I like behavior change as much as the next guy. But most of the stuff out there doesn’t work. The not totally surprising reality in psychology, which I learned studying in my Master’s program, is that we don’t have behavior change figured out yet. What we have are some general principles, that work for some people, sometimes.
So what am I supposed to do? Sit here on the couch like a schlub on autopilot never able to change a thing? Schlubby, helpless, stuck thick in the status quo?
I refuse! Imma change this shit.
One of the biggest problems in behavior and habit change is the quick fix. People fucking love quick fixes. Why? They’re cheaper, easier, and more quickly satisfying–that is, if they work. Which, they almost never do.
Researchers in psychology look for quick fix methods because a) their funding is limited and the time they can spend on their study is limited, and b) publishing a study on a quick fix method gets more attention — people don’t want to read and understand some long and difficult shit.
Practitioners look for quick fix techniques because a) their clients want them, and b) their patients’ health insurance doesn’t want to pay for some long and difficult shit.
Now, let’s turn to the average person, the average consumer, say, me. I want a quick fix for several reasons. A big one, often overlooked, is I don’t really connect with my distant future self the way I connect with my past self.
So, how does behavior change happen, if at all? Sometimes quick fixes work. If not, the answer is to do some long and difficult shit. But let’s not be so negative. The answer is to do some enlightening, enlivening, inspiring, effective, and successful shit… which is Integrated Behavior Change.
Whether we’re talking health habits, work and productivity habits, staying better connected with old friends, or being a better parent, the change you seek to make doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It exists in a web, or slew, or supernova of thoughts, feelings, people, places, things, culture, and time.
Yes, it’s a lot. The keys to making Integrated Behavior Change include finding the specific levers that most need to be pulled, and sticking with the program long term until you figure it all out. It requires a fundamental shift of attitude, from short term gratification to playing the long game.
And, by the way, you’re always playing the long game, wether you see it or not.
So, if you want to drink more water, get more done this week, stop smoking, work out more, email your friends back faster, or live the dream life, think integration not vacuum.
The New York Times recommends sleeping in your gym clothes to get yourself to work out first thing in the morning. Honestly, nobody’s gonna do that — “nobody” meaning just about nobody, probably somebody out there will at least try it. Whatevs, find the random tips and tricks that help further your efforts. However, tips and tricks are a kind of quick fix if that’s all you rely on, and won’t put you over the top.
Some questions to help you integrate your behavior change:
On people: Who in your life can actively help support you? What can they do? What conversation do you need to have with them?
On emotions: How do you feel about this change? What is your mental and emotional experience of it? Are you intrinsically motivated or are you doing this because someone else, or the big “they” think you should?
On environment: What physical environment changes will give you a boost?
On time: What is the best time of day? What is your plan ahead if that timing is thrown off?
On values: Who, or what is this for, fundamentally? What core conviction does this manifest? How long are you willing to tinker and explore to get this right?
On lifestyle: What lifestyle would make this change easy? What are all the components of this lifestyle? Is this authentic to you?
On your future self: What happens if you create all this?
On amazingness: How amazing are you?
Make the change you love — the thing that makes you feel expanded — and love the change you make — dive in, immerse yourself, revel and bask in the game of change.
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