01 Jun 2021 17:29 IST

Strategies to create lasting change

Creative interventions using the tools of psychology and economics to bring durable behavioural changes

Wharton professor Katy Milkman is a behavioural scientist who has spent most of her career studying strategies that help people create lasting, effective change. In her new book, How to change: The science of getting from where you are to where you want to be, she shares her findings.

Here are some of the techniques:

Implementation intention

It’s difficult to be inconsistent with a concrete commitment, rather than a vague intention. Instead of saying, “I intend to exercise,” you say, “I intend to exercise at 5 o’clock on weekdays.” This helps kick off the forgetfulness or laziness, which are huge obstacles to long-term change. One is more likely to remember something when it’s linked it to a cue — like time and days. Cues act as a trigger to your memory. Cues recall memories, and you’re more likely to follow through.

Temptation bundling

It is a useful personal tool that can help transform a task that you’d normally find unpleasant or not look forward to or even possibly dread — to a hook or a bait. For instance, only letting yourself listen to your favourite podcast while doing household chores. You need to find a way to make it so that the instantly gratifying choice is aligned with your goals.

Commitment devices

Impulse control is important when you intend to bring daily changes to your life. Commitment devices can be really valuable in dealing with this impulse problem. They’re probably underused, but they’ve proven really effective. There are randomised control trials showing that this kind of commitment device, where you can put money on the line that you’ll give up if you fail to achieve a goal, has been proven to increase people’s success quitting smoking by 30 per cent.

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