Habits are powerful drivers of change. Habits can shape our patterns of thought, how we spend our time, who we interact with and how we treat them. Unfortunately, when it comes to DE&I, many of us lack the daily practice and discipline that it takes to make our efforts stick. As a result, we see diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging as buzzwords, represented in statements and social media blasts but starkly absent in deciding who will be given opportunities, which candidates advance in the hiring process, and the small, daily interactions in the workplace.


Sticky Habits


This disparity between talk and action makes perfect sense when we consider how difficult it is to form, let alone change, habits. We can all relate to resolving to make a change in our lives, be it waking up earlier, making the bed each day, or drinking more water, only to fall back into our old ways after just a few days. We overestimate the ease with which we can change. Taking a pledge on inclusion, attending a diversity training, or even genuinely desiring to do better will have the same outcome as attempting to wake up earlier so long as we fail to form the habits that will help us follow through. 

Habits are formed through repetition, meaning we fortify and retain habits through consistent day-to-day practice. When it comes to taking action to include others, treat people equitably, and embrace diversity in all its manifestations, some of us might be afraid to start. Others have tried yet fallen back into their old ways. And still, others may have made some changes, formed a new habit or two, and become content with their growth. The thing is, there is always more to learn. People are unique, dynamic, and we will never be perfect at understanding and including others. We’ll always be learning.


It’s Ok to Be Uncomfortable


Habit change is uncomfortable! Discomfort is always involved in the formation of positive habits. Whether you need to start learning how to listen and include or keep going, knowing that resistance is normal and necessary is key. What matters is that you stick with it. Maybe you commit to asking a coworker you’ve been avoiding how to pronounce their unfamiliar-sounding name, no matter how long you’ve stalled doing so. Perhaps you decide to add a tool to your hiring process to redact candidate resumes, bringing a layer of checks and balances to your decision-making. Or you resolve to share your pronouns to create space for others to do the same during each interview you conduct. Whatever your endeavor, keep in mind that though uncomfortable at first, you are building momentum that will fuel you to keep going. 


It’s All Downhill From Here


The good news is, habits become easier and more automatic over time. We expend less time and energy executing a given habit as time passes. Those small moments of discomfort you feel when first embarking on your new habit journey will begin to fade as the habit becomes second nature. Stopping to learn how to pronounce a new coworker’s name from the get-go will become natural. Putting checks in place to make more inclusive hiring decisions throughout the entire process will begin to shape how you think a qualified candidate looks, speaks, and acts. These small habit changes you make to your actions will, in turn, shape the way you think about other people. 

All of us are capable of forging lasting change in the way we think and behave; it’s just that not all of us are practiced in embracing discomfort and following through to form positive and lasting habits. If we all commit to building habits of inclusion, the compound effects individually and collectively will be more significant than we could imagine amidst the initial discomfort.