saying youll do something and not doing it

The successful person has the habit of doing what the failures dont like to to do. They dont like doing them either necessarily. But their disliking is subordinated to the strength

saying youll do something and not doing it

The successful person has the habit of doing what the failures dont like to to do. They dont like doing them either necessarily. But their disliking is subordinated to the strength of their purpose.  E.M Gray

You want to change something about yourself or your life. Lose weight. Exercise more. Read more. Watch less television. Sleep.

But, day after day, nothings much different.

Our lives are nothing more than routines and changing the routine or creating a new one is not as easy as it seems.

Routines conserve energy. With a routine, we dont have to think about whatever it is were supposed to do next. We go to bed about the same time, get up, breakfast, kids, school, work, commute, kids, dinner, and again. So, to break this up, something has to give. Something in the routine has to make room for something else.

Why People Fail to Change

In a survey by the American Psychological Association on stress and motivation, 93% responded that they had a goal to change something about themselves  something in their behavior.

And the number one reason people give for failure to make a change?

Lack of willpower.

I suspect its not just willpower  the ability to make the best choice when faced with other, more tempting yet less optimal choices  thats the only issue.

Why its hard to disrupt your routine and create a new one is that the new routine has a lower perceived pay-off compared to whatever the current routine is.

Lets take the issue of changing what you eat and drink.

You want to drop the sugar, pastas, breads, tortillas and chips from your diet. But, you dont. You say you will but then a friend asks you to join her for a drink after work and before you know it, an entire basket of chips has disappeared into your mouth. How do you change this?

Well, the problem is that theres no penalty; nothing immediately negative that will happen to you if you eat the basket of chips. Youll live. You wont gain 20 lbs over night. The sun will rise and set.

The pleasure the chips brings you is greater than the yet to be realized benefit of denying yourself. So you eat the chips.

How to Start Doing Something You Say Youre Going to Do

If you want to stop eating so many chips, youll have to figure out a way to make the current routine (eating chips) less desirable or make the new routine payoff a lot better.

Some people use a penalty to force behavior change, to make the current routine painful, but the research on penalty induced change also shows you get some unanticipated consequences.

Parents who routinely were late picking up their kids from daycare were fined and guess what happened? The parents still picked their kids up late and after the fine was lifted, they were still late.

The authors concluded that the parents just viewed the fine as a cost; a price they were willing to pay.

What seems to work better is a nudge; something that alters peoples behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives (Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness).

A nudge for you and your chips would be to recognize the cues that make you want the chips and then change the cues. A cue might mean that hitting happy hour makes you feel less stressed, more relaxed so you associate just about everything with the happy hour as being a good thing. If you can separate the the two things  relaxing and happy hour  then you have a better chance of sticking with your diet. It can be, literally, just telling yourself that you know whats going on here, you know why you want the chips and substitute a new thought. This then leads to a new routine (happy hour no longer means chips, queso, and four or five beers).

Basically, you have to wake up. Its what a teacher of mine likes to say  being awake; knowing or recognizing why youre doing something.

And when you wake up and make this new choice, also make a conscious effort to feel good about it. The payoff, positive or negative, translates into feelings. Bottom line, you like the way you feel when you make a certain choice. So, make yourself feel better about the new choice.

A Tip to Make Change Easier

You may have heard the phrase, Measure to manage. Whenever you track or measure something, you will automatically pay more attention to it and, in turn, this will change you behavior. This is referred to as self-monitoring and its been shown to work well in altering behavior.

You can use a spreadsheet, an app, or even old-school paper. The idea is to record when youve done what you said you were going to do. As an example, if your goal is to exercise two days per week, after you complete a session, record what you did, how long it took, and how you feel. This act reinforces, subtly, the behavior itself. Einstein once said. People lovechopping wood. In this activity one immediately sees results.

Change is one decision at a time followed by another. To make better choices, look for ways to nudge yourself into a new routine and ways to measure to manage.

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