About nine months ago, I had a Eat and pray for love interval. I’ve sold houses, cars, and anything that doesn’t fit in a suitcase, no matter how big. Grateful for the flexibility to work remotely, I traveled the country, with little purpose to guide my journey beyond the question: How to change my life for the better.
Over the past two years, quarantines and the rise and fall of the pandemic’s severity have swallowed our lives. While this has resulted in countless positive changes (connecting to what really matters and learning to slow down), many of us have felt stuck or like we’re not reaching our goals. his spending. Honestly, looking back at my life late last summer, I realized that I was at a dead end. Yes, I feel comfortable, even happy and fulfilled. But I did not inspired—And I have always been inclined to question and follow my curiosity that has driven me forward.
If you’re hungry for a change, want to form new habits, and are looking to create space in your life to grow, you’re in good company. While consistent habits, rituals, and practices keep us grounded, change is not only inevitable — it’s transformative. And the good news: It’s within reach.
Featured image of Michelle Nash.
How to change your habits — and your life — for the better
Katy Milkman, an award-winning Wharton Professor and host of the Choiceology podcast, knows a thing or two about change. In fact, she wrote the book on it. In How to change, she sets out the framework for overcoming and achieving the success you’re after. Below, she shares everything from how to navigate procrastination like a pro, to creating a positive path forward — and yes, harnessing laziness for good.
What can we do when we feel lost or aimless in life?
Before the organizational psychologist, Adam Grant’s, New York Times The article went viral in 2021, although a concept is still not part of the general dictionary. But without knowing the exact meaning of the word, many of us must have felt it already. If you feel a lack of purpose or direction, Milkman offers four steps to moving the needle forward.
- Connect with your community. Spend quality, purposeful time with the people you care about.
- Move your body. Take a moment to reflect and find a form of exercise that you enjoy. Remember: The best exercise is the one you’re looking forward to doing (yes, absolutely possible).
- Contribute. Find a way to give back to others. Research shows that behaviors such as altruism, empathy, and compassion not only support social growth, but can also promote individual happiness.
- Spend time in nature. Forest bathing is there for a reason.
Milkman adds, “Some people should also definitely consider whether they might benefit from talking to a mental health professional.” If you’re looking for a place to start, check out our guide to everything you need to know about finding a therapist.
What are the most common changes people want to make?
Ah, New Year’s resolutions. Thankfully, we’ve come to a point where, in general, we’ve begun to understand (and accept) the inefficiencies of solutions. However, looking at the most common solutions can provide insight into the goals and aspects of our lives that we most often want to change. Milkman lists the following.
- Increase exercise
- Improved weight control
- More organized
- Increase productivity
- Learn new skills
- Quitting smoking
- Save more or spend less money
- Spend more time with family and friends
When it comes to making positive change in our lives, what mistakes do we often make?
Have you ever been convinced that a clickbait-y book, podcast or article will provide a quick fix to your problems? It’s tempting to believe that a life attack could be broadly applicable to any and all situations, but Milkman says it’s a common mistake that can lead us astray on the path to change. change your own. “For example, someone might rely on the power of positive thinking or set big, bold goals.”
While these strategies can help in certain situations and apply to some contexts, they won’t work for everyone. Milkman notes that jumping right to a solution skips the important step of asking yourself: What are the obstacles to success?? “To choose the right evidence-based path to achieving real change requires some insight into what barriers will change,” she stresses.
The second most common mistake is one we’ve tackled before: thinking willpower is the answer. (Milkman’s mind drifted to Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ tagline…attractive, yes, but also misleading.) Instead of focusing on results, Milkman says direct your attention on process. “Find a way to make” follow of the goal feels easier than the challenge brings huge benefits. “Want to exercise more regularly? Make it fun or a workout you love.
When we form new habits, we often think we have to stick to them. Is this correct, or is there another way?
It’s a difficulty are not from Milkman, who called this approach a recipe for failure. “It leaves us vulnerable to what has been dubbed the ‘evil effect.'”
“Persevering in the face of setbacks is crucial to change.”
Milkman cites the work of her Wharton colleague, Marissa Sharif, whose research looks at the effectiveness of creating a tough goal for yourself and allowing a few ’emergencies’ to be worked out each week. if things don’t go as planned. If you’re below your emergency budget, you’re still on track for success.
How can we navigate the obstacles that try to keep us stuck?
Impulsivity and procrastination can be some of the biggest things that hold us back from forming positive and healthy habits. To combat this, Milkman suggested creating a commitment device. This looks like:
- Identify who will hold you accountable.
- Connect with resources like stickK and beeminder for goal setting.
- Choose something you’re willing to give up, like cash.
- If you don’t meet the deadline, donate your cash to charity.
With incentives in place, studies have proven that you’re less likely to procrastinate and more likely to succeed.
Practice temptation (the concept of connecting the pleasure you crave with something you want to do more of) can also be an effective way to manage your procrastination. “When you have a reason to look forward to an errand, it’s no longer an uphill battle,” says Milkman. A good example? Combine an evening spent cooking up a delicious meal with a bottle of your favorite wine or have a podcast on in the background.
In your book, How to change, you think being lazy can be a good thing. Why?
Milkman notes that it all depends on efficiency, which can mean laziness. It takes a bit of self-reflection, but by recognizing this tendency in yourself, “you can turn it to your advantage.”
For example, if you stock your pantry with just healthy snacks, Milkman says that by establishing that foundation, laziness will automatically work in your favor. If it’s a custard tart you crave, the effort to go out and buy one will likely deter the temptation.
This minimal path design could work for you in a multitude of ways, depending on your goals. “For example, if your browser’s homepage is set to a reputable news site instead of social media, this can help you get more out of your time online.”
How do you manage when you can’t make a healthy, positive change?
Carol Dweck (famous in the field of mind research) sheds some light on the concept of cognitive failure when it comes to learning how to change your habits for the better. In essence, the difference between what she calls a “fixed mindset” versus a “growth mindset” is that the latter sees failure as an opportunity to learn, grow, and improve. The more we can do this, says Milkman, “the more likely we are to switch to a new and better strategy. Persistence in the face of setbacks is crucial to change.”