“Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.”
–Charles Duhigg (from the Power of Habit)
How many times you have decided to start to lose weight?
Or stop procrastination?
Eat more healthily?
Cook more often?
Or try to update blog every day?
Quite often, I would say (especially for the last part)
Behavior change is difficult, although the components are simple. You have cue, such as feeling stressed out at work. You have routine, such as smoking to relieve that stress. And then you have reward, which is actually the break from your office desk. To succeed in habit change you should always change one variable at time. So that´s why eating a carrot or “smoking” your pen might work even better than nicotine patch in stopping smoking habit. You alter your routine, but keep cue and reward intact. To be honest though, the physical addiction to smoking makes it one of the trickiest habits to break so you might need the help of some nicotine products as well.
The main principle is still clear. You cannot start a new habit from the scratch. You have to build it upon your existing habits. Lack of this insight results that majority of habit-changing apps don´t really work.
“It is facile to imply that smoking, alcoholism, overeating, or other ingrained patters can be upended without real effort. Genuine change requires work and self-understanding of the cravings driving behaviours.”
Cue-routine-reward is the technical side of habit change. Important bit is also the motivation and that is where there are major differences between people. Different things motivate us. I personally am motivated by competition (mostly in sports, but how I see it you can compete in everything). Some people are not motivated by it at all, but more driven by social doing together or sense of fulfillment (and other crap I don´t really care about). The lack of understanding of what motivates people is one of the main reasons why companies can´t keep their employees. We tend to generalize our own motivation to apply to other people as well, so leaders try incentivize and motivate people using quite limited amount of tools.
Money motivates as well to certain extend, but again you have to craft the habit-changing program well. Yearly raise motivates us generally less than getting bonuses throughout the year for good performance (as we humans are quite adaptable). For smoker the schemes where you either get financial rewards or get penalized for not reaching the goal have been proven to be effective in studies. The motivation difference in these two ways is subtle: gaining attracts people who love winning and keeping those who are afraid of losing. Both work well. Also money is never only money. It acts as a metaphor of the sweet triumph or a bitter loss. The strength is that you can put a monetary value to almost anything and it can symbolize the struggle and fight behind reaching your goal.
Tapping into this insight comes this new site with catchy title:
Go Fucking Do It.
The premise is simple. You set a goal, deadline, supervisor and the amount of money you give if you do no reach your goal. Not surprisingly if you lose that money to charity it reduces the effectiveness of your decision.
“If you want to do something that requires willpower—like going for a run after work—you have to conserve your willpower muscle during the day,”
The site has a potential, but important thing is to have really sharp and understandable goals. For example getting gluten-free is easily attainable than getting a girlfriend as the former one is only up to you and has clearly identified steps. That you do not have girlfriend can be due to multiple variables, so you would have to fist prioritize those variables and start changing those one at a time.
I like the attitude of the site though. Quite often we should not overcomplicate things and just fucking do it.