I am a student of habit change, and there are two indisputable facts about habits:
- You can’t break a habit. You can only replace it with another habit.
- Habits provide short-term rewards and long-term outcomes, for better or worse.
A habit is simply a behavior that is repeated because it generates an immediate reward. It is comprised of a trigger, a routine (the behavior) and the reward. Typically, the long-term consequences are ignored until the outcome is realized at some point in the future. Humans have been taught to do what helps them now before worrying about it later for everyone else.
Kindly permit me to examine this in the context of the coronavirus craziness. The trigger is fear of dying. The behavior is selfish panic. Among other rewards, the chief reward is self-preservation. If you’re one of those acting this way, think hard about why your current behavior is so rewarding. Make a list of all the things it’s doing for you. Then look at an alternative behavior that will deliver some of those same rewards but lead to better long-term outcomes. Your eyes may be opened to see that your selfish panic is not serving the long-term good of you, your family or society. It’s not building a resilient culture. Rather, it’s building a culture that changes with the winds of the next fear.
Today it’s COVID-19. Tomorrow it’s COVID-20. Then COVID-21. Will you ever let your children visit a friend’s house again? Will our Easter, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s celebrations be virtual in perpetuity? There will always be something that may kill you.
My hope for everyone stuck in fear and selfish panic is that you will renew your mind to the truth that there is something bigger than yourself at work for the good of the world. There is no reason to live the way you’re living at the moment. You don’t have to be subject to emotions, fears, doubts, and insecurities that come with this world.
My mission is to build a resilient community by honoring a hallowed force that maintains a civil and long-term neighborly-focused culture. That community is willing to sign-up now to sacrifice something one day far in the future. By doing that, they’ll receive priority later when they need it.