Can You Really Change YOUR Habits?

Dear Dr. Sylvia,

I did it again. It doesn’t really matter exactly what I did except I thought I had changed my awful habit and it just came back today and bit me in the butt.

I ask you, “How long does it take for a new behavior to become automatic?

I’ll do my best to keep this short. Cause my old pattern of behavior is to go on and on and on.

The biggest problem is I like to tell jokes and get people to like me by making them laugh.

It’s more like when I go on and on and make people laugh, I keep them captive and then I think I’m in charge. At least that’s what the self- help books tell me.

Okay. Back to what habit I am desperately wanting to kick out of my life.

It’s about being ACCEPTED.

I’m resisting the addiction to stop and tell a joke right about now so you will like me.

I tell jokes to gain approval.

Here’s the short story. I thought I was getting good at not diverting the real issues when meetings get tense… It didn’t work. I have folks at my company furious with me because of my jokes.

Then I feel guilty. Even though the jokes I told yesterday  I thought were really funny. At least, everyone laughed.

Here is one I told. Let me know what you think.

I mentioned that someone I know was bitching about hair salons not being open and I said “Look, the only ones who think liquor stores are more important to stay open rather than salons are bald-headed alcoholics.”

The executive team laughed and then wanted to get back to a very tough issue that had to get handled.

I did it again.

Told another joke. And I got a text from the top honcho asking me to call her after the meeting.

I got reamed on the carpet (I’m resisting another joke here) and was told to cut the jokes that were annoying in the meetings.

I can’t stop. It’s like an addiction for attention. That’s what the books say.

I know you are known for helping people change old habits and patterns.

What am I missing and what do you suggest?


Mighty Tired

Dear Mighty Tired,

It sounds like you want a quick answer to a long-standing issue.

Just know that all habits were not created equal.

Some started when you were a kid. Some began in adolescence from peer pressure. Others creep up in adulthood. And some sadly, are handed to us without our permission from generations past.

The good news is when you stop skirting the issue and get down to what is really driving your behavior you can change it.

Let’s take a look at your behavior pattern of being a clown in staff meetings. I have a sense it is because when there is tension in a room, you have to be the one to take over with a joke to decrease the stress.

Right now, stress is over the top for most of us.

More than you wanting to be accepted there is something else.  I believe you want to make people feel better during these tough times.

Let’s look at that caring part of you rather than the part of you that is needy.

You want to help. That, dear Mighty Tired, is good.

Focus on the positive rather than see yourself as a hungry baby needing approval, see that you want to help.

Keep that in your mind as I guide you to begin the project of diminishing the clown pattern.

First, begin to observe yourself. Take small steps.

When everything in you wants to tell another joke bite your lip, scribble on a pad of paper, tap your fingers on your knee, pinch your arm. Do anything to keep from telling jokes during times that are filled with conflict and upset.

Start a journal. Note how hard it is to keep your mouth shut when stress hits the hot button. Jot down how you feel when you see the team squirm in discomfort as tough decisions are made.

I have an educated guess that as you were growing up you were the one to jump in with jokes to ease whatever upset was in the family.

That was good and caring. You just have to redesign the how and when of your jokes.

You may want to get a copy of THE PATTERN AWARE SUCCESS GUIDE which will guide you for 90 days of pattern transformation.

Keep the goal in front of you. The change will take months, not days. This Guide will help you train your brain to behave the way you want.

Please remember, changing behavior is a process, not a single event.

Then call me with some funny jokes. I don’t want you to lose your talent as a clown. I want to help you become more of a humorist who can tell a joke at the right time.

And just so you know, I love what you said about hair salons and liquor stores. It made me laugh.

Here’s you your success,


Are you ready to break out of the habits and fix your work relationships? Check out Don’t Bring it to Work, a book all about keeping your work at work and your life at home.

Sylvia Lafair