The Importance of Building Good Habits
Understanding how our habits are formed and the relationship between this and Alpha State helps us make better decisions and commit to forming good habits in the first place, which is essential for staying safe in a constantly changing work environment.
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About The Importance of Building Good Habits
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1. Habit Learning Lite
2. Habit We all have habits. Some good and some bad. It’s the way we have learned to do things based on repeating a task, or sequence of tasks. Think about driving for a moment – if you’ve been driving for a while it probably feels like “Second Nature”. The individual tasks needed to drive a car have become habits. More about that later!
3. Why is it important? Understanding how our habits are formed and the relationship between this and Alpha State helps us make better decisions and commit to forming good habits in the first place. Good habits help keep us safe, however the changing environment in which we work means that this “second nature” working can lead to injuries…. To put another way…If we were operating in a; never changing environment, without any external influence, on our own and in full control of all the outcomes – it’s fine! BUT… we don’t work that way, which is why we look at building good habits in the first place.
4. Why is this a principle of Behaviour Based Safety? Our behaviours are everything we do and everything we say. If we build good, useful habits we can avoid rude awakenings and reduce the number of mistakes we make. If we understand what’s happening in our brains when we are doing a familiar task that has become second nature we can keep an eye out for these sorts of tasks and look after eachother better.
5. How are Habits formed? Simply put, by repeating a task an average of 21 times. The actual number depends on how complicated the task is, how interested or engaged we are with it and what the benefit of getting good or familiar at it is. Each time you do something a pathway in the brain is written. Repeating the task the same way over and over (around 21 times) strengthens that pathway.
6. How are Habits formed? Once that pathway has been written we become able to do things almost without thinking. We don’t need to pay 100% conscious attention to the task anymore. Which is where Alpha State comes in. Once a habit is formed the task feels like second nature. You might find yourself doing something automatically. Habits include how you make your tea or coffee, drive, work or how you think and feel.
7. How are Habits formed? Let’s use that driving example again… Think about learning to drive. At first each distinct action – every clutch press, mirror check, acceleration, gear change probably felt clunky or clumsy. You probably had to concentrate very hard on each task at first. Now that you drive regularly, you do it without thinking. How many times did you have to check your mirror this morning on the drive to work?
8. How are Habits formed? So….we have a well defined good habit, what happens in our brains? Well, now that we don’t need to concentrate on that task, we can unconsciously perform it. Our unconscious minds have it “nailed”. We can think of other things as well as the task we are performing. In our driving example, that’s why we have eye level brake lights. Seeing that flash of red when we drive brings us back to 100% awareness to take evasive action. So what happens if we are tired, or stressed, or under pressure or if a safe walking route has been changed and we did not understand a briefing about it or have anyone around us looking out for us? We will keep behaving according to our habit and potentially put ourselves or others at risk of harm.
9. How are Habits changed? If it takes around 21 times to build a habit, it takes around 100 times to change a habit. Just think about that for a moment. It’s just under 5 times the effort! That’s because that pathway we have built in our brains needs to be overwritten with a different way of doing things. It’s much harder work. And why do we change the way we do things? Either as a result of a rule change, a change in site layout, a briefing or a rude awakening like a close call or an actual injury, or maybe because we just decide to…
10. What can you do? It’s understanding this relationship between Habit and Habit that can help us look at how we brief changes to work plans, site layout and walking routes. If it’s a change to something that’s been in place for a while, set up a buddy system and let your people know it’s ok to challenge each other if it looks like the old method / route is being done or taken. Remember that other people will be following your example – they will be building habits as a result. Think about the habits you have, do you need to change anything? If a loved one was doing something the same way you do, would you stop them or would you say “well done”?
11. Remember We can make the choice to build a good habit. We need to be aware of the habits of others We need to respect other people’s ideas and beliefs when we challenge what people are doing and suggesting a different way of doing things We can always ask questions and check understanding. Be patient when people have to change the way things are done – they aren’t being slow, their brains are re-writing those pathways!
12. So what have we learnt? • Building habits are a completely natural thing and it happens when we are learning or repeating a particular activity • It takes 21 times to make a habit • And a whopping 100 times to change a habit • It’s hard work to change a bad habit and replace it with a good habit and that decision to change may be as a result of a rule change, site change or even an injury • We need to respect other people’s ideas and beliefs when we challenge what people are doing and suggesting a different way of doing things • If we build good, useful habits we can avoid rude awakenings and reduce the number of mistakes we make