“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.” - Mark Twain.
“Habit takes anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form.”
This study explored habit formation in a real-world context and found that repeating a behavior in a consistent setting can lead to increased automaticity, meaning the behavior becomes more automatic over time. Importantly, this habit development did not require external rewards, as the chosen behaviors were likely intrinsically rewarding to the participants.
The study aimed to model habit formation at an individual level and determine if an asymptotic model is suitable for representing a generalized habit formation process. Approximately 48% of participants showed a good fit with the asymptotic model, while others had varying levels of performance. The study suggests that early repetitions of a behavior lead to more significant increases in automaticity compared to later repetitions. There is a point where a behavior cannot become more automatic even with additional repetitions.
On average, it took about 66 days for participants to reach 95% of their asymptote of automaticity, although this duration varied from 18 to 254 days. This suggests that forming a habit may take longer than previously assumed.
The study also indicated that interventions aiming to create habits may need to provide ongoing support to individuals for an extended period to achieve a high level of automaticity. Additionally, even in a motivated group of participants, about half did not perform the behavior consistently enough to establish a habit.
The complexity of a behavior can impact the development of automaticity, with more complex tasks taking longer to become habitual. The study also examined the impact of missed opportunities on habit formation and found that a single missed opportunity did not significantly disrupt the process.
The study has some limitations, including a small sample size, missing data on some days, and the use of a self-report measure to assess habit strength. However, it provides valuable insights into the process of habit formation and highlights the need for further research in this area.
“we over-estimate what we can do in a year” is a quote inspired by Bill Clinton.
The science behind cue, action, reward.
This study focused on the role of dopamine (DA) neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) in shaping behavior in response to rewards and reward-predictive cues. The researchers used optogenetic techniques to temporarily inhibit VTA DA neuron activity during either cue or reward presentation in animals trained on a Pavlovian conditioning task. Their findings suggest that both cue-induced and reward-induced phasic DA activity are crucial for appetitive behavior. Inhibiting VTA DA neurons during cues directly decreased conditioned and consummatory behavior, whereas inhibition during reward delivery led to chronic performance decrements that persisted across trials and onto the next day. These results highlight the essential role of phasic DA signaling in reinforcement and cue-induced appetitive responses, shedding light on the mechanisms underlying learned associative behaviors.
Synaptic pruning happens with every habit you build.
The science behind habit tracking.
The article discusses the importance of habit formation in promoting long-term behavior change, particularly in the context of health. It acknowledges that health professionals are often hesitant to provide advice on behavior modification due to the perceived complexity of traditional behavior change strategies and their limited potential for long-term impact. Instead, the article suggests offering simple advice on how to turn healthy actions into habits, which are automatic responses triggered by contextual cues. Habit formation involves repeating a behavior in a consistent context until it becomes automatic, reducing the need for conscious motivation and attention. Research demonstrates that habit-based interventions, paired with a "small changes" approach, can be effective in promoting behavior change and weight loss. These findings support the idea that habit-formation advice can offer an innovative and sustainable technique for encouraging long-term changes in behavior.
This study is the first to investigate the process of building new study habits and demonstrates a reduction in motivational impairments with longitudinal data. The research shows that habit strength (automaticity) increases with habit repetitions but levels off as it approaches its maximum automaticity. Study habits can be intentionally built, and in the initial stages, intention plays a dominant role in driving study behavior. As automaticity increases through habit repetitions, the influence of intention diminishes. Study habits are characterized by stable contexts, making them more useful as new content is learned. The study also highlights that habit building can be supported by a mobile application, which plays a role in the habit formation process. The findings suggest that habit-building processes reduce want conflicts and motivational interference during studying. Self-control is a key factor in habit building, indirectly influencing behavior through automaticity. The study provides insights into how individuals can intentionally reduce motivational conflicts and enhance their learning by building and automating study habits.
A study from MIT neuroscientists reveals that habits, deeply ingrained behaviors, can be regulated by a small region of the brain's prefrontal cortex. This control center can manage and shut off habits, indicating potential hope for breaking bad habits and treating disorders related to overly habitual behaviors, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder. The researchers showed that this region, called the infralimbic cortex, plays a crucial role in determining and regulating habits, allowing the brain to shift between automatic, habitual modes and cognitive, goal-oriented modes. While this research was conducted on rats, it offers insights into the flexibility of habits and the potential for developing interventions to control them in humans.
These studies suggest that habits serve as a regulatory mechanism that helps individuals engage in goal-adherent actions. Habits compensate for low levels of self-control, becoming more dominant when willpower is low due to prior self-control efforts or chronic limitations in self-control. These habits promote goal attainment when they align with the current goals but hinder goal pursuit when they do not. People tend to rely on good habits when their self-control is diminished because these habits were initially developed to promote their goals. Good habits tend to remain congruent with current goals. Bad habits are more challenging to control, often persisting despite efforts to change them. The impact of low self-control on goal adherence involves an increased performance of both good and bad habits. On such occasions, individuals revert to automatic goal adherence through habits. This pattern helps explain how people can achieve their goals effectively in daily life despite the depletion of motivational energy.
Root cause analysis is included in the goal getting journal to help individuals identify and address the underlying factors or issues that may be hindering their progress toward achieving their goals, allowing for more effective problem-solving and goal attainment.
Root cause analysis is a structured team process that assists in identifying underlying factors or causes of an event, such as an adverse event or near –miss. Understanding the contributing factors or causes of a system failure can help develop actions that sustain corrections.
The 5-Whys is a simple brainstorming tool that can help teams identify the root cause(s) of a problem. Once a general problem has been recognized (either using the Fishbone Diagram or Process Mapping), ask “why” questions to drill down to the root causes. Asking the 5-Whys allows teams to move beyond obvious answers and reflect on less obvious explanations or causes.
The Identify Challenges was inspired by David Goggins in his book Can't Hurt Me.
The After Action Review (AAR) process is a structured approach used by organizations, teams, or individuals to assess and learn from their experiences and actions. Typically conducted after the completion of a project, mission, or significant task, the AAR involves a systematic analysis of what went well, what could have been improved, and the identification of key takeaways and lessons learned. By engaging in this reflective process, participants can enhance future performance, make informed decisions, and continuously refine their strategies and tactics to achieve better results. The AAR is a valuable tool for fostering a culture of continuous improvement and adaptability, particularly in fields such as the military, emergency response, and business management.
Planning out your day can alleviate work place stress.
Reducing and managing workplace stress involves a variety of strategies tailored to the specific causes of stress. To address physical agents or environmental stressors, it's essential to control them at the source. For instance, mitigating noise in a loud workplace or redesigning workstations to reduce physical strain can be effective. Job design plays a crucial role; it should accommodate both mental and physical abilities, offering a reasonable level of challenge, variety in tasks, opportunities for learning, decision-making authority, social support, and a sense of purpose. Employers should assess the workplace for stress risks and involve employees in decision-making, maintain a respectful and understanding approach, and provide training and resources. Additionally, recognizing and addressing signs of stress, offering health and wellness programs, and tackling the root causes of stress are important steps in creating a less stressful work environment. Measures should include preventing bullying and harassment and ensuring that the workplace itself does not contribute to stress, with an emphasis on addressing causes quickly.
“Humans tend to focus on the negative”
This article explores the concept of a negativity bias in human psychology during early development. It addresses whether infants and children, like adults, exhibit this negativity bias, when and why it may emerge in their development, and the potential functions and consequences of this bias. The review of the literature reveals that infants and children indeed display a strong negativity bias in various aspects, such as social referencing, discourse, and memories related to valenced events. The article suggests that the roots of this bias become evident as early as 7 months in infants' attention to emotional expressions and emotional contagion. It discusses potential developmental mechanisms contributing to this emerging negativity bias and highlights its adaptive function in helping infants avoid potentially harmful stimuli. The paper emphasizes the need for further research and collaboration between developmental and adult psychology to understand and explore the negativity bias comprehensively.
Additional research to do with gratitude journaling.
The study aimed to investigate the effects of a 3-week gratitude journaling intervention on college students in Turkey who were experiencing stress and adjustment difficulties. The results showed that students in the experimental group who engaged in daily reflective gratitude journaling for 3 weeks experienced significant improvements in gratitude, adjustment to college life, life satisfaction, and positive affect. These findings align with previous research demonstrating the benefits of gratitude interventions for college students, indicating that such interventions can enhance positive emotions, satisfaction with life, and well-being. The study suggests that gratitude journaling may be a valuable preventive intervention for college students facing adjustment challenges, with potential long-term effects. However, the research acknowledges limitations, such as the sample being limited to one institution in Turkey, the absence of long-term follow-up data, and the need for further cross-cultural investigations into the impact of gratitude interventions on student well-being.
This study utilized a Positive Psychology (PP) framework to investigate the emotions and actions of school leaders who engaged with gratitude interventions. The research revealed that gratitude encompasses both emotional and action elements. Gratitude interventions, such as gratitude diaries and gratitude letters, produced different emotional responses in school leaders. Gratitude diaries evoked high-activation positive emotions like optimism and happiness, while gratitude letters stimulated both negative emotions like guilt and low-activation positive emotions like relief and calmness. The study identified a theme of catharsis in the experience of gratitude interventions, suggesting that they triggered both emotional and cognitive benefits. The results indicated that the emotional and cognitive aspects of the cathartic reactions prompted by gratitude letters helped leaders gain insights, consolidate their understanding of others' actions, and led to new realizations regarding the importance of various individuals in their leadership journey. As a result, they expressed gratitude more intentionally and sought reasons to feel gratitude in their work. Gratitude diaries encouraged leaders to balance negative and positive aspects of work, broadening their perspective and influencing their leadership tasks. Gratitude letters, on the other hand, led to actions of expressing gratitude and prosocial behaviors toward staff, students, and parents. These actions were more likely to reciprocate gratitude from others.
Writing down goals
This article emphasizes the importance of writing down your goals to achieve them effectively. It discusses a study by Dr. Gail Matthews, which found that individuals who wrote down their goals were 42% more likely to achieve them compared to those who didn't. The article stresses the importance of taking consistent action and maintaining focus on your top priority. It highlights that writing down your goals and reviewing them daily helps you stay clear and specific about what you want to achieve in a world filled with distractions.
This study provides empirical evidence for the effectiveness of three coaching tools: accountability, commitment, and writing down one's goals. It underscores the importance of scientific research to support coaching practices. While the study confirmed that writing down goals enhances goal achievement, it was conducted at Dominican University and not at Harvard or Yale, debunking the urban myth surrounding the latter institutions.
Evening Reflection was inspired Alex Banyan.
This article discusses a 30-day journaling challenge inspired by Alex Banayan's practice. The challenge involves answering three questions every day for 30 days, and it emphasizes the importance of consistency. The three questions are:
- What filled me with enthusiasm today?
- What drained me of energy today?
- What did I learn about myself today?
The rules of the challenge include writing your answers with pen and paper, not skipping a day (restarting if you do), and keeping your journal in a visible place to remind you to journal daily.
The process can lead to valuable insights and self-discovery, as it helps identify patterns related to what brings enthusiasm, what drains energy, and what is learned about oneself during the 30-day period. The article also suggests exploring an online class on journaling for self-reflection and provides additional journaling prompts for those interested in delving deeper into this practice.
Quote from Atomic Habits by James Clear.
Quote from Albert Einstein.
Quote from Michael Jordan.
Michael Jordan also shared this quote in a 1997 Nike Commercial.