Monthly Archives: April 2012

how leaders kill meaning at work

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Senior executives routinely undermine creativity, productivity, and commitment by damaging the inner work lives of their employees in four avoidable ways.

JANUARY 2012 • Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer

 

As a senior executive, you may think you know what Job Number 1 is: developing a killer strategy. In fact, this is only Job 1a. You have a second, equally important task. Call it Job 1b: enabling the ongoing engagement and everyday progress of the people in the trenches of your organization who strive to execute that strategy. A multiyear research project whose results we described in our recent book, The Progress Principle,1 found that of all the events that can deeply engage people in their jobs, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work.

Even incremental steps forward—small wins—boost what we call “inner work life”: the constant flow of emotions, motivations, and perceptions that constitute a person’s reactions to the events of the work day. Beyond affecting the well-being of employees, inner work life affects the bottom line.2 People are more creative, productive, committed, and collegial in their jobs when they have positive inner work lives. But it’s not just any sort of progress in work that matters. The first, and fundamental, requirement is that the work be meaningful to the people doing it.

In our book and a recent Harvard Business Review article,3 we argue that managers at all levels routinely—and unwittingly—undermine the meaningfulness of work for their direct subordinates through everyday words and actions. These include dismissing the importance of subordinates’ work or ideas, destroying a sense of ownership by switching people off project teams before work is finalized, shifting goals so frequently that people despair that their work will ever see the light of day, and neglecting to keep subordinates up to date on changing priorities for customers.

But what about a company’s most senior leaders? What is their role in making—or killing—meaning at work? To be sure, as a high-level leader, you have fewer opportunities to directly affect the inner work lives of employees than do frontline supervisors. Yet your smallest actions pack a wallop because what you say and do is intensely observed by people down the line.4 A sense of purpose in the work, and consistent action to reinforce it, has to come from the top.

Four traps

To better understand the role of upper-level managers, we recently dug back into our data: nearly 12,000 daily electronic diaries from dozens of professionals working on important innovation projects at seven North American companies. We selected those entries in which diarists mentioned upper- or top-level managers—868 narratives in all.

Qualitative analysis of the narratives highlighted four traps that lie in wait for senior executives. Most of these pitfalls showed up in several companies. Six of the seven suffered from one or more of the traps, and in only a single company did leaders avoid them. The existence of this outlier suggests that it is possible for senior executives to sustain meaning consistently, but that’s difficult and requires vigilance.

This article should help you determine whether you risk falling into some of these traps yourself—and unknowingly dragging your organization into the abyss with you. We also offer a few thoughts on avoiding the problems, advice inspired by the actions and words of a senior leader at the one company that did so.

We don’t claim to have all the answers. But we are convinced that executives who sidestep these traps reduce their risk of inadvertently draining meaning from the work of the people in their organizations. Those leaders also will boost the odds of tapping into the motivational power of progress—something surprisingly few do.

We surveyed 669 managers at all levels of management, from dozens of companies and various industries around the world. We asked them to rank the importance of five employee motivators: incentives, recognition, clear goals, interpersonal support, and progress in the work. Only 8 percent of senior executives ranked progress as the most important motivator. Had they chosen randomly,20 percent would have done so. In short, our survey showed that most executives don’t understand the power of progress in meaningful work.5 And the traps revealed by the diaries suggest that most executives don’t act as though progress matters. You can do better.

Trap 1: Mediocrity signals

Most likely, your company aspires to greatness, articulating a high purpose for the organization in its corporate mission statement. But are you inadvertently signaling the opposite through your words and actions?

We saw this dynamic repeatedly at a well-known consumer products company we’ll call Karpenter Corporation, which was experiencing a rapid deterioration in the inner work lives of its employees as a result of the actions of a new top-management team. Within three years of our studying Karpenter, it had become unprofitable and was acquired by a smaller rival.

Karpenter’s top-management team espoused a vision of entrepreneurial cross-functional business teams. In theory, each team would operate autonomously, managing its share of the company’s resources to back its own new-product innovations. During the year we collected data from Karpenter teams, the annual report was full of references to the company’s innovation focus; in the first five sentences, “innovation” appeared three times.

In practice, however, those top managers were so focused on cost savings that they repeatedly negated the teams’ autonomy, dictated cost reduction goals that had to be met before any other priorities were, and—as a result—drove new-product innovation into the ground. This unintended, de facto hypocrisy took its toll, as a diary excerpt from a longtime Karpenter product engineer emphasizes:

Today I found out that our team will be concentrating on [cost savings] for the next several months instead of any new products. . . . It is getting very difficult to concentrate on removing pennies from the standard cost of an item. That is the only place that we have control over. Most of the time, quality suffers. It seems that our competition is putting out new products at a faster rate. . . . We are no longer the leader in innovation. We are the followers.

This employee’s work had begun to lose its meaning, and he wasn’t alone. Many of the other 65 Karpenter professionals in our study felt that they were doing mediocre work for a mediocre company—one for which they had previously felt fierce pride. By the end of our time collecting data at Karpenter, many of these employees were completely disengaged. Some of the very best had left.

The mediocrity trap was not unique to Karpenter. We saw it revealed in different guises in several of the companies we studied. At a chemicals firm, it stemmed from the top managers’ risk aversion. Consider these words from one researcher there:

A proposal for liquid/medical filtration using our new technology was tabled for the second time by the Gate 1 committee (five directors that screen new ideas). Although we had plenty of info for this stage of the game, the committee is uncomfortable with the risk and liability. The team, and myself, are frustrated about hurdles that we don’t know how to answer.

This company’s leaders also inadvertently signaled that, despite their rhetoric about being innovative and cutting edge, they were really more comfortable being ordinary.

Trap 2: Strategic ‘attention deficit disorder’

As an experienced leader, you probably scan your company’s external environment constantly for guidance in making your next strategic moves. What are competitors planning? Where are new ones popping up? What’s happening in the global economy, and what might the implications be for financing or future market priorities? You are probably brimming with ideas on where you’d like to take the company next. All of that is good, in theory.

In practice, we see too many top managers start and abandon initiatives so frequently that they appear to display a kind of attention deficit disorder (ADD) when it comes to strategy and tactics. They don’t allow sufficient time to discover whether initiatives are working, and they communicate insufficient rationales to their employees when they make strategic shifts.

Karpenter’s strategic ADD seemed to stem from its leaders’ short attention span, perhaps fueled by the CEO’s desire to embrace the latest management trends. The problem was evident in decisions at the level of product lines and extended all the way up to corporate strategy. If you blinked, you could miss the next strategic shift. In one employee’s words:

A quarterly product review was held with members of the [top team] and the general manager and president. Primary outcome from the meeting was a change in direction away from spray jet mops to revitalization of existing window squeegees. Four priorities were defined for product development, none of which were identified as priorities at our last quarterly update. The needle still points north, but we’ve turned the compass again.

At another company we studied, strategic ADD appeared to stem from a top team warring with itself. Corporate executives spent many months trying to nail down a new market strategy. Meanwhile, different vice presidents were pushing in different directions, rendering each of the leaders incapable of giving consistent direction to their people. This wreaked havoc in the trenches. One diarist, a project manager, felt that rather than committing herself to doing something great for particular customers, she needed to hedge her bets:

The VP gave us his opinion of which target candidates [for new products] may fit with overall company strategy—but, in reality, neither he nor anyone in our management structure knows what the strategy is. It makes this project a real balancing act—we need to go forward, but need to weigh commitments very carefully.

If high-level leaders don’t appear to have their act together on exactly where the organization should be heading, it’s awfully difficult for the troops to maintain a strong sense of purpose.

Trap 3: Corporate Keystone Kops

In the early decades of cinema, a popular series of silent-film comedies featured the Keystone Kops—fictional policemen so incompetent that they ran around in circles, mistakenly bashed each other on the head, and fumbled one case after another. The title of that series became synonymous with miscoordination. Our research found that many executives who think everything is going smoothly in the everyday workings of their organizations are blithely unaware that they preside over their own corporate version of the Keystone Kops. Some contribute to the farce through their actions, others by failing to act. At Karpenter, for example, top managers set up overly complex matrix reporting structures, repeatedly failed to hold support functions (such as purchasing and sales) accountable for coordinated action, and displayed a chronic indecisiveness that bred rushed analyses. In the words of one diarist:

Last-minute changes continue on [an important customer’s] assortments. Rather than think through the whole process and logically decide which assortments we want to show [the customer], we are instead using a shotgun approach of trying multiple assortments until we find one that works. In the meantime, we are expending a lot of time and effort on potential assortments only to find out later that an assortment has been dropped.

Although Karpenter’s example was egregious, the company was far from alone in creating chaotic situations for its workers. In one high-tech company we studied, for example, Keystone Kop–like scenarios played out around the actions of a rogue marketing function. As described in one engineer’s diary, the attempts of many teams to move forward with their projects were continually thwarted by signals from marketing that conflicted with those coming from R&D and other key functions. Marketers even failed to show up for many key meetings:

At a meeting with Pierce, Clay, and Joseph, I was told that someone from marketing would be attending our team meetings (finally). The meeting also gave me a chance to demonstrate to Joseph that we were getting mixed signals from marketing.

When coordination and support are absent within an organization, people stop believing that they can produce something of high quality. This makes it extremely difficult to maintain a sense of purpose.

Trap 4: Misbegotten ‘big, hairy, audacious goals’

Management gurus Jim Collins and Jerry Porras encourage organizations to develop a “big, hairy, audacious goal” (BHAG, pronounced bee-hag)—a bold strategic vision statement that has powerful emotional appeal.6 BHAGs help infuse work with meaning by articulating the goals of the organization in a way that connects emotionally with peoples’ values. (Think of Google’s stated mission to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”)

At some companies, however, such statements are grandiose, containing little relevance or meaning for people in the trenches. They can be so extreme as to seem unattainable and so vague as to seem empty. The result is a meaning vacuum. Cynicism rises and drive plummets. Although we saw this trap clearly in only one of the seven companies we studied, we think it is sufficiently seductive and dangerous to warrant consideration.

That company, a chemicals firm, set a BHAG that all projects had to be innovative blockbustersthat would yield a minimum of $100 million in revenue annually, within five years of a project’s initiation. This goal did not infuse the work with meaning, because it had little to do with the day-to-day activities of people in the organization. It did not articulate milestones toward the goal; it did not provide for a range of experiments and outcomes to meet it; worst of all, it did not connect with anything the employees valued. Most of them wanted to provide something of value to their customers; an aggressive revenue target told them only about the value to the organization, not to the customer. Far from what Collins and Porras intended, this misbegotten BHAG was helping to destroy the employees’ sense of purpose.

Avoiding the traps

Spotting the traps from the executive suite is difficult enough; sidestepping them is harder still—and wasn’t the focus of our research. Nonetheless, it’s instructive to look at the one company in our study that avoided the traps, a creator of coated fabrics for weatherproof clothing and other applications. We recently interviewed its head, whom we’ll call Mark Hamilton. That conversation generated a few ideas that we hope will spark a lively discussion in your own C-suite. For example:

When you communicate with employees, do you provide strategic clarity that’s consistent with your organization’s capabilities and an understanding of where it can add the most value?Hamilton and his top team believed that innovating in processes, rather than products, was the key to creating the right combination of quality and value for customers. So he talked about process innovation at every all-company meeting, and he steadfastly supported it throughout the organization. This consistency helped everyone understand the strategy and even become jazzed about it.

Can you keep sight of the individual employee’s perspective? The best executives we studied internalize their early experiences and use them as reference points for gauging the signals that their own behavior will send to the troops. “Try hard to remember when you were working in the trenches,” Hamilton says. “If somebody asked you to do a bunch of work on something they hadn’t thought through, how meaningful could it be for you? How committed could you be?”

Do you have any early-warning systems that indicate when your view from the top doesn’t match the reality on the ground? Regular audits to gauge the effectiveness of coordination and support processes in areas such as marketing, sales, and purchasing can highlight pain points that demand senior management’s attention because they are starting to sap meaning from your people’s work. In Hamilton’s view, senior executives bear the responsibility for identifying and clearing away systemic impediments that prevent quality work from getting done.

Hamilton’s company was doing very well. But we believe that senior executives can provide a sense of purpose and progress even in bad economic times. Consider the situation that then–newly appointed Xerox head Anne Mulcahy faced in 2000, when the company verged on bankruptcy. Mulcahy refused her advisers’ recommendation to file for bankruptcy (unless all other options were exhausted) because of the demoralizing signal it would send to frontline employees. “What we have going for us,” she said, “is that our people believe we are in a war that we can win.”7 She was right, and her conviction helped carry Xerox through four years of arduous struggle to later success.

As an executive, you are in a better position than anyone to identify and articulate the higher purpose of what people do within your organization. Make that purpose real, support its achievement through consistent everyday actions, and you will create the meaning that motivates people toward greatness. Along the way, you may find greater meaning in your own work as a leader.

About the Authors

Teresa Amabile is the Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. Steven Kramer is an independent researcher and writer.

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create your own luck

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How to create your own luck

By Astha Gupta First published: April 13th, 2012

 How to create your own luck
Is luck random, or can we cultivate our own good fortune? Discover how “lucky” people tick.

You’ve heard the phrase, “being in the right place at the right time”? Is that you? If not, read on to find out how you too can create your own luck…

It’s all in the mind

“You can instantly become luckier by simply believing that you are (even if you have to fake it til you make it!),” says Denise Duffield-Thomas, author of Lucky Bitch: A Guide for Exceptional Women to Create Outrageous Success, $14.99, (Create Space). There is no coincidence in the lives of people who consider themselves lucky.

Everything that happens to them, they see it as proof they are celestially blessed which sets up a chain of self-fulfilling outcomes.

Create your own damn luck

If only you’d win a lottery… Well, don’t wait for something to fall into your lap. Instead believe the whole world is conspiring to help you achieve your dreams.

“You’ll have a higher success rate by simply trying more,” says Duffield-Thomas.

Celebrate every single win

Have you ever found a small coin in the street or scored a free coffee? How did you react afterwards? Did you smile, celebrate and thank your stars for your good fortune? If not, start now, advises Duffield-Thomas. Acknowledging every success creates a positive anchor in your mind and is another piece of “evidence” that proves you’re a lucky person.

Be the 1%

Take out your diary and start writing what you wish to achieve this week, this month, this year and in the next five years.

“Regular goal setting keeps you positive and trains your brain to search for corresponding opportunities,” says Duffield-Thomas. “Very few people have concrete, written goals beyond the New Year, so writing down your goals daily puts you in the top 1% of the population.”

Share wisely

Share your goals often because someone in your network could send an exciting opportunity your way, but learn to weed out the negative voices that tell you ‘your dreams are unrealistic’.

Act “as if”

Go and test drive your dream car, visit open-houses on the weekend and mark your calendar as if the dream trip is already a reality. This isn’t delusional wishful thinking; you’re preparing your subconscious for the real thing.

You deserve it

“The Universe will only treat you the way you treat yourself,” says Duffield-Thomas. So take out that special china or wear your favourite perfume every day setting up a clear message that you deserve the best.

Relax

Taking time to recharge and let your brain chill out gives you more energy to focus on future dreams instead of the stressful minutiae of daily life. Once you are focussed, you will have better ideas and results will flow.

Brainwash yourself

Duffield-Thomas’ final word of advice, “Watch your language and replace negative thoughts like ‘It never works for me’ with a daily affirmation of ‘I’m so lucky!’” Positive reinforcements do work. Try it.

Improve your thyroid function

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To increase your metabolism, the thyroid needs to function at it best. Your thyroid is effectively, what gets your metabolic rate going through the roof or brings it to a complete halt. Support your thyroid function by including more seafood, nuts and seeds in your diet. These foods are high in selenium, vitamin E, iodine, zinc and copper which are essential nutrients for the thyroid.

green tea benefits

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Drink green tea

High in antioxidants, green tea also contains catechins, a natural component that speeds up the metabolism. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has shown drinking three cups of green tea per day can help reduce body fat. Added bonus? Catechins have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, anti-cancer properties, and may help control cholesterol levels

trigger – routine – reward

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Yes you can break that cake habit: Can’t survive the day without a sweet treat? A new book says kicking bad habits is easier than you think

By JANE MULKERRINS

PUBLISHED: 21:31 GMT, 8 April 2012 | UPDATED: 21:31 GMT, 8 April 2012

Most of the choices we make each day — from the way we tie our shoes and brush our teeth, to the route we take to work and the coffee we buy when we arrive there — may feel like the products of well-considered decision-making but, in reality, they are habits.

In fact, research has shown that more than 40 per cent of the daily actions we perform aren’t conscious decisions.

And even though each habit means little on its own, over time the snacks we eat, whether we smoke, drink, exercise, spend or save, as well as our work routines have a huge impact on our productivity, financial security, health and happiness.

Food for thought: Research has shown that more than 40 per cent of the daily actions we perform aren¿t conscious decisions and are purely out of habitFood for thought: Research has shown that more than 40 per cent of the daily actions we perform aren¿t conscious decisions and are purely out of habit

But while most of the time we know if we’ve developed a bad habit, it can prove almost impossible to break. No matter how many times you say you’ll give up smoking tomorrow or even just skip that afternoon chocolate bar, when it comes to the crunch, good intentions fly out of the window.

However, it doesn’t need to be like that, says investigative reporter Charles Duhigg. His new book The Power Of Habit: Why We Do What We Do And How To Change promises to be the key to help us break our bad behaviour patterns.

Duhigg uses the example of a 34-year-old woman called Lisa Allen, who had been smoking and drinking since she was 16 and had struggled with obesity for most of her life. In her 20s, she’d amassed £7,500 in debts and her longest job had lasted less than a year.

Charles Duhigg's new book promises to be the key to help us break our bad behaviour patternsCharles Duhigg’s new book promises to be the key to help us break our bad behaviour patterns

Three years later, however, she’d given up cigarettes and alcohol, lost more than 4st and run a marathon. She’d also begun a masters degree and bought a home. So, how had she managed to change her life in such a short space of time? Incredibly, reveals Duhigg, it all began with her deciding to drop just one of her bad habits — smoking.

Lisa’s marriage had broken down and, after much wallowing, she booked a flight to Cairo, a city she’d always wanted to visit. While in Egypt, she decided she wanted to go trekking, but was seriously out of shape. So Lisa vowed to give herself a year to prepare — a year in which she would need to give up smoking to be healthier.

Over the next six months, Lisa replaced smoking with jogging. In turn, this simple change altered how she ate, work and slept. That small decision in Cairo — the conviction that she had to give up smoking to accomplish her goal — had sparked off a series of changes that radiated to other parts of her life.

When scientists studied her brain in a series of scans, they found something remarkable. One set of neurological patterns — her old habits — was being overridden by new patterns. The researchers could still see the neural activity of her old behaviours, but those impulses were being pushed out by the new urges. As Lisa’s habits were changing, so was the physiology of her brain. Lisa’s scans showed she hadn’t lost the urge to overeat. When her eyes saw food, the areas in the brain that control cravings and hunger still responded. But over the year, activity in the area where self-discipline starts had become more active. All of which means that, like Lisa, it is possible for us to learn how to banish bad habits.

HOW HABITS ARE FORMED

They emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort, say scientists. Our brain converts sequences of actions into automatic routines, known as ‘chunking’. This process is at the root of how habits form. We rely on dozens, if not hundreds, of behavioural chunks every day. Some are simple: squeezing toothpaste on to a brush before putting it into your mouth. Others, such as making lunch, are a little more complex.

THE THREE-STEP LOOP

Habits are created by a three-step process or ‘loop’. First comes a trigger that cues the brain to go into automatic mode to choose which habit to use — anything from a smell, a place, a time of day, an emotion, or the company of certain people can start it off.

Next comes the routine. It can be something physical, mental or emotional, and range from an extremely simple action to something complex, from eating, drinking or smoking to putting on the kettle. Finally, there comes a reward that helps the brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future. This could be the feeling that alcohol, food or nicotine induces, or an emotional pay-off, such as a sense of pride or achievement.

Over time, this loop — cue-routine-reward — becomes increasingly automatic, and the cue and reward become intertwined until a powerful sense of anticipation emerges. Just the sight of cigarettes, for example, is enough for the brain to crave a nicotine rush. If it doesn’t arrive, the craving grows, until the smoker reaches, unthinkingly, for a cigarette.

HOW TO BREAK FREE – FOR EVER!

  • Identify the routine: Say you have an afternoon biscuit habit you’d like to break. The routine involves getting up, walking from your desk to the canteen, buying a biscuit and eating it while chatting to colleagues.
  • Experiment with rewards: What’s the reward for your biscuit habit? Is it really about hunger or low blood sugar levels? More likely is that you’re seeking a temporary distraction or an urge for human contact. Try out new ways to get those rewards — buy an apple instead or have a coffee. Instead of going to the canteen, talk to a friend at their desk. Fifteen minutes later, ask yourself if you’re still craving a biscuit.
  • Isolate the cue: When you get the craving to eat biscuits, where are you, what time is it, who is around you and what preceded the urge?
  • Have a plan: Having identified the urge, isolated the cue and worked on a new reward, you have figured out the habit loop. Now replace eating a biscuit with another action. If you repeat new routines for long enough, in time they will become the habit.

GOOD AND BAD HABITS ARE EQUAL

Habits never really disappear — they are encoded into the structures of our brain. Once we develop a habit of opening a bottle of wine when the children go to bed or snacking on biscuits mid-afternoon, those patterns always remain inside our heads. So far as the brain is concerned, it doesn’t matter if these habits are good for us or bad. In fact, it can’t tell the difference. All that matters is that a loop of behaviour has been formed that brings a reliable reward.

By the same rule, however, if we learn to create new neurological routines to replace unhelpful behaviours — if we take control of the habit loop — we can force those bad tendencies into the background, just as Lisa Allen did after her trip to Cairo.Once someone replaces a bad pattern with a good pattern, studies show the healthy habit — be it drinking tea instead of wine or rejecting the biscuits — can become as automatic as any other habit.

HABITS ARE POWERFUL BUT DELICATE

Studies indicate that families don’t intend to eat fast food on a regular basis. But driving home after a long day when the children are starving, it’s tempting to stop at McDonald’s or Burger King ‘just this once’. But what happens is that this behaviour slowly becomes once a week, then twice a week — until a family is consuming an unhealthy amount of fast food.

When researchers tried to understand families’ behaviour, they found a series of cues and rewards. Every branch of McDonald’s, for instance, looks the same — it deliberately tries to standardise the architecture and what employees say to customers so everything is a consistent cue to trigger eating routines. Even these powerful habits are delicate, though. When a fast food restaurant closes down, disrupting the habit loops of its customers, families that previously ate there will often start having dinner at home.

CREATING A NEW CRAVING

If you want to develop a new, positive habit, perhaps running each morning, it’s essential you choose a simple cue — such as leaving your trainers and running clothes next to the bed the night before. You also need a clear reward — perhaps charting how far you have run or luxuriating in the shower as the neurochemicals released by exercise flood your body with wellbeing. But studies have also shown that cues and rewards on their own aren’t enough for new habits to last.

Only when your brain starts expecting the reward — craving the endorphins or the sense of accomplishment — will it become a habit to lace up your trainers each morning. In other words, as well as triggering a routine, the cue must also create an expectation of a reward.

To kick-start the process, you can bolt on an even more attractive reward: a small piece of chocolate or a big breakfast when you finish your run. Extra food might seem a counterproductive reward for exercise if your aim is to lose weight. But the goal here is to train your brain to associate a cue (running gear by the bed) with a routine (going out for a run) and a reward (chocolate!). In time — maybe weeks, maybe months — your brain will so closely associate exercise with a sense of reward that you won’t need the chocolate; it will just focus on the feelgood neurochemicals released by exercise.

LEARNING A NEW LOOP

We can learn new habits but we can never truly extinguish the old ones. To change a habit, you must strive to replicate the good feelings you get from bad patterns by swapping the bad pattern with a good one. For example, Alcoholics Anonymous asks alcoholics to identify the rewards they get from drinking — it’s often escape, relaxation, companionship, the blunting of anxieties and emotional release. The physical effects of drinking are usually far down the list.

In order to offer alcoholics the same rewards they get at a pub, AA builds a series of meetings and companionship to offer as much escape, distraction and catharsis as a night out drinking would. It creates new patterns for what to do each night instead of hitting the bottle, inserting new routines into old habit loops.

So, if you want to stop eating biscuits in the afternoon, identify your cue and your reward. Is the reward you are seeking to satisfy hunger? Or is it actually to alleviate boredom? If the latter, you can easily find another routine, such as taking a quick walk or seeking out a colleague for a chat.
Change can happen. Alcoholics can stop drinking, smokers can stop puffing, you can stop biting your nails or eating biscuits every afternoon. But there’s one more vital ingredient in changing a habit — belief. For habits to permanently change, we must believe that long-term change is possible. Start believing today!

The Power Of Habit by Charles Duhigg (William Heinemann, £12.99). To order a copy for £10.99 (including p&p), tel: 0843 382 0000.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2126924/Yes-break-cake-habit-Can-t-survive-day-sweet-treat-A-new-book-says-kicking-bad-habits-easier-think.html#ixzz1rXCRCdkE