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Working with Emotional Intelligence at Align4Profit has brought us success in helping leaders break habits. We begin by working with the three fundamental elements of habit—Cue, Action, and Pay-off (CAP).
bad habits road sign

Habitual behavior is set off by a stimulus or Cue, which triggers an unthinking response or Action, for which you receive a reward or Pay-off. Every time anyone completes such a cycle, the bad habit is reinforced by making the response more automatic and immediate.

Break Time!

To break the bad-habit cycle, we add a fourth element—Halt (H). We have found that the simple act of pausing gives you just enough time to get a hold of yourself, reset your rational powers, and move in the direction of change.

That gives us the acronym CHAP, which now stands for Cue, Halt, Action, and Pay-off. To CHAP a bad habit, you must take the following four steps:

cue roadsign

Recognize the full range of your emotions and perceptions—how you feel and think.

halt roadsign

Manage your emotion by pausing even for a few seconds to choose a different way to think.

action roadsign

Implement the alternative Action—what you will do and say instead.

pay-off roadsign

Evaluate the alternative reward and confirm your commitment to continue the new habit.

To begin to make CHAP work, keep in mind that Cues do not cause emotional disturbances. Rather, the way you feel about an event, yourself, others, and the world actually triggers your reactions.

When someone challenges your beliefs or rejects one of your ideas, they activate the emotional centers in your brain, which react automatically and immediately with negative self-talk, such as:

  • I have been rejected. I feel discounted and that makes me angry!
  • I did my best job presenting my ideas. They must be stupid ideas. I feel like a loser.
  • I failed to win approval. I am inadequate and depressed.

The foundation of your efforts to break bad habits must be built on rational beliefs. This is the key to self-regulation. You will not succeed until you reframe your thinking with healthy, positive thoughts such as:

  • Having my ideas rejected doesn’t mean I am being rejected. I may need to improve the ideas.
  • I probably could have done a better job of presenting my ideas, therefore I will work on presenting more persuasively.
  • Rejection of my good ideas doesn’t make me a loser. Those who reject them may need to more information to help them catch up.


Start Busting

If you really want to break bad leadership habits, I strongly recommend our CoachQuest Leader-as-Coach Program. There you will learn and practice the leadership skills you need to address alongside leaders like you from other organizations with many of the same challenges.

Learn more about CoachQuest.


Helanie Scott
Helanie Scott
Helanie (pronounced yeh-LAH-nee) Scott, CEO and founder of Align4Profit in Dallas, Texas, has driven stunning leadership and cultural transformations for an impressive list of organizations. She has mastered the ability to connect with her audiences in the boardroom, classroom, on stage, or in one-on-one coaching sessions. Helanie’s Align4Profit clients rave at the way her engaging programs freshen outdated mindsets and deliver results-oriented, aligned action.