Founder of Agar Global Services and Partner at Bessern Enterprise. Talent development specialist, trainer and experienced career consultant. Works with various organizations in helping them achieve their talent development goals, as well as professionals who are looking to take their careers to the next level or reinvent their personal brands.
Around 95% of our actions are unconscious, which means that naturally, it is difficult to change our rituals or habits. Take for example dropping that promise you made—to exercise, to eat healthier, to visit your parents more often—breaking a habit is hard. We tend to focus on what we know we are good at, while conveniently avoiding doing what we know we should or must do.
For educators and others, it is essential to understand how the mind works in order to instill change or create new habits for the students and clients that we might work with. We also need to begin looking in more depth at how this knowledge and access to technology can help us guide future generations (and existing ones) to reach their full potential. For changes to happen, we are better off designing it around how our brain works.
When our brain detects changes in the environment, it sends out strong signals that say something is not right. These signals distract us from making a change and instead reinforce our commitment to keeping things the way they are.
One of the most important evolutions in coaching has come from neuroscience (specifically on behavior design), which encourages people to focus on what they truly want and build the will to override the brain’s anti-change signals.
Behavior design is a framework for defining an optimal path to change behavior—this science has uncovered the factors that drive our choices and actions. If you know how your mind works, you can design a way to influence it.
J. Foggs, a behavior design researcher at the University of Stanford, defines that actual actions are determined by a combination of three drivers: motivation (a want to reach the goal), ability (to perform a new action) and trigger (a reminder to take action).
The higher the motivation, the more chances there are to accomplish the behavior. Nevertheless, motivation is inconsistent. We become easily discouraged by the effort, or because the behavior we want to change provides us with instant gratification. Motivation needs to be accompanied by frequent and consistent reminders from the brain on why we want to reach our goals.
To be able to perform a change of behavior, we need to divide the behavior into small chunks of actions. The easier the action, the more likely we will do it—eventually doing it without even thinking about it. What is “easy” has more chances of being done than what is “right”. In other words, if you want to achieve a goal, breaking the actions down into smaller pieces so that it can become habitual is crucial.
There are two types of triggers: internal (I am hungry) and external (an app with reminders). It is easier to design external triggers. Understanding these factors when creating a step-by-step plan to make any change or create a new habit and being aware, will make habit creation more effective.