“Nature abhors a vacuum” — François Rabelais (1494?-1553), French Renaissance satirist, from his book Gargantua and Pantagruel
If you want to change something in your life, it’s common to try to stop the behaviors you don’t like. While this certainly seems logical, it seldom works. The reason is simple – it unintentionally creates a vacuum where the old behaviors used to be. And since nature hates a vacuum it will fill it with anything it can find – usually the very behaviors you’re trying to stop since they’re so familiar. Instead of stopping certain behaviors, try focusing on what you want to create – and the new behaviors you need to get there. Eventually, with practice, new behaviors will develop enough muscle to naturally replace the old ones.
One place this idea can be important is in changing one’s management style. Often I have clients who are abrasive with staff members and want to change how they interact. One in particular admitted that he really hated his own behavior. He then asked for my advice on how to stop it. I said, “Before we try to stop your current behavior, let me ask you one question – what do you want to start doing instead?” He looked at me blankly and said, “I’m not really sure.” “That’s the problem,” I said, “Let’s start there.”
1. Notice any place in your life where you say you’ve got to stop doing something.
2. Shift your mind to think about what you need to start doing in that area.
3. Be specific. Write down the exact things you want to do.
4. Don’t admonish yourself for doing the old behaviors, rather stay focused on starting the new ones and the old ones will diminish on their own.