HABITS

Habits
by Dennis R. McGough, Ph.D.

Have you ever left work at the end of a challenging day, got behind the wheel of your car and then after a time, found yourself in your driveway? You can’t remember the specifics of the drive home, but sure enough, you arrived safely. You might wonder, “How did I get here?” Experiences of this nature, while perhaps a little unnerving, demonstrate the power that habits can have in our lives. The drive home from work is repeated over and over again, to the point that we occasionally make the trip on “autopilot”.

In his excellent book, THE POWER OF HABIT, New York Times business writer Charles Duhigg explains that habits are formed through a psychological process called a habit loop. The habit loop has three parts, the cue or trigger, the habitual action, and the reward, something that our brain uses to help us remember the habit loop in the future. Once we have formed a habit, our brain uses the habit loop to determine what we will do in a particular situation.

Habits can be very useful. As detailed in the classic book, SEVEN HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE, Dr. Stephen R. Covey, explains that habits allow us to deal with routine situations without having to think them through each time we face them. Habits can be good or bad. Most of us don’t have to think too long to come up with a few bad habits we would like to change.

Albert Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. While insanity might be a rather harsh descriptor, it’s clear that in order to change a result of an interaction, we must find a different way to deal with the challenge.

Everyone faces conflicts in his or her life. Some are minor and quickly get resolved, like who will pick up the kids after basketball practice. Others, however, are more significant, and may remain unresolved because we use the same habitual approach to deal with the challenge. As Einstein pointed out, we can’t expect a different outcome unless we find a new way to deal with the problem.

Mediation can be a fresh, new way to deal with a conflict. People come together in a neutral environment and work face-to-face with a trained mediator to develop a mutually acceptable resolution to their differences. Mediation Services of Adams County, a non-profit organization, is dedicated to helping people resolve their disputes. MSCA provides trained mediators, whose goal is to help individuals develop acceptable solutions to conflict situations. To explore how mediation could help you, contact MSAC at 717-334-7312, mediationac@yahoo.com online, or see our website at http://www.mediateadams.org.

Dennis R. McGough, Ph.D., is an MSAC board member, retired business executive and retired faculty member of the Masters in Industrial/Organizational Psychology Program, University of New Haven, West Haven, Connecticut.