Habits are crucial if you want to make a change and make it stick. A large part of our daily lives is habitual. But habits scare us because they remind us that parts of our lives are outside of our control. The good news is that habits can help us. Having a string of good habits can help us study well, live healthily, have good relations and be effective at work.
Habits are based on three components: context, repetition, and rewards. But what does that exactly mean? I have invited Wendy Wood to discuss how you can form new habits, break old ones, and meet your goals. Wendy is a professor of psychology and business at the University of Southern California and an expert in habits. She will tell us all about how to change bad habits into good habits – which incidentally is (almost) the name of her latest book.
Wendy will talk about
- Fully 43% of our actions are habitual – performed without conscious thought. Habits are a big part of our lives and are therefore important
- That we are obsessed with willpower and self-control when we make a change, but this is the wrong strategy. Because it does not work
- Why a night at the movies won’t cut it as a reward to yourself
- Why it is often more difficult to change your habits the older you become
Are you too busy? Here are the key points
Here are my key takeaways from the podcast. But there are more goodies in the episode itself, so hopefully, you will listen to it.
#1 Willpower and self-control is not enough. Willpower will help you in one-off situations and when you want to start a new habit. But you cannot suppress desire – not even with the strongest will. It is not willpower that will keep you from the candy jar. Habits will. People with great willpower just have great habits.
#2 Habits are born from the same three elements; context, repetition, and rewards. Context is our environment. If the candy jar is placed a little further away, that will cause friction and help you to break that habit. If you sign up to the gym closest to where you live, you are more likely to go. You get the picture.
Repetition is the mother of skill. You need to continue to do things over and over to make it habitual. And no, 21 times is not enough. That is a myth.
Rewards create a dopamine connection to the behaviour and make it a bit more likely that you will do it again. Intrinsic rewards work the best, and yes, they must come straight after the right behaviour.
#3 Your habits are your friends. Whether you like it or not, much of your daily behaviour is automatic or habitual. Wendy estimates this to be 43%. So, instead of seeing the hidden part of ourselves as something to fight against, see it as a friend who relieves mental energy for you, so you can pay more attention to the things which really matters.
Curious for more? Here are the links I promised
- You really should read her book; Good Habits, Bad Habits. I learned a lot from it.
- Wendy Wood on LinkedIn
- Wendy Wood on Twitter
- Good Habits Bad Habits website
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