144: How to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones

Automatic TRANSCRIPT

Welcome to the psychology podcast where we give you insights into the mind, brain behavior and creativity. I'm Dr Scott Barry Kaufman. And in each episode, IV conversation with guest, he will stimulate your mind and give you a greater understanding of yourself others and the world we live in hopefully will also provide a glimpse into human possibility. Thanks for listening and enjoy the podcast. Today, it's a great delight. Have James clear on the podcast clears website, James clear dot com, receives millions of dollars each month and hundreds of thousands subscribe to his Email newsletter. His work has appeared in the New York Times time and entrepreneur and on CBS morning and his taught in colleges around the world clear is the creator of the habits academy. The premier training platform foregin ization at individuals that interest in building better habits in life and work. His latest book is called atomic habits in easy and proven way to build good habits and break bad ones James such today. Hey, thanks, Dr. Manson. Talk to you. Good. Talk to you to this book that you did is right now this your life, your magnum opus. Yeah, that's true. I mean, it's the most complete and comprehensive guide that the other habits work and really how to change them or how to shape them. And you know, it's funny. I mean, as a scientist, you'll appreciate this flossy too. But I think a lot of authors. They write a book and then because you put so much effort, energy research into a book for me, this was a three year process to finish the book itself in probably six years writing before that. I think a lot of time once the book is published, you double down on all the ideas because it took so much effort to put it in there. But in a sense, I'm trying to view this as like the world's Most Polish, I draft on habits, you know, and so I put it out there and I'm hoping that I'll get a lot of feedback on what people enjoy financial, what questions they have or where there are gaps in my thinking. And then you know, hopefully I can send out a revised and updated version five years from our ten years from now, whatever in really fix the flaws, they're there. So I like I'm very excited share with people really proud of what it is, but I'm also excited to continue to improve it while you quickly walk it up because that's one of the main themes. Your book is to continually improve. Even one percent. You know every day I'd be happy if I put one percent every month. By lot. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I'm, I was impressed with those who can do that every day. Yeah. So I really like that too. You said the first draft for the world like the world's first strapped. But personally, you obviously went, I soon you went through more than one draft. What was your first draft like this book, your man. Well, this is maybe a little bit of insight into my process, but I totally over wrote for the book. So I I ended up having to ask my publisher for next year to research and write it. Once I got about a year in realized this isn't gonna be enough time, and they very graciously gave it to me. But my in first full draft of the book was two hundred and fourteen thousand words which is over seven hundred pages, and the finished version is about two hundred fifty pages of texts. So it's about one third of what it was when I first put it all together and I'm glad that that happened. I mean, it needed to be refined at home down, but my hope is that I was able to like still capture the essence of all of those seven hundred pages, but in a more digestible, easy to understand, simple, actionable format such a common thing for that. I rap to be bloated as they say, because you rarely know exactly until hindsight, you know exactly what are the most relevant things. Till you see the big picture. We said his case for me, you know, that was definitely the case. I didn't really know what the book was until I had written. That's interesting. Sounds proposal. Well, it was always going to be a book about habits, right? It was always it was always going to be that I've been writing about habits, James dot com for six years now. And so I had a lot of ideas about habits, a lot of individual strategies for changing them or specific tactics that you could use a given situation in there may be say, thirty or forty of those ideas that are all kind of under the umbrella of building that our habits, but I didn't understand how they all fit together. I didn't understand like what the framework was that how they integrated and I needed to pretty much right the whole book to get my thoughts in order figure out like how these work together on a blog articles can be like a spider web. You can have like one article that connects to three or four other ideas, but in a book, it needs to be more of a number line. Chapter one to chapter three, chapter four, like it needs to to build. And so I had to write the whole thing to figure out where to pieces fit. I love that. I love that because you know, in wire to create a creativity is is an emergent property. And Picasso said he hardly ever knew he was going until he got there. It sounds like your processes similar, but it doesn't mean that you operate blind. That's a false dichotomies. All right. Doesn't mean just as it's emerging that you're just like, stabbing in the dark trial and error, you're still building these habits that are going to ultimately increase the likelihood that something good's going to merge. You know, I'll be interested to get your thoughts on this, but I think for me similar to that Picasso quote, you just shared writing like thinking a lot of time. I don't really know what I think about something until I have written about it because they to kind of iterating on the thought multiple times as I go through it. And I find that if I'm asked about something that I haven't written about, what I'm really doing in the moment is I'm just talking my emotions. I'm talking my feelings like you asked me a question. I haven't heard about it before. So my response is just kind of based on like whatever might gut intuition is feeling as in the moment, and I'm talking those feelings out loud in my response. But when I write, I get to do that. I get to talk, you're my feelings. I read what I write out loud sensibly. Yeah, but I get to revise it again and again, and so eventually get to after revising article, twenty five times is very different than what that first draft would be when it comes out of my mouth in conversation. I don't know. It's kind of an interesting thing. It's like you asked me about something. I tell you what I think, but might not actually be what I think is just kind of my first initial response. Yeah, I've, I've often thought of the writing process as a beautiful thing for me personally because it allows you to kind of coal and and reject all the things that if they were put in public would hurt your reputation as a writer. And I wish like the dating process, the marriage process, the job selection process wish so much of life was like that. You know, I think like if some people read like some of those early drafts, they would not think I'm as good of a writer as they think right now who's the real me the real me. You know, the finished polished, you know, wow, he's such a good writer, you know, or as the room, the real me and my faking everyone. Rumi was like that I draft. I like the idea that like the mind is a suggestion engine in. So in my mind is suggesting a lot of turnips for the answer to any given question and writing allows me to kinda like all of those alternatives on one page and then gradually cold the ones that don't make sense in cut those out and refine the ones that do make more sense. And yeah, when you only get one chance of the first date or one chance of job interview, you kind of give whatever your first responses but may not be you're the best suggestion that your mind go with. That's right. So you were on this podcast before you're one of our rare return offenders. Thank you so much. I'm very honored to to earned the right to comeback. Your work is excellent. And I wondering how you personally have felt like you learned or grown since a child when you fell fourteen to adult it up every fourteen two thousand sixteen jotted. Where were you at that place in? You know, how do you think you personally have grown? Well, so you caught me right after. Red signed a book deal at that point. So I signed it relate to dozen fifteen. So adminis- you months. So I was in the process of writing the book. I really had no idea what is biting off in what was to come. But as far as how I've changed, I think my thoughts on habits have become much more refined when we can talk about that as go through the conversation. But in a more broad sense recently, I've come to realize or have started to appreciate more the, I guess, I'll say like the balanced between things. So the side DEA, that two opposing answers can often both be correct, but it just depends on the circumstances were to opposing strategies can often both be affective, but it depends on when you need them. So take just as a very simple example, you could live your life in like a low level state of movement walking to from work sleeping, whatever. Or you could do like a more extreme strategy, reliving on both ends of the spectrum like you sprint for thirty minutes a day need you like intense sprint were. Out and then you like really rest and recover for ten hours. You sleep a lot that night and often that like oscillating strategy can actually lead to better outcomes or better results like lead to more muscle growth in strength in the sprinting sleeping case than just performing like a mid range level of movement throughout the whole day. I wonder if that's also true a lot of ideas of true from like a mindset standpoint, that many seemingly opposing extremes or opposing theories, there's truth in all of them. And just the answer is not to always sprint or to always sleep the answers to like what strategy or would extreme do you need at this particular time? And so I'm coming to appreciate that a little bit more. One of the areas where I've thought about this related to habits related to ideas is, you know, there's this never ending nature versus nurture debate and like you have on one end, the deliver practice believers who say like we can fashion ourselves almost anything. And then on the other end, you have. Assists and scientists who say like, you know, the genetic code is definitely not a blank. Slate were very limited, and I think both of those are simultaneously true, which sounds like crazy when I think about it, but it is both true that we can fashion ourselves mold ourselves, much more than people would expect that maybe your ceiling in any given area is higher than you would believe. And it's also true that our genes nudge us in ways and shape us in ways, said abound ry for us in certain areas that we often under appreciate. And so I don't know. I've kind of been wrestling with these ideas like opposing answers or simultaneously true opposites. They love that. You said a lot of really interesting things there. You know, our last very latest podcast episode with Robert Pullman. Mentioned the book actually. I know I was gonna say, you mentioned him in your book and wanna relax chapters. So that was cool to see that. Yeah, and we try to kind of wrestle with some of those issues of that tight interplay between nature nurture he, he's a strong believer that the genes make us creed or environments we create nudge us to create our environments, you know, and it seems like a big thing of your book is choosing the environment that will help you excel like why hard for yourself? Like Pullman talks about not going against the grain of nature. Yeah. I mean, this is a talk about a little later in the book. I haven't really seen sure. Robert has Brady by the is in this, but haven't really seen many people talk about the influence of jeans on habits or personality on habits. And I think they're like some interesting threads follow there, but it's also it feels like we're kind of still in the infancy from scientific standpoint on what the answers are. But the example that I give in the book is that you have Michael Phelps, you know, one of the most. Swimmers of all time six foot four. And you have another Olympian that I mentioned who competed at the same Olympic Games in Athens. Hickama groups who is a very famous runner and Gruz held at one point the world record, I think in the thousand meter of the five thousand meter and the mile races. So he's a fantastic athlete zone, right. And what's interesting is that they're seven inches different in height. Phelps a six, four grooves five nine a belief and they have the same link insead on their pants. So the runner is like all legs Noto and Phelps as this very long back which is great for pulling through the water. And so the question I had was what if they switch sports, they're both like literally world class athletes, and you know if Michael Phelps was a runner instead of swimmer, could he make the Olympics? And the answer's almost certainly know at peak fitness, Phelps, one hundred ninety four pounds and grew and the other Olympic runners competed around one hundred thirty hundred thirty, five pounds. So folks would have been sixty. Pounds overweight. By the time it got to the starting line in distance running every pound is like a curse. And so the point here is that this is kind of larger way of looking at genes in general, which is that your genes are the usefulness of the utility of your genes is often determined by the environment that you're in. So if you're seven feet tall, that's an incredibly useful Seta jeans on basketball court, but it's very limiting if you're trying to gymnast or do a routine on the balancing. And this is true, not just for physical characteristics which are clear in obvious to talk about, but also for psychological ones. I don't know that we have the same depth of knowledge about psychological traits in their links to the code yet. I think we're moving in that direction, but it is interesting to think about. Can you set up an environment for yourself or put yourself in situations where you're like a seven footer on a basketball court where you're in environment that favours you and make it easier for self to build better habits in that way, and you probably know the. Psychology loser better than I do, but I am interested in like how certain percentage rates like the big five. About the onto the genetic code and then like what that might tell us about how to strategize for your habits. You know, like if your loan conscientiousness and you're not likely to be someone who's orderly organized in maybe like not the type of person who would remember to do something. Maybe your strategy could benefit from a more optimism environment, like a physical environment that has more cues in it to prompt. You remind you to perform a habit rather than just leaving it up to being orderly. I don't know. I'm not sure like how that would shape things, but I think that there's probably like a thread to pull on their where personality can be informative for strategy. And that's the alternate punchline about chapters that genes do not eliminate the need for hard work to show you what to work hard on. They do not eliminate the need for strategy. Don't just say, oh, there's biological determinism. No need to worry about this. Like it's all fixed anyway. They tell you based on your characteristics, where should your strategy focused? I like that I think is interesting. Catch twenty two with personality. In the sense that personality influence what strategies your motive to pursue in the first place. Like one facet of consciousness is chievements drive. Some people call grits, and people call industriousness and industriousness is a separate facet than orderliness. So you might actually score really low in a chief -ment oriented drive and low in orderliness and the oil ruinous just won't bother you like your very well orderliness and your high. These come apart as well. You're very high achievement like so seems like the discrepancy between like who you wanna be in who you are is really important factor here versus you knows it. 'cause some people just won't bother them. They're not setting habits that make them more orderly. Like some people are actually totally fine with not always having public recognized successes or even, you know, reaching long-term goals, there's happy like just have good friends and family. You know society think about? Well, I think what's interesting there, twos in this. This is true for any type of advice which is advices pretty useless. If you don't have a willingness to self experiment, you know, like a there are a lot of great ideas out there. But if people expect those ideas to map perfectly onto their own life than things kind of fall apart a little bit, you need to be willing to like massage the ideas or toy with them enough to figure out how do I fit this into my own circumstances. And so in that sense, a deeper understanding of your personality or your genetic traits, your inclinations predispositions might allow you to more accurately determine what advice is useful for you. You know someone who doesn't need to worry about things being orderly. It's like, well, you know, maybe that area of this advice is just not relevant to me. I can move onto the next section because something else is going to be more useful for my personality situation. So I think that understanding ourselves more deeply and they're all kinds of interesting things I think are going to come in the coming decades about DNA genetics, how that links to our psychology in mindset, understanding those things better will probably. Allow us to have better strategies for building habits as well. Yeah, I love that Lincoln to that. You're making there and it's good to start talking about that in the public conversation. Hey, everyone just wanted to take this moment to thank you all for your support of the podcast. Over the years. It's been a real privilege to do this podcast y'all for the past four years, if you'd like to further support the podcast, I wanted to a few things you can do to help make this podcast better experience for you. All I, I really appreciate it. If you subscribe to the psychology podcast on itunes, this would help make the show more prominent on. I tunes increase our listenership. I believe you can subscribe both in your iphone on your computer. Second. It'd be great if you could give the show reading and review tunes. I definitely read all the reviews and they are helpful to others who are thinking about giving the show. Listen, 'nother thing you can do which is new is to become a patron of the show by going to WWW dot PAT r. e. o. n. dot com forward slash psych podcast. That's WWW dot p. t. r. e. o. n. dot com. Forward slash podcast, their various op. That you can select, which include the ability to ask your own questions to a guest on the show and to have a thirty minute Skype session with me. Thanks again for your incredible support of the show. Over the years. I do the show for you all because I truly love sharing mine Fouzy Izam and love of the mind, brain creativity, and it really appreciate you joining me on this journey. Okay. Now back to the show, I want to circle back because like almost every sentence you make leaves meal and like ten directions to follow up on. So it's like particularly difficult guests in a good way, but you said a bunch of things that were very rich earlier, and I want to circle back to this idea of posing things that seem to be at odds with each other in like you're either this person or that person, and it's like, no, I'm a person that has both that encounters both sort of things. I think about this a lot. Let's zoom in on that point you made because Abraham as one of my favorites, psychologists refers to one of the key elements of self actualization as dichotomy transcendence. So I linked that to what you were saying. Like, you know about how like really highly developed individuals who are very wise, have this ability to not see things that seem paradoxical as paradoxical seeing them's only like apparent pirate axes. Like, you know, dichotomies we have inside like male, female, or work in play, or also things he actually viewed that as a very high level of actualization life. If you can do that, I like that phrase, dichotomy transcendence, you know, it's like you're stepping outside of this black and white conversation in seeing the partial truths that are available in in all the options. Yeah, I'm really exciting that point. I was excellent. You don't talk about too much in your book though. This new, a new theory, your next book or something? Well, I came to realize some of it as I was writing the book. You know? So I just mentioned this, like the difference between. Okay. So you know, there's this classic debate a lot of psychology research about like social psychologists, the environment shapes your behavior, personality psychologists, personality shapes you behavior and so on. And of course they're elements of both. But woods. Interesting to me is like how far either option can take you, you know, like how far altering the physical environment, like what you see when you walk into your room. So like let's say, you know, just take a classic example like watching television as a habit will if you walk into pretty much any living room where to all the couches and chairs face, they all face the TV. So it's like, what does that room designed to get you do? And we don't think about it that way, bright, but they're variety things you could do there. You could take a chair turned away from the TV. You could put the television inside a wall unit. So it's behind doors or cabinets that you're less likely to see the. You can take the remote and put it in a drawer. You could also increase the friction associated with tasks. You could like take batteries out of the remote control. And then that adds like an extra five or ten seconds. Do I really wanna watch TV or is this just something mindless? Amena do could chug out of the window? Yeah, right. You could take the Utica TV unplug it and then only plug it back in. If you can say the name of the show that you wanna watch. The aren't just allowed to like mindlessly turn on Netflix and find something. If you really wanna be extreme, you could take the TV off the wall, but in the closet only set it up when you wanted to watch something bad enough to send up again. But the point here is that many of our habits, our response to what is obvious or friction lists in our environment. I mean, there's no better example than cell phones are smartphones around us all the time, and I find last year. So I've started to keep my phone and another room until lunch each day. Keep it out of my office. So just gives me like three or four hours, right? Can stay focused and not be distracted, but was funny about that to me is that if my phone is next to me, it's on desk and have the room, unlike everybody else, I'll check it like every three minutes or five minutes or whatever. But if it's a home office. So if it's out of there, it's just up the stairs. It's like forty, five seconds. Way, but even though it's only forty five seconds away, I never go get it. And so my question is like, do I really want it or not? Like I'm checking every three minutes of his next me, but if it's not in the room, I never wanna work forty five seconds to go get it. And I think that there are a lot of technologies created a lot of habits like that where they're so friction, listen, convenient that we find ourselves falling into them whenever we have a down moment or whenever we are board for a fraction of a second, but we don't want them in some deeper cents. We don't even want them enough to climb up the stairs for forty five seconds, go to a different room. And so when you remove those things and you make them less convenient or less obvious, you often find that you slide back into the work that may as deeper more meaningful to you. It's not that I didn't want to write an article today is just because my phone was three feet away from me. I was always checking. And so once I took it out, it's like kind of removing the mental candy from your environment in becomes easy to like eat healthy stuff when you're not surrounded by that. So I think that environment design can play a crucial role in shaping. Yeah, I really like that. And you triggered me the idea inverting your fourth wall? I wanted to actually go through. Maybe we should. I go through the four walls, how will like after that? So we'll get everyone excited one. Listen. Now they're dining with the inversion is of the fourth wall. Let's go to one. So the first of all of behavior change and these are your laws by. I mean the you propose these laws, right? So these out in the book? Yeah, I break a habit into four stages and then they come up with what I call the four laws behavior change. There's one free stage in so you can think about them as like a set of tools for making it easier to good habits. So the the first law is to make it obviously wanna make the queues of your good habits. Obvious the second laws to make it attractive more attractive ahead. It appears to us more. We perceive it to be valuable, more likely to to all through on it in performance. The second or the third law is to make it easy. So you wanna make your habits, convenient or friction lists as possible. And then the fourth laws to make it satisfy. Buying with a habit is satisfying, feels rewarding enjoyable. You have reason to repeated in the future. And as you just mentioned, you can actually invert each of these four laws. If you wanna break bad habit. So make it obvious, make it attractive, make it easy, mega satisfying, building a good habit to break a bad habit than you make it invisible. Make unattractive make difficult unsatisfying. And so those four loss behavior change kinda give us a set of tools for adjusting and improving our habits. Yeah. I mean, that's sizes, an awful lot of research, the four walls, but like we're talking hundreds and hundreds of research studies on self control that back that up from all the self Trovatore seen definitely talks about like ways of making it hard for you to get to. The thing will actually, I mean, they're probably they're thousands of studies behind those four laws. You know, they're really what I wanted to come up with a framework that describes how human behavior works, and I'm not really. I think it would be a little reckless to claim that those four stages in those laws describe all of human behavior. But from abroad standpoint, they're pretty close. You know, pretty much every behavior you take in some kind of raw data. There's some type of q. or some preceding event, and then you interpret that Dayton, someway. And that's what the craving stages about about how you interpret the cues that you come across the second stage. And then there's a response behavior perform, and then there's some kind of outcome result which we could call the reward of its benefits or the consequence of its negative. And when I'm really describing the process of learning, you know, you see something you make a prediction about how to respond. You take an action in the new update your prediction for the next time based on the outcome. And there's a lot of finer details of which these things I'm gonna point some stuff out. I think it was protocol three layers of behavioral change, outcome processes identity. Could you explain those three? Now, let's zoom in on a day. Many favorite zooming in. Let's zoom in on density. All right. Yeah. So the way that I think about this is they're kind of multiple levels of behavior change or multiple levels of cheating something and. And typically when we go about trying to change our behavior, we start with what I call an outcome based approach. So we think about the result that we want. So I wanna double my income where I want to lose sixty pounds in the next six months, or I want to meditate for twenty minutes a day or something like that. And so we think about the outcome that we want, then we back into a plan for doing that. So it's like, all right, if I wanna lose sixty pounds, then my plan is I'm gonna follow this diet. I'm going to the gym three days a week, and that's your process. So you have outcomes in process these car, like peeling back the layers of an onion, so outcomes on the outside process, the next layer in. But then I think there's a deeper layer of behavior change, which I would call identity change. And this is like the set of beliefs or how you define your self image. That's underlying the process, the actions you're taking and the outcomes that you're trying to achieve now. Typically when people go about changing, I don't know that most people really think about identity most of the time. It's like, all right outcome. I wanna be skinny and process. If I felt. Diet, all be skinny. And that's kinda like the end of the thought. And the identity is sort of like implicitly just follows. You think that if I get skinny, then I'll be the person I wanna be or something. But I think it's actually better to invert this process. So it's not that any fast in. I'm the proudly. Was that I thought the inversion was if I'm fat, then I'll become the personnel. Exactly. It's not that any of the stages are bad. It's just that if you start with the outcome, I think you're focusing in the wrong direction. But if instead we start with the identity, one way to do this is to kind of reverse engineer the process. You can ask yourself, well, who's the type of person that could lose weight, we'll maybe it's the type of person doesn't miss workouts. And so then you focus on building the identity of being the type of person who doesn't. It's workouts and then that changes are shifts a little bit the process that you're gonna follow. 'cause now it's more about, okay, I need to go to the gym and it's less about like I need to do this particular type of workout or this particular type of results are outcome. It's more about like, how do I reinforce that identity? And this is one reason why think small habits can be so useful? Is that even if they don't get the outcome that you want, they can so reinforce the identity, which ends up leading to good outcome in the long run. So something like doing five push ups, a lotta people be like, you know, what's the difference? Doing five push ups like it's not gonna get in shape anyway, but. The key is if you're really busy, if your kids are sick or traveling, it's like I've been on the airplane last six hours. I was exhausted in got to the hotel and all I can do with five push-ups for a collapse on the bed. But I still in the type of person who doesn't miss workouts. So even though it's a small habit, it can cast a vote for that identity. And this I think is a good way to think about how identities are formed and how they can change is that every action you take is like a vote for the type of person that you want to become. So it's kinda like as you perform a habit, you're building up evidence of being type of person. In a sense, your habits are how you embody a particular identity notes. Like every day that you make your bed, you embody the identity of someone who's clean and organized. Every time you go to the gym, embody the identity of someone who is fit. Every time you sit down and write one sentence, you embody the identity of someone who is a writer. And so these small actions like reading one page writing, one-sentence doing five push ups, they. Seems little because they insignificant because we don't think they can get the result that we want, but they can reinforce the identity of who you wanna become. I think that that actually identity changes, true behavior change because once you identify that kind of person, you really no longer even looking to achieve some Kombi, hey, changes acting in alignment with the type of person that you already think that you are now. It's like it's one thing to say. I want this at something very different to say, I am this, and I think that ultimately, that's what we're trying to get to is to adopt the identity in let the result of all naturally. I really, really like that. I mean for the longest time identity, it was like, you know, an introvert and I don't wanna be as introverted. Sometimes you know, like I would like to break out of my shell sometimes. And so you know, I bet a lot of listeners listening to break out of their shell in their own respective things Li. We all have something like to add Rachelle, and you're seeing a really good for step is to yet Reconceptualise yourselves, as you know? Well, if I were this raging extrovert, I would be the type of person who would not say no to that request or my goals to be a raging extrovert. But you know, just got time that covers socially more will. I think, actually that Nino new don't wanna be a raging Shubert as the example. I think that's a good way to think about this. You're not looking like rip your identity in half or become a new person. I don't think I want to be offensive still. Right, right. You're looking to upgrade and expand your identity a little. Bit. It's I compared to like retouching painting, you know, you're just looking like make some adjustments and one way to make the adjustments is to implement some these small one percent changes. And I think it's also important to note that this is a little different than what you know. Oftentimes you'll hear people say, things like fake until you make it, but I'm talking about is a little bit different here because by sticking to a small habit by doing five push-ups or writing one sentence or whatever new again, you're casting those votes for that kind of identity. You have evidence of that being that type of person fig until you make it as asking you to believe something without evidence, and there's a word for beliefs about evidence called delusion. You know, at some point, if you try to keep believing something and you don't have any reason to believe it than the brain doesn't like that. It falls flat, but with small habits, you have evidence of being that type of person proof to route the identity in. I think that's what's so powerful about them is that they seem like the small actions, but they end up being evidence of the type of person that you're becoming. And this is maybe the deeper. A real reason that habits matter that I wrote this whole book on it. I think it's important. I mean, yes, habits can get you external results that can help you lose weight or earn more money or be more productive, or reduce stress or whatever. But they also are the path through which we forge our self image which kinda reinforce this who, what type of person we are developed self confidence. And so for that reason, I think they serve in even deeper and more important role in our lives that. Yeah, and I also really like their folks on systems. Can you talk about why we should stop setting goals and focus on systems instead? Because that's not a language that many people talk about. Everyone talks about goal setting for instance. Right, right. Sure. So, I mean, first of all, this comes from someone. I was very oriented for longtime, right? I was goals for the grades. I wanted to get school for how much way to lift in the gym for you know what? I want my business to grow and all that type of stuff. So I did this for a long time in at some point. I realized that some of these. Goals I set I achieved, but many of them I did not. And so clearly like the action of setting a goal was not the thing that was, you know, determining whether or not I was achieving these things, and I came across this language from Scott Adams, the cartoonist Dilbert I, he's like the systems or skulls thinking as well, and he's a little more anti goals than I am, but I think goals are useful, but it's important to be clear about what they are useful for their useful for clarity and setting sense direction, knowing where you wanna focus your attention, but almost immediately after you've done that after you've gained some clarity, it's best to put the goal on the shelf and focus on systems. And this is not the typical way that we think about this. I think that this is because part of it is because we live in a very results oriented society. So the news, something's only newsworthy, it's only story when we're talking about the outcome, the result, the goal, you know, you're never gonna see news story. That's like men aids chicken salad for lunch today. It's. A new story like six months or year later when it's like man loses one hundred pounds, it's only after the outcome that it becomes something that people talk about. And social media has just exacerbated this magnified even more because now all day long were inundated with people's results with people's outcomes. I think because we see the outcome so much. We overvalue the results. Think the goal, the dishes outcome is what matters when really it should be about the process of the system that precedes the outcome. And so this hinted at some of the things I write about the book about why goals are less useful, maybe or deserve less of our tension that we give them, which is that one problem is achieving goal only changes your life for the moment, right? Like we think that what we need is this result, but you know, if you get really motivated and you won't have cleanroom, you've got all this clutter in your garage or in your bedroom or something and see spent a couple of hours cleaning a room. You'll have a clean room for now. You know, after you spend a couple of hours doing. But if you don't change the sloppier messy habits that led to dirty room in the first place, you turn around three weeks from our month from now. You've got a thirty room again, and so we think the results need to change, but the results are not the thing that needs to shift. We need to change the habits behind the results for the system that led to the results. Have you changed the system? The outcomes are just a natural product. It's like we spend all our time treating symptoms about treating the actual cause. And so I think that a focus on systems helps resolve some of that. Yeah. Yeah. I thought that was an excellent point. I'm going to quote you on something ruling to this that I wanna discuss when you finally breakthrough the potato latent potential that's capitalized, totally consensual people will call it an overnight success. The outside road only sees the most dramatic event rather than all that preceded it. But you know that it's the work you did one go when it seemed that you weren't making progress that makes the jump possible today possible. You also talk about the different positive and negative compounding. Have you thought about in the reverse way? We make judgements about people, you know, as well. They're great because they did that. But we also make a lot of very judgmental about each other's well. So in the book I talk about how habits can come home for you or against you. And I think this is one key reason to understand habits. They're kinda like this double edged sword. You know, they can either cut you down or they can do up. And if you understand the details about them than you can design them to your liking rather than to your hindrance and maybe avoid dangerous half of the blade that double edged sword. And I think that that's crucial for understanding how they work because on any given day, I mean, I like to so that chapter, you just quoted from earlier in their say, habits of the compound interest self self-improvement. And the reason I like that phrase is that the same, that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits, multiply as you repeat them over time, but that can be true of positively or negatively. Right. So on any given day, it's really easy to overlook the. Difference between choice. It's like slightly better slightly worse, you know, I mean, what is really the difference between eating a burger and fries for lunch or eating a salad, your body looks basically the same in the mirror that night. The scale hasn't really changed. What's the difference between studying Chinese for an hour tonight or not sitting all you still haven't learned the language either way. And so it's very easy for us to dismiss those daily choices, though small habits, but it's only two, five or ten years later that those choices of compounded and we end up in a very different spot. We realized how much value there is in choice. That's one percent better and how much of cost there is in choice. That's one percent worse so that that's why like to use compounding as an example for habits, it's not that it maps perfectly onto that hockey stick curve, but more accurately describes what it's like to build a habit and what it feels like on daily basis, which is doesn't really feel like much. It kind of feels like the beginning of that compound. Kirby just kinda flat. There's nothing to show for it, and it's only later when. You get down toward the hockey stick portion of the curve. You're like, whoa, I'm gonna really different place a decade later than it feels like on a daily basis. Yeah, a love that, and I loved the idea contrasting positive versus negative compounding as really cool. Maybe we should step back moment and actually explain what you're forced modeled habits is. Sure. Yeah. So I'll give you an example as I walk through it so require the four stages are q.. What I call craving as the second sage response reward. As an example, say you walk into a room and it's dark. So in this case, the visual too dark room, the craving is how you interpret the queue or the prediction that your brain makes about what to do next. So often we talk about craving as like I crave doughnut or a crater cigarette or something like that. But I kinda mean this more in a broader sense like what you desire to do based on the situation. So cue the room is dark craving a wanna, be able to see I wanna reduce the uncertainty of being darkroom response is the third stage where you flip on the light switch to this is the routine, the action, the behavior that you take and then reward the room is lit. Mabel see now and those four stages. In that example, you know, that happens in what thirty milliseconds of it's happening so fast. The don't even think about it. And this is a good way to think about how this process works in the brain. Your brain is going through this endlessly. You're endlessly taking information raw data from the environment, the temperature, the pixels in your visual field, what you're hearing, all of this data on those are the cues that you're of the external environment, the your absorbing, and then you're making predictions about which of those cues are important and how you should respond in what your next action should be based on your current state and past experience in what you've learned, then you take an action and then finally, you analyze the outcome is and then try to update your prediction for the next time and your brains going through these cycles endlessly even right now as you're listening to this and if you do it enough, then pretty soon you can proceed through all four stages without even thinking about it's more or less non conscious, like flipping a light switch dark room. You don't actually think through dark like to be able to see like your slipping, the switch as soon as you enter the door and that is kinda process for me habit. You've you've repeated enough that you can do it more or less without thinking a second way that like to break down these four stages though, I think. It's instructive for understanding what the role of habit is daily life is that habits are the solutions that your brain automates to repeated problems that you face throughout life. So the more that you face the same problem, the more your brain starts to develop fluency in speed accuracy with coming up with a solution for it. So like in the morning, you put your shoes on, and in a sense, having untied shoe is a problem that your brain has to solve. So q. UC cheer shoe's untied, craving won't have tied shoe response. I Tida the shoelace and then reward the she was now secure in my foot. And in that sense, habits are just solutions. They don't have to be. This is one of the key things to realize your brain is just looking for an effective solution in the moment. It doesn't mean that the original solution that you came up with the original habit that you Bill is necessarily the optimal habit. Right? So like if you come home from work and. Feel stressing exhausted. So q. he walk in the door craving, you're feeling exhausted. You wanna feel refreshed or you know, improve in some way, improve your current state response. While other varieties deal with that. You know, one person might play video games for an hour and they learned that's one way to reduce exhaustion and stress. Another person might smoke a cigarette for ten minutes. Third person might go for run for twenty minutes, and all of those are solutions to the recurring problem of coming home from a long day at work, but some of them are healthier more productive than others. And once he realized this that your habits are just trying to just your brains best attempt to come up with a quick and easy solution to the problems face, then you can start to figure out like, all right, what are better habits might serve me more in the long run, but also resolve those challenges or problems that I face on a repeated daily basis. If I could make that happen in the real world, like I would definitely be able to make some strides in my habits because the stuff is as you talk about a lot. Of these habits are and as the water researchers at the subconscious level, they're programmed as if then statements, right? Like, so we need these implementation intentions in order to, but we can reprogram this stuff, right? There's hope, yes, there's hope and it's habits or. Yeah, if then statements. Good way to think about it because habits are all about associations, right? They're all about like the solution that you associate with certain context with certain problem. And this is often one reason why it's easier to build a new habit in new environment because you're not trying to overpower your old associations. So like let's say, for example that you wanted to build the habit of reading more well, if you are like, aren't I'm gonna read more tonight, and so you go into your living room and sit down your couch, but the context of being your living room being on your couch might already be associated with watching Netflix for an hour each night. And so when you go in there, you're unconsciously subconsciously fighting against your behavioral biases in that environment or the stimuli of being there in like wanting. To reach the remote and turn on Netflix. So it might be easier actually to build a reading habits. Say there's like a coffee shop near your office where you never go in there. And so it's a new shop. And now this place becomes the context, the area where you finish work, you ought to the coffee shop. You turn your phone often get in the door and you pull out a book, read for thirty minutes, and so now there's this, it becomes the reading coffee shop, right? It's like, that's the thing that context gets tied to. And even if you can't do it with like an entirely new environment, you can often do it with a space in your current environment. So maybe you get like a new chair and you put it in the corner of your apartment. And that's the reading chair in the only thing you've ever do in that chairs read. And the point here is your trying to associate the context with a new habit and it's better when you can do it in a place that you don't already have associations with. You don't already have other things you have to fight through to build a new one. I will sell them a little time. We have remaining Carolina. We talk. Do some advanced tactics harsher sounds like an operative like danced like mercenary tactics. Okay. Hello, how we go from being merely good to being truly great. I mean, obviously that book from degrade is a bestseller. You know, a lot of people are very interested in that lake. Can we go that extra mile frontier. We already talked about jeans in town and we already talked about importance of finding then virement that get the best out of your jeans. Key talked a little about the Goldilocks ral. Yeah, so the Goldilocks rule is essentially a way of thinking about how to stick with the habit in the long run, a maintain your motivation to perform habit in the long run. Any idea. There's some interesting research that has shown this that humans experience peak levels of motivation when they work on challenge of just manageable difficulty. So not too hard, not to easy just right. That's like the Goldilocks roar Goldilocks zone of coined that phrase Goldilocks. Yeah, I did. I'm kinda like happy about that. I didn't win the phrase. Just manageable difficulty that was from the research on, but Goldilocks roles, like my way of thinking about how to keep yourself that that edge of challenge. So the idea here is that you want to stay on the perimeter of your abilities, and so you know, imagine that you're playing tennis match. If you play against someone who's a professional, like Roger Federer, Serena Williams is gonna get boring pretty quickly because you're gonna lose every point. But if you play against someone who is like, if you play against a little child playing, it's five year old that's going to be boring because you're gonna win every point. What's up that might be a little fun. Oh, yeah. We'll be really cute for a minute, right? China play serious matter if you playing in someone who's your equal, you know who's like they're pretty good. You're pretty good. They went a few points you in a few points of chance to win. But only if you really try that's incredibly motivating forces you to lock in and perhaps the best example this in modern life is video games, video games of designed to keep you right on that razor's edge of your ability. So if you're struggling with a level, they'll give you more power ups or more coins, or maybe drop a few more weapons your way as you really vanishing knocking another park than all of a sudden they'll throw more challenges for you. But the idea is that they wanna keep you on that edge while you always feel like you're making progress, but you're also always challenged enough to stay fully engaged. And so that's kind of where you wanna stay. Now, this is similar to being in a state of flow similar to being like fully engaged in the moment and re some research has shown that states of flow are often. Achieved on your about four to five percent beyond your current ability. So you're being stretched just a little now in daily life. How do you know what that is? Right? Like what is what is writing four percent beyond your current ability or what is meditating? Five percent harder than you usually do? It's kinda hard to quantify that, but I think that as a rule of thumb, Raza Curacic to keep in mind this idea that I'm looking to stretch, but only just a little bit like you really do still need to be winning a lot making progress, otherwise you don't have a reason to continue. Yeah. And would you say Steve Martin was a good example? Yeah. So I tell the story in the book of Steve Martin who he had been a comedian for many years before he broke out. I think he said, how do you describe think he's at eighteen years total? And it was like ten years struggling for years, refining and then for years in wild success and early on his career, his comedy segments were incredibly short. I mean when he was like a teenager and he was doing this in high school, it would be, you know, three minutes or five. Sits on stage and then gradually each year expanded just a little bit. So he like a seven minute routine. And then I think by the time he was eighteen he was don't like ten minute routine or fifteen minute routine. And each time he would just keep adding a little bit. So he keep the pieces that worked right. He knew the had some segments that could get laughs, but then it was like all of a sudden have to come up with two minutes of new material that I don't have before. So he's also really being challenged. So it's a great example what the Goldilocks will looks like daily life. There's just enough winning for him to be like that wasn't a total bomb Sony to show up next week, but just enough challenge for him to really be pushing hard like, man, I come up with some good jokes and end result was he kept getting better year in year out, and he turned around when he was in his twenties thirties, just had this incredible career. And of course they're variety of other things aligned with that. We talked already about jeans and so on, rye hits, maximize your ability in any field. You need to be able to stay motivated and stick with it. And the Goldilocks was one way to do that. All right. So I'm gonna end here with to my favorite quotes from your book. So one, each habit of walks. The next level performance endless cycle of that kind of makes me think of life is video game right when he gets locked the next level, you know, just by doing something a little bit better. And the other one is the secret to getting results that last is to never stop making improvements. It's remarkable. You can build if you just don't stop James clear. Congratulations on this tremendous accomplishment of this book, and I wish all the success. Oh, thank you so much. I appreciate the opportunity. Thanks for the chat. Thanks for listening to the psychology podcast. I hope you enjoyed the episode if you'd like to react to some way to something you heard. I heard you to join in the discussion at us ecology podcast dot com. That's the psychology podcast dot com. also quiz at a rating and review the psychology podcast on itunes, thanks for being such a great supporter of podcast and tune in next time on the mind, brain behavior and creativity.

Coming up next