Hidden Brain - A Creature of Habit

At the beginning of the year, many of us make resolutions for the months to come. We resolve to work out more, to procrastinate less, or to save more money. Though some people stick with these aspirations, many of us fall short. This week, we revisit our 2019 conversation with psychologist Wendy Wood, who shares what researchers have found about how to build good habits — and break bad ones.

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This is hidden. Brain. I'm Shankar vedantam.

Thank you.

Seattle is a city with plenty of well-known tourist attractions. The Space Needle Pike Place Market to Seattle Art Museum.

Today though. I'm venturing out in the rain to visit a different sort of Seattle attraction. It's an office building called the Bullitt Center. I'm here to meet Brian Court one of the architect and I are headed to the top floor. My first instinct is to find the elevator but it's nowhere in sight. Did you forget to put an elevator in the building brand? We do have an elevator through the door to the left.

You're in a wheelchair or you're not able to climb the stairs. You just hit the button there with the wheelchair in the door will open but we were trying to give people an option to take the stairs first.

Those stairs. 6 floors of Douglas fir steps built on an outer wall of the building. Each floor has expensive Landings that allow people to congregate and chat. The best views of the Bullitt Center are not from the CEO's office you get those views when you climb what people here refer to as the irresistible staircase. So you walk into the stair enclosure you look up you see the stair all the way up to the 6th floor of the building and that's hopefully going to draw you up the stair healthier their intuition was it at the stairs were appealing and prominent people will use them what you see as you climb to the 6th floor are sweeping views of Seattle will notice as we get higher the views of this city really start to unfold

This corner of the project site had some of the best views you can see out now to the west and then the downtown Skyline directly to the South by putting a stair here. We're able to really capitalize on all the way from the East around to the West so far. Brian says this irresistible staircase seems to be living up to its name. Data that showing us that just about two-thirds of the people that go to the 6th floor on a daily basis or taking the stair over the elevator.

Most buildings place the elevators front-and-center as you walk inside most of us don't even think to look for the stairs. When we enter an office building by making the stairs prominent and keeping the elevator is out of sight. The Bullitt Center is trying to get people to develop new behaviors.

Sometimes unexpected things happen as you climb the stairs you bump into people you didn't think you'd meet.

So I just wanted to come down and say hello. Richard Maurice He Walked on a flight of stairs to come say hello to be told me he takes the stairs nearly every day and he often has John's attractions on them that turn out to be very enjoyable. Do you actually think about it each day that you were saying I want to take the stairs or is it just sort of an unconscious decision at this point? There are sometimes when I'm coming from downtown and I've walked all the way up Capitol Hill and I get to the door of the building and I think a man another six flights, but then I think you know, I don't get a whole lot of exercise in my day-to-day work life anyway, and so this is work and I enjoy the view always there's a word for such behaviors.

deer habits

this week on hidden brain. We consider how habits shape who we are and how we can use them to become the people. We'd like to be

you probably know someone like this in your life. The person who gets a ton of things done eats healthy food and stays in shape people like Chris Traeger from the TV series Parks and Recreation.

ASCO rental Miles. I have run 10 miles a day every day for 18 years at 65,000 miles a third of the way. The move goal is to run to the moon what clouds to reveal a running outfit underneath now Chris Traeger is a fictional character exaggerated for comedic effect, but we all know someone like this a friend or colleague or spouse who consistently perform the tasks that seem so hard to the rest of us. How do they do it? Where do they have the rest of us lack?

According to Wendy word a professor of psychology and business at the University of Southern California characters that Chris Traeger. I'm not magical unicorns have a secret their expert at building good habits.

In her book good habits bad habits, the science of making positive changes that stick Wendy argues that we can all become experts at building good habits and dismantling bad ones if we only stopped to understand the psychology behind out routines.

Wendy welcome to Hidden brain here. I want to start with something that you once. So on Facebook are your cousin went on Facebook and announced that she was going to change her life. I buy what you meant. You wanted to lose some weight. Why did she announced this on Facebook? And and what was the reaction she garnered from her friends? So I think by making a public statement she was trying to commit herself to the initial idea for initial desire to lose weight in a way. She should have up to the state because she made it public and then she was accountable to all of your Facebook friends and they were highly supportive. They spurred her on and told her how strong she was so she got a lot of positive reinforcement for that end of the feedback from her friends as I did that in the end. I do have encouraging her telling her just

You know that reminds me of a video made by the actor Shia LaBeouf. He stands in front of a green screen and he says I should let me just play for you what he says take a listen.

Tomorrow to do it make your dreams come true just do it this message. Randy is so pervasive when it comes to making changes in our lives the idea that if you want to make a change, all you have to do is just say just do it. Wouldn't that be wonderful? I don't think that's most of our experience. But what we do believe is if we wanted to enough we'd exert enough willpower and we'd make it happen.

And the result is that it doesn't often because willpower is not actually we have found the best way to achieve our goals and to change Behavior talk about this idea Wendy that's significant numbers of Americans believe that the way to change their behavior is to self control that willpower is the key to either making changes that steak or two making changes that failed to stick it something that provides our culture when surveys are dumb of Americans and their beliefs about how to change Behavior vertically something like obesity 3/4 of Americans think not it's a problem with self-control and willpower that we just don't have enough and if we had more we don't be Center pictures of actually looked at this question and asked how much willpower is Central you cite the work of the late great psychologist Daniel Wagner who wants to run a study where he told people not to stay.

What about a white bear? Why did you do that? And what did he find? He did it to show that if you try not to think about something even something as trivial as the white bear that you wouldn't normally think about then later when you're given an opportunity to think about it again. You just can't stop the white bear White Bear white pair. So if this tells us something about what it's like to try to repress or control our desires. Yes, we can do it in the short run. But ultimately it backfires those ideas get a life of their own and they start to 22. It's a sus and when you think about the behaviors we often want to change in our lives quitting smoking or eating healthier exercising more regularly. The challenge of course is not to make a one-time change not to exercise. Well just today the challenge of course is to make a long-term chain and and the research wouldn't suggested willpower.

Like not be the most effective way to go about achieving that. Yes, that's actually how I got into this whole research area. I was interested in understanding what it is that helps people persist. So how do people persist it's a eating healthfully or saving more money or getting more sleep. We can all do this one time or two times, but it's a very different thing to do it on a consistent basis. When I first started this research, the idea was that we did these things when we were sufficiently committed when we had enough self-control to follow through then we reform the strong intentions and we act on them overtime, but I've noticed that it didn't really play out that way in my life. I've often made decisions that I didn't follow through with even though I was initially very committed to those

Decisions and I have a pretty good amount of willpower. So so what we did is we did a large review of the research to test whether people's decision-making was important all the way through Behavior change process not just in the beginning where my cousin started on Facebook declaring she's going to change but also to three months later and what we found was really surprising.

Decision making our intentions are thoughts our commitment. They're very important when we start to change. That's what determines whether we do behavior is once in a while continuing overtime took something very different and we didn't know what it was to start off with. It was like once you start performing a behavior, it just sort of continues on its own. It's like an action begets action. And what we decided was this is kind of like driving your car, right? So every once in awhile, you do pay attention and make decisions the most of the time when you're driving it's sort of in the background you're thinking about something other than what you doing. Your actual responses. Don't take much thought and decision. They're certainly not taking your willpower.

It's a counterintuitive idea conscious willpower is not the driving force behind sustained Behavior change.

That idea is powerfully illustrated by an experiment conducted in Germany the last two simple questions.

Are people who stick to their resolutions the people who see lots of Temptations, but have the willpower to resist them.

What are the kind of people who set up the lives? So they don't even notice the Temptations they found that contrary to all of our expectations that people who are high Achievers who we think of is having good willpower good self-control. They didn't actually experienced many Temptations. They weren't affected by having lots of desires that were inappropriate and things they didn't want to do that was the people who are low and self-control the people who weren't that successful at achieving their goals in life. You know that another was this is not a case of people who have your cake in the refrigerator and a very good at resisting opening the refrigerator to eat the cake. These are just people who don't have cake in the refrigerator and some clay or if they do they don't see it.

They have coded that as okay. That's my kids cake. I don't eat that. I ate the fruit and I like the fruit.

How do they do it? It turns out that when you build a habit. It's like putting on a set of unconscious mental blinders. Once in place the blinders protect you from Temptations and distractions, the more you ignore those Temptations the stronger the blinders become to put this another way habits are self-reinforcing they can be difficult to start but once in place, they have a life of their own because they stop being conscious and become automatic and unconscious. In fact, once you have developed a habit you will stick to it even if the alternative is objectively easier Wendy has a nice example of this from her own life. She sometimes goes biking with a friend who's a professional cyclist. Yeah, so she and I were good friends and I would love to talk about our families and just exchange information about our lives and that would happen is we started the bike ride now. She's a

National cyclist so you might wonder what she's doing riding with me. Well, I rode with her on her days off when she was supposed to be just not breaking a sweat and that was fine, you know, cuz that's the speed I write it and so we have a good time talking and chatting and then after we'd been cycling for maybe an hour and a half she would start speeding up and she did this consistently and I try not to take it personally cuz you know, you can't talk to somebody who's cycling that fast and I asked at the end of one of our ride. So what happens at the end cuz you not going to lose you and she said well, I'm just so tired going at the slow pace. I can't control my actions anymore. And I just naturally speed up. So what this indicates I think it's a fascinating example because it indicates that the Habit is not necessarily the easiest.

Thing or the low effort thing to do instead. It's what you usually do that you fall back on there have being out of bounds of how long it takes to develop a habit and you and others have had the Insight that this number is probably not the same for different kinds of habits that some habits in some ways are easier to form than others. Perhaps they have larger awards that they not there is a what is the signs tell us about how long it takes to develop different habits like exercising or writing or going to the gym and mental associations that we form when we repeat an action over and over again in a given context and then get a reward.

When you do that you are learning very slowly and incrementally to associate that context with that that behavior. So the next time you're in that context, the behavior automatically comes to mind you might be very consistent in how you repeat an action and I might be more variable and if I'm more variable is going to take longer to form that habit that mental Association in mind but also for complex behaviors for things that are have many different parts. It takes longer to form a habit and the best evidence we have at this point is from a study that had people add a simple health behavior to their day adding.

Something like a glass of water took two months to to become automated so that you don't have to make decisions about it. Something like going to the gym could take 3-4 months before up going every day before it becomes really habitual in the sense that you don't have to think you just do

so one implication of this is that just as you can have good habits that cause you to do things I'm thinking Lee you can also develop bad habits that cause you to do things. I'm thinking they are you mention another neighbor friend of yours who sometimes has to decide whether to drive to her kids school or walk to her kids school and that trivia something really interesting about the Power of Habit. Yeah. So we lived in a small neighborhood in the school is actually right next to her house one night at a parent-teacher conference. I watched her get into her car and drive to the school parking lot, which is actually further from the front door of the skull then her house her have it was to get in the car and this was in Texas so hot. So if she been thinking she would have been very kind of scent of the weather and that she was actually going to be uncomfortable for longer if she took her car.

Then if she walked there's an underlying stop texting many of these stories at end. That subjects is that in much of our lives. Our actions are actually not being driven by conscious and deliberate intention her and that's a subject that runs through much of your book this idea. That much of our Lives actually is being run on autopilot. Yes, one of the first studies we did we tried to figure out what percentage of daily actions are habitual in the way that you describe them. What we found is that about 43% of everyday actions are done repeatedly almost every day in the same contacts again, it's very much like driving we have this General sense that we're doing things, but it's not driven by an active decision making process.

So the interesting thing is that because we don't acknowledge or off and recognize how powerful these I'm thinking forces are in many of our campaigns are public health campaigns. For example, be focused primarily on changing people's conscious beliefs and attitudes and you have some really interesting ideas on how this plays out when it comes to getting people to eat. Try to you looked at for example campaigns to get people to eat more fruits and vegetables. What do you find? Yeah, probably one of the most famous campaigns actually started here in California five a day eating five a day fruits and vegetables.

The day we all do.

A healthy way when it began in the 1990s only 8% of the US population realized that they needed to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day 5 years later. It's over a third of Americans understood they needed five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. But when you look at what people were doing the campaign looks really different. So before the campaign started 11% of us were actually eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

10 years later still 11%

and even more recent assessments have shown that Americans are declining from that point fewer and fewer of us are eating that amount part of the reason for this is much of our eating is Habitual. We do it automatically Wii shop automatically. We only go down certain aisle in the grocery store people might not even go down the produce aisle, so they're not going to be influenced by this abstract thought yes fruits and vegetables are good for me instead.

They're eating based on the environment that they're in and the patterns they developed. I mean, I feel like I see this in in so many different campaigns where the idea is if we can change people's beliefs that behavior will follow and of course into TV. That's a very appealing idea. But really the evidence doesn't seem to support support it for one of behaviors limited Behavior single time Behavior change. So if you're trying to get people to sign up for a program, for example, then convincing people to do it and giving them the opportunity right when you convince them is probably a pretty effective way to do it. But so many of Health behaviors of financial behaviors relationship productivity these things involve long-term change in behavior and that you don't get by convincing people to do things.

Self conscious beliefs and intentions don't get people to change their behavior. How can we use science to start habits or break them?

That's when we come back stay with us.

Wendy wood is a professor of psychology and business at the University of Southern California. She says corporations are increasingly drawing on insight about habits to influence that Workforce one example Ober being a driver on Uber is difficult in many ways that you're taking your own personal car and you are using it for business. You have a bunch of strangers sitting in the back. So Bluebird would put a lot of money into training and evaluating drivers and their cars and then drivers would quit after plant before they got to 10 rides. I'm so Uber would lose money. So what they decided to do was they decided to automate and you probably heard this when you're in an Uber at the end of your ride the the phone app ping and then acai

When's the driver to hit the next ride? So they don't have time to think and maybe decide? Okay. This is getting difficult. I'm going home. They're off on their next ride. And so it moves them forward through the process to the point where they start feeling more comfortable with what they're doing and they can develop some habitual patterns of dealing with customers. So there's an important inside here and and this is an inside that useful is not just for you know, a multibillion-dollar business trying to let the behavior of its Workforce but but it's an inside that affects all of us up when I'm sitting on my couch and I'm watching Netflix at the end of each episode of Netflix. I don't have to have to press any buttons Netflix tells me in 9 seconds. The next episode is going to start and that's really the same idea as what we were is doing to his drivers. It's basically saying you can change people's behavior by essentially making it friction less for them to keep doing the

Yes. Yeah, and that is essentially what most commercial Industries have figured out how to do at this point in one way or another. Will you have fries with that is probably the the classic example of encouraging certain behaviors making behaviors easy consumption spending money. You can think of so many examples of this and in our modern culture.

I wonder if we can take this inside Wendy and apply it to how you can actually start to build habits o in exactly the same way that corporations in some ways manipulate us into doing what they want us to do. I want to explore how we might be able to manipulate ourselves into doing things that we think are good for us. So we all know that people are most likely to repeat actions that are easy for them and actions that are fun.

So if you really don't like going to the gym.

Then you're not going to do it very often and you need to figure out something to do to make it more fun making it easy is also critical. So there was a study that is quite amazing I think but it has been replicated a couple of times on how far people travel to the gym.

If people travel about 3 and 1/2 miles, then they are likely to go to the gym 5 times a month on average do people travel 5 miles then they're likely to go only once a month on average. Wow, the five miles prevents friction. The 3.5 miles is much less friction and makes a behavior more likely we just don't have to struggle so much to get there and anything that reduces the struggle in that stress is going to make happen more likely to form.

I don't know if you noticed this but Wendy and I have mentioned a specific word a couple of times in the last few minutes.

Friction when things are difficult to do they have high friction when doing something is effortless. There's no friction. It turns out this word is incredibly important to understand how habits work one unusual study reveals the power of friction using stale popcorn in a local movie theater. We had the movie patrons watch a bunch of trailers and rate them for us every day millions of people go to the same routine while life passes them by coming soon.

And supposedly is compensation. We gave them boxes of popcorn to eat. Now unbeknownst to them some got stale popcorn which we had popped earlier and kept in our lab for a week in a plastic bag. So it was pretty bad and others got boxes of fresh popcorn and what we found was this that people who don't eat popcorn regularly in the movie theater did just what you'd expect. They ate a lot of the fresh popcorn the stale popcorn picture divided what was most interesting though other people the movie patrons who often ate popcorn in the movie theater, they ate 70% of these boxes whether they were fresh or stale.

no, it's so surprising is we ask them afterwards how much they liked the popcorn and they could all tell us they hated the stale popcorn butt to Pete, the cues are so so strong in that particular context that they just respond to them without thinking and they get stale popcorn in their mouth and I can go and I wasn't great but then before they know it they're back to eating again that same stuff that they don't like

Wendy added an interesting twist to the study and this is the part where friction comes in. She got right-handed volunteers to eat the popcorn with my left hand and left handed volunteers to eat with their right hand and that's not something that most of us do on a regular basis. So it made the eating more thoughtful. If you add that thought to the behavior, you make people attend to it then they quit that then are strong habit participants quit eating a stale popcorn. It's as if it had to think about it, they realized oh this stuff really taste bad and so I'm not going to eat it anymore. So in some ways if I could put this another way is one of the insides of your work that if you want to build something into a habit, you actually want to try and make it as unconscious and as automatic as possible as you want to interrupt

I have it. You might want to find ways to try and make it just a little bit more conscious trying to be a little bit more mindful off the Habit as you're actually performing it is that an inside that would come away from your work? Yes. Yes. I think I think that's true. And and we see people all around us who do those things or jumped right? So people who are very successful as Riders as athletes. They are people who have made the repetition automatic and they do it every day. And I know you care about famous writer is turning out certain numbers of pages A Day writing for certain a certain amount of time athletes workout for certain periods every day these people of automated the hard work doesn't make it doesn't mean that they're not working hard, but they've made it easier for themselves to do that. If you want to make it more difficult to do something.

You want to stop yourself? Then you figure out ways to add friction to the behaviors that you don't want to engage in that makes you stop and spank and perhaps gives you a bit of a chance to realize I owe this is not really what I intended. Maybe I can do something better. You were at a conference in Europe one time and can you use the power of friction to get people to eat more fruit at what did you do Wendy? But this is actually a conference that I run on habits on Catalina Island here in California, but we had that year a bunch of I'm European participants and I've noticed that Europeans eat lots of fruit. So I ordered extra food for them, but the cafeteria folks had put the food in a box that was just to the side of the cafeteria line.

I know it was eating it and I noticed it so I put it right in the middle of the line and it went immediately but then the bananas were a little brownish but they still have it was obvious and people I had made it easy and obvious how to get the fruit people hate it in many ways. This is the same inside of the irresistible staircase in Seattle. Of sight by placing the stairs front-and-center by making their use frictionless, the building made it more likely people would unconsciously choose the path of least resistance and climb the stairs.

When we come back how to build our own versions of the irresistible staircase will look at more ways that we can use friction and other tools to change your habits.

Stay with us.

There is a reason many of us form bad habits things like smoking or gambling have long-term negative consequences, but they're extremely rewarding in the short-term.

Wendy says habitat powerfully shaped by short-term rewards. This has to do with the reward component of habits. So what we know about rewards is that our brain responds with dopamine when we get rewarded and that dopamine is what helps to build the mental associations of habit in our brain and this means that only certain types of awards are really going to be useful in forming habits and their the rewards you experience immediately things like exercising or eating healthy food off and have tremendous long-term benefits, but they're often not very fun to do.

No surprise. They don't produce the quick do hummingbirds. So how do you form habits around healthy behaviors. You have to consciously figure out ways to link these healthy behaviors, which option rewards don't just force yourself to eat more veggies figure out ways to make the veggies delicious and enjoyable. So if when you eat vegetables if you really like the taste of beautifully cooked vegetables and you feel pride in eating healthfully and taking care of yourself. Those are immediate rewards and they will help you build a habit.

If your reward is some bonus at the end of the week or something that you give yourself for achieving a say some health goal several months down the road. That's not going to be the kind of reward that builds a habit because it's not there when you are acting so there's an interesting implication of this and in some ways that the silent plication which one you think about it this explains why you know, it's easy to form a habit of eating dessert or smoking or drinking because they're towards when you do those things are relatively quick and exercise routine or a healthy diet Lisa enough things where you see the benefit for for very long periods of time unless as you say you develop these intrinsic systems to do feel Pride as you're doing something and not not just waiting for the reward 3 months or 3 years down the line. That's exactly right.

A little bit more control than that because you can add things to behaviors that might not be intrinsically rewarding to you initially. As I said, you can listen to good music when you work out. I hate to admit this I workout on elliptical some days and that's probably the most boring thing you can do in the world. So I only I watch competitive cooking shows when I do it and I only let myself watch those shows when I'm on the elliptical so that's my reward for working out and it's made it into quite a quite a pleasurable have it actually tell me about your own efforts to become a regular of Habitual jogger. How did that work? What were the obstacles you you faced? And how did you try and devise methods to overcome their young?

All right. I have two sons two years apart in age and I had a full-time job and a husband who had a full-time job. So that was a bit of a challenge to find any time to exercise or anything else and that was a real challenge for me early on for about five years. I struggled trying to figure that out. If you have little kids, you know, you say I'm going to work out today at 4, and then one of them gets sick or another has a friend who comes over and you can leave or leave them something always comes up and then with your job on top of it and it was just it was impossible every night I go to bed and I feel like a k and other failure until I decided that I was going to have to find a time when I could do it regularly consistently and that was early in the morning. So

I started running. I was a committed runner for many years. I started running at 6 in the morning and that was very hard to start off with because for me that didn't come naturally and I really dreaded that but it got easier each time and I actually did listen to the radio and I found that to be a great so to wait at work wake up ultimately to just one of the things I did to help was telling you all of my secrets here. I actually slept in my running clothes because it made it easier to then get up and just get out the door early in the morning and then if I got back by 7, then I could make my boys breakfast and see them off to school and go live the rest of my day without having this worry about how I was going to get exercise in given the rest of my schedule.

So it worked.

So what I find so interesting about that is that our conscious Minds in some ways can help but but they help primarily not so much in terms of exercising will power button scheming are ways to make the Habit as frictionless as possible in some ways your conscious mind came up with this idea to say, let me sleep in my jogging clothes when the alarm goes off at 6. I don't have a thought in my head. Oh, no, I have to spend time changing before I go out. You just made it a little more frictionless a little more easy. What professional chefs do so I went up to The Culinary Institute of America and took a few of their

Preliminary classes how they train chefs and something called me some place which is how to set up your environment to make it easy to create great dishes consistently great dishes each time and they described me the Dilemma of beginning chefs is they wanted to just jump in and do it.

Let's just do it and they would get some flowers some sugar some of the components together and they try to start creating stuff. But then they figure out. Oh, no, I really need more flour and I wasn't supposed to put all the sugar in here and I was supposed to do something else there. And so they have to learn this is when they learn me some place putting everything in place before they actually begin and they put it in place in order. So it's that they're not thinking a lot. They're not making decisions while they're actually cooking instead. They are cute by all of the the implements in the food and that the prepared items in front of them on what goes next and it makes it much easier for them to be consistent and actually produce the same thing and I was impressed with that as a metaphor for Behavior change because

If you structure the environment ahead of time, yes, it's work. Yes, it does take executive control our conscious thinking cells, but then we make it so much easier for us to sort of automate all of the other decisions. So they in their case they can think about ways to make it their current cakes even more wonderful and pastries even tastier as they put them together. They can put the flourish into them because they have automated the basic components. Wendy says you can also use friction in the opposite direction to disrupt The Habit think about campaigns to limit smoking by the time the surgeon general's report came out on the dangers of smoking people had a pretty good idea it convinced people that they needed to stop smoking. But in fact sales of cigarettes in the US continue to increase into the seventies, so

People were convinced. They knew it was not good for them. But they kept doing it. It was only once we started modifying the environment. So warning labels on cigarette packs. We removed vending machines. I don't know if you remember cigarette vending machines, but you can't find them anymore because there are now rules about how you can purchase cigarettes cigarettes are typically put behind the counter and you have to ask for them in order to purchase them. We set the hands on smoking in public places so that you can't easily anymore just light up in your office in a restaurant on a plane and then we started texting

We started taxing cigarettes all of that took huge political decision-making and commitment to make it happen. But isn't it fascinating Wendy that telling people that smoking is going to give them, you know, emphysema lung cancer that that these things as companies are less effective than telling them. They have to walk a hundred yards get up from that desk walk outside the building and light up outside. You would think that the first would actually have much more effect than the second but that does not turn out to be the case. If we we would like to think that we are rational and respond to the the data on cancer and emphysema.

But the reality is we tend to act on autopilot on what we are doing already because it's so much easier. It's very hard to exert that kind of control. So in a way what the government was doing is it was making it easier for us to do the thing that we already wanted to do which is to smoke class talk about how you can decrease friction to build good habits and increase friction to dismantle bad habits. We look at how you can make healthy behaviors automatic and Mindless and make unhealthy behaviors conscious and effortful.

Unit three addition ideas that build on this inside the force is something that Wendy calls piggybacking or stacking it is taking a behavior that you're already doing and inserting a new behavior that you want to add. So you want to remember to take your meds. Maybe you you have meds prescribed by your doctor that you're supposed to take every night. Do you want to remember to take them a good way to do it is to put it on your nightstand and then whatever you do last before you get into bed. Is it turn off your phone set your alarm whatever it is. Just insert taking that pill in that stream of behavior and over time. It will become automated much like the automated that you're already that you're already performing restring habits together like a chain.

Shortcut to forming a new habit use one that you already have.

Another powerful insight has to do with the role of what Wendy calls Q's things that prompt you to do something when Dimension Q's in the context of the popcorn study smoker you might have noticed there are certain triggers to your smoking. Maybe you come home at the end of the day and you light up on your front porch. The porch is what Wendy calls a cue cues are very powerful in creating new habits for preserving old ones. When do you use as Q's in her own life to build new habits 1q for her is to wake up and have breakfast with her husband. That's our signal a q that the next thing she needs to do is sit down at her computer and write for 2 hours if I give myself a couple of hours in the morning to write if I structure into my schedule, then I take away all of the decision-making in the stress about when and where I'm going to do it. I don't mean to say that right makes writing easy writing is always a challenge for everyone.

But it does make the process easier. So I'm not all the time struggling about whether I should be doing this or something else that's being decided that this is part of my job and I just need to do it.

Does one last source of new habits and it comes from an unexpected Place chaos, when I lights go Haywire the cues that normally surround us disappear when he says this can be a profound opportunity for reinvention on something called habit discontinuity the time but but it is studies of people when they're undergoing change and what we've learned is that that's an opportunity for people to try out new things that they didn't have the chance to do at say an old job or an old place where they lived is many such life disruptions right relationships and you get a family life gets disrupted in the typical way. We think about that is that that's stressful and that that's not

Good time for making new decision. But in fact it actually turns out to be an opportunity for them to act more authentically on their values. So because they're making those decisions they have to think do I want to do this? How do I do this? What what are my new choices here? It's an opportunity to rethink some of the Practical decisions you've made in your life and maybe to act more in ways that are consistent with how you want to be.

Wendy what is a professor of psychology and business at the University of Southern California have good habits bad habits the science of making positive changes that stick Wendy. Thank you for joining me today. I didn't write this lovely to talk to you. Thank you.

Hidden brain is produced by hidden brain media media is our exclusive advertising sales partner audio production team includes Bridget McCarthy, Laura Corral Alton Barnes and Andrew Chadwick terrible is our executive producer and executive editor.

Our unsung heroes this week on Noah Carnahan and Rob Harris. Noah and Rob make sure audio sounds good on all the different platforms. We heard on from podcasting apps to websites sometime ago. We had some problems translating the audio. We were Hearing in our headphones into the right format for all these different platforms Noah and Rob work with us into the wee hours always maintaining that composure as we played Detective trying to get to the heart of the problem. We're so grateful.

We thinking of doing an episode in 2021 about Second Chances. If you have a great personal story about a second chance that you received, please find a quiet room and record a short voice memo on your phone email it to us and ideas at Hidden brain. Org with the subject line Second Chances again find a quiet room record a voice memo and send it to us and ideas at Hidden brain. Org.

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I'm shocked rabbit, Adam. Happy New Year.
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