We all have habits. But the habit of coping? Ugh!

I love the word, “Ugh!” It’s so expressive!!!

None of us need to be psychologists to know that our habits (also known as patterns of behavior) play a role in defining our quality of life on a daily basis.

If you’re thinking this discussion to be mundane, consider the following facts. Even though the U.S. “performs very well in many measures of well-being relative to most other countries” (Better Life Index), we only come in at #15 on the happiness scale according to the 2015 World Happiness Report. And to make matters worse “our level of happiness has gone down since 2005.”

Maybe we can put a dent in these numbers.  Let’s start here: we all have habits.

Habits are… habits. Things we do because – it’s a habit.

We habitually “respond” to things the same way.

Habits are not always bad.

We do have good habits.

We are thankful for them!

But then there are the other ones…  Like the habit of coping. Yes, sometimes it’s a necessary choice. I had a coaching client tell me recently, “Look, it’s easier and safer that way sometimes.” Ok, there’s nothing wrong with easy and safe, so sometimes it’s a smart choice.

The key word here is “sometimes.”

Then there are other times when choosing to cope can sell us short. When it becomes a habit especially in response to situations that keep producing the same disappointing, frustration results – well, now we’ve got a problem. Now we’ve got a pattern of behavior that is just plain counterproductive.

How do we break habits – the habits we want and need to break? First step, get basic – “Check Yourself.” Don’t just react to challenges and roadblocks, but step back and consciously discern what you actually do that keeps producing the same disappointing, frustrating results (Principle #5, “Clearing the Way for Value-based Decision Making”).

It’s about getting a better handle on when “you go there” – when and where you defer to coping.

Could be in your personal or professional world. Could be in both. The point is to minimize the frequency of times that you defer to your patterns of behavior that are counterproductive. Instead, to have the choice even in the face of challenges and roadblocks, to access clearer thinking and make decisions based on what you truly care about – your values.

How do you “Check Yourself?” Here are some specifics:

  1. Notice the when and the what. Is your coping habit situation specific? Do you for example, have an automatic response to certain work relationship(s) that continually feel frustrating and produce disappointing results?
  2. Recognize your coping mechanism(s). Pay attention to everything. What do you do? Do you shut down? Do you checkout? Do you “clam-up?” What about your body language? Do your shoulders slump? Does your breathing change? Do your head and your thinking get foggy?
  3. Don’t dismiss your feelings – whatever they are. Do you get angry, sad? Do you feel overwhelmed? Does a feeling of self-doubt set in?

Sinking to a “self-doubt” level of coping is definitely problematic and no fun at all! Many times, what signals a situation with which we’ve grown accustomed to coping is that almost immediate reaction of, “What am I gonna do?” The repetition of disappointing, frustrating results can beat us down, short circuiting our ability to think clearly and respond effectively.

Sometimes, despite our best thinking and efforts, we can’t seem to solve the problem or change the outcome. Gotta blame someone, right? Guess who’s the closest target? Enter self-doubt.

Sure, some situations can’t be fixed single handedly. But what if “the way we see the problem is the problem?” (Dr. Stephen Covey, 1989). That’s why “Checking yourself” makes sense. We’re stuck! We need to break things down!

Challenges, frustrations and disappointments, even those that are recurring, do not have to dictate our overall quality of life. Nor should any of us accept coping as defining the sum and substance of our day to day.

What’s the good news about “Checking yourself” as a strategy in all this? First and foremost you’re breaking a coping pattern. Now, you can pay closer attention to the important message(s) your entire being is sharing with you.

What’s the message? When your entire being – your mental, emotional, physical self is calling out to you, even to a point of engendering self-doubt and a shutdown of your ability to think clearly and find solutions – the message is clear: it’s your core values speaking, telling you they are being compromised!

This is not a happy place to be. But there is power in knowing your own truth. And there is certainly power in the act of reconnecting to your core values.

There are important next steps.  Having payed closer attention, heard the message and reconnected to your values, it’s time to act! With “clearer” thinking, even in the face of recurring challenges and roadblocks, you can access better choices and smarter behaviors, be a more effective partner, a better leader, and in the end, make stronger value-based decisions.

This is why I believe so strongly in the process of “Clearing the Way for Value- based Decision Making,” and why I love sharing it and working on it with others!

This attention to the exact details of our habits (patterns of behaviors) requires a significant level of self-care – for good reason. Self-care is not optional (Principle #1, “Clearing the Way for Value-based Decision Making”). Going through the process of “Checking yourself” doesn’t change you forever. But it does give you the health of self-awareness. It can reinvigorate choice and give you back the potential of your new day. You can feel a confidence again because you have unearthed important information about y-o-u!

An additional important note: I am aware especially when we think globally, that having the life circumstances that afford you the time and resources for self-care is not the norm. I also believe that experiencing good things in life is motivational.

Personal health and well-being is a good thing, anytime any of us can access it. What makes it even better is to pass it on – wherever and whenever we can!


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