Changing Habits: Why It’s Hard, How to Do It (MP3 download)
By John Dennis and Edwin A. Locke
Rarely can one change one’s habits by direct will power because habits are subconsciously automatized; attempts to consciously suppress habits typically fail because suppression does not change the subconscious. This course shows that change has to go through stages: precontemplation, contemplation, action, learning techniques for attaining goals and dealing with setbacks.
The elements of each stage are explained. For example, for the precontemplation stage, students begin the process of learning how dysfunctional habits undermine their well-being by gathering information about the extent or effects of the habit, while for the preparation stage, students introspect regarding the emotions and thoughts that occur before, during and after we engage in a dysfunctional habit. During the action stage, students learn how to break down all habit-change goals into specific short-term goals that answer the what, when, how and where questions associated with the new goal and the importance of goal framing—that is, all “I should,” “I must,” “I have to” need to be replaced with “I want to,” “I choose to,” “I will” . . . do X (not a duty but a choice). In the techniques for change stage, students learn a host of techniques that have proven to be successful—these include: “surfing” your emotions while delaying action, forming implementation intentions made in front of the mirror, praising yourself for goal attainment out loud, developing one new, beneficial habit such as exercise to make it easier to change other habits, and so on. Finally, in the dealing-with-setbacks stage, we discuss the importance of self-forgiveness and making better plans and also how negative self-talk and global statements such as “I will never learn” normally cause one to be less motivated, less persistent and have less energy. In this stage, we identify some tricks that your subconscious may play on you that can lead you to stop progressing in your habit-change goal, for example, moral licensing, what-the-hell effect, the false-hope syndrome, and so forth.
In the end, students learn how to change habits not by attacking them directly but by using the various means learned in this course to weaken and replace them. If students follow the methods discussed in this course, they will have better self-control, better self-awareness (of emotions, desires, subconscious premises, conscious ideas), and a better life, but especially more happiness and pride in that they have effectively changed their behavior.
This course was recorded at the 2012 Objectivist Summer Conference in San Diego, CA.