Years ago when I was young boy, my Dad took all his pipes and threw them into the wood stove. Burnt them and never smoked again. It’s a memory etched into my brain due to the dramatic nature of the act. And what I thought was willpower. Recently I came across this quote:
“Many of us have convinced ourselves that we are able to break our own personal rules “just this once.” In our minds, we can justify these small choices. None of those things, when they first happen, feels like a life-changing decision. The marginal costs are almost always low. But each of those decisions can roll up into a much bigger picture, turning you into the kind of person you never wanted to be…It’s easier to hold your principles 100 percent of the time than it is to hold them 98 percent of the time.” (emphasis added)Clayton Christensen
Decision fatigue. Many of us experience it and why our brains love habits, routines, familiar situations. Our brains switch off and auto-pilot takes over. It’s also one of the reasons we like checklists. However, the opposite happens when we introduce change. The pathways in our brain need rewiring as the existing ones don’t work anymore.
But what I like about Christensen’s quote is that he talks about principles. About key decisions made and kept. So my Dad decided he was no longer a smoker and took drastic action. It was an identity decision.
Some have cut out sugar from their diet and no longer need to consider buying the chocolate bar. Almost 700 days ago, I decided I am a writer so I blog everyday, have wrote one book and working on another . It is no longer a decision about if I am going to blog, but rather what I am going to write about.
The decision is made and I don’t need to revisit it. And yes, some days are harder than others. But the ‘hardness’ is not in whether or not I will write, it’s the content that can be difficult.
While this works for individuals, it can also work for teams and organisations. And even digital transformation work. Writing everyday is a ‘simple’ task. Practicing digital ethics is a complex one. However, we can still make the decision to have the discussion to work out what is ethical in a certain context. No longer is it a decision about whether or not to set up a review board, it’s ‘I wonder where the discussion will take us.’
It becomes what we do around here – organisational culture.