Have you ever thought why you feel happy and excited even with the thought of having a cup of coffee? Or why you feel happy with the thought of having a go flying in the evening with your best friends and champaign? Do you get tempted to just buzz in and savour some sweets at one go when passing by a mouth watering Sweets shop. Well in the language of psychology this behaviour is called as craving. Craving gives us ecstasy even with the thought of indulging into a habitual behaviour. Craving gives us the happiness before we indulge into the real or actual act of physically exposing our body to that particular stimulus. When for a substantial period of time we practice a particular behaviour be it smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol or getting up early in the morning and going for exercise or having certain type of food, we form particular habits. Craving drives our habits. Though drugs form dependence later on, at the initial phase any habit formation follow this Loop CUE, CRAVING, ROUTINE and REWARD.
We have discussed in our previous post that habit formation requires three basic ingredients namely a cue, a routine and a reward. But when you continue a certain behaviour for a long period of time the reward which initially comes at the end starts coming immediately after Cue. That means the happiness is already experienced before actual act. We understand from this discussion is that it is not only cue and a routine and a sense of the accomplishment associated happiness that helps us form various behaviours or habits, it is also the craving for that particular moment that solidifies those habits in us. Craving repeatedly invites us into the execution of our those behaviours. Examples: It is the THOUGHTS of endorphin rise and the happiness felt therefore after exercise is the motivation behind exercising. It is the preemptive FEELINGS of euphoria after taking a particular drug like caffeine or alcohol that creates a craving. Craving is FELT in thoughts and is powerful to drive actions, when repeated in autopilot are called as HABITS.
Having understood how habits form and how they are persistently driven now the challenge is to understand how do we change habits.
Let’s take the example of Indian cricket team during Greg Chappell’s coaching period. It is known to everyone today that Greg Chappell as a coach almost destroyed a very well knit Indian cricket team. Out of many new habits good or bad, those were formed during this period of anarchy one we could discuss is when the players used to go to the net for practice. There were cues. The cues were the alarm clock in the morning, or the call from other colleagues, or all the habituation of the players since very long, of getting up early, putting the shoes and tracks and moving towards the field.
Now look at the changed routine during Greg’s time. Previously these same players used to look at each other as synergistic contributors. But under the coaching period of Greg Chappell these bunch of legends started looking at each other as competitors. A competition to stay in the team by overpowering the other. People started focusing on individual records. Team went south. There always lurked the risk of loosing out from the team. Many legends were temporarily destroyed during that time like the Ganguly’s. These players started guessing every morning who’s from who’s camp! From the coach’s camp or from the captain’s camp. Whom they could trust sharing their feelings and whom to not. There were massive ideological differences between the captain and the coach. All these gradually divided the team into fragments of nonperforming individuals. This was the CHANGED routine from the previous base line routine that took away the element of CRAVING for team performance from each players psyche. Though the reward for habit formation was high: only to remain fit and retain post in the team that too just to hang on there.
The changed ROUTINE changed the performance of the team India. They lost their chances in the qualifiers during the World Cup in 2007. After a lot of brawl between the coach and the captain the board took a decision to Fire the coach under media pressure and even public pressure. A new coach Gary Kirsten took over. He got a team which was no more a team but a bunch of devastated, demoralised, dissociated individual players.
Gary’s primary goal was to built trust and respect for talent in each of the morally down legends of the team. Don’t forget the likes of Sachin, Saurav, Dravid, Laksman, Jahir Khan, Harbhajan all were a part of that team. There was no dearth of talent or potential. There was a need to change the habits of the team members. Habits those developed in those years of highly polarised political environment were mistrust, nonperformance, low self esteem, procrastination, passing the buck, instability, indiscipline and shaken beliefs on the entire system. Goals were invisible, misty and murky.
Through many scientific research by that time it was well established that when you try to change performance of people you don’t alter the CUE neither alter the REWARD but alter the ROUTINE leg of the Habit loop. Particularly this formula is very popular among the coaches who coached big football teams or cricket teams or any other teams who play international standard games. Sporting psychology explains it better.
So what did Gary Kirsten do?
He did not change the cues or the rewards. They all remained the very same. Kirsten only targeted Routines of the team. He established himself as an enabler and not a destroyer. He established that he was not an administrator but a facilitator. He restored TRUST among team players and recreated that respect for each other’s capabilities. He became a dependable bridge to communicate between team and board. He respected talent in the team. He set fitness and performance as the only yardsticks in being in the team not mere age or previous performance. Team players started looking at each other as performance partners and not competitors. A lot of synergy flew in immediately with the trust flying in. This lens of looking at their own performance had put the focus back on self performance rather than the external environment. Threat was abolished. Practice sessions became fun. Gary himself became the CHEER LEADER of the Team India. Soon came back CRAVING to go out there in the field and perform for the team. Self esteem was restored. This Gary’s team ended up winning the mighty World Cup in 2011.
So what do the leaders who almost always COACH, should do in getting the performance back on the track out of ruckus? Well research recommend that they should not try and CHANGE the performance by trying to change everything at a time. They may rather only change the HABITS of their people. In the habit loop of CUE, CRAVING, ROUTINE and REWARDS change only the ROUTINE, HABIT will change as an effect! Positive Performance will just follow as the outcome.
This article is written by Rajesh Bhattacharjee, a Harvard Extension School Alumnus, Psychology. He is a technical Coach and a Leadership trainer.
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