EP36 - Habits

January 26, 2021
 

JJ and Melissa discuss how we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to have control over outcomes we can't actually control, due to our deep sense of responsibility or obligation. It's helpful to understand our personal drivers that make us feel this trigger, and recognize how it then that causes us stress.

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Melissa Albers  0:00  
Hey everyone, you are listening to the self awareness journey podcast. This little banter is about a car ride long and features your hosts, JJ Parker, and Melissa Albers. JJ owns a tech company. And Melissa has been a coach working with influencers for the last 18 years.

JJ Parker  0:18  
Well, the other week, I needed to go to the gas station to fill up my car with gas because like the next day, I was having to play like dad taxi and drive the kids all over the place. So I wanted to be like, ready, right? Yeah. And this was Wednesday. This was like a work week. So. And we've been working at home, right. So my morning routine is mostly this been shuffling downstairs. But since I wanted to go to the gas station and be prepared to lay sample, I got up, I showered, I made my coffee. I got in my car, I put on my favorite podcast. And I got myself halfway to the office. Before I realized that all I was doing supposed to be doing was going to the gas station on the corner. About 20 minutes back.

Melissa Albers  1:13  
Oh, you're kidding.

JJ Parker  1:17  
So it was really funny about that after I kind of like, I don't know, came to Yeah, while driving my car. was like, I was like, what, what happened there? Like, why am I halfway to work? What all I was going to do is go to the gas station on the corner. And I realized that, that that morning routine that I went through, I had been going through probably for 20 years excess for the past few months. Like that habit got triggered. Yeah. And I just went on autopilot. Hmm. And I just went on my wake up shower coffee car off 14. And I didn't even realize it. Isn't that crazy? Isn't that? Isn't that crazy? how some of those habits are so ingrained that you can find yourself 20 minutes from your house on your way to an office? That's not even open?

Melissa Albers  2:16  
Yeah, yeah, absolutely realize it. That is really interesting habits. I think habits are such an interesting topic. Because I think habits can be really, really helpful in so many ways. And then in other ways, habits can be very hard on us, you know, and actually do the reverse even though we think we're having a helpful experience.

JJ Parker  2:40  
Because think about it. Like humans, he oil This is a great quote humans are habit. Right? That is a good quote, you have to you have to have habits to get anything done. I think that like most of our day to day living is habitual. Right? Because if it wasn't a habit, if we weren't doing things in a way that was just kind of automatic. Imagine how much thinking we would have to do all the time. Yeah, I have to vary, I wouldn't be able to like, just, I wouldn't be able to just like, again, like make my coffee without thinking about it. I would have to be like, Okay, what, what's the next step? What are the you know, I'd have to do so much thinking that these habits really make us efficient. As humans, I think that's one of the things about the human brain that is probably pretty magical is that habits allow us to be super efficient that at our actions,

Melissa Albers  3:41  
right. And I think that we have way more habits than we actually even realize. Now I'm actually as we're getting into this topic a little more, and it's unfolding now I'm starting to get scared.

JJ Parker  3:54  
I think that I am mostly running on habit. I think

Melissa Albers  4:01  
we all are. And as you were talking, and I still I gotta look that up. But there's a there's a statistic that says how many times how many new thoughts the brain has, versus how many of them are repetitive.

JJ Parker  4:15  
Oh, yeah, we've talked about that before. Yeah.

Melissa Albers  4:17  
And it's it's like, over 90% of the thoughts that the human brain has are repetitive, meaning every single day that the quote was around how many per day? And I think that's super interesting, right? It's like, because there's the habit. There's the habit, the brain just is kind of on autopilot most of the time.

JJ Parker  4:39  
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, if if we had to make conscious effort to think about even our morning routine of brushing our teeth and yeah, and eating and, and all that it would be really, it would be tough. We wouldn't get anything done. Yeah. So yeah. So habits are awesome in that way, right? And the other if you start bringing some of that stuff to the extreme of habits, what I started thinking about is like, it could be in our job, this easiest to think about like in as like a, like professional sports player, right? Mm hmm. professional athletes have practiced these actions over and over and over and over so many times, and they're so precise in their habits. Oh, yeah, those actions are so dialed in, ready, they're able to perform at these like, on unbelievable levels is amazing levels.

Melissa Albers  5:42  
Yeah. Did you see that? Did you see that super cool. program that was talking about professional athletes and how when they are when they hook up all the like electrodes and stuff to the athlete's brain, whether the athlete is actually doing the task that they have practiced in their practice a million times their habit? Or if they just are thinking about it, like processing it mentally picturing it, the brain fires in the exact same way. Hmm. I think that's really interesting. Because the that that tells you again, exactly what you're saying is that habit of thinking is so in alignment with the habit of doing or the habit of action.

JJ Parker  6:20  
Yep. Yeah. And that's when that's when athletes would feel like, on fire or in the flow, or, you know, all those terms that we use that make it be like, Hey, this is effortless. Yeah. And I think that the feeling that that effortless feeling, likely comes from habit, it comes from this mastery that we have, and the brain's ability to form those habits, I think, is where, like the key to all of that, right.

Melissa Albers  6:53  
Yeah. I mean, I think there's a lot of places in our lives where habits are very positive and very, very helpful. Like, I mean, just like being a parent, teaching children habits, you know, like that can make, especially when you have very, very young children, having them be in routine and having them be in habitual activities, gives them a sense of right and wrong, gives them sort of their fences about how they're supposed to be to stay safe to stay close to eat, you know, to be in school, all those things. We're teaching habits, that can be very, very helpful. Yeah.

JJ Parker  7:31  
Yeah. I wonder if habits in some way, was even like, a primal survival tactic for him?

Melissa Albers  7:40  
Yeah, that's really interesting. That's really interesting. And I think that you can tie habits to not just high performance with athletes, but you know, you can have habits at work. Yes, that make you a high high performer? Yep. You know, you can have habits at work that help you be efficient, and be at the top of your game.

JJ Parker  8:09  
Yeah, for sure. Yeah, those, I think those are really important. I mean, right, we're using the athlete example, but they definitely apply to all profession and art.

Melissa Albers  8:21  
Yeah, you know, and I would say to like, I remember being a salesperson when I was really young, and, and being going to classes, going to professional sales training on how to be a good salesperson. And if you think about it, like they were giving you one or two anchoring ideas, that would be good practice, to be a good salesperson and to have success and sell a lot. But what they were mostly doing is teaching you the habit of living in your day. So that the things that you were doing, were specifically targeted at being successful at sales, they were teaching you habits teaching you ways of being like, for example, I had to keep a record of every single sale that I made every day in one of my jobs. And by doing that, then the administrator that was in our office, that was my helper, she would tally those numbers at the end of the day, too. And she would use that to either push me or to congratulate me on what that day looked like and compare it to what was expected for the rest of the week. So that habit of checking in more consistently helped, because it would you know, otherwise. And there were when I first started, I didn't do a good job with that to the point where she actually sat me down and she said, You are not going to be successful in life unless you start doing some of these things. And that was one of them. Because she said if you don't stay stay up on that daily, you're never going to know by the end of the week if you've been successful or not. Yeah, so just that habit of checking every single day. What my numbers were? Yeah, was a really important habit to learn.

JJ Parker  10:05  
Yeah. Yeah, that's interesting. So, I read a book called The Power of Habit, which I thought was pretty interesting A while back. It was by Charles duhigg. And he talked a lot about in the book cue routine and reward. This and this is obviously this is a, this is a more like, mental, you know, intellectual kind of book about habit. You know, sometimes we talked about this was all about like, the brain wiring and how the brain or the science behind habits, right. Like cue, routine, and reward and that seems pretty simple, right? Like the way the brain forms habits is you get a cue. Right?

Melissa Albers  10:58  
So give an example. Okay, a cue

JJ Parker  11:00  
your alarm goes off. routine. I hit snooze four times.

Melissa Albers  11:09  
I know that cannot be true.

JJ Parker  11:12  
I don't know the reward for that is that I get to stay in my warm bed.

Melissa Albers  11:19  
Thank you. You get hungry, like all of a sudden your stomach goes. Oh my gosh, I'm hungry. Right alone. 30.

JJ Parker  11:24  
Yeah, or? Yo, I get in the morning. queue like I walked down stairs. routine. I make coffee. Hmm. reward is I get to taste. Warm coffee. Yeah. Right. So

Melissa Albers  11:42  
caffeine hit. Don't forget that.

JJ Parker  11:44  
Yeah, actually, that's it right. For this. Yeah, Miko, caffeine. Totally. And all of us coffee drinkers are probably well aware of what happens when we don't get that little coffee of reward in the morning. Right? Right. We pretty much think about coffee all day, until we

Melissa Albers  12:04  
get that and get a headache or you just don't feel

JJ Parker  12:08  
you got fired. Right? We didn't get our routine and we didn't get our reward. Yeah. So all morning, you're like, well, how, where am I gonna get coffee? Where's the where's the caribou?

Melissa Albers  12:19  
What can I use instead?

JJ Parker  12:24  
So forming those or, you know, having having that structure to understand how, how you form habits.

Melissa Albers  12:34  
Yeah. And the premise of his book, then, just so like I understand it. So you're saying the whole premise of his book is understanding what your cues are. And then or the process of a habit is your first you get some kind of cue? And then you know, that you're you naturally go towards a habit, because that cue is fired you to go do this thing that you do all the time.

JJ Parker  12:55  
Yeah, he calls it a routine. Yeah, it's just like, whatever you're gonna do. Uh huh. That's the action part.

Melissa Albers  13:00  
Okay. So then then you get the payoff of what you were waiting for. And so that q gets paid off because of the actions and stuff in the middle. Yeah. Okay. I gotcha.

JJ Parker  13:10  
So hopefully, for your sales story. Yeah. Your routine was tracking your sales and your reward was,

Melissa Albers  13:17  
yeah, not getting yelled at by Mary

JJ Parker  13:19  
pile of cash.

Melissa Albers  13:22  
And some cash, but you just didn't want to get in trouble by Maryland. That was way bigger.

JJ Parker  13:30  
What's interesting about your story, versus the coffee example?

Melissa Albers  13:34  
Yeah,

JJ Parker  13:34  
I think is the delay between routine and reward. Mm hmm. Right. That's, that's an interesting thing. And a lot of that is interest functions. Yeah. We need to have, we need to have a habit to give us future success.

Melissa Albers  13:52  
Yep.

JJ Parker  13:53  
But that record actually doesn't come till way later.

Melissa Albers  13:57  
Yeah. That's such a good. I'm glad you noticed that. Because there's a You're right. The business is very much like that.

JJ Parker  14:05  
Yeah. And it's really hard. It's really hard. You can see, I can pretty clearly see people in our organization that are able to deal with that super delayed gratification. Yeah. Have some art. Yes. I'm not saying that's good or bad. It is

Melissa Albers  14:26  
right. I actually think it also has something to do with the personality traits of the individual. Here have a high sense of urgency. You do want payoffs faster.

JJ Parker  14:34  
Yeah. There was that there was that? That test? Like in the 50s, with kids called the marshmallow test. Oh, yeah. I remember the marshmallow test where they like would put a marshmallow and a kid in a room and tell the kid not to eat the marshmallow

Melissa Albers  14:50  
with a two way mirror.

JJ Parker  14:55  
And it would like gauge the kids like ability to delay their driving. vacation.

Melissa Albers  15:03  
Remember that little boy? Oh my gosh, I just remember the little boy poking at the marshmallow looking at it. His eyes are really big. And he looked around and you could just see his brain. Oh, anyway.

JJ Parker  15:16  
Let's not get distracted.

Melissa Albers  15:18  
Yeah, too much too bad already distracted.

JJ Parker  15:22  
The one thing I wanted to mention about the Power of Habit book that the the quote from it that I thought was the most helpful to me. Yeah, understanding habit. He says, To change a habit, you must keep the old cue, deliver the old reward, but insert a new routine. Right. So the cue is going to happen, right? Yeah. Keep the reward, but you get to insert new routine. So for example. Like I think about, like, drinking, like having an alcoholic beverage at night, right? Mm hmm. The routine of, hey, I've had a long day. Come home. Have a beer. Yeah, right. That is such a perfect example of this. Because if you've been doing that for a long time, it's really hard to break that habit. Yeah, right. Yep. Come home. Have a beer. Yeah. So you've got the cue routine, and the reward and the reward with alcohol is like, again, just like coffee, right? It's like the chemical response your brain. Yeah. chemically addicted to that.

Melissa Albers  16:45  
Yeah, makes you feel more relaxed or chills you out after you've been stressed or whatever.

JJ Parker  16:50  
So that's a harder tend to break for a lot of people. If you want to break that, that habit. That one's really tough. Yeah. So it's interesting to use this model where How could you keep the cue have a very similar board? But changed that middle section? Yeah. routines. How

Melissa Albers  17:09  
do you reckon? like in this example, what would be an alternative? Do you have any idea? I'm just curious if that's an interesting one?

JJ Parker  17:18  
Well, for I think, I mean, obviously, that is going to be individual, like that's gonna be sure person, right. So

Melissa Albers  17:27  
like, in this situation, though, like what I'm just picturing to help expand on this idea a little bit is like, you get home from work and you have this cue, it's like, oh, okay, I'm gonna, I'm gonna pop open my Coors Light, right, or whatever it is.

JJ Parker  17:41  
So when I've experimented with changing this habit, personally, yeah, I have to still have something to drink. Like, but I switch it. I I'll switch it with tea with like, hot to make hot tea. So I'm able to like, have a cue. Yeah. Change the routine to drinking tea? Nah, yeah. A beer.

Melissa Albers  18:04  
Yeah.

JJ Parker  18:06  
And in that case, the the reward is Al and then I also part of that routine is I usually just like, sit quietly by myself. Relaxing Part Four. Yeah, it's, you know, as an introvert, that's like a little recharge moment.

Melissa Albers  18:24  
Yeah. Yeah. Well, because what I was actually translating in this topic is, like, if you think about people that are I mean, we're constantly talking about dieting, right? Lose 10 pounds, you know, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Everybody always talks about dieting. And I just start thinking about this example in that because I think also when people come home from work, they're really, they may be very hungry. And the cue is, I'm home, I'm going to put on my jammy pants, or I'm done with work, I'm going to turn my computer off and go upstairs or out of my office. And now it's time to be, quote, be at home and networking. So I'm going to do what I always do, which is start eating, you know, and I'm going to eat whatever is handy because I don't really have time to cook. But my routine is I have to have a snack right when I'm done working. Yeah. So like in that situation. The example that you're giving would be sort of like, you have the cue, you still want to do that. You slightly change the routine. So maybe, I don't know, maybe you have some alternative foods that are healthier. And then the reward is you still get to unplug, sit at your island or your bar or your table and you still get to eat something so your stomach isn't so hungry before you have dinner. But it's just making a different choice. Maybe changing the routine a little bit up In the middle of that, so the end result being slightly different, but still being the same kind of reward? Yeah, that's really interesting because I think that there's a lot of times where we have these habits that we think are helpful. Right? We have these ideas that if I just do this, I will feel better. If I just behave in this exact way, every single time I can compete against myself, or I can be better than anybody else. If I just keep practicing these habits. Yeah. And then I think a lot of times, not maybe not a lot of times, but often, that habit can then flip and become something that's not very helpful.

JJ Parker  20:48  
Yeah, that you're almost like more maybe dependent on or it's so ingrained that, yeah, it's not serving you anymore. That's the interesting thing for me about habits is that there's a lot of habits that Well, first, I think habits are surprisingly easy to develop.

Melissa Albers  21:10  
Yeah,

JJ Parker  21:11  
I think they come on real easy. And they come on subtle, right? Like, oh, I did it twice. Third time, then you just like it says, the more you do it, the easier it is a bus you notice. And then all of a sudden, boom doing like the same thing for three years in a row.

Melissa Albers  21:27  
Yeah. And you can't get out of it no matter what. And then

JJ Parker  21:29  
yeah, and then it's so ingrained, it's so hard to stop. Yeah, so I think that's really so starting, even though you don't maybe consciously start a habit. Getting into a habit easy. Changing a habit, it's really hard. So it's an interesting kind of thing in life, right? Where it just slowly creeps on. But to stop it, it's real hard. Yeah. And, and but the other thing about habits, I think is interesting is how often do you just like stop and take like an inventory of all of the habits that you're doing in your daily life and say, Oh, this is this one? Do I still want to keep doing this one? Or do I stop that one and add a different one? Right? No, you don't really do that. You're not really taking habits inventory?

Melissa Albers  22:20  
I actually think that would be an interesting, well, maybe it would be interesting, or maybe it would make you feel not very good.

JJ Parker  22:28  
might be the second one. I don't know. But it would be interested. That is that is an interesting exercise. Like, is this is this habit serving me? Yeah, still. The other thing about habits that I've noticed, as we've been talking about some very plain in your everyday kind of obvious habits, right. But there is a lot of habitual behavior that you've got programmed into your brain. that triggers are cues. And you do a routine and you don't know where that came from. Because you can't even remember you had that habit. Yeah, right stuff from childhood. Yeah. You know, there is there are work things, right. I actually had a story of an early podcast about how as a jackass at work one day, that was absolutely triggered from a cue routine. From early in my career. Yeah. And I didn't realize I didn't realize it.

Melissa Albers  23:32  
Yeah, I think that happens a lot. I think that's

JJ Parker  23:35  
the way we react to people. And the way we react to situations might be because of an old habit that's not serving us anymore.

Melissa Albers  23:43  
Yeah, you know what I can give a personal one that I know exactly what you're talking about. When I was younger, I had this sense that I was, I was I always needed to be better. Like I needed to be better I needed to, like I. And I want to say it wasn't based on ego, it was actually based on the reverse that I had, I was very insecure. And so like, I would want to be the person who had like, the funniest joke, or the one who could, you know, speak first, in a group always like that was a really big thing when I was really young. And that was based on me feeling insecure, but the habits that were formed as a result of that actually put me in a worse position than had I not had those habits at all. Because I think it made me with some people, not very, not a very favorable person to be around. You know, and I think we all know people that in a group setting, they may interrupt a lot, because they want to get the they want to get the first word and the last word, they want to look the best. those are those are things that have come up from a really long time ago. And they don't maybe recognize that they're there. Now so that's a the so what you're offering is really interesting to think about. And, and I think sometimes those habits, we actually think those habits make us feel better in the moment. You know, but they don't they actually make it harder on us. Some of our habits, I think, make it harder.

JJ Parker  25:21  
I think I think habits do make us generally feel good. Because thinking takes a lot of energy. Mm hmm. Right. Like, as a person, if you if it's funny, like if you think about thinking, but the activity of thinking, right, if you have to sit down and you have to, you know, write something, or you really have to use your brain a lot. Yeah, takes energy, right? Yes, sure does. When you do something out of habit, and it's effortless. It doesn't take much energy, and actually, in a lot of ways feels better than having to do the work of using your brain. That's hard. So I think the human brain likes using habits because it is actually it does actually feel better, even though it might produce negative results.

Melissa Albers  26:11  
Yeah, yeah. That's really interesting. I mean, it's kind of like an

JJ Parker  26:15  
and I think brains are lazy. brains are lazy.

Melissa Albers  26:23  
Even if they go really, really, really fast, like Roger Rabbit, they're still components of it that are very lazy, very lazy. Well, this has been a really interesting conversation, and I think it would be well worth the time to consider your own habits, you know, fit. And I think the habits can be, you know, just to be really broad about it. I think habits can be physical habits. You know, like, I'm gonna I'm gonna eat well for a week so that on Friday night, I can eat a huge Sunday and feel terrible the rest of the night. I mean, it could be physical habits. It could be mental habits like thinking patterns. They could it could also be emotional habits. You know, where you naturally go to a certain routine emotionally. Because it's served you somehow it would be really interesting for people to be able to sort of take their inventory of habits and see what they find and if those habits are still serving them.

JJ Parker  27:16  
Yeah, that sounds good. I'm gonna I'm gonna do that. I'm gonna make a habit spreadsheet