Why do I keep my bad habits?

Know the psychology of ‘secondary gain’?

Why do some people change faster than others?

Here, red10 ‘s Andy Stanley explores the second of 16 concepts that researchers found in the healthiest of minds:
“Behaviour and change are to be evaluated in terms of context and ecology”

Exploring Healthy Mind Concept 2 of 16

Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a set of concepts and coaching techniques that help you to have a healthy mind and keep it healthy.

Their research identified that people with the healthiest of minds adopt 16 concepts.

You can read about all 16 here

This article focuses on concept 2 of 16

“Behaviour and change are to be evaluated in terms of context and ecology”

There’s a lot to unpack in this simple phrase!

What is Ecology?

Ecology in NLP is the study of the consequences or impact of any change that occurs on the wider system.

An NLP ecology check will help to confirm that whatever changes we are making are congruent with you, your environment, and others. The check allows you to take a step-back and ensure that the changes you are making only have positive consequences for the future.

For example, if you wanted to get rid of a habit of taking an afternoon nap, an ecology check might alert us to the fact that you are not taking enough sleep during the night.

If we had applied some NLP techniques to help you remove his napping habit before checking the ecology, either:

  1. We would have found it impossible to remove (as your mind knew you needed the nap and wouldn’t let it go)
  2. You do manage to remove the nap-habit yet end up feeling tired and groggy all the time.

Pyschologists sometimes call this “secondary gain”, i.e. the bad habit you want to remove has some secondary benefits.

These additional sets of questions will guide you to put things into perspective. Sometimes it brings up a point which you may have not thought of:

  • If I do this, what will happen?
  • If I do this, what won’t happen?
  • If I don’t do this, what will happen?
  • If I don’t do this, what won’t happen?

What is context?

Consider Jane, an exec director for a pharmaceutical company.

Now consider Fred, who’s in prison.

They have very different contexts.

Why evaluate behaviour in terms of context and ecology?

Which would be more shocking?

A – Fred, in prison, punching a fellow prisoner

B – Jane punching a colleague in the office

The answer is obviously B. So we see that we humans evaluate behaviour in terms of context and ecology.

This 2nd concept encourages us to go one step further, and evaluate behavioural change this way, too.

Can you give an example?

Let’s say that you have an Aunty, who keeps saying hurtful things to you and your kids.

If she manages to go just one day without saying something hurtful, this would be a big achievement for her.

i.e. given her context and ecology, this would be a big behavioural change for her, and would be something to notice and celebrate.

Some coaching questions for you, personally

  • What behavioural changes do you want to make?
  • Given your context, is this a big change or a small one?
  • Is there another change you would need to make first, in order to remove the secondary gain?

Some coaching questions in how you interact with others

  • Do you want to help someone change one of their behaviours?
  • What would be significant step forwards, given their context?