Site Menu

How to Change Anything

November 9, 2012 8 Comments

How to Change AnythingMy 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.


Willpower Doesn’t Work

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.


Make It Easier

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:

  • I started changing clothes three hours before working out. I’m normally not as tired at 2pm as I am at 5pm.
  • I started taking a break at 3pm for my snack and protein shake.
  • I started parking my car half-way between my office and the gym.

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.


Make It Harder

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.


Create Rules

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:

  • Buckling my seatbelt BEFORE starting the car.
  • Entering the address of my destination into the GPS device before starting to drive.
  • Absolutely no texting.
  • Start playing my audiobook before starting to drive.
  • Absolutely no drinking before driving (I realized that when I told myself “just one beer” it ended up being two or three.)


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:

  1. Don’t rely on your willpower.
  2. If you want to start doing something, make it as easy as possible.
  3. If you want to stop doing something, make it hard to accomplish.
  4. Create very specific rules.

Good luck changing yourself into a better you!


Zeke Camusio

About the Author

Zeke Camusio is a serial entrepreneur, marketing speaker, author of The Internet Marketing Bible and CEO of Digital Aptitude, a data-driven digital marketing agency in Portland, Oregon.

Contact Us

8 thoughts on “How to Change Anything

  1. Great points, Zeke! Especially working on making desirable habits easier to do (by pre-planning your schedule or changing your environment to support them) and making undesirable habits harder to do (by putting obstacles in their way) – now to get started on deciding which habits to encourage … hang on, I gotta go get some chocolate first … {;>))

  2. Hi Zeke,
    This was very helpful, want I find most interesting is making it easier!! Making rules is as easy as disobeying those same rules, I also think a pinch of will power is required to get through breaking any habit. If there is any way you can, break a habit by creating some kind of gifts for the efforst, its also a given that you should try and celebrate your efforts alone, do not let any one know about it until you achieve the feat of a changed habit

  3. Since you are a reader Zeke, have you read the Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg? Much of what you described above, especially with regards to how you managed your gym habit, is similar to what the author of the Power of Habit believes and that is: you can effectively change your habits if you change your routine to arrive at the same reward. He calls it the habit loop. Cue, routine, reward.

    I read it for business purposes. There are two stories in the first 3 chapters about how Febreze and pepsodent recognized the habit loop and used it to sell more products. You should read it.

  4. Zeke.. some great points here! Will power DOES work but you have to strengthen it every day. Actually doing what you’re suggesting takes AWARENESS (to know what you’d like to change about a pattern) and WILL POWER (to setup a new strategy). But once the new strategy is setup, you’re right, it takes less will power – making it easier to sustain while you focus your will power on other important things. They say will power is like a muscle, so by making things “easier” on your will power – you have the strength to use in other areas.

    1. It’s not that it doesn’t work, but we only have a limited amount of it. And what’s really interesting is that it doesn’t matter how you spend it (forcing yourself to work out or making yourself fold your laundry). They did this experiment where they had two groups of people waiting for an hour in a room. For one of the groups the put out some candy bars and they told them that they had a lot of sugar. This group did a pretty good job at avoiding eating the candy bars. But the real experiment was an exercise that required a lot of willpower. The group that had to “spend” all the willpower not eating the candy bars did a lot worse than the group that had a lot of “willpower left.” Really interesting!

  5. Along these lines, sometimes I use bad habits to influence good ones. For instance:
    – I put my vitamins next to my computer. So, I remember to take them as I work myself into the ground.
    – I keep a bottle of iced tea next to my wine. Instead of just drinking straight wine, I usually end up having only 1/2 wine 1/2 iced tea
    – I keep candy in my gym bag. (Self explanatory)

    If you’re going to have bad habits, you may as well make the most of them – your post helped me realize that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>