10 mistakes that prevent us from changing

Translator's Note: Some time ago I read a great article on Medium.com . Samuel Thomas Davies, the author of the article, took Stanford University professor BJ Fogg's study on behavior change. Today I want to share her translation with the habrasociety.

Changing your behavior is undoubtedly difficult. It is necessary to overcome obstacles, overcome resistance and change external factors.

Obviously, doing this is much more difficult when you make mistakes that are commonplace, but often underestimated or simply ignored due to their inconspicuous nature.

The problem is that we have a natural tendency to take the blame for the fact that new habits do not take root. We believe that the real problem is in us, whereas in reality, it lies in the strategy that we used.
It's simple: if you can change your approach, then you can change your habits.

The following is a list of 10 frequently-committed behavioral errors discovered by Dr. BJ Fogg. If you avoid these mistakes, it will not only accelerate the formation of new habits, but more importantly, it will help to preserve them. [1]

1. Rely on willpower

Like most people, I relied on willpower to change my habits. He forced himself to eat fruits and vegetables, exercise and socialize.

But the truth is that willpower is a limited resource, and the more you use it, the more self-control weakens. This is also known as ego exhaustion or decision fatigue.

Solution: Instead of relying on willpower, shape what Fogg calls "mini-habits."

2. Take big steps instead of small ones

It is very difficult to start with small personal achievements, especially because we are accustomed to believe that we should celebrate them only when they are significant and have visible results.

In fact, the secret to long-term changes is that you need to start with small steps that you can constantly maintain. A good example is the practice of daily improvement of one percent. That is, apply a little effort every day, which after a certain time will bring excellent results. Do not believe? See comparison below.


Solution: Achieve what Fogg calls “small accomplishments,” one after the other. Do you floss one tooth? You have earned praise. They said no to the next dessert? Break away on a "fraudulent" day.

3. Ignore external conditions

It is amazing how small changes in our environment can significantly affect our behavior. For example, removing the batteries from the TV remote control, removing social media applications from your smartphone, and even using smaller food plates, all this can positively affect your actions.

Solution: Learn to influence your decisions by changing your environment so that it contributes to your new course of action.

4. Trying to quit old habits, instead of creating new ones

To abruptly stop bad habits is a fairly common practice, but not so easily implemented. Thus, as a result of failure, your willpower and self-confidence will inevitably be depleted.

In the book “Step by step to achieve the goal. The Kaizen Method, ”Dr. Robert Maurer talks about how he helped his patient Rachel quit smoking, asking her to leave voice messages on his phone whenever she wanted to smoke.

As a result, she realized the reason for her smoking and then overcame this habit. [2]

Solution: Instead of focusing on the problem itself, focus on actions. It’s hard enough to start a bad habit, so just replace it with another - positive one.

5. Blame the lack of motivation

Your motivation, as well as your emotional state, has ups and downs. This is not always predictable, and the moment you really need to rely on it, most likely you will be disappointed.

Solution: There is no need to rely on motivation, you just need to simplify the habit so that it can be easier to fulfill. For example: eat one fruit a day, floss one tooth, run 1 circle around the house. In other words, do it as Leo Babauta writes: “So simple that you cannot say no.” [3]

6. Don't understand the power of triggers

At the heart of any habit is the same pattern. It is a trigger , action and reward . The trigger tells your brain that you need to switch to automatic mode and what habit you need to use for this. Then, as a result of performing the usual actions, you get a certain reward.


Solution: Habits do not work without triggers, so in order to get rid of bad habits, define your triggers (usually there are more than one). Then, to root a new habit, select a trigger such as the previous action. That is, perform it immediately after another already established good habit. For example, they brushed their teeth in the morning and did 20 push-ups; brushed his teeth before going to bed, then read a book. [4]

7. Believe that information leads to action

Knowledge does not carry any power without its use. The application of an idea is as important as the idea itself. Therefore, be sure to apply at least one new idea that you have studied, be it from this article or from elsewhere.

Solution: Do not be rational about changes, be emotional. Imagine that any change is pleasure and enjoyment, and immutability hurts you.

8. Focus on abstract goals instead of concrete results.

You attend a seminar, feel inspired and decide to create your own business, lose weight or make more money. But these are all abstract goals, they do not contain a specific call to action.

Solution: Fogg explains “Abstraction:“ Get Fit. ” Specifics: “Attend a class of round-robin training once a week.” Turn your abstract desire into actionable steps that will be easy to follow.

9. Strive to change behavior forever, and not for a fixed period

Change is always difficult. That is why the slogan of the Alcoholics Anonymous community is: “One day at a time.” The meaning of which is to focus on today, so as not to break, and tomorrow will be tomorrow. If we are not in the past, then, as a rule, we think about the future. Therefore, you need to focus on the present and what you can do today. First thing first, step by step.

Solution: According to Fogg, a certain period works better than "forever." The trick is to turn your new actions into something measurable. For example, the number of days during which you do not use a bad habit. Or indicate a certain period during which you need to hold out.

First, count the first day, then the week, month, and so on. Your main task is not to break the chain.

10. Believing that changing behavior is difficult

The easiest way to argue is that you cannot change by the fact that you do not have enough willpower (or come up with another excuse), rather than proceed with actions. But now that you know how the habit works (trigger> action> reward), you cannot have excuses.

Solution: Using the right strategy, changing the way you act is not so difficult. Decide for yourself what you want to change and immediately take action. Define a trigger. Celebrate success. Change the action. Just start doing at least something.

Realizing and avoiding these mistakes has changed my approach to how I change my habits. I am grateful to these decisions, because they changed my life and I hope that they will change your lives too.


Samuel Thomas Davies (2014) The Top 10 Mistakes in Behavior Change (and How to Avoid Them)

[1] Fogg, BJ (2010) Top 10 Mistakes in Behavior Change ... And Some Ways You Can Fix Them ,
[2] Maurer , R. (2014) One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way, New York: Workman Publishing Company, Inc.
[3] Babauta, L. (2013) The Four Habits that Form Habits
[4] Fogg, BJ (2010) 3 Steps to New Habits

Also popular now: