How can you change a vicious cycle into a virtuous one?
What is a vicious cycle? Most of us at some time get into a vicious cycle, where we spiral down and down into a pit of negativity or where our actions keep on undermining a relationship in or out of work. But how often do we get into a vicious cycle? Here are a few examples I've come across in the course of my work with clients:
- A client finds it difficult to sleep. They have a busy work and family life, and start to rely on caffeine to keep them going. This further undermines their ability to relax and sleep, requiring more caffeine the next day and the next.
- A manager's relationship with a team member has been deteriorating, so the manager starts to avoid them as they don't want to have any more conflict. This further undermines rapport between them, so that when they have to communicate it is strained and awkward, leading to further misunderstandings.
- An individual finds it difficult and stressful presenting to prospective clients, so leaves it to their colleagues, which they feel guilty about. They start to feel even worse about these presentations and in an even less than capable state to be able to handle them.
- A client finds exercise tiring, even though they know they need to do some. They don't do it regularly as they always lack the energy to start exercising, so it is always a bit of effort, and they never get to the stage where they are feeling energised by exercise.
With vicious cycles you can end up feeling like there is no way out of the situation, there is no hope of making changes and somehow it is easier to just let things slide.
What vicious cycles have you found yourself in? Are there vicious cycles that you would like to stop?
‘Each year, one vicious habit rooted out, in time ought to make the worst man good.'
What is a virtuous cycle? Here are some examples of virtuous cycles that we can create for ourselves:
- By exercising regularly you get to the stage where, even when you are tired, exercise can be energising, raise your spirits and motivate you.
- Taking regular action to build and maintain rapport with everyone, especially with people where rapport does not come naturally, will make interactions easier, more effective, leading to enhanced working relationships.
- By creating good habits in terms of how you relax and wind down in the evening, you get a good night's sleep, wake up refreshed, and are in a better position to have a good day and then a relaxing and enjoyable evening, which leads to a good night's sleep!
Virtuous cycles just get better and better, so it is worth thinking about your life and how to create more of them. It is easier to create a virtuous cycle where no vicious one exists as it is about creating new habits, rather than changing old ones. However, it often involves replacing the bad habits with new positive and supportive ones.
What virtuous cycles are you in? What virtuous cycles do you want to develop?
‘We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.'
How do you turn a vicious cycle into a virtuous cycle? I think the quote from Gandhi below nicely sums up the process of doing this:
‘Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words.
Keep your words positive because your words become your behaviours.
Keep your behaviours positive because your behaviours become your habits.
Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values.
Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.'
This process of change starts from the inside out, starting with our thoughts and feelings, which impact on what we say and how we behave, creating either positive or negative habits which quite literally do have a long term impact on our lives or, as Gandhi calls it, our destiny.
Having looked at my quotes file under the category of ‘Habits' (with 150 pages in the whole file I have to categorise them or else I would never find what I want), I thought I would use a few quotes to assist us with exploring the process of developing good habits and virtuous cycles.
"Let each hour of the day have its allotted duty, and cultivate that power of concentration which grows with its exercise."
Sir William Osler
Now we might not feel that we have control over every hour of the day, but one of the exercises I get participants to do on some of my workshops is to identify what they do at the start of the day, during the day, and at the end of the day that supports, inspires and helps them to manage their mood throughout the day. So think about your day and your week, what do you do that supports you and helps you manage your mood and energy? Remember to allocate time for work, rest and play!
‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit'
I keep on coming back to this quote and thinking about my own life, and thinking about the lives of others: successful people; happy people; content people; grumpy people; broke people – what is it that we do every day that creates the life that we live?
‘Bad habits are like a comfortable bed, easy to get into, but hard to get out of.'
This is so true that it is much easier to give in to our bad habits, react negatively to challenges or people, than to create a virtuous cycle. However, it is possible to make good habits comfortable beds as well. Take exercise for example: by choosing a form of exercise you enjoy. Don't just say, ‘Ugh, the gym, but I'll go because it is quick and easy to get to, and I've paid my membership' (of course, you may enjoy the gym which is fine); find something to do that you enjoy. I love cycling and as I was returning from a bike ride on a glorious sunny April evening I bumped into a neighbour who said, ‘it will be hot and crowded but I am off to the gym'. I thought, why not go for a run outdoors and enjoy the lovely weather? There are lots of ways of keeping fit, my mum does not ‘exercise' but is out in her garden and on her allotment regularly and it keeps her fit. Go to a dance class, walk the dog, go for family walks. Have fun.
‘If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.'
Another way of making it easier to do and create good habits is to focus on your vision, where you are heading. This could be either a long or short term goal. When there is something that I don't particularly enjoy doing then focusing on how good I will feel afterwards is often enough motivation to get on with it. I think about how much better I will feel after I've made the difficult phone call, used my exercise bike in the winter (not as much fun as cycling outdoors, but made easier by watching DVDs!), finished writing the report. By doing this it can give me enough energy to get on with it. Look up and visualise how good you will feel after the event or activity. See, hear and feel how it will be once this is done. By focusing on the end product, versus the task ahead, it can give you enough motivation and energy to start the process of a virtuous cycle.
Changing habits of a lifetime on Thursday 19th May at 4.00pm to 5.00pm I am conducting a FREE Webinar on this topic. See below for details.
For more information about Inspire Transformation visit our website: www.inspiretransformation.co.uk or call Melanie on 01865 377334 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.