have the stronger our habits and attitudes are. If change occurs around us we have to be able to evaluate and determine what we may have to change to address the new facts. That is where listening to others, especially diverse groups with varying experiences, can help us “see” the change that has occurred and find new ways to address the changes.

If our internal picture of the world (our subconscious) does not agree with what is happening around us our stress goes up and must be relieved to preserve our sanity. Our internal picture must match what is happening on the outside or we try to change the outside. For example we buy a new car and then wonder if we made a mistake; our subconscious solves this by pointing out all the other people who bought the same car as we drive down the road, we begin to “see” them everywhere. That is why it can be so difficult to change a habit or attitude; our mind “sees” us as overweight so if we lose weight it struggles to match the “picture” of ourselves and we eat that piece of cake and then say to ourselves “why did I do that”.

We act like the person we picture ourselves to be and if we want to change our habits and attitudes we will have to change our picture of self and then set goals to get to that picture so that we can establish new habits and attitudes that match that picture. Enough for now, next time we will discuss how we make decisions every day.

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