Two ways to change behaviour

Daniel Kanheman says that the most effective way to engineer behavioural change is to make the intended behaviour easier to execute. This is achieved most effectively by modifying our environment rather than relying will-power or moral conviction.

What this means is to keep the chips and chocolates out of reach, and fruits handy. To sleep in running clothes. To keep the phone on airplane mode before doing anything focused. And to actively under-estimate our will-power.

The reason this is true is because our minds are lazy, and it takes a lot of effort to exercise will-power. Will-power exerts a cognitive load that our minds actively resist, more so when we are already tired.

But driving behavioural change can happen in another way.

Right now, the smartest brains in Silicon Valley are studying Kanheman’s work to use blinking notification lights to grab attention. To hit us sporadically with dopamine so that we keep coming back for more. To short-circuit our decision making process, so that there is more ad-revenue for their employers.

Two can play at this game. Every now and then, it pays to ask ourselves which game we are playing.

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