August 2011
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Month August 2011

Mindful landings

What’s the last of the Top 10 Mistakes in Behavior Change? Assuming that behavior change is difficult.

What’s the tech lab’s last great suggestion? Behavior change is not so hard when you have the right process.

What’s my last hurrah? It’s also not so hard when you have the right state of mind.

Forget forever

Near the end of the Top 10 Mistakes in Behavior Change list is #9: seeking to change a behavior forever, not for a short time. As you might expect, Fogg & gang suggest that a fixed period works better than “forever.”

Number 9 takes us back to now, the only time frame we have. As soon as we think we can change behavior tomorrow, we’re out of the world of action and into the world of fiction. We can only change behavior right now.

Chunking change

Top mistake #8 at the Persuasive Tech Lab is focusing on abstract goals more than concrete behaviors.  Here’s their example. Abstract: get in shape. Concrete: walk 15 min. today.

This is a “yes and” provision. We need big abstract goals to provide direction and meaning: get in shape, write the Great American Novel, create and implement


Here’s top mistake #7 in behavior change: believing that information leads to action.  Again, the lab techies offer an observation rather than a ‘solution’: we humans aren’t so rational.

Hear, hear! Information may give us a leg up on knowing about something. But knowing and doing aren’t the same. We know far more than we’re able to translate into action, especially consistent action, which is what change is really about.

Besides, reason doesn’t make us act. Emotion does. Reason just makes us think. Doubt it? Then check out neuroscientist Antonio Damasio’s book, Descartes’ Error.



Top mistake #6 is underestimating the power of triggers. Fogg and company don’t offer a solution; they just offer an observation: no behavior happens without a trigger.

To which I say, “Yes, ditto.” Even if you’re unaware of them, triggers are setting your behavior in motion. Befriend them and you might find change a tad easier.

On the edge

Top Mistake #5 is blaming failures on lack of motivation. The tech lab’s solution? Make the behavior easier to do.

My solution? Make the behavior challenging and meaningful. And while you’re at it, think seriously about what ‘failure’ means to you.

Ever watch world-class athletes? Or gotten so engaged in something that you’ve lost all track of time? Then you’re familiar with what psychologists call

Getting to the future

Here’s #4 on the Top 10 Mistakes in Behavior Change list: trying to stop old behaviors instead of creating new ones.

And Fogg’s solution? Focus on action, not avoidance.

This cries for more detail.

Action can be a form of avoidance, so action isn’t enough. It has to be action that moves us toward what we want. And that means

Refuse to be insignificant

Sometimes I hear things that astound me with their power. This is one of them: refuse to be insignificant.

I got it from one of my clients, a self-effacing man who adopted it as a credo when he was young. He has had a highly successful career and a challenging personal life. Both fill him with joy and happiness.

Are you willing to do the same?

The outside-in effect

Relying on willpower and attempting big leaps aren’t helpful in changing behavior. Neither is ignoring how environment shapes behavior, which is #3 on Fogg’s list of mistakes in behavior change.

Want to change your life? Then change your context.

It can take lots of forms.

Most of us are creatures of routine. Even if we enjoy new things, part of us craves the safety of a familiar context. And familiarity blinds us.

One step at a time …

A few days ago, I listed 10 big mistakes that people make in trying to change behavior.  Here’s #2: attempting big leaps instead of baby steps.

The antidote? Seek tiny wins, one after another, according to the folks at B. J. Fogg’s Persuasive Technology Lab.

They’re right, in more ways than one.

We’ve heard for years about the power of big audacious goals, sweeping visions, and ‘breakthrough’ leaps. But we live life in moments, one after another. Only in retrospect, when we string those moments and events together, do we see patterns and create narratives to explain what happened.

What if we could capture and study all those little moments? What might we learn that’s different?