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The good science behind good habits
February 26, 2018

When it comes to forming good habits, good people mean well. They wake up feeling positive and this enthusiasm impacts their day, so why not share? After all, their hearts are big enough that they want you to succeed, too.

And popular news sites recognize a clickable headline when they see one.

But good intentions can never replace good science, reminds Marialane Schultz, CEO of Innovative Outcomes Consulting. “And to make it worse, when people believe and act on these myths, it leads them to continue to struggle with establishing and maintaining beneficial habits. We see it all the time with our clients.”

Instead, Schultz encourages people to tune into the right information: what the science says about adopting habits. To help with that goal, she has collaborated with psychologist and executive coach Ali Navidi, Psy.D., to not only identify what works but to share his RIM™ model as an important tool for ensuring that the habits stick over the long haul. Stay tuned for this upcoming white paper, The Habits Mindset–The art and science behind habits that stick, releasing this week, which will certainly put those seeking to break habits and form better ones on the right path.

And there’s still more good news on this front. Check out this sampling of findings about habit creation:

  • No, it doesn’t take 21 days to change a habit: The University College London, European Journal of Social Psychology, 2009 study. Phillippa Lally’s experiment shows that the average time it takes to form a habit even for a simple task is all over the map, with the average time clocking in at 66 days.
  • Yes, the world is out to get you: Charles Duhigg, New York Times reporter and author of The Power of Habit. Marketing departments have a very good handle on how to persuade your attitude and your actions, and all while you think you’re in charge of both. Duhigg also delves into how to recognize and break into the “habit loop” cue, behavior and reward.
  • Just once will hurt you: Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project. Bad habits are easier to form than good ones, so giving in to a temptation on Monday and Tuesday puts your willpower on Wednesday on very shaky ground.
  • Putting your mind to it is only half the battle: Art Markman, professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Texas at Austin and author of Smart Change: Five Tools to Create Sustainable Habits in Yourself and Others. The positive-thinking philosophy has its place in life, but it’s a weak tool when it comes to habit formation, his studies document.

The good news is, the science leads to results, so you aren’t losing a thing by ditching these myths. Indeed, you are about to embrace success.

Marialane Schultz

Marialane Schultz is the founder of IOCI. She helps individuals and organizations perform at their best, do meaningful work and be impactful through customized coaching and consulting engagements.

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