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Are we changing behavior with right tools?

Behavior type

Change method

One brain, two minds
• • •
Elephant = impulsive mind Rider = Rational mind Path = the environment

Self-control is the strength of the rider

Behavior types
Amateur Do Skillful

Resist doing

Habitual

Addictive

Low

High

Self-Control Required

Amateur behaviors
Amateur Do

Resist doing Low High

Self-Control Required

What defines amateur behaviors?
• The rider and elephant are in sync • Easy to do, but also easy to forget • Reward, process motivated • Long-term

Amateur behaviors

Creating amateur behaviors
• Create a path for the elephant • Make it simple, easy • Placing well-timed cues • “Baby steps”

Skillful behaviors
Skillful Do

Resist doing Low High

Self-Control Required

What defines skillful behaviors?
• Rider is steering the elephant • Outcome, goal driven • Hard work, grit

Skillful behaviors

Creating skillful behaviors
• Deliberate practice • Focus on fixing failures • Grit and persistence • Often with coaching

Skillful behaviors

Running
Amateur
- Casual enjoyment - Jog into old age

Skillful
- Goal driven - Win a marathon

Habitual behaviors
Do

Resist doing

Habitual

Low

High

Self-Control Required

What defines habitual (negative) behaviors?
• The rider tries to control the elephant • Constant temptation • Struggle with desire

Habitual behaviors

Resisting habitual behaviors
• Mindfulness • Surfing the urge, creating space (ex - 10minute rule)

• Reminder of purpose • Self-compassion

Addictive behaviors
Do

Resist doing Low

Addictive

High

Self-Control Required

What defines addictive behaviors?
• The rider has lost control and the elephant
is charging

• Self-destructive • Extremely hard to resist

Addictive behaviors

Resisting addictive behaviors
• Reigning in the elephant • Abstinence, removal of cues • Physical detoxification • Social support • Root cause analysis

Behavior types
Amateur Do Skillful

Resist doing

Habitual

Addictive

Low

High

Self-Control Required

Change methods
Do

Create the path Train the rider to pull the elephant
Low

Train the rider to push the elephant Reign the elephant
High

Resist doing

Self-Control Required

One size does not fit all
Do
- Path driven - Long-term - Self-directed

Amateur

- Goal driven - Grit - Hard work - Coaching - Abstinence - Physical detox - Root cause - Social support

Skillful

Resist doing

- Surfing urge - Mindfulness - Self-compassion

Habitual

Addictive

Low

High

Self-Control Required

Matching behavior types with change methods

Does the method match the type?
• “No pain, no gain” • “Never quit” • “Set strict goals” • “Hold yourself
accountable”

Healthy lifestyle
• • •
Over a lifetime Do (amateur behaviors):

• • • •

Physical activity Eating healthy foods Eating unhealthy foods Overconsumption

Resist doing (habitual behaviors):

Beating yourself up hurts
• • • •
The worse a drinker feels about how much they drank the night before, the more they drank the next night. (Muraven et al 2005) Gamblers who feel most ashamed by losses, most likely to “chase” the loss and keep gambling. (Yi and Kanatar 201) Students who feel the worst about procrastinating, put off studying the longest for next exam. (Wohl, Pychyl, Bennett 2010) Addicts who feel most guilt about a minor relapse, were most likely to have a major relapse. (Stephens et al 1994)

Source: Kelly McDonigal, “The Willpower Instinct”

The “what-the-hell” effect
• • • •
Dieters and non-dieters asked to drink a milkshake as part of “taste perception study” Then asked to sample as much ice cream as “needed” for taste test. Dieters ate more than nondieters after drinking the milkshake Showed increased activity in nucleus accumbens

Source: Kelly McDonigal, “The Willpower Instinct”, Heatherton & Wagner, 2011

Self-compassion
• • • • •
Students highest in self-compassion least likely to procrastinate (Williams, Stark, Foster 2008) Self-compassion predicts likelihood of getting back on track after setbacks (Neely et al 2009) Taking a self-compassionate view increases personal responsibility for failure. (Leary and Adams 2007) Self-acceptance predicts willingness to receive and act on feedback (Chamberlain and Haaga 2001) Self-compassion associated with joy of learning for its own sake (Neff, Hseih, and Dejitthirat 2005)

Source: Kelly McDonigal, “The Willpower Instinct”

In summary
• Rider, elephant and path • Before changing a behavior: • Identify behavior type • Match with appropriate change method