Tag Archives: Charles Duhigg

Doable Change

Changing a habit can be more doable than you think!  We get mired in habits, and we get stuck in behaviors that are actually habits.  The stuckness seems unchangeable…kind of the definition of stuck, isn’t it?  I think there is a way to gain more traction on change that you might not have thought of or applied.  But first, let me point out some things about habits and how they work – just a bit of information.

‘The Power of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg, is a great resource about how habits work and affect us.  The author’s main point is that you can’t stop the cue or trigger from happening — ‘What you CAN do is change the routine or actions you take!’  Instead of having that piece of Dutch apple pie you are craving, you can have an apple.

The second thing to consider is: What are your habits?  What do you do that is so routine you don’t even think about it?  Habits are how you fold your socks or biting your nails.  Sometimes we set them up on purpose to keep us feeling safe or prepared.  I personally have a well-established routine each morning that includes tasks like making the bed, cleaning the cat box, and putting away the dishes left to dry overnight.  It’s a groove that works very well and has served me for years.

A less effective one I have is saving the special food I like best for my last bite. I really noticed it a while back when I took myself to lunch at my favorite Sushi place.  I truly loved everything I ordered and was really stuck trying to figure out what to eat first and what to save for last!

So we have habits of all kinds – bad ones, good ones, silly ones, neutral ones…on and on it goes. Start noticing what is behind the habit — Did you start it based on something that happened in your life?  What was its original purpose?  and do you still want/need that habit?

What is a habit you really wish you could change?  Perhaps, one that you have tried and tried to shift but are still stuck in, or even think there is just no way out of it?   Maybe you really aren’t ready to break it, or really down deep like repeating it?

Either way, I’d like you to consider this new idea I’ve been exploring with some clients.  The thought process has to do with confidence.  This involves truly believing that you actually can change if you truly want to.  You don’t have to bare-knuckle your way through!  By combining and exchanging the routine or actions you take with the added knowledge that you absolutely can change!

What?!! Change?  Impossible!  That’s probably what your ever-present ‘Inner Critic‘ is telling you.  I contend that you can remodel your thinking because you have absolutely changed before!  It turns out that reminding yourself of a habit you managed to shift sometime earlier in your life actually bolsters your ability to change now. In addition, the habit you previously modified doesn’t have to be in any way related to the pattern you are trying to change now!

Realizing that if you quit smoking years ago, you could also change the penchant for buying way too many shoes now.   You can shift from ‘It’s not possible!’ to ‘Change is possible because I did it before…and I’m more effective now.’  Of course, I can!

You might need more support around building your confidence than just noticing that you succeeded before.  If so what do you know really helps you change your thinking and actions?  It might be talking to a good friend, or maybe listening to a hypnotherapy recording based on what you want to change.

So revision just might be more doable than you thought.  Not necessarily easy. It may just be that you choose to not change.   And if that’s the case isn’t it better to actually choose not to change than to feel like you just can’t change?

Things often come down to refocusing our perspective.  Transforming habits, including ones around money, is doable.  Figure out what you really want and own it!


Shell Tain, The Untangler

Tension Pattern Breaking

As humans it seems like there is only so much we can take before we explode.  We’ve all been there, to some degree, at some time.  We find something is so frustrating we just sort of snap.  What I’ve noticed in working with clients is that there is often a pattern—or dare I say a “dance”—to this progression.

Think for a moment about how couples fight. There is a dance to that right?  She says X, he says Y, then she counters with X on steroids, and he follows with Y on steroids, and they are off to the races.  It’s a well worn groove in their relationship.

Unfortunately, these patterns can be harmful and destructive to us and others.  And they are deeply ingrained, whether it shows up in road rage or the same argument over and over with a family member.

How do you know if you are stuck in one of these places?  Well, it shows up like your own personal ‘Ground Hog Day’ movie.  You keep repeating the events.  You have the same arguments, with the same results.  Perhaps you keep falling into the same traps in your family?  You to do something to try and please them, and find yourself being criticized for it.  Then maybe you blow up at being treated that way, and then end up having to apologize.  Somehow,  a couple of weeks later, it all happens again.  Yipes!

Yes, it’s messy, complex stuff, and it can have you feeling trapped and helpless.

There are all sorts of ways to deal with this.  I’d like to share some thoughts I have about one way that you may not have considered to both look at it and to change the pattern.

Long ago I read a piece in a book that was about the tension of seeing and wanting the shoes in the shop window.  The author talked about the tension that the desire created, and how it builds.  He then pointed out that the way the tension gets relieved is that you actually buy the shoes!  This a really interesting revelation to me, and really has helped me with a lot of clients.  The recognition that we can only take the tension so long, and then we somehow have to resolve it.  (I would love to share the book with you, but it turns out I have no clue as to where I read it!!!)

So that relief of the tension thing is what happens with a lot of those places where we are frustrated beyond our edge and some how lash out.  We don’t want to keep running around in circles, but we feel stuck, so we do something that resolves it, ends the event, blows things up—whatever.

That leads me to a different book and an idea on one effective way to change this.  This book I have and know!  It’s The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.  He talks about how habits have a Trigger — Routine — Reward pattern.  While we are talking about these negative results allow me to take the liberty of changing one word to make his process more accessible to our challenging situations.  My re frame is Trigger — Routine — Result.

Take a moment to see how this pattern of Trigger — Routine — Result  shows up in the places where you get emotionally challenged and caught.  The Trigger is the thing that gets it started.  It’s seeing the shoes, or noticing that something is happening that you don’t like. The Routine is what you do in response to the trigger.  For example you pine and fret about the shoes, or you complain about what you don’t like.  The Result is you buy the shoes, or end up in an argument.  Your example may, of course, be more complex and sophisticated.

Okay, we are up to the place where we change the behavior!  And the change is all about the Routine.  It’s really the important thing to change.  Most of the time you don’t have control over the Trigger because it’s about what someone else said or did.  But you do have a choice around the routine.  You can choose to do something different!  Duhigg’s book really is all about  the idea that we can’t just stop a habit or pattern—we can replace it.  I love this idea.  Part of why I love it is that it reinforces the notion that we have to do something different if we want different results.  So if you change your routine, or response, to the trigger you will create different results.

Try it out, perhaps start with something that isn’t emotionally charged and see if you can’t create a different Result by changing your Response to an old Trigger!  It’s worth trying!


Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d like some support in changing your messier patterns, just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.


The other day, in a conversation with a friend, I realized that it’s not the Multi-Tasking that’s impossible—it’s the Multi-Thinking!  I can do two things at once as long as one of them requires little or no thought.  For example, folding laundry while talking on the phone with a friend.  I can do that!

I both knit and sew (not simultaneously), and can do either one while watching TV.  But to some degree it depends on the complexity of the craft and the complexity of the television program.  If the program is to engrossing, the knitting trails off.  If the sewing requires some problem solving the TV gets put on pause.

Frankly I am no longer a ‘spring chicken’—cluck, cluck—and it is much more challenging to do Multi-Thinking tasks.  As a CFO I remember walking down the hallmultitasking at work and having multiple employees ask me all sorts of questions about varied topics in rapid succession.  At the time I relished it.  It was sort of like being on a Quiz Show with all the questions being in the category of Accounting and Business.  It was true Multi-Thinking.

One of the main reasons that I think Multi-Tasking out lasts Multi-Thinking as we age is habit.  “The Power of Habit”, by Charles Duhigg was quite illuminating on how much habit supports our daily lives.  Those routines are ingrained.  I fold laundry a certain way.  I’ve done it that way for years.  It’s a task I don’t have to think about.  It’s a habit.

Cooking is a habit and routine that is often easy for me.  However, if I’m following a recipe and having to go step by step it shifts from being routine to needing thinking.  If a friend it talking to me while I’m cooking I have to keep reminding myself of what’s next.  So when the routine gets interrupted, the Multi-Thinking gets challenged.

Remember that study that showed that when we are interrupted at work it takes more than 20 minutes to get our heads back where they were?  Perhaps that too has to do with Multi- Thinking vs Multi-Tasking?

Which brings me to another point.  Naming this idea Multi-Thinking really clarifies and distinguishes which things I can combine together and which things I can’t.  It’s all in what I name it isn’t it?

For many years now I’ve contended that a major part of the problem with the acceptance of climate change is the name “Global Warming”. I call it “Global Weirding”—and that is right on.  Weather is getting weird!

So there is value in having a name for something!  It lets us think about and hold it differently. We become more adept at managing it.

Here we are in September, when many of us really get back into our work lives.  What might be different if you make the distinction and allow a bit of Multi-Tasking, while banning Multi-Thinking?


Shell Tain, The Untangler

Want to explore this Multi-Thinking idea a bit more? Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com