- Habit Examples
- 🚗 Avoiding habits doesn’t work. Here’s why.
🚗 Avoiding habits doesn’t work. Here’s why.
The white polar bears and red Volkswagons in your brain
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⚡️ Estimated read time: 2 minutes 58 seconds.
Whatever you do, do NOT think about a white bear throughout this entire Habit Example.
On that note, do your New Years’ resolutions pass the corpse test?
A corpse is really good at NOT doing things.
I mean, it’s dead… sooo… 🤷♂️
So if you set a goal or started a new habit based on the idea of NOT doing something…
…knowing that human nature is flawed…
…you would be likely to LOSE in a competition with a corpse on that habit.
A no-longer-living human would be better at doing your goal than you would!
This idea came from Jared Warren, my positive psychology professor from college.
He taught that the best kind of habits to build are proactive ones - not retractive ones.
In other words, that they’re focused on doing something versus avoiding doing something.
Think for a second - let’s say you succeed in NOT doing the thing.
Now what? What’s replacing the time you used to spend doing the thing you stopped?
And the absence of a bad habit is not the same as the presence of a better one.
They say “idleness is the devil’s workshop”.
So if you succeed in avoiding doing the thing, what will your mind and body default to in your extra time or brain space?
Back in 1987, Daniel Wegner conducted 2 experiments to better understand how the brain reacts to avoiding something.
He asked partipants of his study to not think of a white bear.
Another group was asked to think of a white bear.
All of them were asked to ring a bell every time they thought of the white bear.
And you know who thought of the white bear more than anyone else?
Yeah - the group who was told NOT to!
Scientists call this ironic process theory.
I just call it hilarious.
An obsession with removing the bad is far less effective than an obession with inserting the good in your life.
As you strive for good things, the bad seems to go away on it’s own in most cases. (except maybe serious addictions or mental illness)
But when you simply exert yourself in not doing something bad, you’re more than likely fail at it, drive yourself crazy in the process, and may even make it worse.
The only case in Wegner’s experiment that produced a different result was when a third group who was instructed to not think about a white bear, was also suggested to think about a red Volkswagon.
It worked - they thought about the bear less!
Again, even more evidence that giving yourself something good to focus on is way more effective than avoiding something bad.
Even something like managing my weight and physical health, which is something most people often associate with long lists of things the won’t do, I choose instead to pick a simple proactive habit I can choose to do.
Instead of thinking “I’m going to avoid overeating”, I gave myself the one-plate challenge.
The sooner you can relax, let go of the pressure of avoiding your bad habits, and obsess about creating good habits, the easier it will all be.
For you, and the polar bears.
Take a few moments to consider how the results of Wegner’s study impact you.
Are there any New Years’ resolutions you’ve made that simply need to be reframed or rephrased in order to emphasize the good your focusing on versus the bad you’re avoiding?
Double check that it passes the corpse test. Remember, corpses are perfect at avoiding things. Only you have the power to be proactive!
Also consider any more significant shifts you may want to make in your resolutions - potentially removing some that don’t reframe well into proactive habits, and pick different positive goals and habits to work toward.
Wondering why the email came so late today?
We blew a tire on the freeway today and it completely threw a wrench in my day.
Specifically the part where I couldn’t find the lug nut wrench I needed.
It’s been a doozy of a day.
But nothing could stop me from telling you about this insane mega-giveaway I’ve been putting together.
Happy New Year!
P.S. This took 5 hours to research, write, and design. It only takes you 5 seconds to share.
What did you think of today’s habit example?