Shaving Metaphor–The Final Chapter!

Last week I reflected on my learning about changing habits as a result of changing my shaving ritual from using an aerosol can of shaving cream . . . to using shaving soap and a shaving brush. To recap, I offered the following requirements/suggestions for changing a habit:

  1. Be personally committed to change the way you do something.
  2. Ensure there is a rational benefit or advantage to doing something differently.
  3. Maintain attention on your intention to change.
  4. Take whatever time is required to keep your commitment to change a habit.
  5. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day attempting to create a new habit.
  6. Accept the initial discomfort or awkwardness that comes with doing something new.
  7. Respect the challenges of change! Initially your performance may decline slightly before the benefits of the new habit kick in.
  8. One additional recommendation this week: Check to see if any changes to the habit continue to meet the above criteria! Why? Please read on . . .!

As you may recall (if you don’t recall, please refer to my previous BLOG), someone suggested I change even more of my habit and begin to use a safety razor because it offered an even closer shave.  So I did! The first time I tried it, there was blood—and lots of it! I had obviously forgotten how careful one had to be. I stuck with it though, and got to the point where my skin had toughened up and there was virtually NO bleeding. The new behaviour was beginning to become . . . a habit!

After two weeks of mimimal blood loss, I reflected on my experience and here is what I found:

  • It actually takes longer to shave because I have to rinse the razor more thoroughly; and
  • The shave is not any better–in fact, it is much worse (rougher) than is the case with the disposable blades I’ve been using for decades!

Both of those observations violated the condition that stated “Ensure there is a
rational benefit or advantage to doing something differently
.” That applied very well with respect to changing to the habit of using shaving soap and a shaving brush.  Using a straight razor failed that test!  Keeping a modified habit that does not provide any advantage makes no sense–my objective in changing was to gain some form of tangible, measurable benefit, not simply to prove I could do it!  I could change my driving habit to drive backwards on my way to work–or on the wrong side of the road. Other than hoping to seek attention from the local
constabularies so I could practise my negotiating skills, there would be no rational reason for doing that!

Although I will continue my new habit of shaving brush and soap,  I have gone back to using disposal razor blades

Interestingly enough, because of my successful experience of moving to shaving soap and a shaving brush, it was relatively easier to attempt changing another habit, one that was a bit more challenging. Upon reflection, I gave the new change plenty of time to prove its worth.  I did not, so I scrapped it.  And I feel like a success for making a rationale decision about that, rather than a failure for not sticking with it!

An Augmented Emerging Theory of Resilience . . .

I stated in my last BLOG that if one starts with changing small habits, there is a possibility it may increase the willingness and capacity of individuals in an organization to attempt to change even bigger ones. I still believe that. Many organizations run workshops on creating a resilient organization and set the goal a little bit too high with the mandate that “you must become more resilient for us to succeed in the future”. The principle makes sense–the execution is elusive.

By starting with changing very small habits (that may not make a huge difference to the individual or the organization), it will build the confidence and capacity of the employees to get comfortable with changing increasingly bigger and more important habits. I still believe that, too!

The augmentation in this BLOG is this: As a new habit is gaining traction, it may be wise to build in time (or a process step) to re-evaluate if it continues to make sense to embed the new habit–based on newly accumulated data!

Shaving Metaphor–The Final Chapter!

NOTE: As mentioned previously, this article isn’t really about changing my shaving habits; it’s about sharing some of my insights about changing any habits—perhaps an essential skill for thriving in a world that just won’t stand still.

As always, your comments are appreciated. If not by me, certainly by someone else!

About David Gouthro

David has over 40 years facilitating high energy, creative and engaging face-to-face meetings that focus on delivering client value in a manner that is focused, flexible and fun. Embracing the challenge of providing the same quality of service in an online world has been heartily embraced and he now enjoys designing and delivering high impact meetings from afar! David can be reached at or 604.926.6858. And he is far from being Zoomed out in case you want a more visual conversation!


David Gouthro | 10/10/2018 | | 21 Comments

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The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. ~ Leslie Poles Hartley