Are you stuck in a habit that’s hard to break?
It’s not easy to change the habits you’ve had for years. You may have tried and failed in the past, but it is possible to change them! We all know that we should be eating healthier, exercising more, and taking care of our bodies, but we don’t always make time for these things because there are so many other tasks vying for our attention. The good news is that when you do take a few minutes every day to work on a healthier habit, it will eventually become second nature. Our guest today will talk more about creating lasting habits.
Friends, this is part two of the two-series with Katy Milkman. If you missed the first part, make sure to check it out. In this interview with the award-winning behavioral scientist, we talked about “temptation bundling,” where she links guilty pleasure with a healthy habit, when is the best time to make a new habit, the barriers that are holding us back from making positive changes in our lives, and so much more! This is an exciting episode here at The School of Greatness, so let the class begin!
Katy Milkman is an award-winning behavioral scientist and Professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania where she holds a secondary appointment at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine. She’s also a host of the popular behavioral economics podcast, Choiceology, and the co-founder and co-director of The Behavior Change for Good Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania, whose work is being chronicled by Freakonomics Radio. Her research is regularly featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and National Public Radio.
Katy graduated summa cum laude in Operations Research and Financial Engineering from Princeton University and received her Ph.D. from Harvard University’s joint program in Computer Science and Business. Before she turned thirty, Katy was named one of the world’s top 40 business school professors under 40 by Poets and Quants, and she was a finalist for the Thinkers 50 2017 Radar Thinker Award.
Katy has received numerous awards for her research, including an award from the Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences during the early years of her career. She also guested in the TED talk, where she discussed why we fail and how we stand up afterward, which is something that we should make a habit of if we want to be successful.
Do you ever have those days when you just can’t seem to get off the couch? You set aside time for work, but it’s hard to stay focused on tasks because your favorite TV show is always on! But what if there was a way for you to enjoy your favorite shows while staying productive? Temptation bundling lets us make new habits stick by combining them with things that we already do every day.
“[When] I was a graduate student getting a Ph.D. in Computer Science and Business, … the classwork was not that fun. … [There were] a lot of problems, and I was exhausted when I would come home. … I was tired, and I didn’t want to pick up my problem and get the work done. All I wanted to do was what any sane person [would] want to do, like … watch TV.” – Katy Milkman
Temptation bundling works by linking an action you want to do with an action you need to do. You have to combine two things together in a way that makes one more difficult to resist than the other, such as watching your favorite TV show while simultaneously exercising on a treadmill.
“I was also a former athlete, and being physically healthy and active is important to me for mental health and physical health. But I couldn’t drag myself to go to the gym, which I also knew I needed to be doing because I was just so drained, and I realized there was a way — Maybe I could solve those problems all at once. … I decided … to let myself enjoy indulgent entertainment while I was exercising at the gym.” – Katy Milkman
Temptation bundling can help people feel less deprived, as they have access to some small pleasures without facing the major consequences of overindulging. The best part about it is that it can make you even more productive because you end up enjoying what you’re doing by linking your guilty pleasures with healthy habits.
“I had figured out that by linking a chore with a temptation, I could make it fun. And we already talked about the importance of making it fun for persistence — this is just a tactic for doing it — … [and] it works for other people too. So we ran large randomized-controlled trials that showed that teaching people to temptation bundle — giving them temptations to hook with a chore — improves outcomes in terms of exercise.” – Katy Milkman
Is there a task that you need to do, but you don’t feel like doing it for the moment? Why not hook it up with something that you like? You will soon realize that the tasks that you need to do are done without you knowing it because you were having fun. This is temptation bundling, and it could be a great habit to build in your life.
New habits can be tough to get started and even tougher to keep going. If you want to start a new habit, many people would say the best time is now. It doesn’t have to be something as big as quitting smoking or going on a diet. The key is that you should do what’s right for you and not anybody else. Katy Milkman has a different perspective on the best time to start a new habit.
“Those breakpoints are a great time for starting something new because we have that renewed enthusiasm, optimism, and the ability to say, ‘Okay, I couldn’t do it last time, but I believe I can be optimistic now.’ … But actually, another thing that can help beyond just that psychological chapter break is a physical change, especially if a habit that’s not such a good one has been associated with a place or location.” – Katy Milkman
Do you have a habit of dining in an expensive restaurant nearby every day, even if you know that your habit is draining your finances? It can be hard to break this habit, especially if that expensive restaurant is right on your way home from the office. But what if you could change your route so that you won’t have to pass by that restaurant on your way home? By doing so, it will be easier for you to break that habit.
“I think the easiest example would be, say you have a habit of picking up Dunkin Donuts on the way to work every morning, like three donuts, and you realize, like, ‘That’s maybe not great for me.’ … So, you want to break that habit. If you’re like moving to a new job, you are literally not going to walk by the same Dunkin Donuts on the way to work. … If you can take a different route, you can give yourself a fresh start. So, you can create changes that make it easier to break habits if you move out.” – Katy Milkman
Creating a new habit to break an old one that is not serving your purpose may entail changing locations, transferring to a different place, or simply taking a different route to avoid the temptations of going back to the old habit. Sometimes, our current environmental or physical condition is holding us back from making positive changes in our life. But by changing the environment, you can give yourself a fresh restart to make a new habit that serves your ultimate purpose.
Guys, this is such an inspirational conversation with Katy Milkman, and I’m sure you’ll find value in our conversation. Listen to the full episode for more wisdom from her, and don’t forget to share it with your friends! You could change someone’s life today.
This is the final episode of the two-part series, and if you missed it, I suggest you check out part one of our conversation where we discussed the biggest internal barriers holding you back from changing your life, what science says about how to believe in yourself, and so much more.
To get more wisdom from Katy Milkman, check out her website and get access to the different episodes of the Choiceology podcast where she shares stories of irrational decision-making — from historical blunders to the kinds of everyday errors that could affect your future. You can also subscribe to her newsletter to get monthly updates on her interviews with leading behavioral scientists about their research and how they can help us make better choices.
If you enjoyed this conversation, please make sure to spread the message of greatness with your friends, or someone whom you know would greatly benefit from it. It would be great if you could also tag Katy, @katymilkman, and me, @lewis howes, on Instagram with a screenshot of this episode and your greatest takeaways.
I want to leave you all with our guest’s definition of greatness:
“My definition of greatness is [when] people [have] a north star — something like a purpose and meaning and mission that’s driving them forward — [that] creates greatness to me. And that’s when I see someone who has that clear north star, that purpose, and they’ve built their life, created the structures to support it, and are sort of leaning towards it in all aspects of themselves. To me, that’s greatness, and it can be seasonal. So the north star can change seasonally, but seeing someone who’s really lined up everything because they have that north star and purpose, that’s when I feel like I’m in the presence of greatness.” – Katy Milkman
Greatness starts when you have a mission or purpose that serves as the north star guiding you in all aspects of life. So, by living a life of purpose, you are also living a life of greatness.
If no one’s told you lately, I want to remind you that you are loved, and you have what it takes to be great. So, go out there and do something great every day.