How to Change cover

How to Change - Book Summary

The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be

Duration: 20:50
Release Date: June 11, 2024
Book Author: Katy Milkman
Categories: Psychology, Personal Development
Duration: 20:50
Release Date: June 11, 2024
Book Author: Katy Milkman
Categories: Psychology, Personal Development

In this episode of 20 Minute Books, we explore "How to Change" by Katy Milkboy, released in 2021. This insightful book serves as a practical guide for anyone struggling to overcome the challenges that block personal success and transformation. Whether you're battling procrastination, impulsiveness, or a slew of bad habits that undercut your goals, Milkman offers research-based strategies for tackling these issues.

Katy Milkman is not only an accomplished researcher in behavioral economics but also a distinguished professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. "How to Change" marks her debut in book authorship, bringing together years of expertise and real-world applications.

This book is particularly suited for serial procrastinators, individuals whose detrimental habits hinder their objectives, and those who have started to doubt their capacity for change. Join us as we summarize key takeaways from "How to Change," which promises to equip you with the tools needed for personal reinvention and goal achievement. Tune in to discover how small changes can lead to significant life transformations.

Unlocking the secrets to successful personal transformation

You've probably tried every trick in the book to improve yourself. Setting ambitious goals? Check. Cultivating good habits? Check. Bullet journaling and creating endless to-do lists? Check and check. Yet, with all these tools in your arsenal, why do your goals still seem just out of reach?

The answer lies deeper than mere tactics — it rests within our all-too-human tendencies to fall into laziness, impulsivity, and procrastination. These pervasive flaws often pull the brakes on our journey toward success, leaving us spinning our wheels. But it's not just about identifying these issues; it's about understanding how to strategically overcome them.

This exploration delves into the psychological underpinnings that make us resist change and offers tailored strategies to counteract our counterproductive inclinations. You'll discover insights into:

— the real value of New Year’s resolutions and why they're far from foolish;

— the surprising ways in which well-intentioned advice could be counterproductive; and

— a case study of how a bank managed to significantly boost its customers' savings rates by 80 percent by tweaking their approach.

Join us as we uncover how a deeper understanding of our flaws can lead to powerful strategies that transform our lives, steering us closer to our goals.

Can a 'fresh start' truly pave the way for personal change?

So, you're someone who sets New Year's resolutions? You're in good company. There's something inherently optimistic about January 1st. It embodies a clean slate, a new chapter where all past failures seem distant, and lofty ambitions suddenly seem achievable.

However, there's a healthy dose of skepticism surrounding New Year's resolutions. How could a diet that failed in December suddenly become successful in January just because the calendar changed? It seems illogical—yet, there may be some truth to the power of starting anew.

A fresh start can indeed make it easier to pursue change — and this isn't just a New Year phenomenon but a principle that applies to various milestones like birthdays, the beginning of a school term, or even a simple Monday. This was confirmed by research examining campus fitness center traffic, which showed spikes following these fresh starts. But the question remains: why are such dates so motivating?

It turns out that these milestones offer a psychological reset that distances us from our past missteps and fosters a new, more hopeful perspective. This "clean slate effect" is potent but it's important to note that not all outcomes of a fresh start are beneficial.

Consider this: while studying gym attendance, researchers noted that although school breaks served as a fresh start, they also disrupted established good habits among students. The return to school did trigger a surge in gym usage, but the interruption often led to significant fallbacks.

Hence, while fresh starts can be fantastic opportunities for initiating change, they can also inadvertently disrupt beneficial routines. The key takeaway? Embrace milestones and fresh starts for the opportunities they present, but proceed with caution. Stay mindful of maintaining positive habits while you also strive to adopt new ones.

Overcome impulsive behavior with clever strategies like temptation bundling and gamification

Embarking on a path of change can be thrilling, yet daunting when old habits creep back in. You might have the best intentions and the fervor to change, but what happens when impulsivity takes the helm, steering you off course? Perhaps, in a weak moment, you find yourself checking social media instead of studying, or snacking on chocolates instead of healthier options.

This behavior is known as present bias, where the allure of immediate gratification overshadows our long-term objectives. But don't lose hope — there are effective strategies to combat this.

The key here is — beat your impulsivity using temptation bundling and gamification.

Imagine making your tasks as delightful as a spoonful of sugar in a bitter medicine, reminiscent of Mary Poppins' timeless advice. This is the essence of temptation bundling, a strategy to help you stick to your goals by combining tasks you dread with activities you enjoy. For instance, imagine watching your favorite TV series while running on the treadmill or treating yourself to a small piece of chocolate while hitting the books.

This method was put to the test in a study with Florida students who used temptation bundling to complete math assignments. They were allowed snacks, music, and the chance to doodle while working — and the result? There was a notable increase in completed assignments.

However, temptation bundling has its limits. You can't pair incompatible activities, like eating burgers while jogging. This is where gamification steps in as an alternative strategy to fighting off impulsive behaviors.

Gamification transforms routine tasks by incorporating elements typical of games, such as scoring points, competing on leaderboards, or earning badges. A compelling example of this in action occurred at Wikipedia, where an initiative designed to gamify the editing process led to a substantial increase in the participation of volunteer editors. By recognizing top contributors with public accolades and virtual badges, Wikipedia saw a 20 percent rise in activity.

Both temptation bundling and gamification offer powerful antidotes to impulsivity, each facilitating behavior change in enjoyable and engaging ways. By harnessing these strategies, you can better manage your impulses and stick closer to your path of personal growth and achievement.

Battle procrastination with the power of commitment devices

Procrastination is a familiar foe for many of us. Whether it's delaying tax filings, skipping gym sessions, or putting off retirement savings, the temptation to postpone tasks is a universal struggle. While delaying a single task might seem harmless, the cumulative effect can lead to significant stress, disappointment, and a sense of failure.

However, there is a silver lining — procrastination isn't an unchangeable trait. It is possible to break the cycle of delay and inaction.

The strategy? Utilize commitment devices to conquer procrastination.

This approach was effectively implemented by Omar Andaya, president of the Green Bank in the Philippines. Confronted with the widespread issue of inadequate savings among customers, Andaya collaborated with academic experts to create an inventive solution. He introduced a "locked" savings account — customers could deposit money but were restricted from making withdrawals until they reached a preset balance or date. This commitment device was a game-changer, leading to an 80 percent increase in savings among participating customers within a year.

The concept behind this strategy is simple: by restricting our options, we can avoid the temptations that lead to procrastination. Committing to a constrained choice helps us stay on track with our long-term goals.

Even if you aren't banking with Green Bank, you can leverage this insight. Cash commitment devices, for instance, are a straightforward yet effective method to enforce self-discipline. You can set up a system where procrastination has a tangible cost — like setting a financial penalty for missed deadlines, which a trusted friend will enforce.

If financial stakes are too high, consider public pledges as an alternative. Sharing your goals publicly, whether with close friends and family or via social media, can significantly amplify your commitment. Announcing that you're writing a novel on Twitter, for instance, sets a public expectation for progress, which can be a powerful motivator to keep pushing forward, beyond the discomfort induced by procrastination.

In conclusion, if procrastination is your perennial challenge, consider integrating commitment devices into your strategy. Whether through financial stakes or social accountability, these tools can provide the essential push needed to transform your intentions into actions.

Establishing solid habits as a remedy for laziness

Laziness is a universally recognized trait, and from a young age, we're immersed in stories that champion the virtues of diligence and the pitfalls of idleness. Remember the Ant and the Grasshopper, or the Little Red Hen? These tales aim to instill an ethic of industry as they depict laziness as the direct road to failure.

Yet, despite these early lessons, laziness is a challenge that persists for many, acting as a barrier to personal growth and change. Luckily, there is a strategy potent enough to counteract this tendency: the cultivation of good habits.

Here's the crucial insight: Good habits can help you defeat laziness.

Think about your morning routine. It likely involves a sequence of actions — perhaps showering, dressing, making coffee, and breakfast — done almost without thinking. These are habits you've developed over time, and they occur with little conscious effort. What's fascinating is that habits can extend beyond simple morning routines to encompass more complex behaviors like regular exercise or dedicated study time.

Neuroscience has shed light on this phenomenon, revealing that established habits decrease reliance on the brain's reasoning centers, like the prefrontal cortex, and increase dependence on the brain areas tied to action and motor control. This shift underscores the reduced mental load required to perform habitual actions, even those previously perceived as challenging.

So, how can you apply this knowledge to combat laziness? Start by identifying a positive behavior you want to adopt and focus on repeating it consistently. For instance, if you aim to improve your posture, commit to practicing good sitting habits every day. It is the repetition that embeds the behavior deep into your routine, transitioning it from a conscious effort to a natural act.

Don't forget to incorporate rewards in your practice. Rewarding yourself for maintaining good posture, maybe with a small treat or a break after prolonged periods of diligence, reinforces the behavior psychologically, making it more likely to stick.

By transforming constructive behaviors into autopilot habits, you effectively sideline laziness. Habitual action becomes the default mode, smoothing the path for lasting change and making the process of personal improvement not just achievable, but naturally effortless.

Enhance your confidence by extending advice to others

Psychologist and researcher Lauren Eskreis-Winkler noticed an ironic trend: people often give sound advice on topics like budgeting, saving, or healthy living, even when they struggle with these issues themselves. This observation led her to question why individuals who offer valuable advice often fail to follow their own guidance.

The root of this paradox, she discovered, lies in a lack of self-confidence.

Here's the essential insight: To boost your own confidence, give other people advice.

Humans are naturally inclined to support each other, and one common way we do this is by offering advice. We dish out recommendations on everything from dieting to dating, usually with the best intentions. But this well-meaning advice can sometimes backfire, especially if it's unsolicited. Offering advice without being asked can inadvertently send a message that the recipient isn't capable of handling their situation, undermining their self-confidence precisely when they need it most.

However, Eskreis-Winkler's studies reveal a brighter side to this scenario. While receiving unsolicited advice might dampen one's self-esteem, the act of giving advice can actually enhance the advisor’s confidence in their own capabilities. This phenomenon was evident in a study where students who gave study tips to their juniors saw a notable improvement in their own academic performance.

To utilize this insight in your daily life, consider creating or joining "advice clubs" where members exchange solicited advice on various challenges. This not only helps the recipients but significantly boosts the advisors' confidence in their own abilities.

Alternatively, when facing personal dilemmas, try to approach them as if you were counseling a friend dealing with the same issue. Often, adopting this external perspective helps you see the situation more clearly and act more confidently.

By actively providing guidance to others, you might find that you not only help them navigate their challenges but also fortify your own self-belief and capacity for change.

How the company you keep shapes your path to success

It's commonly understood that your friends can have a significant impact on your behavior and decisions, sometimes even subverting your progress with well-meaning but unsolicited advice. However, it's crucial to recognize that your social environment isn't just a potential hurdle; it can also be a powerful catalyst for positive change.

Why? Because we are inherently influenced by those around us, often more than we realize.

Here’s a perspective to consider: Your peers change you — so choose them carefully.

Consider the experience of economist Scott Carrell, whose academic performance seemed overshadowed by his twin brother’s during their time at the US Air Force Academy. Despite previously outperforming his brother in high school, a shift occurred at the Academy. Curious about the sudden change, Carrell later hypothesized that the key to his brother's improvement was his new peer group. Surrounded by diligent and scholarly peers, his brother found new motivation to excel academically.

To test his theory, Carrell analyzed the academic results of over 3,500 freshman cadets. The findings were illuminating: a cadet's grade point average increased significantly alongside the average SAT scores of his or her squadron. This correlation highlighted the profound impact of peer groups on individual performance.

This principle applies broadly. Your peers can propel you towards success just as easily as they can pull you into complacency. Therefore, it's essential to be selective about the company you keep. Whether it’s professional aspirations, personal development, or lifestyle changes, align yourself with individuals who embody the traits and achievements you aspire to.

If you admire a friend’s accomplishments, be proactive. Engage with them, learn about the habits and strategies that contributed to their success, and consider how you can apply similar approaches in your own life. By intentionally adopting successful behaviors from those around you, you can leverage social influence to your advantage.

In essence, while it's important to be aware of the potential negative influences of your social circle, it's equally crucial to harness the positive ones. By surrounding yourself with the right peers, you not only enhance your environment but also set the stage for your own success.

Essential takeaways for transformative change

Embarking on a journey to change your life and achieve your aspirations requires a conscientious approach to addressing personal weaknesses. Whether it's combating laziness, impulsivity, or entrenched bad habits, understanding and strategically tackling these shortcomings is crucial.

Here's the crux: To create meaningful change, leverage tailored strategies that directly address your specific challenges. Employing commitment devices can help break the cycle of procrastination by tying consequences to your actions. Cultivating good habits can automate positive behaviors and reduce the mental load of making healthy choices. Understanding the impact of your social circle can guide you to surround yourself with peers who inspire and motivate you. Lastly, temptation bundling can make necessary but unappealing tasks more enjoyable, increasing your likelihood of sticking with them.

By implementing these focused strategies, you equip yourself with a robust toolkit for personal development, paving the way for lasting change and success in achieving your goals.

How to Change Quotes by Katy Milkman

Similar Books

Atomic Habits
The 5 AM Club
Emotional Intelligence
Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself
The 5 Second Rule
The Mountain Is You
Exactly What to Say