I have watched with sadness and awe as the impact of COVID-19 has impacted so many lives. From those who have lost their lives, the relatives who must grieve in a new way, the front line workers managing to stay afloat and even smile… To the thousands of people across the globe who now face even more uncertainty as they try to navigate the aftermath and keep themselves, their families and their incomes safe.
We are living through a period of seismic global change, and as with those that mankind has experienced throughout history, from the 2008 financial crash to the second world war, these major disruption events have caused a significant cultural shift. Following the second world war we became more collaborative, building strength through union in the European Community. After the 2008 crash we started ‘speaking up’; integrity and trust building behaviours really came to the fore.
But what does COVID-19 mean for behavioural shift and habit forming?
We are living through the biggest behavioural experiment for many years… quickly adapting to the new conditions. Clients have been asking how they can take the positives out of the disruption; how can they keep positive new ways and keep them going. So, here’s my personal COVID-19 habit-forming story which might just give you some tips for you and your organisation.
Lockdown has been an ‘interesting’ time for me. A few months ago I was a person very much on the go- everywhere and anywhere at the drop of a hat, more familiar with the guard on the Sheffield to London train than my own husband. I now feel like I’ve gone through the ‘back of the wardrobe’ and emerged in a Narnia-like experience. This hasn’t always felt easy and ‘itchy feet’ has been an understatement. What I’ve learnt to do is recognise the emotions, naming them and just sitting with the discomfort – in time, discomfort has transitioned as I have become used to the new environment. And by sitting with it and not forcing anything, things have started to come into better focus and I’m realising what’s important.
Habit Hack #1 – sit with the uncertainty and discomfort - when we try something new, we might feel uncomfortable – sit with it, accept it, recognise it for what it is
In my lockdown life I have really started to think about what’s important and what I value. I’ve flirted with lots of new things and revisited some old. I started jigsaws, embroidery (it’s a cross stich I started in 1997), cooking, running, bounce classes, online singing, online courses, reading, virtual bootcamps… Not surprisingly, many have fallen by the wayside before the habit was a million miles away from being formed. Why? Because the ones I have kept up with, I now notice, are those that make me happy me AND are important.
So, I’ve narrowed it down:
- Running for peace and lung function
- Virtual bootcamp for humour (you should see my burpees!), companionship and fitness
- Cooking because I love it
- Reading because I can escape and be still all at the same time
- Gardening because I take pleasure from supporting something to grow and it soothes me.
Habit Hack #2 – give yourself a fighting chance – select habits that excite and engage you
I’ve also learnt that I can over-complicate… and so I have it simple now, for example, I do bootcamp 3 days per week on set days, every week. It’s in my diary and its in my garage – no dumbbells required, no toned and tanned goddesses to navigate.
Habit Hack #3 – simple is sustainable
I also need help to keep going. My fitness watch monitors movement and the intensity of my exercise and gives me a version of a cattle prod shock when I haven’t moved or exercised enough. I tell my friends which book I’m reading so they ask me about it, reminding me to dust it off and pick it up again. On the gardening front, I send my two gardening club mates pictures of my sprouting tomatoes and beans. By sharing the stories, vocalising my goals, and celebrating the wins I have kept them going.
Habit Hack #4 – nudge, nudge, nudge – little prompts often go along way as does saying your goal out loud to some who will help hold you to account
And even with all these simple habits that excite me and that I value, with the bleeping watch and having told my family I’m going out for a 5k before I sit down to work, I’m still sitting here at 3pm in my running kit, not having done my second morning run of the week. But that’s Ok – I’m tired and I’m just not in the mood. And now that I have told you all – I’m going to have to strap those shoes on and get going or I won’t feel I’ve earned tonight’s pizza.
Habit Hack #5 be your own compassionate friend – sometimes we fall off the perch, sometimes we don’t get up so quickly – it’s OK – if its important you will rise again