Change is hard. We all want to do more of something we determine to be a good habit and less of something we consider to be a bad habit. More time focusing on a project, less time distracted by email, for instance.
Willpower alone is not enough
Self-control is a notoriously scarce resource, however. So depending on willpower alone is usually not a good strategy. We can’t simply intellectualize that we want to change and then do it. Not consistently, and not over a long period of time. That’s why diets tend to not work. The challenge is not as much an intellectual endeavor as we might think.
Once we decide to change, we need to rebuild habits, which turns out to not be so easy.
Make the good easier, the bad harder
One way to change is to reshape our environment, even (and maybe especially) in small ways. Putting that candy in a jar with a lid in the back of the cabinet makes it a little bit harder to get. Placing fresh fruit in a bowl on the middle of the table makes it more noticeable and easier to get. Surprisingly, you may find that that small adjustment is enough to influence your choices over time.
The same is true at work. Forwarding your phone to voicemail and shutting off your email program while working on a project make it less likely you’ll be distracted by intrusions and more likely that you can focus on the task at hand. Changing your web browser default home page from a news site to an internal page that needs regular attention can help keep your attention focused where you want it to be focused.
Whatever the desired change, put the preferred behavior on the path of least resistance and move the behavior to be minimized or eliminated decidedly off of the path of least resistance. Reshaping the path, even in small ways, can help make small changes easier. And small changes will lead to big changes. And new habits.
Photo credit: Steve h