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How To Make a Stranger Thing Smile

 How To Make a Stranger Thing Smile

 I'm sure you've experienced this phenomenonbefore. It was late in the evening, and somethingclicked in your head. You might have had a breakdown or you mighthave had an epiphany. Either way, you had this realization thatyou needed to make some sort of a change in your life. 

Suddenly you knew what you needed to do, andyou even had the motivation to do it. You realized that you should learn a new tangibleskill. You became aware that you needed to startexercising more often. And you even made the decision that you wouldstop being late to appointments, and that you were going to complete projects on time. But since it was late and you had to go tobed, you told yourself you were going to start this new journey, tomorrow.

 However, when you woke up the next morning,you didn't wake up as the new person you felt like you were the night before. You woke up as the same old you, with no motivationto make the changes you planned to make. And in the following days and weeks, no additionalexercise was done, there was no progress in your learning, and you still didn't get thingsdone on time. You have again, fallen back into your setways, and failed to do what you said you were going to do. But don't worry. You're not alone in this. People set intentions and fail at them allthe time. 

New Year's resolutionists

Just look at New Year's resolutionists. And I'm no exception here. I don't manage to do everything I tell myselfI'm going to do, either. But I have found a way to substantially increasemy odds of following through on my desired behavior. Instead of relying on motivation, which comesand goes, I started applying what psychologists call: Implementation intentions. Back in 2002, the British Journal of HealthPsychology published an interesting research paper. In this study, they took 248 participantsand randomly assigned them into 3 different groups. The first group was the control group. They were only asked to track how often theyexercised over the next two weeks. The second group was also told to track theirexercise, but in addition they were given a motivational message, along with pamphletson heart health and why exercise is beneficial. 

That was the motivated group. The third group was given the same motivationalmessage as the second group, but they were also told to do one thing differently. And that was to write down, when, where andhow they were going to exercise. The results were quite insightful. In the first group, 38% of participants exercisedat least once per week. In the second group, 35% of them exercised. It appears that the provided motivation basicallyhad no effect on their actions. It was as if it washed off as soon as theyleft the research facility. But in the third group, the group that was asked to be specificabout when, where and how they were going to exercise, 91% of the participants managedto work out over the two week period. What the third group did differently was theyused implementation intentions. Also known as "if-then" plan. Normally when we have a goal, we think aboutit this way: "I want to achieve X." For example: "I want to exercise 3 times perweek."

implementation intention

 The implementation intention is just a smalladjustment to this. It transforms into: "If situation Y happens, then I will do X". So for example: "If it's 5pm on a Monday,Wednesday or Friday, then I'll drive to the gym and work out for 1 hour." The objective stays exactly the same. The goal is still to exercise 3 times perweek, but notice how it got a lot more practical. And that's the basic idea behind implementationintentions. It takes just a few minutes to write down,but it increases your chances of doing what you want to do, exponentially. And the reason why it's so effective is, becauseyou take out all the guess work in advance. When we're not completely sure how to do something,or when to do it, we tend to lean towards the easier option, which is usually simplynot to do it. Let's say you come home from an exhaustingday at work. But you promised yourself you were going toexercise more. Now you have two options, go to the gym orwatch some TV shows. Since you didn't specify when you were actuallygoing to go to the gym, you tell yourself you're going to do it tomorrow, or some othertime when it's more convenient. Therefore you go for the easier option, whichis to watch TV. The gym workout gets skipped yet again, andthis sort of rationalization is used to postpone behaviors indefinitely. But when you commit in advance, to when, howand where you're going to do it, then you start leaning towards the behavior you committedto. So if it's 5pm on a Monday, then you're goingto the gym. You're not left wondering if you should exercisethat day. You've already committed to it. And if it's 7pm on a Tuesday, you're alsonot wondering if now is a convenient time to go. You've already determined that you don't exerciseat that day and time. This way of doing things has been proven tobe extremely effective, in over 100 different studies. So it's pretty conclusive. If you want to do something, you should useimplementation intentions. But what will increase your chances even further,is incorporating coping plans. Coping plans are a specific strategy you follow,whenever you encounter an obstacle.

 They act as a plan B. They also follow almostthe exact same pattern, and they look like this: "If obstacle Y occurs, then I will doX to overcome it." This forces you to think about the potentialdifficulties you'll eventually have to face. And when they do occur, you're ready for them. Let's go back to our exercise example. It's 5pm on a Monday and your implementationintention says you need to go to the gym. However, your boss asked you to work overtimetill 6pm today. Your implementation intention has just encounteredan obstacle and you can't follow through on it. But because you were smart, and you anticipatedpotential overtime in advance, you already had a plan B ready. Here's the two coping plans you came up with,for this exact situation: "If I have to work till 6pm, then I'll go to the gym at 6:30pm." But, "If I have to work past 6:30 pm, thenI'll go to the gym the next day." Again, you're not left wondering if you shouldgo to the gym, if you should skip it altogether, or if you should go some other day. You've already figured it out in advance. So in this case, you know that today you'regoing to the gym at 6:30. Simple and straightforward. Just to show you how powerful coping plansactually are, let me introduce you to another research paper. Participants of this study were all patientswith heart problems. 

physical exercise

They were just finishing up their rehab, duringwhich they were doing regular physical exercise, as part of the treatment. But after their rehab was over, the researchersdecided to split the participants into three groups. Each group was given different instructionson how to proceed with their exercise. This graph shows us how many minutes per week,participants from each group spent cycling during the rehab. Note that these numbers arefrom before they were divided into three groups. So during the rehab all participants exercisedfor roughly the same amount. Now this is what their numbers looked like,two months after they were given their instructions. The first group was the control group andwas just tracking their exercise after rehab. The second group was tracking their exercise,but they also used implementation intentions. The third group used implementation intentions,but were also told to think about which obstacles could interfere with their exercise plan. They had to come up with an answer on howto successfully cope and deal with such problems. Basically they created coping plans. This clearly shows us that mere motivationisn't enough for us to take action. Remember, all participants were motivatedand had a compelling reason to exercise. 

They all wanted to be healthier, due to theirproblems. But ultimately it was the implementation intentionsand coping plans, that made them follow through. Sure, motivation can make things easier. But if you always wait for motivation to strike,whenever you decide to do something, then you probably won't get as much done. There will be days when you're tired, yourback hurts, you're not in the mood, etc. These kind of days are normal and you shouldn'tbeat yourself up if you can't push through. However, when you don't do something you tellyourself you're going to do, you end up feeling guilty. And this guilt then ruins other parts of yourday, such as leisure time. Let's say that you should be studying foran exam, but you're not in the mood, so you go watch a Netflix series instead. What will probably end up happening is, you'renot going to enjoy watching it as much as you normally would. Instead, your conscience will begin eatingyou up, for not doing what you should be doing. So to avoid beating yourself mentally, simplydo the thing you said you were going to do. Just in a smaller amount. So for example, yourcoping plan might be: "If I'm not in the mood to study, then I'll only try to learn 1 page." Or, "If I'm too tired to study, then I'll only read through the notes." I know that it might sound pointless to evenbegin something if you're not going to go all in. But there are two good reasons for why thisis effective. Firstly: We overcome the initial obstacleof starting. It is much harder to begin something, thanit is to continue doing it. I use this exact tactic to practice my piano, when I don'tfeel like practicing. I simply tell myself I'm going to play 1 piecethat I already know. And often it transitions into full on practice. After all, I'm sitting at the piano, and I'malready playing it, so it's easy to continue. Secondly: Even if you only go through yournotes, or only practice for 5 minutes, you've still done more than you otherwise would. Doing a little bit of something, is stillbetter than doing nothing. And perhaps more importantly, you've followedyour coping plan successfully. There is no guilt, even if you decide to watcha TV series afterwards. In a perfect world, we would all do, whatwe tell ourselves we're going to do. But sadly that's simply not how it is. However, I hope you now have a better ideaon how to actually make it easier for yourself, to do the things you want to do. Life will throw obstacles your way, no matterwhat. But are you going to wait for motivation tostrike, before you try to overcome them? Or are you going to incorporate implementationintentions, along with coping plans? Don't be like most people who throw in thetowel, just because there's a hurdle on their path. Be a part of the group that actually doeswhat they set out to do, in a smart way. Now if you're looking for something worthwhileto spend your time on, then I highly recommend you check out Skillshare. If you're not familiar, Skillshare is an onlinelearning platform for people looking to get ahead in life. It's kinda like Netflix, but it's specificallydesigned for learning. So if you're a lifelong learner, like me,then Skillshare is the right place for you. It can help you develop a new skill, or furtherimprove an existing one. 

They offer thousands of classes on entrepreneurship,productivity and creative endeavours, for just about anyone, on any level. One of the classes I suggest you check out,is from Michael Karnjanaprakorn, where he teaches how to plan for, and create your veryown ideal week. Now if you don't feel like watching the wholeclass in one go, you can always use a coping plan to help you get through. So for example: "if you're feeling lazy, thenjust watch the first two lessons." You can access Skillshare's constantly growinglibrary with an annual subscription that costs less than $10 per month. And because Skillshare is sponsoring thisvideo, the first 1000 people who click the link down below, will receive 2 months ofSkillshare's premium membership for free. So join me and thousands of others on Skillsharetoday. As always, thanks for watching, and I hopethis video helped you become better than yesterday. 


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