Willpower is not an effective long-term strategy for behavior change because it is inconstant. When we are stressed-out, tired, and hungry our willpower will leave us vulnerable to any temptations we encounter. Fortunately for us the more committed we are, the less willpower we will need. Shaping your environment will shield you from temptation. By removing the temptations that reward bad habits, we can extinguish them without exerting our willpower. It doesn’t require willpower to shape our environment. It requires commitment. Continue reading Environmental Design is a Great Substitute for Willpower
An effective strategy for behavior change needs to address one or more of the components of the habit loop. The more of them you engage, the better your chances of success. The most effective strategies encourage or discourage the habit at the beginning. You won’t reinforce a craving if you remove the temptation or cannot perform the habit. You cannot make the Reward of a good habit more satisfying if you do not do it.
The First Rule of Behavior Change, Shrink the Commitment, is the most effective way to create a good habit. Shrink the new behavior down so small in the beginning that even on your absolute worst day, you could keep your habit streak alive. We don’t rise to the level of our aspirations; we sink to the level of our standards. Set the bar so low, you cannot fail, but remember that bar is a minimum requirement. You can always do more when you feel motivated to do so, but never less. Continue reading The Five Rules of Behavior Change:
“I don’t miss a workout” is a lot more powerful than “I can’t miss a workout.” ‘I can’t is weak. It connotes an external impediment. The phrase, “I can’t miss a workout” implies you really want to skip your workout, but someone is making you. Even if that someone is you, the phrase lacks commitment. It says to anyone that hears it that you are being forced against your will. It makes us feel like we are losing our autonomy. Even if we are the ones imposing the constraint, it makes us feel like we are less in control. It makes our Elephant feel like it is being bullied by our Rider. This will cause the Elephant to rebel when it has had enough. The Rider will be powerless to stop the two-ton Elephant when this happens. When you say, “I don’t miss workouts,” you are saying that you are the type of person that works out consistently because that is who you are. When a salesman says, they can’t give you a discount you might ask to speak to his manager because the salesman is saying the decision is out of his hands. He would like to provide you with a discount, but his manager or company policy is preventing him. Continue reading The Right Words are a Powerful Agent of Change
If you want to change your behavior, you must address the Elephant in the room. In the New York Times bestselling book, The Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, the authors describe the struggle we all face when we want to change our habits. The battle is between the logic-driven part of our brain, the Rider, and the emotion-driven part of our mind, the Elephant.[i] The Rider is weak and prone to overthinking things, becoming overwhelmed by decision fatigue and analysis paralysis. The Elephant, on the other hand, is powerful and instinctive, fueled by emotions and primal urges. The Elephant can easily overwhelm the Rider, especially when he is indecisive. The Path they travel is the external environment. The Rider can influence the Elephant’s behavior by shaping the Path, but he cannot overcome him through brute force. Continue reading Behavior Change – The Elephant in the Room
eople that start out too ambitious and quit; you will also develop into a more disciplined and motivated person. Every time you exercise, you are reinforcing the habit and casting another vote for the type of person who exercises regularly. Every workout is another small win that contributes to your self-esteem. Sustained motivation is born of sustained action. It is a huge mistake to believe motivation must proceed action. The reverse is true. First, we must produce a small win, activate our reward system, flood our body with dopamine – then we will feel motivated to do more. This is the reason crossing-off an item on our to-do list makes us feel fantastic. Progress equals happiness. Nothing motivates us better than progress. When you start creating an unbroken chain of X’s in your habit tracker, your motivation is going to soar. You are not going to want to see your perfect streak end. If you make your scorecard public, you will be even more motivated to keep your streak alive. The more you do, the more you will want to do. Continue reading Two Potent Strategies for Behavior Change