10 Mistakes In Behaviour Change, By Stanford University, Part I

It’s Friday. 🙂 If you were around me, we’d do the happy dance.

If you read my blog post earlier this week, I had touched very briefly on a team known as the Persuasive Tech Lab based in Stanford University, and its take on the 10 mistakes we make when changing and replacing old behaviours and habits with new ones. I really identify with it because they are incredibly practical tips to use when you are doing something new. This will be a 2 part post where I will break down the first 5 mistakes we make. So let’s get right into it shall we?


Mistake #1: Relying on willpower for long-term change.

Now many people will interpret this in different ways, but I can only give my interpretation of this. Willpower is mental, like the promise to wake up consistently at 5am every day. Willpower disappears. Especially when it is cold as hell outside and everyone around you is sound asleep. You need to cultivate a new state of mind, and a very strong and compelling WHY or Push Factor as to what will keep you waking up at that time. Relying on grit alone will not take you too far.


Mistake #2: Attempting Big Leaps Instead of Baby Steps

If you are used to sleeping in during the weekends, do not suddenly decide, for the sake of getting stuff done that you’re going to wake up at 5 am! Talk about a huge leap! Start with small, incremental steps. If you wake up at 10am every Saturday, decide to start waking up at 9:30am. Once you get used to this, push the time to 9:00am. It is better to make these gradual steps, which eventually accumulate to huge differences, than taking unreasonably big leaps that will have you crashing, and never wanting to do it again!


Mistake #3: Ignoring How The Environment Shapes Behaviour

Your environment, where you sleep, where you work, and the people you interact with daily are very strong and influential triggers that keep you in the same habit loop. Stop ignoring the fact that you put your TV in your bedroom and find yourself sleeping at 12am instead of 10, as you intended. Don’t ignore that the minute you get off work, you will head straight to your “local” to have a beer or 6 before going home. Be aware that after lunch, you end up totally idling in front of your computer, playing Candy Crush or looking at gossip blogs. We all have sinned! Your environment is an incredibly powerful force that determines whether you will succeed at habit change or not.


Mistake #4: Trying To Stop Old Behaviours Instead Of Creating New Ones

This is what we are taught, right? If you have a bad habit, stop it! Well that cannot be enough, especially when you have been smoking for the past 15 years. A more sustainable approach is asking yourself WHY living a smoke-free life can improve your wellbeing, how your family will benefit from you being healthier, how much it will improve your temperament without relying on cigarettes to do it for you. Also really entertaining a brand new mindset on what new habit you can cultivate to help you rely less on this old one. Alternative activities can be meditating, or exercising. But finding legitimate reasons to support why you MUST end an old behaviour is a very sustainable way to change it, instead of simply trying to stop it.


Mistake #5: Blaming Failures on Lack Of Motivation

I do not believe anyone who says they lack motivation, especially when you are married with children. All it means is that you have prioritized for certain things, and haven’t for others. If you can wake up at 5am every morning because you have to get your kids ready for school, then you are a motivated individual. So it is not about “lacking” motivation, it is about prioritizing your activities. If you want to work out more, then it has to become a big priority in your life, and it has to really start to matter to you. So the next time you say you lack motivation, ask yourself why you make sure you are at work at 8am every morning without fail. Is that not motivation?


This concludes part 1 of this post. In the next one, of course, we shall wrap up with the other 5 mistakes we make when changing behaviours and habits!

Have a splendid weekend!

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