AoC - Katy Milkman Thumbnail Blog

Katy Milkman | Eliminate Unhealthy Habits Today with 3 Scientifically Proven Strategies

In today’s episode, we cover how to change with Katy Milkman. Katy is a professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, host of Charles Schwab’s popular behavioral economics podcast Choiceology, and the former president of the international Society for Judgment and Decision Making.

Making long lasting changes in our behavior can be difficult, so what mindsets help us to make changes, what can you do to overcome low confidence when making big changes, and how do you overcome procrastination so you don’t keep putting off the life you want? 

What to Listen For

  • Introduction – 0:00
  • What mindsets are best suited to achieving long lasting results when attempting to change something about yourself?
  • Overcoming low confidence when making big changes – 14:00
  • What can you do if you don’t feel confident in your ability to improve yourself or make a big change in your life?
  • What can you do to create accountability in you and your friends’ lives?
  • What simple and powerful tip can you implement to make hard habits easier to form?
  • Strategies for overcoming procrastination – 25:00 
  • What strategies can you implement to overcome procrastination?
  • How can you set up your life so it makes it easier for you to make better decisions for yourself?

It’s not easy to make long-lasting improvements in our lives. Fortunately, there is plenty of science to show us different ways to make those improvements easier, whether it’s relying on friends for accountability, associating the behavior change with a positive activity you enjoy, or even different ways of punishing yourself for not following through with your commitments.

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Resources from this Episode

Speaker 1: We'll go back to the art of charm podcast, a show designed to help you communicate with power and become unstoppable on your path from hidden genius to influential leader. Now we know you have what it takes to reach your full potential, and that's why each and every week, Johnny and I are here to share with you interviews and strategies, helping you transform your life by helping you unlock that X factor. Now whether you're in sales, leadership, medicine, building client relationships, or even looking for love, we can help you unlock your X factor.

Speaker 2: You shouldn't have to settle for anything less than extraordinary.

Speaker 1: Did you know that you can get the entire art of charm back catalog? That's right. 15 years of podcasts featuring expert guests and toolbox episodes. When you subscribe to Stitcher premium that's right, the show is completely ad-free and you get all of those amazing toolbox episodes jam packed with science drills and exercises. Sign up [email protected] and use code charm to get a free month. All right, let's kick off. Today's show Johnny today. We're talking with Dr. Katie milkman. Dr. Milkman is a professor at the Wharton school of the university of Pennsylvania and the co-founder of the behavior change for good initiative, a research center with the mission of advancing the science of lasting behavior change. She's also the host of the popular behavioral economics podcast, choice ology, and her newest book. How to change the science of getting from where you are to where you want to be has dropped. And we're excited to talk about it. Welcome to the show Dr. Milkman, and a recent episode. We talked about how to help others change. And today we're really going to focus on how we can impact our own lives and change. And I'd love to just kick off with learning a little bit about your origin story and how you settled on the science of change. Yeah.

Speaker 3: Ah, thanks for asking and thanks very much for having me. I'm excited to be here. My origin story. Oh gosh. It's where to begin. I guess I started getting interested in behavior change as a graduate student when I was actually studying computer science and business of all things. And I had to take a required microeconomics sequence of classes. And in that sequence, I was introduced to this pretty new field at the time of behavioral economics. It was sort of a blossoming area of study. And Danny Conaman had just won the Nobel prize for his pathbreaking worth with Amos Tversky, showing that people overweight losses relative to gains. And instead of being perfectly wrapped criminal optimizers, and that they make all sorts of other errors and probabilistic judgment. And there was a growing consensus that people seem to be impatient and not very good at optimizing their retirement savings and their credit card borrowing and their eating and their smoking.

Speaker 3: And I was completely fascinated because I had always seen people modeled as these perfect decision making machines. And here was a field that was saying, wait, wait, people make mistakes. That's normal. And I thought that was so interesting, but really what I was excited about is, oh, it means there's an opportunity to grow and change. If we recognize that fallibility, then maybe we can actually come up with fixes. So I think that's when I first got intrigued, I fell in love with the field of behavioral economics, but because I saw that opportunity for growth and frankly, there was an element of interest in like me search like, oh, I'm broken and we can model that and maybe we could fix it with science. That would be so great. So I think that's kind of where it started, but I can say more about what made it sort of my life's central focus. Um, if that's, if you think that would be interesting.

Speaker 1: Yeah, definitely. And then we can jump into the book itself and I know there's a lot of strategies you outlined based on some great research.

Speaker 3: Yeah, well, I'm, I'm excited to get into strategies, but I guess the, so the work I was doing on behavior change that came out of that initial interest in behavioral economics, I'd say it started out as casual. And I was just studying all sorts of quirky things about human behavior without a super laser sharp focus on improving decisions. And then I had the good fortune to become an assistant professor at the university of Pennsylvania at the Wharton school where I still teach today. And Wharton has a strong relationship with the medical school at the university of Pennsylvania. There's a lot of cross pollination. There's a lot of neat work going on at the medical school related to improving decisions. So I was spending some time hanging out over there, going to seminars, seeing what I could learn from these interesting doctors thinking about decision-making. And I went to one presentation that completely blew my mind and what blew my mind was a single graph.

Speaker 3: And that was a pie chart showing the fraction of premature death in the us that we can attribute to different causes. And I would have thought a lot of it, a lot of premature death was, you know, bad genetics you're in the wrong environment. So you get exposed to something yucky accidents. Those are the kinds of things that loom large in my mind. But what I learned is actually the largest cause of premature death in the U S is decisions we make that could be changed. 40% of premature deaths in this country are due to decisions. We make about what to eat and drink whether or not to be physically active, whether or not to be safe when we get into vehicles, whether or not to smoke. And that just blew my mind how big the opportunity was to make a positive impact. If we could understand what it takes to create positive change, cause we all know what we should be doing, but we aren't doing it.

Speaker 3: And so that graph kind of, it really changed my focus. I'd been casually studying behavior change. And then I thought, oh my gosh, if I really apply myself to this problem, and I wasn't just interested in behavior change when it comes to health, I was also interested in when it comes to savings when it comes to educational outcomes, but it was obvious that in all of these places, it must accumulate in a similar way, even though I've never seen the same graph. So that's what led me to the work that I now do with almost all of my time on behavior change.

Speaker 1: Well, your new book, how to change 273 pages. There's a ton of strategies in there. And I think a lot of us, when we think of science, we look for the clearest answer. Just give me exactly what I need. And the book is full of a lot of different strategies and there's really no one size fits all approach to changing. So as we go through some of these strategies, how should our audience think about actually trying these and finding what works for them, with all the strategies that science has shown us?

Speaker 3: Yeah. I love that you went there because I do think that one of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to change. And one of the things that frustrates me most about many books that have been written on this topic previously is the desire to get a single answer, a magical solution, a one size fits all. And it was just talking about how much I've been influenced by spending time around medical researchers and how that, that spurred my, my direction. I think, you know, we'd never make this mistake if we're thinking in medicine, right? You go to a doctor, you asked for a diagnosis, uh, you expect to be given different treatments depending on what the diagnosis is to improve your health. And yet when it comes to making a change in your behavior, we don't have the same expectations, but what science really shows is we need to, we need to diagnose what is standing in our way.

Speaker 3: What is the specific obstacle or set that's preventing us from changing? Is it a lack of confidence in our ability to do so? Is it impulsivity? Is it that the temptations are not aligned with our longterm goals and we can't help, but reach for what's tempting instead of what's good for us in that longterm? Is it habits? Is it forgetfulness? What is the barrier? And once we understand that actually science has great offerings, there's lots of evidence on what can help us. But without that diagnosis phase, you might slap the wrong solution on for a problem you're not even up against, and you're not going to see results.

Speaker 1: And in all of this research, there's a lot of common knowledge. That's debunked, a lot of things that were told about change. That really aren't true. Is there anything that stands out to you that was surprising in the research that you did around change?

Speaker 3: I think maybe the most surprising finding I have stumbled on myself when it comes to change, had to do with habits and a common bit of wisdom around how we should form them. That my collaborators and I approved was not right. And by the way, I was completely taken in by the common wisdom. I started this research with that, the same misconception, the misconception that we debunked, let me start there was that it would be ideal if you're forming a new habit to try to be really consistent about the time and place when you engage in that behavior, if you want to put it on sort of long-term autopilot, we thought that was a great idea. And there's lots of reasons we suggest or suspected this, right? There's evidence that for instance, the people who take their medication most regularly tend to do it in the same time and place each day.

Speaker 3: The people who exercise most regularly tend to do it at the same time most days. So that has led people to think, okay, consistency and location. That's really important to building habits, but we ran this experiment actually at Google with about 2,500 of their employees who wanted to form exercise habits. And we randomly assign them to different experimental groups. And some people were encouraged with financial incentives to after picking an ideal time for them to go to the gym, telling us, you know, when when's the best window to our window each day to work out with financial incentives, some of them were encouraged to always go at the same time for, for a month. This is sort of startup phase that we're, we're focusing on here. Another group is encouraged to vary when they visit the gym, you know, sometimes go at their ideal time, but also go at other times.

Speaker 3: And what we ended up with is two groups who ended up going to the gym at the same frequency for about a month. But one of those groups made 85% of their gym visits at the same time. And the other group due to our being random, randomly assigned to get different incentives from us, uh, only made about half their gym visits at the same time. And they were mixing it up more. What we were interested in is what happened after this startup phase, we get out of their lives, we get out of their hair. And we just watch who has formed a habit who keeps coming to the gym more consistently. And what was fascinating is it was actually the group that was less consistent during the startup phase. And when they visited the gym and the group that we had rewarded for varying their activity more ended up having a more stable exercise habit.

Speaker 3: And when we dug into what was going on, we basically found that they'd built more flexible habits. The, the group that was always going to the gym at the same time did go a little bit more often at that magical time. But if they didn't go, then they didn't go at all after our program ended. Whereas the folks who had built some flexibility into their routines, because sometimes they went to the gym at 7:00 AM and sometimes they went at three and sometimes they went at five. If something got in the way of doing it at that first best time, they still fit in a workout with a higher probability. And so net net that built more lasting change. And to me, that was a really important lesson because I was so focused on the importance of routine that I think I had neglected how important it is also to anticipate obstacles that life does not just give you an, an easy ride when you want to, when you want to create change, and you need to be able to be flexible and pivot and get something done no matter what. And once that becomes your method, that actually creates more stable habit and more stable change.

Speaker 2: This becomes interesting at this point, because now rather than the habit building, we're discussing the correlation between types and then the strategies that you're going to use to build these habits so that you notice and your research, any other correlation between personality types and what habit buildings, strategies worked best.

Speaker 3: I should clarify this. Wasn't a personality type. This was a random assignment study, and that's not correlation. We could actually establish a causal link between people who acquainted flip led to exercise and a more flexible way, right? A coin flip led us to incentivize them to be exercising in a different way than others. And that coin flip is what determines in a causal chain that they end up with a more stable habit because we have randomly assigned them to just a different program, a program that emphasizes flexibility that was much more effective than a program that emphasized consistency. So I think actually that's one of the most interesting things, is it wasn't that this only worked for a certain personality type in this case, it was across the board. We didn't really see any groups for whom it was better to be rigid for everyone that we could identify, you know, men, women, people who already had been exercising at a fairly high frequency versus those who were newbies to the gym.

Speaker 3: People who were more senior at Google and more junior people who were older and younger, this pattern was there, that it was better to build a habit using this flexible approach rather than a rigid approach. So I just wanted to clarify in general, I actually would say while I think it's important to tailor your solutions to your obstacles, and I've seen that time. And again, mistakes made by individuals and organizations not thinking through what's the barrier here. It tends to be the case that it's not a personality type that predicts what the barrier is. But rather if you look at a specific challenge, someone is facing that challenge. There will be more commonalities often across people than between them. So let me give you an example of the kind of challenge. A lot of people, when they face math and science problems in college, lack confidence, there are some subgroups that probably lack it even more than others, maybe because of the stereotypes that they've been facing throughout their lives.

Speaker 3: But confidence is a really common barrier when it comes to performance. And those really tough disciplines, another commonality, a lot of people, and the reason they don't save is that they're more instantly gratifying things to spend their money on. And so in that case, a common barrier would be for many people that it's not enjoyable in the moment, it doesn't provide enough instant gratification. And those are really different barriers where you need different solutions. And I'm happy to start talking about those too, but I just want to clarify, I don't think it's about personality type so much as it is about sort of what is the specific problem you're facing.

Speaker 2: Imagine you have unlimited any insecurity or self-doubt instantly disappears, it's gone.

Speaker 1: Uh, what would you start doing? You see yourself striking up conversations in public without that fear of being judged or rejection. Maybe you see yourself speaking on stages, or finally starting that business that you so desperately want. Maybe you see yourself approaching the people you find most attractive or hanging out with the new group of friends.

Speaker 2: And have we mapped out a personalized plan for you to bring it to life. In other words, we coached you every step of the way, held you accountable and made you our next featured case study, because this is something we can do for you right now.

Speaker 1: In fact, we'll even give you a free coaching session to show you exactly how

Speaker 2: We know your game. So what are you waiting

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Speaker 1: And when we talk about confidence, cause I think many in our audience are tuning in due to some confidence issues. When it comes to socializing and making relationships happen in their lives. There was some really interesting studies around this that I found in the book fascinating around actually giving advice. And we've heard in the past that those who teach can't do and giving advice can actually hinder you from making change in your life. And that's really not what you found in the science. So I'd love to unpack what we can do to foster the confidence necessary to overcome that barrier of low confidence and create change.

Speaker 3: Yeah, this was one of my favorite insights in the book too. And it really grows out of the research of Lauren estrus, Winkler, a really brilliant psychologist. Who's at the Kellogg school of management at Northwestern university. And when she was a doctoral student, she was trying to understand what compelled people to be grittier more persistent towards their goals. And she interviewed all sorts of people who were struggling to achieve goals. So she was interviewing students who weren't doing well in school, salespeople, who weren't hitting their sales goals, et cetera. And she noticed something really interesting, which was that a lot of them lacked confidence, but a lot of them, when she probed had great insights about what might actually help them turn things around and that surprised her. And she also realized that a lot of the time what was happening to these people in her conversations is that they were surprised to be asked what they thought would work for them.

Speaker 3: They said they were so used to every stranger. They meet sort of putting their arm around them and offering up a bunch of unsolicited advice about how to be more successful without a real understanding of their situation, that it was a welcomed change to be asked their own opinion. And she had this insight Lauren thought to herself, you know, it seems like what's happening when we give people advice, which is what's happening to these folks all the time is we're just destroying their confidence, making them feel like we think they're such losers. Why else would they be in this situation and need my wisdom? My words of wisdom that I've, introspected about for 15 seconds, even though they've been living with this challenge for far longer. And she thought, what if we flipped the script and stopped giving all this unsolicited advice and actually put these people who have deep insights about what might help them improve in the position of advice giver.

Speaker 3: If we ask them to coach someone else who's facing a similar challenge, it would signal to them, Hey, I really think you've got what it takes and boost their confidence that other people believed they had real wisdom. Second, it's going to force you if you're the one giving advice now to actually think deeply in ways that some of these folks hadn't been prompted to before about what would work for someone like them, right? What would work for me? Gosh, I don't want to give bad advice. And then finally, once you've advised someone else on how to solve a challenge or achieve a goal that you two are hoping to achieve, you're going to feel like a hypocrite. If you don't take your own advice. And so she has done these amazing studies and I've gotten to be a part of some of them showing that if you randomly assign people to give advice to their peers, it actually improves the advice, givers, own achievement for all the reasons I just described. And I think it's particularly important in settings where confidence as a barrier and motivation can be a barrier to change because it does have that uplifting benefit of giving people the sense that, you know, maybe they actually can figure this out. Students do better in school when they're prompted to spend 10 minutes giving advice to their peers about study strategies that might be effective. So anyway, I love that research and I love that you asked,

Speaker 1: Well, I know that I felt that way in my college experience of group study, where we would constantly be helping support one another. And it had led to me with a deeper understanding of the subject. And it's really even what we've noticed in our own coaching programs. So in our X-Factor accelerator, we have a mastermind environment, many joined thinking that Johnny and I are just going to coach them, but we encourage everyone to share their own experiences in the change that they've impacted in their life. And with that, it does boost our client's confidence that they're thinking through the problem. And then exactly that, that saying believing effect where now I don't want to be the hypocrite. I don't want to just give advice that I'm not following myself. You look at yourself a little self-critical and say, you know what, I'm going to put in some extra effort. I know how to do this. I'm going to solve the problem in my own life, which I thought was really fascinating from the book. And you actually created an advice club. So can you share a little bit about that? Because I think it's such a great exercise for our listeners. Yes,

Speaker 3: Probably the best thing in my professional life. Honestly, I have a group of women who were all at a similar career stage with similar goals around making an impact, both on research and communicating about science. And so we have these similar ambitions, we're friends, and we formed this club. It's an advice club. We used to call it actually a no club because one of the things we most needed advice about was time management and how to sort through all of the invitations we received to do things outside of our sort of day job. And so, um, our rule is we have to reach out to each other when we get these challenging invitations and ask for advice and ask each other, you know, how should I handle this? And I anticipated some wonderful benefits from this. When I formed this club with two other amazing women, I thought, you know, solidarity and learning from their wisdom and those things I've gotten in spades, for sure.

Speaker 3: But an unexpected benefit is actually been when I'm giving them advice because they come to me for challenges. I have noticed that improves my outcomes to improve my confidence. When I face a similar challenge that I can actually tackle this and maybe don't even need to tap them for their wisdom. And it helps me think more critically through the challenges I face in my own life. So it's, it's a, win-win win in so many ways. And I should note that an added benefit that we haven't talked about one way you can help yourself changes, not just by giving advice to others, but by surrounding yourself with supporters, people who have similar goals, who can sort of show you, what's possible. Maybe they're even a little ahead of you on the path to achieving similar goals so that you can copy and paste strategies that have been effective for them. And I think my advice club harnesses that as well as the power of giving advice,

Speaker 1: It's so powerful. And it's what we try to do in our programs as well. And when you have that supportive environment, you really start to feel like things are possible that the problem is not just yours. I know it's very easy to personalize and feel like some of these challenges to change are unique to you and not easy to overcome. And as you put the book together, you talk about these six internal hurdles or barriers, which one have you found as caused you the most struggles in your personal change? I love hearing those stories.

Speaker 3: Oh, that's easy. My biggest barrier when it comes to change is unquestionably impulsivity or the fact that I give into temptation instead of doing what's good for me in the long run. So often whether it's, you know, procrastinating on getting work done or binge watching TV, when I should be going to the gym, I have all sorts of issues with impulsivity. So that is actually really where, what I first started studying. I sort of started out doing, I'll call it me search instead of just research. And I think this is one where recent research points to the most counterintuitive way to overcome the challenge. There's this great research by Ayelet Fishbach at the university of Chicago and Kaitlyn Woolley at Cornell university, showing that in general, when we face temptation, our instinct is to just, just, you know, follow Nike's advice, just do it, just push through, right?

Speaker 3: Like, okay. Maybe the gym is not fun in the moment and I'd rather be playing video games, but like just, just, you know, go get on the maximally, punishing StairMaster, do your workout, get through, get fit if that's your goal and that's the strategy you should take. And what I yell at and Katelyn has shown is even though that is what most of us think we should do, it's a mistake. And a small minority of people make the right choice with that right choice is, is to actually try to make it fun in the moment to pursue your goals. Because if you enjoy it, if you pursue that goal in a way that is fun, like going to Zumba class with friends to get fit, instead of getting on that machine, that hurts, okay. Maybe you make a little less progress in each visit, but you keep going.

Speaker 3: You persist because it's actually something you look forward to instead of something you dread. So interestingly, this, the sort of best solution when it comes to dealing with impulsivity is just to lean into it, just make it more fun to do the thing that isn't normally fun. And so you can do that by changing the way you approach your goals, like choosing different activities that will help you achieve your goals, but that you enjoy more. Or I've studied one tactic, which I called temptation bundling. And that is literally linking something that is a hook for you. That's like you crave it with the thing that otherwise would be a chore. So for me, like, you know, binge watching lowbrow TV shows while you're exercising, only letting yourself do that. You like crave the trips to the gym to find out what's going to happen next in your favorite TV show, you feel no guilt watching the show. You don't waste time at home, cause you're not allowed to watch it there or listen to your favorite podcast while you're doing household chores or cooking fresh meals for your family, or only opening that favorite bottle of wine when doing the same. So there's all these different ways, right? We can link something. We crave, whether it's food or fiction or podcast or TV shows, whatever it is with something that otherwise would be not instantly gratifying to change the nature of that experience. That's really helpful that

Speaker 1: Chapter of the book got me humming Mary Poppins, spoonful of sugar. Yes.

Speaker 3: Knew it all along. We just didn't have the science to back it up until more recently, but exactly a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, not just for kids, but for adults too.

Speaker 2: You would think that guilt alone would be enough to get people motivated to do the thing that they know that they need to do, but linking it to something, uh, binge watching that, that series that a lot of people will feel guilt over. Linking that to exercise is certainly one way to leave that.

Speaker 3: Totally. Absolutely. And you know, sometimes guilt could be enough, but, but when we are hitting a barrier, right, and it's not, and we're still unable to get ourselves to do the thing we know we should do. And we recognize the reason is it's unpleasant in the moment that's, what's preventing us from doing it. Not I'm forgetting, or I don't believe I can do it. That's when this particular tool becomes so useful as to can you temptation bundle or can you just approach it in a different way?

Speaker 1: Now you brought up another hurdle that I know many of us face in that procrastination. So impulsivity will lead to procrastination. And I know for myself, there are certain areas where I'll procrastinate and there are certain areas where I have the motivation to attack it. So what does the science show us around procrastination and what are some strategies that we can use to overcome it?

Speaker 3: Yeah. And that was such a great way of asking the question because you're exactly right. That impulsivity does lead to procrastination. So sort of first, first of all, you can, for, for our cross nation also use a strategy of trying to make it fun, the Mary Poppins approach, but another way to tackle procrastination is basically to, so, so one way is like the carrot. That's what we've talked about. You make it more fun to do the things so you won't put it off. The other is the stick. So you make it painful not to follow through. And by the way, this is sort of how other people manage us. This is how governments manage us when they know there's something that we ought to get done, but we might be tempted not to like, we ought not to speed for instance, but we might be tempted to speed.

Speaker 3: Like we get fined. I'm not going to let you do that. You're going to get penalized, right. Or we might be tempted not to get our work done and to play on social media. So our boss is like, it's due on Friday at five, you know, so you can't just put it off and put it off and never get to it. So, and you know, there's a penalty like you're going to disappoint your boss. Maybe you lose your job if you don't hit that deadline. So the world, other people are often structuring incentives in order to provide that stick if we procrastinate. But what's interesting is we can do the same to ourselves. We just rarely think to, and doing this creating incentives or penalties for yourself, if you fail to achieve your goals on time is called a commitment device and economists have studied this strategy.

Speaker 3: They find it like peculiar that people will actually penalize themselves for bad behavior. Like why would you do that? But it turns out to help people achieve their goals at a higher rate. And one of my favorite examples of a commitment device and just how powerful it is, um, was studied by Dean Carlin and Jonathan. Zinman looking at smoking cessation to try and help people quit smoking, which is something that's really hard to do. And they randomly assigned people to two experimental groups. One group of people was just given the standard stuff like here. Here's how you quit. Try to use these tools and quit smoking. And the other group got all the standard stuff to help you quit smoking. Plus they were given a savings account that they could put money into. So it had no money in it, but people could put their own money into it.

Speaker 3: But if they did not quit smoking in six months, any money they put into that account would disappear. So if they fail urine test in six months for nicotine or cotinine, so it was like a real test. You can't just lie and say, I quit smoking. And then, you know, people could put $0 in and in some sense, like an economy of course put $0 in, why would you risk any of your money in case you don't quit smoking. But the reason you risked some of your money is if you don't, you're going to just put off that plan to quit smoking. You're going to procrastinate indefinitely. But if you put your money where your butt is, and that is a joke that they made in the title of the paper, believe it or not, you realize you might quit cause you don't want to lose the money.

Speaker 3: So a fraction of people did use this tool, but what's more interesting is comparing the two groups, those who had access to the tool and those who didn't, you see a 30% higher quit rate among the folks who had a way to penalize themselves if they didn't successfully quit smoking. So that's just one strategy you can form. What's called a cash commitment device. There are other ways like you tell someone you're going to do it by this date. And then you create shame. You can sign a pledge and so on, but the cash commitment has the most teeth. And I think is a really cool tool. And there's websites like stick STI C K k.com and reminder.com. PS, I do not make any money from those websites. I just think they're cool where you can go put money on the line and, you know, choose a referee who will hold you to it, hold your feet to the fire so that you will have extra motivation not to procrastinate when it comes to achieving your goals.

Speaker 1: This feels like it aligns completely with Daniel. Kennan's work on that fear of loss being way more impactful than whatever we could gain. Of course we want a six pack, but losing money, losing to our friends. When I first moved to New York to start the company, I wasn't cooking, I was eating a lot of takeout. I had gained a lot of weight and me and two friends made a bet. We pledged one full paycheck, which at that point was really painful. And whoever lost the most weight got the other two buddies paychecks. And sure enough, we all three of us blew past our goals and it wasn't just competing with friends, but that financial commitment definitely supercharged our efforts. That so it's such a great highlight and I'm so happy that there are services that will do exactly that hold your money and hold you accountable.

Speaker 3: So you can do with your friends too. So I love, I love the way you solve this problem. You don't have to give money to one of these services.

Speaker 2: Your friends will certainly be happy to hold your cash for you.

Speaker 3: Of course, now you risk the friendship if something goes wrong. So maybe you do want to give your money to these services.

Speaker 2: I certainly have read some books and, and seen some research talking about how you have to be careful what you're going to assign, advise your Southwest. You certainly, if you're on a diet, you don't want to be rewarding yourself with, uh, uh, a certain cheat day or well, if I don't drink all week, I can, I can drink on Saturday. These things will only, I tend, I think they tend to muddy the waters from what I've seen in and dilute any of the, the stick or carrot that it's supposed to act out.

Speaker 3: I mean, it's certainly the case that, uh, that you have to be thoughtful about how you incentivize yourself. So temptation bundling actually is an area where I've always sort of laughed about like, you know, if your goal is to get fit and you reward yourself for every gym visit and you sort of temptation bundle with some really unhealthy treat, that's not going to turn out to be in your best interest, even if it motivates you to go to the gym. So absolutely in all of these cases, when you're thinking about these tools, you want to make sure they aren't actually undermining your, your higher order goal just to get to a micro goal. That's like, that's on the list.

Speaker 1: Now, one of the hurdles that I think is a little tougher to admit, even for myself personally, is laziness. There are certain areas of my life where I do not feel lazy at all, but there are some that my fiance and partner certainly feels that I'm lazy. So when it comes to laziness, being that hurdle to the change that we really want, what does the science show us as a strategy or two that we can fight through that?

Speaker 3: Well, first I just want to tell you, I think you should embrace laziness because I think it gets a bad rap and laziness is kind of awesome, right? Like it's this feature of human behavior that we evolve because it means that we can get to the fastest, most efficient solution, right? You don't want your algorithms on a computer to take a long time to return. You want them to be lazy and efficient and look for that shortcut. And I think it's great that humans are lazy. It makes complete sense, but it's just something that we have to be aware of, like all of our other, uh, features and, and think about how can we use it to our advantage rather than our disadvantage and when it comes to change, obviously, which can be effortful being really aware of, of this feature of human nature that we like to take.

Speaker 3: The path of least resistance is important. There's sort of two ways that I think about harnessing laziness and turning it from a limitation into an asset when you're trying to make a change. The first is really simple and it relies on probably the most successful finding from the behavioral science literature in the last, I'll say 30 years, sort of our blockbuster discovery, which is that people will accept defaults passively. And that has this huge impact on behavior. What do I mean by default? I mean like, you know, when you get a new computer, what's the browser that's installed that you just open automatically. Like, I don't know. What are the fonts that are in the background? What's the background? My background is still the same background that my computer came with. Those are the defaults or you go to some coffee shop and you order a latte.

Speaker 3: Do they put 2% milk, 1% cream? I don't know whatever it is. They have some default and you can always override. It'd be like, excuse me. I'd like my I'd like my latte like this, or you can change the computers settings, but most people won't a lot of the time we'll just passively accept the default. So that's a major finding it's been used actually to get people to save more for retirement. It turns out if you default new employees into automatically saving for retirement, having a portion of every paycheck deducted and put in a 401k, it dramatically increases saving rates over defaulting them, not into saving, but making a really trivial, easy to become a saver by just like checking a box. So we can structure our own environments to take advantage of this tendency because we take that path of least resistance. We're lazy.

Speaker 3: We go with the default, if we can set up our lives. So the default option is the healthy option or the option that aligns with our long-term goals. And our goals around change can be really effective, right? So like what you keep in your pantry, those are the default snacks. What your browser homepage is, whether it's social media or, you know, a newspaper where you want to be reading more great news coverage of some topic, we can structure our lives so that the path of least resistance is better aligned with our goals. And I think we don't spend enough time thinking about doing that. The other things habits habits are like our defaults for repeat behavior. And we talked a little bit about those already and how, when we're building them, it's actually really important to have some flexibility and sort of experiment and explore what's the right time was the best time so that you can find and build that flexibility into your life.

Speaker 3: So it's like, I always go to the gym. I've built a way that I get there no matter what, but in general, the rule for building habits from researches, you want to find consistency of S to some degree, like a few times that might work for you. Cues that might trigger you to do it. You want to engage in the behavior repeatedly, and you want to reward yourself when you succeed, whether it's by, you know, announcing it on social media, to friends or buying yourself a treat that doesn't hopefully compromise your longterm goals. Um, if you repeat a behavior enough and reward it, eventually it does become habitual. You start doing it more automatically and less effortfully. That's another way that we can lean into laziness and let those habits take over and make everything easier.

Speaker 2: I certainly spent a lot of time looking into the things that I need to do and how I can alleviate any hurdles that are in the way to make it a no-brainer even an exercise AGA was speaking about moving to New York. I had put on some weight, uh, in my adult life, moving to LA to, to get the company as our, as we moved out here and there was a LA fitness across the street, and there was a giant staircase leading up to that LA fitness. And I said, even though that's across the street and it's right there, it's, there's still enough hurdles in there that I can talk my way out of going. And so what I had ended up doing was put together a workout that I could do better anywhere. So there was no excuse not to do it. And then once I had built that up and began looking forward to that workout and was excited about it, then it was easier to go over to the gym and put in an even a better workout. But I had to work my way up to that. That's their case was rather large.

Speaker 3: I love that example. It's such a great it's and it's like a nice combination, because what you did is you both built a habit in a way where you made something, a lower resistance, right? You like, you didn't want to take the path that had high resistance. You went with low resistance, but then you also sort of built your confidence in what you were capable of and that allowed you to level up and take it to another dimension. So,

Speaker 2: I mean, now, I mean, I do two workouts a day, but anytime that we're talking to our clients, and this is one of the hurdles habits are trying to get into it's, let's start small. And I just, I see it with my regular friends on social media. Oh, it's the first city year I'm doing this, this, this, and this. And I'm like, no, you're not

Speaker 3: One thing at a time. Yeah. It's great. It's great. And there's, so there's great research showing that when people make multiple plans, as you just said, know, all these goals, even though plans are really important to success, making them for multiple things actually undermines you. Cause it becomes overwhelming. There's too much to do. And the other insight from research that I think aligns really nicely with what you just said is that, um, it's so important also to make the beginning. Bite-size, there's this really great study on savings actually by, uh, how Hirschfeld at UCLA and a group of co-authors, where they found that inviting people to save $5 a day was far more attractive than inviting them to save $150 a month, even though it was literally an identical, right? You do the multiplication. It's like exactly the same. And that's what they're going to deduct the savings from people once a month. It's absolutely identical, but, uh, you know, vastly higher take-up because it sounds bite-size. And I've found similar things around volunteering. And in other project with my student Aneesh rye, we found that a volunteer organization got a lot more volunteer hours when they, uh, ask people to, to remember that they had made a 200 hour a year commitment, but then they reminded them that's four hours a week, instead of just saying, you know, make some progress towards that commitment. So when we can make it bite-size we get so much more traction.

Speaker 1: Well, the book starts out with this idea of a blank slate and we would be remiss without talking about new year's resolutions. As Johnny pointed out, this will be airing in December. Many of us are winding down our year, thinking of a new year, a fresh slate and a way to get these resolutions to stick this year. And the book points out that it is inevitable that resolutions will fail, but there's still a decent chunk of us that are successful in keeping our resolution. So as our audience starts to put together a plan for their resolutions, what tips do you have for them?

Speaker 3: Well, first of all, I just want to say that I think new year's resolutions get too bad of a rap and I'm a big fan of them. And I have studied this phenomenon that my collaborators and I called the fresh start effect, hang 10, die of UCLA as has been the lead on a lot of this work, showing that there are moments in our lives, new years being the most prominent among them. But just one of many moments when we feel like we have a clean break from the last chapter, right? Like even a Monday is a small, fresh start or the celebration of a birthday is a fresh start. And you can say like, yeah, last week I didn't manage to achieve that goal or last year, or, you know, my last job, whatever it was, whatever gives you that chapter break. Um, but now I can do it.

Speaker 3: The new me is going to be different and that optimism is great because it motivates us to try things we might not otherwise, right? Like Johnny, wasn't ready to do this workout, but maybe something changed. Maybe there's some moment that gave him that inspiration. And we should take advantage of that because it does require a lot of attempts in many cases to make change. Change is hard. There's all these barriers to it, both internally and externally. But if you don't try to pursue it, you don't get anywhere. So I guess my number one piece of advice is like lean into the new year's resolutions. But if you mess up with new years, don't worry, there's a Monday right around the corner and there's a new month. So look for whatever fresh start might motivate you. And then hopefully a bunch of the different tactics we've talked about will resonate.

Speaker 3: If you can figure out what the barriers are, whether it's confidence and you could benefit from an advice club or maybe it's that you find it just totally miserable to do whatever that thing is that will help you get to your goal. Maybe you can find a way to make it more fun, do it with a friend, a temptation, bundle it with your favorite TV show. Think about ways you can change those dynamics. So that the things that feel like barriers say laziness and, um, actually can be turned into assets and help you along the way. And, and science can help. So I hope the book also will be useful if anyone wants to pick it up and look for more details and more tips based on evidence.

Speaker 1: We love asking every one of our guests, what their X factor is, what unique trait makes you extraordinary. What do you think you are? X factor is Dr. Milkmen. Ooh,

Speaker 3: That is a really fun question. Maybe my X factor is that I really love getting things done and I am not necessarily spectacular at it. I in fact have pretty much all the problems that all the barriers that I talk about in my book, I have stumbled with at some point, but I think an X factor is I figured out that I can be strategic in the way I live my life and the way I approach my problems and that, uh, even things that feel like they would trip someone else up. I just engineered a solution to them. So I'd say maybe being strategic and not giving up. So I get too

Speaker 1: Well, thank you for sharing that. And I feel that the book gives us optimism. There's a lot of strategies in this book to impart on our audience, to help them get change. Failure is certainly a part of changing and trying all these new strategies, not going for the one size fits all approach, I think will make everyone's 20, 22 even better. So thank you for joining us and sharing all this science with us. We really appreciate,

Speaker 3: Thank you so much for having me and for asking such great questions. This was a pleasure.

Speaker 4: [inaudible],

Speaker 1: There's nothing. I love more than the actual science to back up behavior change. We all know that change is difficult. Many of us have tried and failed, but we keep trying. And that's the important part. And what I love about what Dr milkman shared with us is that it's not a one size fits all approach. When you identify those roadblocks, you can use science to your advantage with the right strategies to overcome them. I like this.

Speaker 2: I used the term me search because we need to learn about ourselves in order to be our best self.

Speaker 1: Now, before we go, we got a huge shout out to our newest member in our X factor accelerator Elan. He wrote to tell us that he now has felt the power of unrestrictive social freedom. This is what happens when you're able to see the matrix. You begin looking for opportunities to be a high value person, rather than being reserved or cautious about saying, or doing the wrong thing. In fact, this is allowed them to approach and chat up ladies and gentlemen, and be the life of the party.

Speaker 2: We all had a good chuckle that every time we saw him in our Vegas bootcamp, he was always holding court with a different group of people. He was a star. He looked like he owned the place. The ladies certainly took notes.

Speaker 1: If you want to be like Elan and join us in our X factor accelerator, a network of high value individuals getting after it with mentorship from me, Johnny Michael, and the entire art of charm team text X factor two plus 9 1 7 7 2 0 4 1 0 4 to apply today. That's X factor WhatsApp, or I message us plus 1 9 1 7 7 2 0 4 1 0 4. And we'll see you inside that group.

Speaker 2: Can you do us and the entire art of charm team, a huge favor. Could you head on over to iTunes and rate and review this podcast? It would certainly mean the world Tous helps others find the show and it helps us get great guests.

Speaker 1: All right. The art of charm podcast is produced by Michael Harold and Eric Montgomery. Everyone out there have an amazing week.

Speaker 4: [inaudible].

Check in with AJ and Johnny!

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