What’s an easy trick for quitting bad habits and starting good ones?

Harvard professor Shawn Achor says it’s as simple as making bad habits harder to do and good habits easier.

Via Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness (Harvard’s Most Popular Course):

I took a stop watch, took the batteries out of the remote control and walked them exactly 20 seconds away to my bedroom. I then started the experiment again and watched myself.

Over the next couple of days I’d come home and sit down on the couch exhausted and press the on button on the remote control. Usually repeatedly and then go “Oh. I hate that I do these experiments. Where did I put the batteries this time?”

I looked around and thought oh, they’re only 20 seconds away. My brain said, should I go get them and the other part of my brain said no, it takes forever to get the batteries. Why don’t we do something else?

I had a journal sitting next to me, a book, my guitar and a phone so I could call my friends and meet with them for dinner instead of watching all of my friends on television. As a result, I dramatically decreased the amount of television I watched.


I had to find a way to decrease the activation energy, make it easier to start it. I just went to sleep in my gym clothes. My mom wonders why I’m single. It’s experiments like this.

They were clean and I had shoes next to my bed. I had a work out routine. I dropped the activation energy by 80% so all I had to do is put my feet which already had socks on them right into the shoes.

We found that something weird happens in the human brain that if you put your feet into your tennis shoes, the calculus gets messed up and you think it’s easier for me to go work out now than to have to take all this stuff off again. The hardest part about exercise might be getting our running shoes on.

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