Carl Richards on how to change behaviour

I subscribe to the Sketch Guy from the New York Times because these little thought nuggets give me pause. Also, because his tagline is “where the complex gets made simple” and I found that promise irresistible.

Here is a recent offering from Carl Richards., author of The Behaviour Gap.

behaviour gap on change

Let’s have a little chat about change.

Personal change.

The gap between what we really want to do, and what we are actually doing, has been a source of endless fascination for me. As a result, I spend a crazy amount of time researching how humans change.

I think I’ve been doing this “change” thing all wrong!

The first thing I’ve always done when I want to change something is grit my teeth and focus on the action I want to change. I’ve had mixed results over the years, but this approach often leaves me tired and frustrated.

The last few years, I’ve been trying something different.

Instead of focusing on the action and relying on willpower to change it, I’ve started looking upstream from the action and noticing how I feel before I act.

I *think* our actions are a result of our feelings. If we have habitual actions, it is because we have habitual feelings.

If we keep going upstream to the headwaters of our feelings, we find our thinking. It’s our thoughts that generate our feelings. In fact, I’ve heard it said that we live in the feeling of our thinking (source unknown, but not me).

Let me repeat: we live, in the feeling, of our thinking.

If we want to change a habit, we have to change the way we respond to our thoughts. Notice I didn’t say we have to change our thoughts, rather we have to change the way we respond to our thinking.

I find it helpful to view my thinking like I view the weather. It changes often, and no amount of focus or willpower on my part can make it change. Instead of trying to change it I simply sit in the understanding that it will pass. As a result, I don’t have to take it so seriously.

If we don’t take our thoughts too seriously over time we start to see them for what they are…mostly just passing thoughts that mean absolutely nothing.

One impossible experiment is to imagine you recorded every single thought you had in a day.

How many would there be?

Why do you take some of them seriously and dismiss others as passing thoughts?

Why do we pay attention (interesting language for sure!) to some thoughts and don’t even notice others?

Hopefully, that leaves you with something to think about.


(You can subscribe at the link, if this is your kind of thing:

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