A scientific way to create lasting change in your behavior
Karl’s commentary: This is one of the best books about lasting change or habits formation. As the author says, the forces here presented are based on thousands of peer-reviewed studies.
The seven forces of lasting change
1. STEPLADDERS, make small steps
Research has shown that people have a better chance of succeeding at something if they take small steps. Even if they know they should take it slowly they often fail because their steps are still too big.
Take really small steps in the beginning. For example, if you’re planning goals for a new business, don’t plan to lock in your first customer by the end of the week. Instead, set the smaller step of meeting three potential new clients this week.
2. Create a COMMUNITY
There are many people like us and we can learn from them. Forming part of a community gives us the social support and social competition to make lasting change.
3. Make it IMPORTANT
It has to be important to people so that they make that change. So make sure your change is really important to you.
4. Make it EASY
If something is so easy that it is easier to do it than not to do it, people will be more likely to stick to it.
5. Apply NEUROHACKS
Most popular-psychology books with expressions like “if there’s a will there’s a way” and “Change your thoughts and your actions will follow” are wrong. Most smokers can’t quit just by imagining or willing themselves to change. It is actually the other way around, people need to change their actions and their minds will follow.
By changing your behavior you are “tricking the brain” into realizing that change is possible.These tricks are called neurohacks.
6. CAPTIVATING, make it rewarding
People tend to keep doing things if they get rewarded with things they need or want. You can apply this principle by “gamifying” whatever you are trying to achieve. For example, by giving points, badges or money for certain activities.
7. ENGRAINED, create routines
The brain rewards people who do things over and over again. Be repetitive and consistent. Most successful people’s days are full of routines, for example, morning routines. Barack Obama was known for routinizing food and dress so that he could save his time and energy for making more important decisions. Mark Zuckerberg does the same thing by having twenty versions of the same gray shirt so that he doesn’t have to decide what to wear every day. (Also read Willpower)
These individuals understood the power of the human brain and applied that science to their lives. The process of engraining patterns into the brain explains a large amount of human psychology and we can take advantage of it.
How to apply the seven principles
So now that we have the seven principles of change, we can focus on how to start applying them. It turns out that we can divide behavior into three different categories for which different principles are less or more important.
An Automatic behavior is something people do without conscious awareness. For example, grabbing your phone while you are waiting is an example of automatic behavior. Nail or lip biting, flinching, eating the food that is in front of you, are other types of unconscious behaviors. Because you often don’t consciously think about an automatic behavior, the best way to change it is by using conditioning. For instance, if you put on gloves, you won’t be able to pick your nose in public even if you are unconsciously trying to do it.
A burning behavior is one which people know they should stop doing but they have a burning desire or urge to keep doing it and thus can’t stop. Examples of burning behaviors are, feeling a need to check your phone immediately after waking up, feeling a need to immediately respond to an upsetting mail.
Common behaviors are the most common things people try to change. Things where they motivate themselves to do something. Examples of unwanted common behavior are wanting to eat junk food, consciously choosing to hit the snooze button on the alarm.
Now that you know how to separate the types of behaviors and the relevance of each of the seven forces to them, you can start using this model to change your own behavior or help other people to do so.
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Also published on Medium.