Thursday, January 16, 2014

Good Habits

In middle school morning meeting last Tuesday, Associate Head of Middle School Andy Wright spoke with the students about New Year’s resolutions.  The next day, Head of Middle School Carly Andrews discussed peer pressure and how people can join groups that provide positive influences as opposed to those that accentuate the negative aspects of adolescent social pressure.  On Thursday, I continued with these themes by showing the students a heartwarming video about the friendship between A. J. McCarron, quarterback for Alabama’s Crimson Tide football team, and A.J. Stall, Alabama football’s assistant equipment manager.  We all spoke to the students about developing good habits in their work and in their lives that will elevate them and others.  If you want to watch something extremely moving, I definitely recommend taking a few minutes to view the video linked here.

Much of the work that we, as educators and parents, do focuses on helping students develop productive and positive habits.  However, as we know, this is difficult for all people, not just adolescents.  A recent interview with Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, linked here, addresses this topic.  In this interview, Duhigg discusses how to form good habits and eliminate the bad ones.  Duhigg looks at many different kinds of habits and suggests that individuals can learn from companies like Starbucks and other corporations that attempt to instill good habits in their employees.  Starbucks created the “LATTE method” (of course) for resolving conflicts when customers were upset. LATTE stands for Listen, Acknowledge, Take Action, Thank the Customer, and Explain Why the Problem Occurred.  According to Duhigg, by creating new habits for resolving customer dissatisfaction, Starbucks altered the way its baristas handled conflict; consequently, problems were lessened and customers and employees were pleased.

Duhigg also advises people who make a New Year’s resolution to exercise more to start dressing in workout clothes; at first, they may just be watching television, but eventually, they’ll begin taking walks and even try running.  All too often, after people have practicing their newfound habits for a while, the motivation to continue may wane.  As a result, it’s important that as good habits develop, the rewards be intrinsic rather than extrinsic since the motivation to accomplish intrinsic goals will be stronger than those whose rewards are externalized.

Much of Duhigg’s advice can apply to students who want to have a fresh start on a new quarter, semester, or year--whether in the area of academics or social interactions with peers.  We should remind our students that we all have habits, some of which serve us better than others; but the key to being happier and more productive is to create more good habits rather than bad ones.