MINI HABITS HAVE A LOW WILLPOWER COST

Mini habits recognize that any new habit is going to take time to develop. We must get our reps in. After we have established a solid foundation, we can build on it. We are often told that we should never try to develop more than one habit at a time. This is great advice. The biggest mistake we can make about our willpower is placing too many simultaneous demands on it. The mental reserve we draw from to exert willpower is severely limited. Fortunately, with mini habits, this singular focus is unnecessary. 

Most of us want to develop multiple new habits. It takes a lot of self-control to focus on just one and ignore the others. The low willpower cost of mini habits means you can build multiple habits at once. They are so small we can create three or four at a time. As we follow through on our mini self-commitments, it will build our willpower and self-esteem.   

Habits not only build our willpower, but they also conserve it. Habits flow, unfettered by conscious thought. We aren’t struggling with a decision. We are reacting to a cue. Habits and environmental design are long-term strategies for conserving willpower. They allow us to avoid making a decision that would erode our willpower through decision fatigue. Instead of making a decision, we encounter a cue and execute a routine.  Continue reading MINI HABITS HAVE A LOW WILLPOWER COST

New Year’s Resolutions – Why Wait?

Our desire for a fresh start causes us to waste a lot of time waiting.  Why wait for a new year, a new month, or a new week. Tomorrow is a new beginning. Why not PLAN today – START tomorrow – and NEVER quit! A lot of people will tell us to start NOW, which isn’t bad advice if you are prone to procrastination, but research has shown that we do better when we have a plan. Research on implementation intentions suggests we will be much more likely to follow through if we have a plan. Planning can be exciting, but don’t let it turn into a form of procrastination. 

If you have a strong desire to implement a new habit, put that motivation to good use by planning when you’ll implement the new habit. Motivation not put to work is like water spilling from a leaky damn instead of being put to work by the mill. Motivation gets us started, but without a plan, we will quickly wander off course. Create an implementation intention. Decide when and where you are going to begin. Develop if-then plans. For example, your implementation intention could be to exercise for 20-minutes each morning right after waking up and drinking a glass of water. You prepare by laying your clothing out the night before and deciding what kind of exercise you are going to do. If 20-minutes feels like too much, you can start with a 5-minute commitment. Your if-then plan could be, if I oversleep or somehow miss my workout, I will exercise as soon as I get home from work. Continue reading New Year’s Resolutions – Why Wait?

WHY WE ARE ALL SUSCEPTIBLE TO BAD HABITS

The nature of bad habits makes them irresistible to our basal ganglia, where all habits live. Our primitive brain is a sucker for a quick payoff.
Why do we allow bad habits to happen? When we are stress or not paying attention, our subconscious mind will choose bad habits over good ones. Every bad habit provides an immediate benefit. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t repeat them. When we are feeling tired and stressed, we are particularly susceptible to them. When our body’s cortisol levels are raised, our mind shifts from a pause-and-plan state to a more impulsive fight-or-flight condition. Our primitive brain takes control and seeks quick satisfaction. Our primitive brain isn’t concerned with abstract ideas or our long-term goals; it is in tune with our body’s sensations. We have one brain but two minds. One is driven by emotions, the other by logic. Which is in charge at any given moment is dependent on our stress levels. Stress triggers a fight-or-flight response that puts our impulsive mind in the driver’s seat. Relaxation, on the other hand, shifts us to a state of pause-and-plan. When you are about to give in to temptation, taking, a few deep breaths has been shown to improve our self-control.  Continue reading WHY WE ARE ALL SUSCEPTIBLE TO BAD HABITS

MINI HABITS – Shrink the Commitment – Shrink the Resistance

Shrinking our habit commitment reduces our reluctance. This commitment is a floor and not a ceiling. If you feel motivated to do more, that’s great. Willpower is going to get you going. Motivation will determine how far you go. Continue reading MINI HABITS – Shrink the Commitment – Shrink the Resistance

Popularity isn’t a Measure of a Diet’s Effectiveness

A lot of popular things aren’t effective. Almost any of the popular diets will work, but most are unsustainable.  The results produced by extreme exercise and diet programs aren’t any more sustainable than the programs themselves. Quickly done, quickly undone. When I argue that the results produced by a low card diet aren’t sustainable, people will defend it as if I was attacking a member of their family. A low-carb diet certainly wouldn’t be my choice, but if you can sustain it as a lifestyle, then go for it.

Why are extreme, overly restrictive diets and motivation so popular if they aren’t practical solutions? Popularity is no indication of effectiveness. Look at the popularity of the reality TV program, The Biggest Loser. Forcing 400-pound people to work out four hours a day on a low-calorie diet makes for good TV, but the results are abysmal. Virtually all the contestants fail to keep the weight off. Approximately 14 out of 15 contestants gain back all the weight eight months after the program ends.[i] Continue reading Popularity isn’t a Measure of a Diet’s Effectiveness