Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Psychology of Behavior Change

I watched a highly interesting webinar from Equinox titled Psychology of Behavior Change by Kelly McGonigal, professor at Stanford University.

Here are some highlights that I can't stop thinking about.

When people came in for progress measurements, those that were congratulated on doing well, were 85% more likely to cheat or backslide slightly.  So instead of having positive reinforcement, it is the exact opposite.  (Should we tell patients that they are improving?)

We have false hope.  We think the person we will be in two months will be different then the person we are today.  So we put no stock into today.  I can have a hamburger today, because my future self will be eating salads.  (We must accept that what we do today, is who we are.)

We put a moral dilemma into our goals.  We think in terms of good and bad.  I'm doing good when I make a check for accomplishing this today.  I did bad when I didn't.  This actually strengthens our want to do the bad thing.  Eat candy over fruit as an example.  Don't think in terms of I did good by eating fruit today, or I did bad by eating candy today.  Think of the payout.  How do you feel after eating the apple.  I had more energy.  I didn't have an afternoon crash.  Pay more attention to what your goal is doing, rather then the goal.  (Pretty powerful way of reframing.)

Ask yourself the question why at least 3x.  For example,  I want to deadlift 500lbs.  Why?  I want my back to be much stronger.  Why?  So I can grow older without back pain?  Why?  I want to be able to play with my kids when I'm 75.  Sometimes it is realizing what the goal actually is.  This makes it easier.  (Remember the Why!)

What the Hell Effect.   This is actually a real thing.  It's describing when you fail on your goal, you just basically give up for the day.  Eat a doughnut, rest of the day you gorge out of guilt or shame.  The truth is when you allow yourself to fail, it's not the end.  Don't feel shame.  Just move on.

Reverse Engineer where you think you may fail.  Lets say your goal is to workout in the morning.  The first step may be to realize I will be tired and I'll convince myself I will do it after work.  After work comes and I'll probably say I'm tired,  I'll start tomorrow instead.  So realize that it has to get done in the morning.  The voice in your head that says I'm tired, becomes your warning bell that lets you know is a goal derailleur.

Make your environment as helpful as possible.  This is a pretty common one, but can be very powerful.  If you want to watch less TV, get rid of the remote.  If you want to eat healthier, don't have junk food around.  If you want to exercise more, get a workout partner.

To sum up there are 5 things to remember.

1. Make small changes.  Small become big when done enough.
2.  Own the fact that today is going to be tomorrow.
3.  Let go of Shame.
4.  Remember the Why.
5.  Outsource Your Willpower.

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