Elastic Habits

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In How to Change, Dr. Katy Milkman tells us:

“The study we ran involved more than twenty-five hundred Googlers at offices all around the United States. We measured participants’ attendance at on-site gyms during a monthlong period when we were fiddling with their incentives, and for roughly forty weeks thereafter. Our study’s design allowed us to compare people we had randomly assigned to behave like Routine Rachels (people who consistently worked out at the same time of day) with people we’d encouraged to act like Flexible Fernandos (exercising the same number of times per week as the Rachels, but on a less consistent schedule). When the data came back, we were fairly certain that we would see evidence supporting the power of a strict, regular routine. So we were startled to learn that we had things all wrong. I think this is one of the most important discoveries I’ve made in my research career. Yes, forming stable routines is key to habit formation. But if we want to form the ‘stickiest’ possible habits, we also need to learn how to roll with the punches, so we can be flexible when life throws us a curve ball. Too much rigidity is the enemy of a good habit.

Undoubtedly, being a Flexible Fernando for some things can be helpful. Sometimes, you have to roll with the punches.

I can’t make it to the gym. Good. I will do burpees, pushups, and planks and still hit my exercise target.

I can’t meditate today at 7:00 a.m. Good. I still have 12 other hours to crush it.

Elastic Habits
Episode 27