Archives for posts with tag: behavioral change

Do you ever get pissed off when something is SO OBVIOUS but you still didn’t think of it?  This is one of those.  And I hate it.  Don’t feel too horrible, I had to be told also, but dammit it’s frustrating isn’t it?

So Behavioral change is basically the bee’s knees.  The last two posts I’ve written about it are High Value Goal setting and Avoiding Mediocrity.  They are vital to this if you’re new here.

Well let’s get to it.  There are two elements that make up this secret sauce and they will anger you.

Limiting behaviors

No more than 3 new behaviors at a time.  Simple right?  Let’s use an example.  So…

Cherryl tells you about her new year’s weight loss plan.  As you talk, you learn she’ll be eating healthier, working out, cooking for herself, and learning about fitness.  When you ask, she says her goal is “to lose weight.”  Cherryl will fail and you should kill her.  Then resurrect her and point her to my High Value Goal post.  Because she is just atrocious.

Okay apart from the HVG violations, she’s also taking on too much.  Each behavior she mentions is a compound behavior, meaning that she is actually doing at least 3 things for each activity.  And very VERY quickly she’ll burn out and give up except she’ll actually be “lower” than when she started because she’ll have the added fun of feeling guilty about failing.

Let’s break this down in case you’ve got a little bit of Cherryl in you.

Let’s pretend she only has one goal: Eating healthier–well that requires learning what “healthy” is which means: trudging through hours of internet forums and learning about all the different opinions, avoiding scammy sites but learning enough to avoid them first, and reading a book or two.

And notice how that’s not even touching on the actual act of eating?  If she’s less research heavy then “eating healthy” still means buying unfamiliar groceries(which itself requires some hefty changes in learning to price different things, learning what she likes, learning which brands to buy and which to avoid), bringing them home, cooking them, and cleaning up after.

Maybe she’s not interested in cooking at home.  So now she would have to find which “healthy” restaurants there are and then budget them into her spending.  THAT might be the only actual change she could effect so we have a more refined “Eating at healthier restaurants more often” (inline critique–what does “more often” mean exactly? … GAH!  I hate you cherryl!!!!).

All of those wrong turns would of course be avoided with the High Value Goal approach and Cherryl is an extreme example but you have to realize how many behaviors you’re actually asking of yourself.  Then limit them to 3 over say… a month.

Why a month?  Because a month is long enough to decide if you really like this behavioral change or not.   You won’t like every change but you should learn what you do like, keep what you like as a “forever” change and ditch what you don’t.  Then for the next month set a new set of 3 behaviors until you’ve got your life exactly where you want it.

But what else?  

Planning for Lazy By Removing Thought

If you like fictional navy SEALs like Sam Fisher (and probably real ones, I just don’t know that for a fact) then you’ve heard of the Six P’s.  Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.  Seems straightforward but few people carry this out far enough.

For behavioral change it means you have to batch or remove ALL your thinking as much as you can.  Because, frankly, reading posts like this very one, strategizing your life sucks.  It just does and that doesn’t really change.  If you have to think EVERY day about EVERYTHING, you’ll just revert to what you were doing before–which had less thought.

So let’s take my workout plan for example: I actually stopped working out because of a lack of novelty.  I couldn’t surprise myself.  The solution?  Signing up for a “Spartan Work Out Of The Day” email list.  For 3 days / week, my workout buddy and me just checked our emails and everyday we had a different workout.  If it was too easy, we even had the days we didn’t work out that we could swap in.  And how long do you think we stuck with it?  30 days was easy.  Hell we’d still be doing it if it wasn’t too cold to run out (and yes… that does make us huge, wimpy nutsacks, we know and accept this.)  And what do you think our results were?  90 second planks used to be really hard for me.  But under someone else’s expectations, we flourished.  At our height, we did 24 minutes of a plank.  You read that right, for almost half an hour, I was planking.  My limits were pushed and we persevered.

It’s always good to mess with your expectations after long enough.  But I really want you to understand what we did.  We removed our thought.  Every day, the workout came.  And we did it.  Combined with the fact that we had to “pony up” to the other guy, we had a beautiful recipe for behavioral change.  That’s all we did.  We didn’t even set High Value Goals for ourselves.  And that’s the point… If you just take one or two of these tips, it could be life changing, but more on that in a second.

So let’s get a little more specific with removing thought (assuming you can’t hire a personal trainer or sign up for a workout email list thing to do the thinking for you).  Once you have your high-value goal, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you have to do.  So plan it out.  Every day you’re doing it (12 days if it’s a 3x/week sort of thing) write out exactly what you’re going to do.  Plan it out by hours if you really want.  This is how I created my self-defense curriculum–and the reason why is because I knew I wouldn’t teach that well if I had to plan the lesson EVERY day.  Instead I put all the thinking up front and once we got started, I just had to check the calendar everyday.

So there it is, 2 “secret sauce” tips to behavioral change.  And to be perfectly clear, if you haven’t been reading along you really need to check out “High Value Goal setting” and “Avoiding Mediocrity” to get a clear picture on behavioral change.

Just the tip

I want you to understand what has happened here.  You’ve got the sum total of The Most Valuable Things I’ve Ever Learned.  These three posts tagged under Behavioral Change are exactly why I’m where I am.  For certain behaviors they all aren’t necessary.  Like I said above, we actually only removed our thought and had some consequences of the other guy’s judgement to effect our behavioral change of working out more (notice how that’s NOT a high value goal?).  Each of these things is like an ingredient and the recipe is behavioral change.  Some recipes are different and you’ll find you only need certain elements.

But none of it took off until I had all of the puzzle pieces.  And I’m still finding them.  If you’d like to find them with me, follow me and share this around.  We can all stand to be a little more Navy SEAL/Einstein-ey.  (100% privacy.  No spam.  No B.S.)

Leave a comment about the “recipes” that work for you.

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Amidst the clamor of the new year I find myself amused at the hordes of statuses claiming x resolution, or swearing off y such food, or enumerating z goal.  The truth is that maybe 5-10 of my friends total (out of 411) MIGHT make a behavioral change–and if they do, it won’t be because of the magic of a “new year” it’ll just be business as usual for them, so you would never know by looking at their FaceTwitPlusTagram page.

Think about it.  How many resolutions have you abandoned?  How many years have you told all your friends about whatever change you were making?  How many times have you written down your vow to stop procrastinating?  To lose weight?  To finally be “financially responsible” (whatever that means)?  How many of your friends told you their goals and got a chuckle from you, knowing that their change would never really occur?  How many times have your friends chuckled at you without you knowing?

Most importantly: What always happens?

A few things change… for a week or two, maybe even a month, you actually make your change.  You wake up early or go to the gym or eat healthier…. but pretty soon a day of “lazy” creeps in.  Then another day and then another and–if you were paying attention–you would notice that these days are consecutive.  And if you’re really self-aware, you’ll actually notice that you’ve abandoned your resolution.  But most of us aren’t that sharp, I know I wasn’t.  We just quietly let go of our resolution and hope no one notices.

Isn’t that strange?  What’s going on here?

Applied behavioral change

Behavioral change is a skill, one most of us never got.  Who learns about this stuff?  Where would you even go to learn it?  Before now, have you even encountered that phrase before?

I find this skill set is like so many others out there–until someone points it out to you, you would NEVER have thought about it.  The second someone does, a light goes on and you think “there it is.  Why didn’t I think of that?”  So I guess you don’t have to feel ashamed of yourself for this.  I think you should but I was like you too so… I have an ounce of sympathy for you.  Don’t let it wear out.  I have zero tolerance for pointless laziness.

How to effect behavioral change

High Value Goal setting.

Most people suck at setting goals.  Here’s the basics, you need a clearly defined goal, consequences based on a timeframe, and it should take into consideration what else is going on in your life.  Why?

Most people come up with something vague like “lose weight”.  Okay… so what?  I want to lose weight so… I can fit into that dress?  So I can be more attractive?  So I can have more energy?  No one–INCLUDING YOU actually cares about losing weight.  We want the benefits from it.  So right away, you’re setting a goal that doesn’t motivate you and that you never know when you hit (so it feels impossible–when exactly do you “win” at losing weight?).  Instead try being more specific and results oriented.  I want to lose 20lbs.  Good.  I want to lose 20lbs so I can have more energy to play with my kids.  Better.  I want to lose 20lbs so I can feel more confident talking to women.  Better.

See the difference?  If you write that one down, you might actually stick with your plan for three BIG reasons.

1–It isn’t forever, so there’s a definite “win” point, as opposed to a forever goal that feels scary and like a LOT of hard work (even the hardest working person doesn’t want to do hard work, we’re all lazy at heart so use that instead of fighting it).  

2–it’ll remind you of the “so what” behind your behavior.  That’s what will get you out of bed on those cold, lonely mornings.

3–It clarifies exactly what you want.  If you want to lose weight to be more confident with the opposite sex, okay.  But what if you think losing weight alone will get girls?  Bad, you’d be better off just talking to more women.  You have to make sure your behaviors actually get you what you want.

But that’s not all.  You also need a timeframe.  A big problem with behavioral change is that we don’t set consequences for failure.  In contrast, look at your job.  How many behavioral changes has that imposed upon you?  How many have you stuck with?  Is it amazing?  Are your work masters incredible psychologists with deep insight into the human psyche?  No.  There’s just some definitive consequences for NOT making those changes–namely you get fired.  What happens if you don’t lose weight?  Nothing.  Nothing at all.  Sure we don’t get our result, but sometimes that doesn’t matter.  You have to realize serious behavioral change is a balance between the carrot and the stick.  Somedays, the carrot is enough.  Other days, you need a god damn stick.

So set a time point (this also affects the “forever change” resistance I mentioned above.  “Oh I’m just working out for a month?  You know what?  I can handle that…” ).

For consequences we have a few options, Tim Ferriss has his idea of setting your anti-charity and a friendly but stern judge to decide whether that anti-charity gets your $$ or not.  You also have the option of setting pots of money with your friends and such.  I find just including a friend-in-arms with whatever behavior I need is effective.  Just like getting a workout buddy and all.  Find someone with the same interest and go down that road with them.  Meet at least 3 times / week and get on each other’s cases.  Get confrontational even “look I really don’t think you did your best.”  Workout buddies are the best because there’s an activity you BOTH do, but this idea could be applied to other areas.  For example, when I needed to get really good at Copy Writing, I found a copy writing friend and we both committed to 3 practice pieces a week, which we wrote and edited right next to each other.

Now let’s look at our goal examples.

From “I want to lose 20 lbs so I can feel more confident talking to women.”

To: “In 2 months I want to lose 20lbs so I can feel more confident talking to women.”  Alright, NOW our goal is looking pretty good.  For consequences, you’ve got yourself a friend who also wants to lose weight but he’s married so he’s aiming for more energy for his kids.  Bit different but you guys can overlap and contrast.  I prefer working with differences–you get better insights.

That goal setting behavior by itself could be life changing, but it’s not 100% complete….here’s two more things you really need to consider:  Avoiding Mediocrity and The annoyingly simple “secret sauce” of behavioral change.

The best way to learn something is to practice, so have at it!  Let’s see some high value goals in the comments!

Expectations

You will never get more out of life than you expect.  –Bruce Lee

The sky is the limit with your goals but you have to realize that setting low expectations can pigeonhole you into mediocrity.  And for most people, for most goals, that’s alright.  Do you need to be the best “weight loser” ever?  Probably not.  In fact, to start learning behavioral change you should really start with easy goals.  Don’t make it amazing, just a humble 20lbs over 2 months.  Very easy.  And that’s why it’s a great “starter” goal to set, but what if you’re already good at these elements of behavioral change (High value goal setting and limiting behaviors)?  Where do you go now?

Most people make the mistake of “forever” goals when what they really want is better served with a High Value goal.  But if you have those steps down and want something more, NOW those “someday” and “forever” goals come into play.  And they should be huge.  The big idea here, the larger strategic picture is that you should test out behaviors and see what you really like.  You don’t have to commit to being a gymrat for the rest of your life just to lose 20 lbs.  It just requires a few simple changes and a bit of psychological knowledge.  But when you do find something that fills you with wonder, you need to go full bore.  This is the passion chasing they always talk about.  (The big secret is that passions come from what you’re good at–so getting good at things is the first step, THEN your passion flows into them).  Think of it like this.  Where would we be without those crazy goals?  Where would we be without those inspiring and dangerous goals?  Where would we be if everybody was “reasonable”?

Look at the difference in my goals as they evolved from months ago to now:

4 months ago: “I want to write 12 practice ads this month and get feedback on them so I can learn copywriting–which will lead to more persuasive websites for my businesses.

Now: “I want to be a world-class copywriter.

7 months ago: “In 6 months, I want to develop a comprehensive self-defense curriculum so I can teach women how to be safe faster than anyone else in my city.

Now: “I want to be the best martial arts instructor in the world–with the most scientific approach to hand to hand combat that there is.

Be unreasonable.  Be ridiculous.  Be completely unrealistic.  Break the “rules of behavioral change” I’ve laid out for you.  (if you’re clever, tell me what’s wrong with the forever goals in the comments–if I was just learning behavioral change, why would these goals make me fail?)

Here is why you should be ridiculous.

A goal is not always meant to be reached.  It often serves simply as something to aim at.  –Bruce Lee

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