Saturday, January 15, 2011

Top 10 mistakes made in behavior change

So I was reading hacker news and found the following link.
http://www.slideshare.net/captology/stanford-6401325

I suggest that everyone read it. Although it is just a point form slide show, it really hits the spot with why I think many people (including myself) fail at certain goals. There are three points that I really want to touch on.

1)  Ignoring how environment shapes behavior
2)  Trying to stop old behaviors instead of creating new ones
3)  Underestimating the power of triggers

I will start with a little story.  My wife and I had set a goal of watching less TV.  This goal has obvious benefits.  For some reason, tho, we could never seem to get away from the TV.  The problem was this.  We lived in a condo, and as soon as you walked in, you were basically right at the TV.  It was hard to "sit on the couch" for a few minutes after work without turning on the TV.  I finally decided one day to move the TV from the "living room" to the "second bedroom".  Instantly, we have a nice, accessible area to just hang out, without the pressure of the TV also being in the same room.  I found it much easier to break away from wasting evenings completely watching TV.  It was great, and felt liberating.  It could not have happened if I had not realized how the environment I was in was affecting me.

Number 2 above really speaks to making positive, rather than negative goals.  For example.  The goal to want to stop smoking is really a negative goal.  You could, instead, set a goal to live a healthier life.  Of course that goal would have to be more specific than that, otherwise it would just be meaningless.  I really like they way the slideshow summarized this point, however.

Number 3 is really about understanding why you fail.  Lets say you eat junk food when you are stressed.  You make a goal to eat less junk food (or, alternatively, eat healthier) but sometimes you digress.  It is important to understand the "failure" and try to figure out what triggered you to digress.  Without understanding that, you can never get to the root of the problem.  The problem is not that you eat too much junk food, it is that you are too stressed in your life.