Have you ever wanted to change something about yourself, or your life?
Of course. We all have.
In fact, we’ve explicitly asked you to consider that throughout this course.
As we saw in the previous section, in the course of trying to change, you’ve probably heard “helpful advice” like:
Oh it’s simple, just do XYZ.
(E.g., do this diet, use this organization system, stop making excuses, etc.)
This happened because you’re X kind of person.
(E.g., a Virgo, a Questioner, “not motivated enough”, etc.)
The truth is:
- People aren’t simple machines or “personality types”.
- Behavior isn’t simple cause and effect.
- Change isn’t simply “doing something different”.
People are messy and complex.
They have messy, complex lives in messy, complex situations and societies.
They have mixed feelings about change. They often do things that seem confusing or contradictory. They act impulsively and “illogically”. (Although, as we’ll see, there’s always some kind of logic and purpose.)
They’re responding to many competing forces and pressures — both from inside their own brains and bodies, and from what’s outside of and around them. As we’ll see in upcoming sections, this ambivalence is natural and normal.
Most behaviors are messy and complex too.
For example, think about a basic choice:
What do I eat for lunch?
Now your brain has to consider:
- The physiological signals of appetite and hunger, and whether you even want or need food in the first place.
- Your daily routines and schedule, and whether it’s “the right time” for lunch.
- Your food preferences and tolerance, e.g., Do you like sandwiches? Are you gluten intolerant so bread is a no-go? etc.
- What’s available, e.g., Do you have to make something from scratch? Are you at a restaurant? Can you even afford to eat lunch? etc.
- Who’s around you, e.g., Are you eating with coworkers, friends, or family? What are they doing?
- Social and cultural norms around eating lunch, e.g., Is it Ramadan? Is it normal to skip lunch or eat at your desk in your workplace? Or are you in rural Spain where everyone takes two hours to have a leisurely lunch?
And so on.
Change often requires a lot of effort.
We’re well-equipped to learn and change throughout our lives. Yet brains still prefer what’s familiar and comfortable. Creating new pathways usually takes effort.
However, the good news is that we can make that effort easier and smoother if:
- we use brains’ natural tendencies towards exploration, play, and resilience;
- we go towards what’s already working well;
- we deliberately use feedback loops to help us see our progress; and
- we support that change with our relationships and environment.
So let’s go beyond “helpful advice” and “simple hacks” and “1 weird trick”, and make some real change in real people’s lives.