The things you do regularly eventually run on autopilot. When you shower, how you drive, the food you eat, the clothes you wear, the people you choose to call friends, can vary, but they usually don’t by much. For the habits that you can reasonably depend upon for getting you closer to your goal, acting automatically can be a good thing. It is one less worry to think about.
However, if the automatic actions are detrimental to your success, the lack of thinking can be disastrous, and not just for you. Procrastination, just one more show, or glass, or puff, a regular discourtesy, biting words, a flip of the bird, could be seemingly unimportant decisions made in daily life. They become routine too, and those routines have lasting repercussions, which are increasingly difficult to change.
It starts as a deliberate process. You determine the activities you need to undertake that will produce, a hopefully desirable effect. After you’ve completed those actions and have been rewarded by results a few times, you find you’ve developed a habit. Either positive or negative, your behaviors tend to happen unconsciously.
At some point, you once again become aware. Maybe the result changed unexpectedly, or you become stymied by one of the actions you typically take. Suddenly you start to care about the process just as much or more than the result you had been getting. That is when you create protocols; the time honored and well-established rules that should be followed so you ensure you (and everyone else) “do it right”.
In time, there is a transition, typically from older to younger, and this knowledge, belief and training is passed down to the next group. Whether you pay attention to it or not there is usually some symbolism and a ceremony of sorts. It is a way to mark the transition and honor the past. Thus becomes a tradition. These are not holidays; they are the institutionalized beliefs and behaviors that lead to a myriad of results. Like achievement or poverty, drug addiction, heart disease, or resiliency.
Traditions are harder to break than habits though not impossible. It is not likely you celebrate your birthday the same way your grandfather did, although you may sing the same songs your grandmother and her grandmother did.
The process that creates your habits now can influence the traditions and beliefs of others well down the line. Perhaps, given that perspective the early decisions you routinely make could be less routine and more deliberate.
Karl Bimshas is a leadership consultant who collaborates with busy executives to improve the working relationships with their colleagues and direct reports to create high performing teams. He’s the author of “How to Stay When You Want to Quit; Strategies to get over yourself“.