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  • Let me tell you a story.

  • So it's a story about a strategy and approach philosophyone that I've been thinking

  • a lot about.

  • And it starts with a guy, that maybe you haven't heard of.

  • His name is Dave Brailsford.

  • And to set the stage for this, I want to tell you a little bit about British Cycling.

  • So about 15 years ago, early 2000s, British Cycling hires this guy named Dave Brailsford.

  • And at that point, last like 100 years, British Cycling had been incredibly mediocre.

  • They had won a single gold medal back in 1908.

  • They had never won the Tour de France, which is the premium race in cycling, the premier

  • race.

  • And so they hired this guy named Dave Brailsford to change that.

  • And in fact at the time, they were so mediocre that when they went to buy a new set of bikes,

  • they're getting like 200 from a top manufacturer in Europe, they actually weren't even given

  • quotes from the manufacturer because they didn't want other teams to see the British

  • riders using their gear, for fear that it would hurt sales.

  • And so they brought Brailsford in, and they said: “What's your plan for changing this?”

  • He said: “Well, I believe in this philosophy that I call the aggregation of marginal gains.”

  • The way that he described it is the 1% improvement and nearly everything that you do.

  • So they started with a bunch of things you would expect the cycling team to start with.

  • So for example, they put slightly lighter tires on the bike.

  • They got a more ergonomic seat for the riders to sit on.

  • They had their outdoor riders wear indoor racing suits because they were lighter and

  • more aerodynamic.

  • They had each rider wear a biofeedback sensor so they could see how they would respond to

  • training and then adjust it appropriately for the person.

  • But then they did a bunch of things you wouldn't expect a cycling team to do.

  • So they split tested different types of massage gels to see which one led to the best type

  • of muscle recovery.

  • They taught each rider how to wash their hands to reduce the risk of infections, they wouldn't

  • get a cold after and get sick.

  • They also figured out the type of pillow that led to the best night's sleep for each rider

  • and then brought that on the road with them to hotels when they were competing.

  • And Brailsford said if we can actually do this right, if we can execute all these little

  • 1% improvements, then I think we can win a Tour de France within 5 years.

  • He ended up being wrong.

  • They won in two years and then they repeated again the third year with a different rider.

  • And then after one year break they won two more; so they've won four out of last five

  • now, have gone to British cyclists.

  • But it was at the Olympics in London in 2012 and this kind of strategy really came to a

  • fruition.

  • They won 70% of the gold medals available.

  • And so this idea that small improvements, tiny habits, little choices are not just a

  • cherry on top of our performance, not just like a nice thing to have but actually can

  • be the key that unlocks significant success.

  • That's an idea that I want us to carry with us as we go through the rest of this presentation.

  • And one way to think about it is just kind of basic math, like if you just look at the

  • numbers.

  • If you were able to improve by 1% each day for an entire year and those gains compound,

  • you would end up 37 times better at the end of the year.

  • And if you were to get 1% worse, you would little yourself almost all the way down to

  • zero.

  • And what's interesting here is that everybody wants a transformation, right?

  • Everybody wants a radical improvement, want rapid success.

  • But we fail to realize that small habits and little choices are transforming us every day

  • already.

  • That these times when you make a choice is slightly better, slightly worse, a little

  • mistake or a small error, 1% better or 1% worse that these things compound over time.

  • And habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.

  • And so if you can learn to master those, then you can make time work for you rather than

  • get against you, right?

  • Good habits make time your ally.

  • Bad habits make time your enemy.

  • And so throughout the rest of this presentation I want to talk about how we can do that.

  • Today I'm going to teach you how to build the habits that you need to get the results

  • that you want.

  • And in order to do this, I'm going to take you through a framework for building better

  • habits.

  • And I'm also going to share a personal example of how I use this.

  • So my writing habit.

  • If you don't know I write at Jamesclear.com, write about how to build better habits, improve

  • performance and generally live better.

  • Over a million people visit the site each month.

  • There's over 400,000 subscribers on the weekly email newsletter.

  • And it all came out of the simple writing habit.

  • So for the rest of this talk, there are four stages of habit formation.

  • I'm going to take you through each of those four.

  • All right.

  • So the four stages are: Noticing; Wanting; Doing; and Liking.

  • Noticing; Wanting; Doing; and Liking.

  • You cannot perform a habit or take an action if you do not notice something.

  • I need to see a coffee cup sitting on the side in order to pick it up first.

  • But if it's not in my realm of knowledge, if I don't know it exists I can't do anything

  • about it.

  • But then I need to want it.

  • I need to want to drink coffee and pick it up.

  • If I don't desire it or crave it, then I will not take the action.

  • Then there's doing.

  • You actually do the habit.

  • And then I need to enjoy the reward.

  • You need to enjoy drinking the coffee to repeat it again.

  • So noticing; wanting; doing and liking.

  • Let's talk about each one, and as we do this, I'm going to give you a little bit of research

  • about why it works.

  • I'm going to give you practical action steps, at least one for each that you can use to

  • implement in your life.

  • NOTICING So one of my favorite things about noticing,

  • one of my favorite strategies for discussing it, it's called Implementation Intentions.

  • And there are hundreds of studies on this, over 100 studies on implementation intentions,

  • if you feel like digging out and getting into the research.

  • But if not, I'll just give you the simple version here.

  • So one of my favorite studies is about exercise.

  • And they had three cohorts in this study.

  • So they had first cohort, they said I just want you to track how often you workout over

  • the next few weeks, right?

  • So that's the standard cohort, the control group.

  • Second group is that we want to track often your exercise, we're also going to give you

  • a motivational speech, presentation, talk about the benefits of heart health, why habits

  • are good for you, so on.

  • So this is the motivated group, all right.

  • The third group; they got the same presentation, so they are equally motivated and then they

  • did one thing differently.

  • And that one thing was they filled out this sentence.

  • They said: during the next week, I will for taking all these 20 minutes of vigorous exercise

  • on this day at this time in this place, right?

  • They specifically stated their intention to implement the behavior.

  • So implementation intention.

  • Here's what happened.

  • First group, one out of three of them worked out.

  • Second group: motivation did nothing.

  • As soon as they left the researcher's facility the next day they were motivated.

  • It's like reading a book or watching a YouTube or listening to a motivational speaker and

  • then you forget all about it 20 minutes later.

  • But the third groupthe group that has specific plan for how they were going to implement

  • the behavior, nine out of ten of them worked out.

  • So you can increase your odds of success 2x to 3x just by having a specific plan.

  • And this is the insight: many people think that they lack motivation, when what they

  • really lack is clarity.

  • They think that they need to get more motivated that they need willpower in order to execute

  • on a habit.

  • If I just felt like writing, if I just felt like meditating, if I felt like working out,

  • then I would do it.

  • But in fact, they don't have a plan for it, so they wake up each day thinking I wonder

  • if I'll feel motivated to write today, wonder if I'll feel motivated to workout today.

  • But instead you can take the decision-making out of it by explicitly stating when, where,

  • and how you want to implement the habit.

  • So here's how I did this with my writing habit.

  • I decided that on November 12, 2012 which was a Monday if you check, that was going

  • to be the first day that I published an article.

  • And I was going to publish every Monday and every Thursday.

  • That was my implementation intention.

  • That was my specific plan.

  • Didn't matter how good or how bad it was; it didn't matter how long or how short it

  • was.

  • It didn't matter how I felt about it.

  • If all I could do was write three good sentences that day, then that was getting published.

  • But I did that, and I did it for three years.

  • And that was how the site grew.

  • It was just that core habit that drove the growth.

  • So you need to give your goals a time and a place to live in the world, right?

  • Give them space on your calendar.

  • Now it sounds easy to say let's just start a plan, let's write down exactly what you

  • should do and then maybe you'll follow through on it.

  • But of course, we all know that there are challenges that arise.

  • It's not quite that easy.

  • Failure Pre-Mortem So here's a little strategy that I like to

  • use to make sure you can come up with a better plan of action.

  • And it's called the Failure Pre-Mortem.

  • So the way that it works is you think about the habit, the project, the goal, whatever

  • the most important thing is that you want to work on.

  • And I want you to imagine fast forward six months from now and you fail, and then tell

  • the story of why you failed, what happened, what challenges did you encounter?

  • What was that took you off course?

  • When I do this with businesses, sometimes we call the kill the company exercise.

  • So everybody sits around, thinks about ways to kill the company in the next six months.

  • And once you have all that stuff laid out on the table in front of you, you can start

  • to make better choices about how to develop a plan.

  • You can start to have if-then plans.

  • So not only do I want to exercise for 20 minutes on Monday at 5:00 p.m. but also if I do not

  • exercise because I have to take my kid to practice or whatever, then Tuesday morning

  • at 7:00 a.m.

  • I would go in, right?

  • You can have ways to adjust for these challenges.

  • So core point about noticing is it's hard to change something if you're not aware of

  • it.

  • And one way to become more aware of the opportunity to take action is to have a specific plan

  • for what is going to happen.

  • All right.

  • STAGE 2: WANTING One of the most overlooked drivers of habits

  • and human behavior is our physical environment.

  • So let me tell you a quick story.

  • This comes from Harvard.

  • So these researchers at Harvard went to Massachusetts General Hospital and they had a very interesting

  • question.

  • They wondered if they could change people's behavior without talking to them at all, without

  • giving them anything to do, without trying to motivate them, but how can we shift their

  • behavior without asking them to do anything?

  • So theythis is a drawing of the cafeteria at the hospital.

  • This is drawn to scale.

  • So the shaded pink boxes are areas where there are refrigerators that have soda in them.

  • The two black boxes on the side are water, all right, refrigerators, water and then all

  • the other tables are food in the cafeteria.

  • Now they made a few little changes.

  • They turned the pink boxes into ones that also had water.

  • Okay, so they just addedbut these refrigerators still have soda available; they just added

  • water to it.

  • And then they had a bunch of little rolling carts and they put those around the cafeteria

  • too, so you can switch back and forth and see that, they just added a couple things.

  • Now what happened?

  • They didn't talk to anybody; didn't do anything.

  • But over the next six months, people drank 25% more water and 11% less soda.

  • And it's interesting because if you went up and talked to anybody sitting there and you

  • asked them why are you drinking this, everybody would have a reason.

  • They'd say, well I felt like drinking soda, I felt like drinking water.

  • But in fact, many of them chose to drink it simply because they were presented with it.

  • And this is an interesting insight about our desires.

  • Your environment often influences them.

  • We want things, simply because they are an option, right, simply because they are in

  • front of us at the time.

  • You walk into any living room in America, where do all the couches and chairs face?

  • They all look at the TVs, like what does that room design to get you to do?

  • We wonder why we sit and watch so much TV, it's because our desires are shaped in that

  • way.

  • So thankfully, you don't have to be the victim of your environment; you can also be the architect

  • of it.

  • You can decide to design something to make your good behaviors easier and your bad behaviors

  • harder.

  • So when it comes to habits you want to practice your guitar more frequently, put it right

  • in the middle of your living room, so you run across all the time.

  • You want to read more?

  • When you make your bed in the morning, take the book you want to read; put it on top of

  • the pillow.

  • When you come back that night, pick it up, read a few pages, go to sleep.

  • For me, I used to buy apples all the time and then I would put them in the crisper at

  • the bottom of the fridge and they would sit there for three weeks and go bad.

  • And I finally open it up and see them again, you get mad.

  • And then eventually I bought a bowl and put it right in the middle of the counter.

  • And so then when I buy apples I put them there, I see them every day.

  • And now I eat them all the time.

  • Many of our desires are simply shaped because we have an environment that shapes us in that

  • way.

  • So the moral of the story is I've never seen someone stick to positive habits in a consistent

  • fashion in a negative environment.