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habits

The Power of Friction To Stop Bad Habits and Create Better Ones

Wendy Wood is the author of Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Change, and a professor of psychology and business at the University of Southern California.

One of her underlying principles on how to manipulate habits is by adding or removing friction.

Our habits are automated and rarely involve much decision making. Using willpower alone has proven time and time again to be really ineffective in breaking habits, and creating new ones.

People who are successful at reaching their long terms goals are very good at structuring their environment to make it as easy as possible to do the habits they want to do (removing friction), and more difficult to do the habits they don’t want (adding friction).

Adding Friction To Break a Habit

An example of adding friction to break a habit can be demonstrated with an experiment at a cinema involving stale popcorn.

Two groups of people were selected to watch a film at a cinema, one group were selected because they rarely ate popcorn, and the other selected because they often ate popcorn.

Both groups were given boxes of popcorn, some boxes contained fresh popcorn, and some contained stale popcorn.

The group who rarely ate popcorn, ate plenty of the fresh popcorn, but as expected didn’t really touch the stale popcorn.

However, in the frequent popcorn eating group, 70% of the popcorn was eaten regardless if the popcorn was fresh or stale.

When asked afterwards about the taste of the stale popcorn, the frequent popcorn eaters described it as tasting awful, yet they still ate 70% of it.

Their behaviour was so automatic, that they mindlessly consumed stale popcorn, even though they didn’t enjoying the taste at all.

Interesting, they ran the experiment again, this time, right handed people were directed to use their left hand to eat the popcorn, and left handed people directed to use their right hand.

After adding this small bit of friction, and interrupting the habitual popcorn eating, much less stale popcorn was consumed. The group had become much more mindful when eating, and were able to stop eating out of habit, and make a more effortlessly decision not to eat.

The British business magnate Alan Sugar, published a book many years ago entitled “The Tiny Fork Diet”. He basically exchanged his regular fork for a tiny fork, even going as far as taking it to restaurants with him to eat with.

His thought process was that it slowed his eating, and therefore, allowed enough time for him to feel full and not overeat. This is also a good example of adding friction to an unwanted habit to disrupt it.  This disruption allowed him to be more conscious and mindful, and build better long term eating habits.

Remove Friction To Create Habits

Just as adding friction can help to interrupt and break unwanted habits, removing friction can help to make it easier to form new desired habits.

The easier a desired habit is to do, the more likely we are to do it.

An example of removing friction might be to leave vitamins or medication by the kettle, as a reminder when we have our morning coffee or tea.

Another might be to the leave weighting scales at the bottom of the stairs at night, so they are seen first thing in the morning when coming downstairs.

Another classical examples might be arranging the fridge so that the “good/desired” foods are easier to get. Or leaving workout clothing by the bed, so that when we wake there is less friction to putting them on.

The key to breaking and making habits isn’t just to use willpower alone, but to set up our environments in our favour to help us succeed.

This involves removing as much friction as possible for the habits we want to do, and creating as much friction as possible for our unwanted habits, to allow us to make more mindful decisions, rather than automated ones.

Related Articles

RAIN Method to Break Unwanted Habits and Cravings

Categories
habits mindset success

The 10% Target Mindset

“The 10% Target” is formula or mindset developed & promoted by best selling author & entrepreneur Jennifer Cohen to help achieve higher levels of success, and get more of what you want.

Success is more about Boldness

The central theme is that success is much more about boldness than raw intelligence.

Most of us live on default – default to what’s convenient, take what’s available, acquiesce to what’s in front of us. Boldness is chasing what we want, and not just settling for what we can get.

Many people assume they are either born with boldness or not, but boldness is actually a skill like anything else. To develop boldness simply takes practice, and we can get better at it.

The 10% Target

The 10% target means deciding what we want most in life, and making 10 attempts at it. This dramatically increases our chances of success. Most people don’t even make one attempt at really striving for what they actually want.

The purpose of the 10% target is to get very comfortable with failing 90% of the time. If we make 10 attempts we will either get the thing we want, or get something we didn’t even know was available, or discover what we were meant to do.

Most people don’t get what they want, because they don’t go after what they want, but rather settle for what’s available.

One example she gives is a survey of 160,000 people who really felt like they deserved a pay rise. 2/3 of those people never even asked for a raise. However, of the 1/3 who did ask, 70% received a pay rise.

How do we get comfortable failing 9/10 times? – Practice. After a short time, it becomes our new normal. We can start small too, which cultivates the boldness skill and builds confidence. This is training our brains to be bold.

Categories
habits

Your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits

“Your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits. Your net worth is a lagging measure of your financial habits. Your weight is a lagging measure of your eating habits. Your knowledge is a lagging measure of your learning habits. You get what you repeat” – James Clear, Atomic Habits

Establishing and maintaining good habits is probably one of the best skills to us to develop.

Relying soley on motivation is setting ourselves up for failure.

Establishing and maintaining good habits allows us to repeat desired behaviours even when we don’t feel like it. Thus, increasing our chances of long term success where we want it.

Categories
Anxiety habits

RAIN Method to Break Unwanted Habits and Cravings

R.A.I.N Method

The following is a basic outline of the R.A.I.N method to Break Unwanted Habits and Cravings.

It was developed by neuroscientist Dr Judson Brewer who is director of research at the Centre for Mindfulness and associate professor in psychiatry at the School of Medicine at Brown University.

This technique really brings into play his long experiences with mindfulness.

First of all, just think about the habit you want to stop. Spend a few minutes really thinking about that habit and what it does for you, what you get from it. 

What does it feel like in your body, what are the rewards? Dr Jud says it’s imperative to understand why we do the habit.

R.A.I.N is a simple acronym that makes the technique easier to remember, and simpler to apply.

R.A.I.N

  • Recognise
  • Accept
  • Investigate
  • Note

Four Step Process for cravings and unwanted habits

Now anytime we feel a craving or unwanted behaviour, we should apply the following fours steps.

  1. Recognise: First of all, we just need to recognise when we are doing the habit. Otherwise, we are just on autopilot.
  2. Accept: Rather than pushing away the craving or habit we just accept it.
  3. Investigate: Now, we investigate those feelings and notice where we feel them. This should be playfully curious and light without judgment or criticism. Is there a feeling in the stomach? What does the mind do?  What are the feelings involved? We want to be really curious and look deeper at the craving & behaviours, and their effects on our bodies.
  4. Note. Finally, just note down those feelings and experiences for a minute or so.

Dr Jud recommends using this technique for cravings, or unwanted thought patterns. Repetition is key.

Every time we repeat the process the cravings will get weaker and we will gain more control.

Categories
Anxiety Fear habits Stress

The Wailing Dog and the 5 Minute Rule

There is a story about a wailing dog.

One day, a man was walking past a house with an old couple sitting out front on their porch and a dog lying just in front of them.

The man noticed that the dog was constantly wailing and whimpering in a lowish tone.

For several days the man walked past the house, and every day noticed the same thing. The couple were sitting out front and the dog was lying on the porch in front of them whimpering and wailing.

Curiosity eventually got the better of the man, and so he decided to go an ask the couple what was wrong with their dog.

They replied, “oh he is just lying on a sharp nail”.  Perplexed, the man asked why the dog simply didn’t move off the nail. “That’s because it hurts enough to groan about it, but not enough to move”.

This story illustrates how many people experience problems in their life. They moan and complain about them, but do very little of nothing at all to actually fix the issue.

In fact, some people, actually get a kind of pleasure from their complaints, it’s almost like a source of comfort, or something to talk about.
 
I’m sure we can all think of people we know who are like this. They aren’t really looking for a solution or change, they just want to enjoy a little bit of complaining.

A little complaining here and there is perfectly normal, but it’s important that those little complaints don’t grow and expand over time and become part of our identity

The 5 Minute Rule

The 5 minute rule is a useful strategy where all complaints, moaning or negativity are limited to 5 minutes – not a second more!

Then simply STOP, and move on to some other conversation or activity – preferably neutral or positivist.

This can be challenging at first, but many people doing this consistently over time find they feel more calm, centred, and peaceful.