Use The Science of Behavior Design to Bring Out The Best In Yourself!

Part 1 of 2

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Experts in Behavior Science have made exciting, recent discoveries and inroads in understanding human behavior

This heightened understanding has enabled researchers to create a framework. You can use it to design your behavior — to continuously shape and reshape all that your presence offers to the world.

Would you like to learn how to change habitual behaviors for the better? Behavior Science is providing tools you can use to design your behavior. These tools better enable you to build positive, valuable behavioral habits into your days and succeed in breaking habitual behaviors that don’t serve you well.

Read on to find out how you can successfully manage your behavior and make changes for the better.

Willpower Doesn’t Work

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Most of us have walked away from more than a few unsuccessful efforts to make change using our willpower. An example many of us can relate to is the traditional New Year’s Resolution. Recent studies have revealed only 20% of us keep our resolutions. Then, we blame ourselves.

But, failure to manage our behavioral habits through willpower is not our fault. Willpower is not an effective tool for lasting change.

This article describes a proven-effective approach and associated tools to enable success. It throws light on human behavior, making it easier to understand your behavior and that of others. Learning Behavior Design will equip you to drive and sustain desired personal change.

What Drives Behavior

Much of the behavior we do every day is routine and automatic. For example: Have you ever left home on a day off and, without thinking about it, gone in the direction of your workplace, even though that isn’t where you intended to go? It happens to many of us. We recognize pretty quickly that this is due to our habit of driving to work having become automatic. We do it without thinking about it. We all have lots of habits.

Behavioral Science has identified three factors that drive behavior:

  • Motivation
  • Ability
  • Prompt

When these three factors converge at the same moment, behavior results. The Fogg model is your map to managing your behavior. Using it, you can more easily and quickly establish desired, new habits and stop doing existing, undesired habits than the traditional approach of relying on willpower. Following is an overview of the science behind the model.

Fogg, is a leader in the field of Behavioral Science and a recognized presence at the forefront of Behavior Design. Fogg developed the model below, which describes human behavior as a function of Motivation, Ability, and a Prompt. Click below to listen to this brief overview.

The B.J. Fogg Model: Your Proven-Effective Approach

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B:MAP Explained

Looking at the graphic, you see the following:

  • Motivation is measured on the left vertical axis from Low up to High.
  • Ability is calculated on the bottom horizontal axis, from Low (Hard to Do) to High (Easy to Do).

These two factors can range anywhere between the High and Low points.

Now, let’s look at the Action Line, the curved, orange line. The Action Line shows how Motivation and Ability jointly determine behavior.

  • When Motivation and Ability are strong enough, the behavior will be charted to the right of the Action Line, and you’ll do it when prompted.
  • When there’s not enough Motivation and Ability to do a behavior, it lands to the left of the Action Line. You won’t respond to a prompt.

Motivation and Ability are required. Combined, these determine whether behavior lands to the left or the right of the Action Line.

If one dimension is Low and the other is High enough, the behavior can still land to the right of the Action Line. The amount you have of one affects the amount you need of the other. You can assess the overall strength of these two factors by making a judgment call or by assigning numeric values and taking an average. Your method of measuring them is up to you.

You Can Strengthen Your Motivation and Ability

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Strengthening Motivation

The more motivation you have to do something, the more likely you’ll do it.

Think of a behavioral habit you have the desire to adopt. Assess this from Low to High. How strong is it? Is your desire to do a behavior stronger than your reasons not to do it?

You can find ways to strengthen your desire in three simple steps. Write down the following:

  1. What will you gain – as rewards and benefits – from doing the specific behavior?
  2. What will you lose – as a consequence – for not doing it?
  3. How will doing the behavior enable you to accomplish something more significant to you?
  4. Reflect on these to identify ways you can make the behavior more desirable.

Strengthening Ability

The harder a behavior is to do, the less likely you will do it. The key here is to make the behavior easy, even ridiculously easy to do. You may need to break it down into tiny actions so that you’ll be able to get yourself to do it.

Think about what you’ll need to do the behavior. Needs often include time, money, physical effort, mental effort, or existing routines. Assess how hard or easy it is to do the behavior.

To find ways you can make it easier for you to do the behavior, identify and write down the following:

  1. What makes the behavior hard to do?
  2. List ways you can make the behavior easier to do.
  3. Consider the difficulties and the solutions above. Ask yourself: Will I be able to get myself to do this behavior?
  4. If not, re-think 1 and 2 and keep repeating this step until the behavior is doable.

Identify a new behavior you’d like to make a habit. Then, follow Fogg’s model to verify your Motivation and Ability can push the behavior above the Action Line. Then, you will be able to get yourself to do it, and you’re ready to begin.

Choosing An Anchor

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Much of the behavior we do every day is routine and automatic. For example: Have you ever left home on a day off and, without thinking about it, gone in the direction of your workplace, even though that isn’t where you intended to go? That’s because you have a habit of taking your route to work when you leave home. It has become automatic. You do it without thinking about it. We all have lots of habits.

We all have routines that consist of a string of little habits strung together.

I have a work-day morning routine that I employ when I wake up. There are seven little habits, and I do them in the same order every day:

  • Wake up at 5:30 a.m.
  • Morning greetings with the dog
  • Vacuum one room of the house
  • Shower
  • Coffee while doing Computer tasks
  • Get ready for work
  • Leave for work at 7:30 a.m.

To form a new habit, we need to fit it into an existing routine, at a step where it makes the most sense. You can see evidence of success in the morning routine described above; vacuuming has been an automatic part of my routine for several years.

The routine we add our new behavior into is called an Anchor Behavior. The anchor behavior is well established as a fixed part of every day. It’s guaranteed to happen. It works for adding a new behavior you want to become a habit.

Once you identify your anchor behavior, write down, in order, the steps of that habit or routine. Then, determine a logical Anchor in an existing routine and write it in.

Writing Your Recipe

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Sample Recipe Template

Once you’ve identified the anchor for your new behavior, A tool called a Recipe comes into play to guide you in forming a new habit. Following are the ingredients:

  • Anchor Behavior
  • New Habit
  • Celebration

When the Sample Recipe Template above was completed, it looked like this:

After I: Enjoy morning greetings with the dog

I will: Vacuum the chosen floor

Then I’ll: Do a little victory dance and say, “Yay, me!”



Applying Your Recipe

  1. Choose Your Anchor Routine. An Anchor is an existing routine or habit that you’ve locked into your day; adding a new tiny behavior to an Anchor Behavior helps set you up for success. The last step of that Anchor behavior can serve as a Prompt for new behavior. The new tiny behavior should be a logical addition to the Anchor routine. It should make sense to you to do the new behavior after completing the last action of the chosen Anchor behavior.
  2. Insert Your New Behavior: Reduce the behavior to make it tiny. It could be an easy activity that will be part of the new behavior. The key to success is to make it easy for you to do.
  3. Celebrate Each Time You Do It! Havan immediate, quick, fun celebration, saying “I’m awesome!” or “Yay Me!”

Your Routines Provide A Selection of Anchor Behaviors

Think about all of the routines or habits you do each day. Following are examples to help you to think about it.

  1. Each day I follow a routine of going out for a run. I put on running clothes and running shoes, rub on sunscreen, do the run, return, stretch, drink a large glass of water, and snack. Stretching all muscles after the run was the new habit I added to this routine!
  2. I also have a dinner routine. It includes preparing and eating dinner, doing the dishes, cleaning the kitchen, and programming the coffee maker for the morning. The new habit I added to this routine is setting up the coffee maker!

There’s unique value in having routines locked into each day: These can serve you well by providing Anchor Behaviors. Anchor Behaviors serve as Prompts that cue you to perform new behaviors. You can use any action in a routine as a Prompt for new behavior. 

Example:

Refer to the work-day morning routine I have set up. Initially, I tried to set up a room for vacuuming, including removing clutter and wastebaskets as a series of little behaviors incremental to my existing routine. But this didn’t work. It was too hard for me to do because it required too much time. 

I had to be flexible and a little creative to make the vacuuming easier to do. My solution was to insert the task of setting up the room into a previously established evening routine to do the night before. Then, I prepared another recipe for that new behavior. 

Food For Thought

  • Consider keeping your recipes in a file or box where they will constantly be in sight.
  • Some of us find working with a partner helps us to make changes. If you prefer teaming up with others who share your goal, explore the possibility of joining forces with a friend or a group. Other people can help hold you accountable and participate in your celebrations to make the most of your successes.
  • Let others know what you’re doing. Sometimes sharing what you learn can reinforce and strengthen your knowledge and motivation.
  • Track your progress using a chart or graph. It’s very satisfying to see your new behaviors accomplished in a visual tool.
  • Work on one behavior at a time. Hold off on adding another until you’ve made it automatic (a behavior you do without even thinking about it – a habit, as a fixed part of your routine. It’s better to take your time and lock in the new behavior than to take on too much change at once, which can cause setbacks and failure.
  • The celebration needs to be immediate upon doing the new behavior until it’s securely locked in. The joy this brings builds your motivation to continue.
  • Be aware of and manage your self-talk. Harsh or exessive self- criticism damages self-confidence and happiness, hindering our success in making changes and improvements.
  • Research, watch videos, listen to podcasts and read high-quality material. These activities can enable you to learn about behavior change and learning and social theories. You’ll become very knowledgeable, your motivation will grow, and you’ll experience even more satisfaction in your success.
  • Consider keeping your recipes in a file or box where they will be in constant sight. 



Your Next Steps

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It’s time for you to create and implement Behavior Designs!

Practice establishing new behavioral habits is integral to achieving mastery in making behavior change. First, when we build desired, new habits repeatedly, we develop a foundation of behavior management skills. Second, it strengthens your confidence in your capability to manage your behavior. it demonstrates that you do what you say you’ll do. Third, it equips you with the knowledge and skills required to succeed with stopping or breaking habitual behaviors.

Mastery involves introducing and sustaining a desired new habit. You’ll know a new behavior is locked in when you do it automatically, without first thinking about it. It is then an automatic part of your routine.

Now, it’s your turn! What are some behaviors you’ve thought about, learned in training programs, or read about, that you want to make habitual?   This is a great opportunity for you to to do so. 

Choose a behavior you want to become habitual.

 The only requirements are:

  1. You want to do it!
  2. It’s either small enough to be easy to do, or you can break it into doable pieces.  

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Conclusion

Amazing things become possible using Behavior Design. You can develop a vision of the person you’ll become as you proceed to reach your potential. You can choose how your knowledge, skills and experience evolve over time. Are you ready to form a new habitual behavior of investing in yourself? 

The place to start is adding shiny, new, desired behaviors to your day-to-day routines. 

Why do we recommend beginning with starting new behaviors instead of breaking undesired behaviors that don’t serve us well? It has to do with the level of skill required. Adding new behavior provides quicker success because it is easier to accomplish. Establishing a track record of adding new habitual behaviors builds a foundation in change management essential for tackling the more challenging task of stopping existing habitual behaviors.

Part 2 in this mini-series focuses on the more challenging behavior changes, of stopping behaviors that you no longer desire. Some behaviors that made you successful in one role may hinder success in another role. Or, you may feel some behavior doesn’t represent you well as you grow, learn and build wisdom. People want and need to continue learning, growing and changing to face new challenges, find fulfillment in work and relationships, polish our gifts and advance our contributions. I’m convinced that the science of Behavior Design provides stepping stones to help during our journey.

Tell Us About Your Experiences

Please share your insights, opinions, and thoughts. We welcome feedback.

Recommended Reading And Sources

Tiny Habits by B.J. Fogg, Copyright 2020 by B.J. Fogg, Published by Mariner Books

The 15 Minute Rule, by Caroline Buchanan, Published in Great Britain by Robinson, 2012

Atomic Habits, by James Clear, Copyright 2018 by James Clear, Published by Penguin Random House

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Rosanna M. Nadeau is a retired Consultant and Certified, Professional Coach. She is available on a limited basis to provide coaching. Contact Rosanna as follows:

Phone: 603-801-2416

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