How to change, when change is hard

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Two of the best books I’ve ever read are “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg & “Switch:How to change when change is hard” by “Dan & Chip Heath

Here are some thoughts based on these books…

WHY IT’S DIFFICULT TO REACH YOUR GOALS

Consider a high school student riding on their bike…

If the student is riding to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’, they will most likely take the shortest path possible. The ride will not be considered a success unless the student arrives at point ‘B’…

A to B

But if the student is simply riding for the fun of it, they will just go where they naturally want to go.  

A to D

SO HERE IS WHAT WE KNOW…

1. The Student will naturally ride from Point A to Point D.

2. Only if the Student has a goal to get to Point B will they ride from Point A to Point B.

3. The goal to get from Point A to Point B helps the Student do what they would not naturally do. Therefore they will only achieve the goal if they do what seems ‘unnatural’.

4. A goal was not needed for the Student to get from Point A to Point D. We do not need to set goals for those things that we are going to do naturally anyway.

IN OTHER WORDS…

Goals are needed when we want to do something that we would not naturally do.

If doing something comes to us naturally, then it will be easy and not require a goal, because we will do it anyway. But if doing something doesn’t come to us naturally, then it will be difficult and require a goal to make sure we stay focused.

GOALS VS. HABITS

Therefore, the key is to build habits rather than set goals.

Habits help us naturally do what we would not naturally do. They make tasks easy that we would not normally find easy.

Consider the following examples:

(A) JACK WANTS TO LEARN TO PLAY GUITAR, BUT HATES HAVING TO SIT STILL AND STAY INDOORS.

Naturally – Jack will probably not practice guitar. He would rather go and play sport instead.

Goal – Jack will set a goal to learn guitar, and then have to use his will power and discipline to get himself to practice.

Habits – Jack decides to build a habit. He takes his guitar with him on the bus, and practices on the way to school. Or he makes it a habit to play guitar straight after he eats dinner every day, so he is not wishing he was playing outside. Overtime, his habit becomes easy, and Jack becomes great at the guitar.

(B) SALLY WANTS TO GET AN ‘A’ IN MATHS. MATHS IS HER FAVOURITE SUBJECT SO SHE WANTS TO DO WELL IN IT.  

Naturally – Sally will probably be diligent in maths class and do her maths homework before she does work for any other subject.

Goal – Sally can set a goal if she wants, but it is not really needed. She will naturally work hard in maths.

Habits – Sally may decide to create certain habits to help her do better at maths. But again, she is naturally good at maths and loves it, so they are not really needed.

(C) DAVID WANTS TO BECOME CONFIDENT AROUND OTHER PEOPLE, BUT HE IS NATURALLY SHY.   

Naturally – David will probably stick to himself. He will not start conversations or naturally talk to people.

Goal – David can set a goal to become more outgoing. But it will be very unnatural and maybe awkward for him.

Habits – David can create habits which make him more outgoing. He can deliberately leave his watch at home, so that he has to ask others the time. He can make it a habit to say hello and look people in the eye every time someone walks past him. Overtime, these habits will make it more natural for David to talk to people.

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