How to Change:

Will Power vs. Habit

 By Shlomo Maital


  Do you want to change? Do you want to lose weight? Exercise? Sleep more? Be more social? Be a better spouse?   All of the above?

       Then, you need to watch this heavyweight title fight. In the right corner, weighing in at 300 pounds: Will Power, the champion. In the left corner, weighing in at 138 pounds, the challenger, Habit.   Wait! Wait a minute! This is unbelievable. The fight hasn’t started yet and…and… Will Power is throwing in the towel. Habit wins. Habit is the undisputed Change Your Behavior champion.

Ok, agreed. That’s kind of hokey. But true.

B.J. Fogg is a Stanford University faculty member and runs a behavioral design lab. His new book is Tiny Habits: Small Changes that Change Everything. And his proven core principle is very simple:   Will power in general is not enough, despite what we may think. If you want to change what you do and how you behave, it’s not enough simply to …will it! There is a better way.

   Change your habits!

     But how?

   Here is one proven method, used by 40,000 of Fogg’s subjects. Small changes.

   Sunscreen? Crucial to prevent skin cancer? But – do we forget often, or simply can’t be bothered?

   Put on one single tiny drop. Just one. Do it every time. It takes just a second.

   Why? That drop doesn’t make any difference.

   No – but it creates a sunscreen habit – going out in the sun, put on sunscreen. One drop. Later, two. Then – slather it. And the habit will persist. Fogg proves it.

   Flossing your teeth? You forget, or are in a hurry?   Floss one tooth. Just one. Do it every time. Takes a second. Do it regularly. Eventually, expand it…and you have a habit that will not be broken.

     Fogg’s idea here is based on proven psychology, and widespread testing. It works. If you want to change your behavior and are really serious about it, design a habit. Start it small. And grow it. And persist.

         Use Fogg’s simple formula: B=MAP.   In Fogg’s own words: : “Behavior (B) happens when Motivation (M), Ability (A), and a Prompt (P) come together at the same moment.”   Don’t forget the Prompt. The thing that triggers an action.

       In other words: Motivation – I want to exercise more regularly. Ability – I have committed to walking to my bus connection, rather than riding. And Prompt – I am putting on my Brooks running shoes rather than dress shoes in the morning.

       Give it a try. And remember Fogg’s advice: Simplicity, simplicity!   The simpler your change habit design, the better!  Don’t beat yourself up if you break your diet.  It’s not a lack of will power. It’s bad design. 

     As Fogg suggests:  When the waiter brings you the basket of delicious hot bread rolls, make it automatic to say, ‘no bread please’.  Temptation, get thee away!   If you get in the habit, lots of calories can be saved…