My whole life I’ve been fascinated with behavioral psychology. Not only to learn better ways to market products and services, but because the way the brain works is truly fascinating. One of the things I noticed was how hard it is for me (and other people I know) to change things we want to change. We want to eat better, exercise more and watch less TV, but it’s very hard to change habits that have been running your life for many years.
So for the past two years I’ve read every book I found on changing habits and I’ve conducted a few dozen experiments on myself. In this post I’ll cover the most effective techniques I’ve learned on changing habits.
I used to think that because I’m a smart guy I had complete control over my actions. But there’s extensive research that proves that willpower is a limited resource and whether you spend it making yourself exercise in the morning or not buying everything you want to buy, at one point you’ll run out of willpower and give into the temptations around you. The bottom line is this: willpower alone is not effective at changing habits. You need techniques that actually work.
One of the things I was struggling with the most was going to the gym after work. After working for 10 hours I was always exhausted, so by the time I got home I didn’t feel like making myself a snack, taking my protein shake, waiting an hour to process all that food, changing clothes and driving to the gym. It was too much work and I was too tired by the end of the day.
So I made a few changes:
This way, by 5pm every day my body is done processing all the food, I’m already wearing my gym clothes and by the time I walk to my car it’s just easier to go to the gym.
I also used this technique to keep my car clean. I used to toss pieces of paper around the car. All I had to do was getting some small trash bags and keep them in my car. Now it’s easier to toss my trash into the bag instead of on the car’s floor.
And I also used this technique to create more videos for my blog. I noticed that there are a lot of cool things I do every day that would be very useful for marketers and business owners to see. But the whole process of launching the screen recording software, recording the video, waiting 30 minutes for it to process and then manually upload the file to YouTube was enough to discourage me from ever doing it. So I got a new piece of software (Jing) that is always running on the background, it starts recording with a keyboard shortcut and when you’re done there’s no processing required and your file is automatically uploaded to YouTube. And I also connected my Twitter and Facebook accounts to YouTube so every time a new video is uploaded, YouTube posts it to my Twitter and Facebook automatically.
To stop doing certain things, make them harder to accomplish. When I wanted to stop checking my Facebook every hour, I removed the Facebook bookmark from my browser and logged out on Google Chrome, which is the browser I normally use. So, if I want to log in to Facebook now, I have to open a new browser, type my email address and enter password. I went from checking Facebook 10 times a day to maybe once a day.
I also used this technique to stop eating so much chocolate. I used to buy a lot of chocolate and keep it in my house. Then, when I wanted chocolate, I’d grab a whole bar and go watch TV. Inevitably, I’d eat the entire thing. Now I don’t buy chocolate at the grocery store anymore. If I really want chocolate I have to drive or walk a quarter-mile to the closest gas station. And when I sit to watch TV, I only take a quarter of the bar with me. If I want more, I can always stand up, go to the kitchen downstairs and grab another quarter. I went from eating six chocolate bars a week to only one every two weeks.
Rules are great because if you had to think about every little thing you do every day, you’d go crazy. For example, one of my latest goals was to start driving more safely. But for some reason I wasn’t feeling like anything was changing. This is because my goal was too vague, so I decided to create some rules for myself:
Change is hard. Don’t be so hard on yourself if you have a setback. It happens to all of us. Just get back on the horse and keep going. They say it takes 21 days to change a habit. And remember the four golden rules of change:
Good luck changing yourself into a better you!
Tags: How to Change Anything