Posts Tagged 'Obstacles to change'

Will Power Alone is not Enough

Summary of The Secrets of Self-Improvement by Marina Krakovsky

A study published in Psychological Science, 2009 showed that “participants with the highest opinion of their self restraint were the most likely to give into temptation.  Those with the most modest, realistic assessment of their own abilities fared best.” This article points out that both self-awareness and self-motivation are key components of successful change.

Most of the time, people make significant changes on their own without the help of doctors or programs. Based on some of the latest neuroscientific research, this article highlights some of the key steps for making changes – long beyond the week after New Year’s Eve.  In summary they are:

  1. Maintaining realistic expectations
  2. Aligning with your deep motivators
  3. Taking baby steps
  4. Formulating Action Plans

According to Perth based psychologist, Martin Hegger, it’s easier to justify our actions and much harder to align our actions with our thoughts. Habits being hard to break is what makes them useful, so it’s not easy to change.  For instance, being in places aligned with a habit will have a big impact on our unconscious processing, making old habits easy to fall in to.  Ex-smokers know this when they go to an old pub, or house where they used to smoke.

Some pointers to keep in mind when forming new habits…

  • Lapses Are Normal. Don’t treat them as failure, just make adjustments to get back on track as soon as possible.
  • Mental Contrasting. There are two ways that mental imaging can help you break old habits The images to contrast are:
  1. A picture of the successful result.
  2. The specific obstacles that can get in the way.

For example, when resolving to save money, it helps to a) imagine the larger bank balance and b) wrestling with the decision to join friends on an expensive dinner.  This mental contrasting can help you “procrastinate less and tackle challenges more enthusiastically.”

  • Engage Your Autopilot. Imagine yourself taking steps to support your new habit in simple practical terms.  Seeing yourself stopping at the shop on the way home to buy three kinds of vegetables will help make the change easier.  This planning backfires when we attach rationale statements like “because I want to lose weight.”  Such rationalisations involve the thinking mind and the opportunity for doubt and old habitual mental processes can hijack the change process.  Using positive language, “will” as opposed to “will not,” is also key.
  • Find Your Own Why.  “Should do’s” without a link to personal values are hard to sustain.  When looking at new habits, ensure they are aligned with your psychological needs – such as those posited in humanist theory such as competence, contribution, closeness and autonomy. People who spent time finding their own personal motivations were far more successful than those incentivised by external motivators, such as financial gain.
  • Take Baby Steps. If completing the task you set is questionable, then it’s not a good start.  Breaking down goals into small achievable steps can help both give quicker wins and reduce the impact of setbacks. Developing coping skills such as effective scheduling and realistic goal setting are two key ways to support change.

Finally, remember that change is never easy and not all these steps will work for everyone or every habit.  This latest research suggests that the most important thing is to find your own way, and particularly ensuring these changes are aligned with your own values.  It’s not going to happen overnight, but it is never the wrong time to start taking steps toward a better life. Enjoy!


Brain “Buy” Pass

Consumers don’t think how they feel, they don’t say what they think and they don’t do what they say. – David Ogilvy

Summary of Brain Sells by Gemma Calvert, Director of Neurosense, RSA Journal Winter 2011

Neuroscientific research shows us that a vast amount of our decision making is governed by processes outside of our conscious awareness (see also Damasio).  Much of these are influenced by our emotional brain: “by how [we] implicitly feel, rather than how we think.”  This coupled with our unnerving ability to post-rationalise decisions makes it very difficult for manufacturers and marketers to really know what drives consumer choice.

Enter neuromarketing – the emerging science of what happens in the brain to understand consumer behaviour.  Neurosense is pioneering this technology to help manufacturers measure unconscious responses to a vast range of new products:

This, in turn, helps them understand how to communicate the products emotional benefits most effectively to consumers…. this information helps design better products that meet consumer’s underlying needs.

For example, we don’t buy toothpaste because it provides 30% more whitening (feature) but because we believe this will make us feel better about ourselves and more confident.

Over the past ten years, extensive research has found that implicit responses are often better at predicting our subsequent behaviour than explicit attitudes.

This science can now measure how well frames in a commercial are absorbed and whether some of these changes can stimulate the brain’s reward areas.  The range of emotions that they can measure include: trust, anticipation (of price), empathy and brand loyalty, to name a few.

These marketers are measuring things like the “right” amount of sound to be heard in a car.  Consumers want quietness – except when they accelerate, they like to hear the “roar”.  They also look at people’s response to touch and smell, both highly stimulating of emotional brain areas, though often processed unconsciously.  I will leave you with this interesting example:

The French government commissioned some research to assess the impact of anti smoking campaigns.  They found that the “Smoking Kills” logos offered no further deterrent because they stimulated the brains guilt response that is highly correlated to the area that craves nicotine.  (I think the cigarette companies probably already knew that…) So next time you think you are making a rational decision, you may be wise to think again.

Intrinsic Motivators

Here Daniel Pink shares his research on what I have often thought might be true, but was speaking from my gut.  (As Stephen Colbert would say, that’s because there are millions of nerve endings in my gut telling me whats true.)

But if you like studies and empirical research, take a look through this.

There is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does:

  1. External Motivators (Carrots and Sticks) work well only for mechanical based tasks.
  2. “If  …  Then  …” reward structures destroy creativity.
  3. The secret to high performance is not found in external motivators, but in intrinsic motivators such as:
  • Autonomy
  • Mastery, and
  • Purpose

Watch this link to see more:

Conflict – What’s good about the fight?

Martial artists know it, mediators know it and kids in the play ground know it. The best way to get out a of a loggerhead is – to let go. There is an exercise in Aikido where one person tries to get out of the wrist-hold of another. As one person struggles, the other grips tighter and the conflict becomes more intense, and so on… However, as soon as the one caught in the grip relaxes, the other relaxes their effort and the first person is often free to get out.

As mediators, we know this is the place we would like our parties to get to. Unfortunately, the more protracted the conflict, the less likely the person is to let go. This is true both in personal relationship conflicts, like divorce, through to state warfare.

From future-focused and problem-solving models of mediation through to more facilitative approaches, mediators often encourage those in the conflict to loosen their grip on the destructive cycle of conflict. Simply giving people space, listening and giving them a chance to reflect can work wonders – we know this.

However, I am also interested in is what keeps people in a confrontational mode. We know its fear. We know that when in conflict, the last thing we want to do is give in. However, behind this “knowledge” is an attitude that the conflict is bad and we should get rid of it. Yet if we really want to support Continue reading ‘Conflict – What’s good about the fight?’

How green can you get?

I found this post on yahoo answers to the question of, “How can I be more green?”  I would like to thank The Tinker for his ardour and his candour.  Now check this out as an example of “Be the Change”:

I was hoping someone would ask this calibre of a question (as above). I want to thank you in advance for it.

There is so much discussion about recycling when packaging reduction and reuse is a more valued approach to our consumer habits. I am very extreme in my extracurricular activities – even excentric.

I have a small backyard foundry where I melt my own metals to be cast into useful and decorative articles. I use biomass fuel Continue reading ‘How green can you get?’

Failure to Manage Change – Stages 3 & 4

Here are the second two stages that can form stumbling blocks to action and crucially, averting threats, that I have summarised from Jared Diamond’s book Collapse.  Bear in mind these points are looking at decisions from a civilisation perspective and whether they choose to succeed or fail. They are timely considerations.

MOST IMPORTANT: Thoughts on how to overcome these failures are welcome!

3) Failure to Attempt to Solve

  • Lack of incentive. Those gaining from a threatening exploitation are often few and stand to make big gains in the process, while the majority lose out, but only a little, often imperceptibly so they are not motivated to change – unlike the few who stand to gain apparently enormous reward. Again, this is a question of scale if we are talking civilisations where the costs of exploitation are not felt until after the exploiters have made the gain and left the scene.

  • Tragedy of the Commons – “Someone else will just eat it, so why don’t I?” Again, the problem here is of motivation, what gain is there to be Continue reading ‘Failure to Manage Change – Stages 3 & 4’