People are creatures of habit

Habits are formed when we practise behaviours repetitively over time and they become routine. We carry out many of these routines subconsciously.

Take driving a car, for example. As learner drivers, we can be overwhelmed by the complexity of skills needed to drive; but as we become more experienced, we use many of those skills subconsciously.

Subconscious processing can be advantageous in freeing up the cognitive capacity to concentrate on skills more critical to safe driving, such as reading the road conditions or reacting to other drivers. Unfortunately, there can also be a downside. Have you ever driven a car and not been able to remember sections of the journey? Were you aware of your driving habits? How safely were you driving during these times?

Our habits extend beyond ourselves

We demonstrate habitual behaviours across all aspects of our lives – in our daily activities, in our relationships and in our work. These habitual behaviours may have a positive, neutral or negative impact upon us, and upon others.

So, it's important we are aware of our habits and their effects. Unfortunately, being consistently self-aware isn't easy for most of us.  We may not realise we are demonstrating negative habits until someone points them out to us and relying on others is inherently risky. It can be challenging and uncomfortable for someone to tell us about our negative (bad) habits.  

We need to find alternative ways to become more aware of our habitual behaviours and their impact.

Developing awareness 

Before we can modify our habitual behaviours, we need to become aware of them. 

One way is through adopting reflective practice. By making the subconscious conscious, we are able to more objectively and analytically observe our behaviour. It isn't always easy – consistently demonstrating effective reflective practice requires considerable effort and self-discipline.

The role of coaching 

Coaching promotes reflective practice through a structured questioning process. An effective coach will facilitate a conversation in which we can identify our goals and determine the actions, planning and time required to achieve them. Building a level of accountability and engagement around our goals also reinforces our commitment to act.

Coaching also increases insight around what we do and why we do it – including any habitual behaviours we may demonstrate. With regular coaching we can learn to internalise the process and, over time, we may be able to self-coach. As our levels of self-awareness increase we can further develop the ability to observe, monitor and modify our behaviours.

Any aspect of our lives can benefit from coaching.  People who participate in coaching demonstrate increased levels of self-determination, self-regulation and resilience.

Organisations that deliver coaching experience improved employee engagement and performance, and increased organisational effectiveness.

How can you apply the principles of coaching to promote reflective practice that benefits you, your colleagues and your students?