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Change anything! Use skillpower over willpower | Al Switzler | TEDxFremont

Change anything! Use skillpower over willpower | Al Switzler | TEDxFremont

Translator: Guy Schneider
Reviewer: Denise RQ My colleagues and I have been studying
behavior change for over 30 years. We’ve been looking for
those crucial behaviors that help individuals improve
the quality of their relationships and the results in their life
at work and at home. Sometime when you do research, it’s not
just the answers that are hardest. It’s the questions, the problem,
that’s hard to see. But no this one. When it comes to personal habits,
it’s really easy to see the problem. There are hundreds of millions of people
who are sicker and sadder than they want to be or need to be because they can’t control
their own behavior. What’s standing between them
and their health and happiness, between them and their dreams
and aspirations, is their own behavior. And they don’t want it that way. Nobody wants it that way. But they have this huge change problem.
They’re part of a huge change problem. They know they should change, they want
to change, but they don’t change. My mother was part of that. Because this research
is not just scientific. This research is personal,
I think for all of us. My mother died
five years ago of lung cancer. She started smoking
in the orphanage when she was 14. She was pregnant with me when she was 16. She married when I was nine. And my dad, my step-dad,
her husband died four years later when she was pregnant
with her fourth child. During all this time, the stresses,
being a single mother, she struggled with smoking. She tried to quit, she would quit,
and she’d start again. Just time after time. And the tragedy of this is
not her death. The tragedy of this is
that she wanted to quit, she knew she should quit,
and she didn’t quit. And I suffered decades
of that helpless, hopeless giving up. But I want to share with you
a study that we’ve done that I think helps give us all more hope. We did a research study where we had
5,000 people that had change attempts. Of those change attempts,
4,400 were failures. That’s alright because you can learn a lot
about success by studying failure. 600 of them had taken on a persistent
resistant problem of personal change, they had hard metrics to show
that they had achieved success, and they’d have sustained it
for three or more years. I want to share with you
what we’ve learned: at least two major differences. Clearly the ones
who succeeded had agency, the capacity to control
their own behavior. And those who didn’t, didn’t. I want to talk to you about
one of the differences, because one of the differences is
how they view and use willpower. The people who fail
fall into the willpower trap. And the willpower trap is
the faulty assumption that if I failed, it’s because
I just wasn’t fully committed. II didn’t care enough,
I had no willpower. Or that willpower enough
can get me trough. I want to use a little metaphor
with a rope pulling to make this point. If we use enough heroic effort,
if we have enough willpower, we can make change. But the forces pulling against us
will cause that to be temporary. This forces we’ve named
six sources of influences, one, two, three, four, five, and six. One and two are personal
motivational ability, “Do I want to? Can I do it?” Three and four are the peer pressure,
the social pressure that’s all around us. And sources five and six
are the structural motivation, like incentives and rewards,
or the environment itself. The problem is not that we’re weak,
but that we are blind and outnumbered. The problem is that we don’t have
a willpower problem, we have a math problem. If we can control
the sources that control us, we are more likely to control
our own behavior. I’d like to give
a live demonstration of that. Let’s say that I wanted
to lose some weight. Let’s say that I won the lottery,
I get to go on a TV show, I get to go to “the ranch”. Or let’s say I use some of my money
and I sign up at the farm. Or I make myself subject
to a large program. Now I’m subject, and pretty much,
they’re all the same, right? They’re going to say to eat better,
eat less and exercise more. What will we predict if we analyze
what’s going to happen at the ranch? So, when I go to the ranch, do you think that they are going
to have enough influence to make sure I’m successful? Well, let’s ask that a little bit. So, you’re source one:
personal motivation. Am I motivated when I go to the ranch? Yes, you want to. – Do I really want to?
– Yes, you really want to! Well, then come pull on my side. And you’re source two, personal ability. Will I learn new skills
and knowledge when I’m there? You bet! – What am I going to do?
– Skill power! Skill power. Alright,
come pull on my side. Before I get to social pressure, let me make a little distinction
for you that’s useful. We find that there is a difference
between friends and accomplices. Friends are someone who helps you (Laughter) accomplices are someone who helps you get in trouble. (Laughter) Sometimes it’s hard
to tell the difference. But will there be friends at the ranch? So, you’re social motivation.
Friend, right? – What will you do for me?
– I will cheer you on and encourage you. And what will you do? I will support you,
I will encourage you to move forward, keep focused and keep on track. Thank you so much. Come pull on my side. – And you’re social ability.
– I am, call me coach. Call you coach!
What are you going to do for me? Give you the skills, give you feedback,
and keep you motivated. Come pull on my side. And you’re source five.
You’re the rewards and incentives. – Chi-ching!
-Oooohh… (Laughter) And does that stuff work? You’d be amazed of the power
of colored ribbons and gold stars. Come pull on my side. Now, you’re source six,
structural ability, right? – How does that work?
– Control your space. You’re going to help me control my space. What will you do? Make your good behavior easy,
and your bad behavior hard. OK, let me test you.
Where’s the ice-cream? There is no ice-cream. We have carrots. (Laughter) – OK, come pull on my side. When I go to the ranch,
you look at their success rate and there’s not accomplices in there,
there’s not extra calories, not food. They’ve made all the things easy, so I’m motivated and able
to do the right behaviors. But that’s not the lesson.
There is a lesson to learn here. Because I’ve subjected myself to this,
I maybe haven’t become an agent. So when I go home and I have to go home,
what would you predict? So when I go home, am I still motivated? – Absolutely! You want to!
– Come on will power, pull on my side. – Do I have skills and knowledge still?
– Not so fast, it’s hard to stay current. Well, then pull on that side. When I go home I’m going to meet
some friends and accomplices… I’m your friend, let’s go celebrate,
let’s go to the home town buffet. – Whowhow! I’ve baked you a cake!
Come on, let’s get a beer too! Pull on that side. – What about these incentive and rewards?
– No, those are for kids! Naah, you keep pulling on this side. And where is the ice-cream? It’s right here in the freezer,
finish the whole carton! (Laughter) Oh dear! So here I am, me
and will power pulling… What do you think is going to happen? I’m making light of this a little bit. But recidivism and relapse,
and being subject instead of agent, that’s a big part of the problem. We can get into the willpower trap,
we can become out-numbered. We need to take control
of the things that control us so we can control our behavior. Thank you very much. (Applause) So, the second difference we saw between
those who succeeded and those who didn’t is that, the ones who succeeded
were more scientific. They weren’t only the subject,
they were the subject and the scientist. We learned that they did
a couple of things. The number one is
they never got it right the first time. When they created a plan, they did it in
a more scientific trial and error basis. They were able to analyze and adjust. The second thing is that it was homegrown. They didn’t just take someone advice or
perfect plan and put it into their plan. What the did is that they customized it, they personalized it. They said, how can I make this
so that it applied to me and my goals, my strengths, and my weaknesses,
to my environment. When they did that,
they were more likely to succeed. We found that there are four steps
to that, I want to share those with you. I want to do the first two together: Identify your crucial moments
and create your vital behaviors. Now, this is good news. On almost all of our bad behaviors,
including addictions, we don’t have 24/7 temptations. There are certain times, places,
and people that put us most at risk. That’s particularly true
with weight loss, and weight gain. We’re not tempted all the time;
I’ve got breakfast down pretty well, I’ve got lunch;
and I don’t snack during the day. But let me tell you when I’m most tempted. After eight o’clock at night, when I start writing,
and reading, and thinking. I find that I’m way more creative
and productive at about a half peanut-butter
sandwich a page. (Laughter) My second is that for years
I’d only do one sugar drink a day. About 80 ounces. (Laughter) And the third one is that when I really
liked something, I would load it up. I would go to seconds, maybe thirds. So, my crucial moments are
when I’m most tempted to not follow my plan,
to engage in my bad behavior. But if crucial moments tell
when we are at risk, vital behaviors tell us what to do,
when we are at risk. And my vital behaviors
are no sugar drinks. When I’m trying to lose weight, get fit,
no sugar drinks, no unhealthy snacks. Only one small serving per day. That doesn’t work for everybody,
but that’s for me. Vital behavior is what we do.
Not all behaviors are the same. The vital behaviors are the ones
connected to the result and carry a lot of
other behaviors with it. First step that everybody does:
they set a goal. Find your crucial moments, personalize it, and find the behaviors
you need to do at that moment. And then, this is what really separates, because the people really succeeding
engage all six sources of influence. I want to share
these six sources of influences. You can see our six sources model there. Motivation and ability is the backbone.
Do I want to do it, and can I do it? Will I find it worthwhile,
if I do it at three levels; Personal, me alone.
Social, all the people around me. And structural, all the elements,
the things, without the people. I want to share the stories
of Sharman, AJ, and Tim. These are changers, who all marshaled
overwhelming influence for their overwhelming problems. All of them had six sources of influences, and I’m only going to share one
in each of these categories. Can you really get personal motivation?
Can you pass the commitment test? Let me tell you about Sharman. Sharman weighted about 280 pounds. She was embarrassed. She would struggle
and struggle, and almost get helpless. But then she said: “No, I’m going to find
the reasons why I really want to change.” She wrote it on a 3×5 card, and she didn’t commit to stick
to her diet, stick to her plan. What she said was:
“Before I break my plan, I’m going to thoughtfully
and slowly read my card.” This is Sharman’s 3×5 card:
I’d like to feel healthier. I’d like to like the way
I look in the mirror. I’d like to have more physical stamina. I’d like to model healthy living
for my grandchildren. I’d like my husband
to be proud of how I look. And when we interviewed her,
and she was reading her card, you could hear
the quivering in her voice. She said: “I’d like my life choice
to be pleasing to the Lord.” This isn’t your card,
this is Sharman’s card. When she was at lunch, and they were
celebrating someone’s birthday, and she said: I’m going to have
that cheesecake or not, she would take her card out privately,
and thoughtfully, and carefully read it. And very often it caused her
to make the right choice. Here is AJ. She lives
in Texas and is a nurse. The question is: do you have the emotional, personal, mental,
or physical skills you need to make those vital behaviors easier? Her enlightened moment was when she was
on the first floor in the hospital. She got a call to come resuscitate
someone on the eighth floor, in one of those “code blue”. She can’t use the elevator
so she’s going up the stairs. And on the third floor she has to sit
because she is a smoker. She’s 5’3” and weighs 213lb. And she sits there, as she says: “Gasping
for breath, and burning with shame!” She said: “I need to quit smoking;
and I need to lose weight.” And when she started saying: “What is
getting in the way of my crucial moment?” She had a plan to quit smoking,
but the skill she had to learn was to have the though
conversation with her dad. She said: “I’m a Daddy’s girl. But when
I go and visit with Dad, I’m in his house, I’m with the smoke,
he offers me a cigarette, I succumbed every time, I had to talk to him, it was one
of the toughest skills that I learned.” AJ had to turn
accomplices into friends. This is good news. It’s not that hard
to turn many accomplices into friends and add one or two more new friends. It provides the social motivation
and support you need to do the behaviors that count. AJ is like many people
when they try to quit smoking. There are places where
people go for a smoking breaks when they go to lunch
with the same people. She had to go to them and say: “Will you help me?
I’m not going to go out on break. Will you not invite me, will you not
make fun of me when I don’t? Can we find other ways to meet or interact
so that you can help me quit smoking?” She also had to invert the economy. She had to get the rewards
that were helping her. In our society, a lot of the things, that are fat and bad
for you are cheap. And the things that are good
for you cost more money. You have to find ways to help
the incentives be useful to you. AJ said: “I am so cheap.” “Every time I lost some weight enough
to get a different size of clothing, I would box all my old clothes
and give it to good will!” And then when I would have
to make the decision, she would say: “Not me! Because I’m not going
to buy large fat clothes!” She made the bad behavior expensive,
and the good behavior cheaper. Here is Tim. Tim jokes: “Losing weight is easy. In the last 20 years, I’ve lost 400 lb. And gained 440.” It wasn’t such a joke
when he had heart problems. And he said:
“For the first time in my life, I had to get serious,
I had to create a complete plan. I had to Marshall enough
of these influences.” He said: “It’s harder to see
our environment sometimes.” But he said: “I need
to take control of my space, make the good things easy,
and the bad things hard.” The first thing he did is
what many people need to do. The first step of a diet is
to diet your house! Get rid of the ice-cream and the chips! Make it so that if you want
to make that choice you have to get into your car and drive. And during those moments we found
that this works for all addictions. If you can refocus your behaviors, if you cannot succumb to the urge
for three of four minutes. You can get back to wanting
to do your own behavior. So that’s the message. That’s the lesson we learn from people
who can control their own behaviors. And the one’s that can’t. Engage all six sources of influence. I can only control my behaviors, I can control the things
that control me. Let me talk to you about turning
a bad day, into good data. Here’s [Sharman]. She said she was
a poster child for the yo-yo diet. Here is before and after
she lost 107 pounds; she said: “[A plan is no plan], unless you know
how you’re going to deal with setbacks. And not have a plan to be resilient.” Sharman said:
“I made a plan to call my sister. And when I fell off the wagon,
I’d call my sister and she’d say: “Why did you do it?
What was the new crucial moment? Why were you tempted?
Were your influences not enough?” And she would analyze it and adjust. And when she did that,
she could become resilient. You’ve heard that statement,
“I wish I knew then what I know now?” I wish I knew then what I know now
so I could have helped my mother. Because when my mother took one cigarette
after 3 years of not smoking. One day, she would turn into a bad decade. Because she didn’t have the skills
to turn a bad day into a good data. So that’s the message I want to leave. We can control our own behaviors,
we can get a lot better: if we escape the willpower trap, if we Marshall enough influence to make overwhelming problems
less overwhelming, If we do that, we can increase our agency. We can come to know that if we work
at it, we can change anything. Thank you very much. (Applause)

100 comments on “Change anything! Use skillpower over willpower | Al Switzler | TEDxFremont

  1. absolutely amazing speech. i'm struggling to change my own behavior everyday and i want to. it feels like he was mentioning my own behavior. i'm not struggling to lose weight,but to commit and do what i was suppose to do to get a head in life, such finishing college and so forth. i would like to ask you any plans that works for you guys so i can apply to myself. By the way, i really like this metaphor he used in his speech "  I can only control my own behavior by taking control of the things that control me"

  2. I know of more than one person who got off of cigarettes by changing over to electronic cigarettes.(Vaping).Also I haven't had any refined sugar for more than FIVE years because I replaced sugar in my diet with sucralose and stevia.Sucralose is a great sweetener that tastes just like sugar when it's mixed into foods.Stevia is a really good all natural sweetener.The key to curing addictions is to replace your addiction with something else you find just as pleasurable but is less harmfull.  About diets:Two of the best diets out there now is The Paleo Diet and The Ketogenic Diet.I follow a meat free version of The Paleo Diet.My diet now is based on mercury free-fat free fish,skinless chicken and turkey,eggs,nuts and fruits and vegetables.Also The Ketogenic Diet can be used to make cancer go into remission,treat autism or lose weight.

  3. Everything is in the brain, if you want to change, push it as hard as you can (the same feeling as if you were closing your fist)
    and then use your brain to do whatever you want to do.

  4. This is why I tell my wife she's trying to kill me.  Every time I tell her I'm losing weight, here comes the Banana nut bread. I can last about 3 days then comes the peanut butter cookies.  Math…..

  5. Beautiful advice.

    Thank you sir, it's very nice to be vindicated during ones own self transformation, and have many gaps in ones own personal journey filled in with good tangible knowledge.

  6. Great Speech!
    Awesome lessons!
    But I really enjoyed the face and lip talking of the guy # 3 as he rehearsal his line at 5'49"…. ha ha… – Not easy to be in front of all those College kids though… lol

  7. We usually get information like this by paying money.. so thank you very much. It is the most valuable information i've heard within the last week or so

  8. 10:30: Sounds like the speaker is frequently undercarbed. Should eat fruits and starches instead of fat peanut butter sandwiches. A proper high carb diet eliminates all cravings and keeps body weight stable close to ideal.

    Getting lean and healthy is not about willpower. It is about feeding your body right. If you do, it does the rest for you.

  9. Great talk! Most of the talks with this subject conclude in just be sure to build up good behavior – no one else has this great insight with the six sources of influence. Brilliant…

  10. The point about acute temptations only lasting for a few minutes is something that really helps. We are not trying to overcome a craving or strong urge that lasts for hours on end – only for a few minutes this time. Of course, in the middle of the battle those 3 minutes feel like 3 hours, but that's where these strategies come into play. And the difference between friends and accomplices is priceless. As I read this morning, "If you want to be wise (successful) walk with (hang around) wise people." "Leave the presence of a fool when you realize nothing worthwhile (helpful) is coming out of his mouth." Thank you Al.

  11. Check out TAM – Trigger-Ability-Motivation by BJ Fogg or 3 R,s of Habit Formation, Reminder-Routine-Reward by James Clear

  12. That rope-pulling "tag of war" demonstration of willpower was a brilliant way to show and teach to the average people what is exactly going on in their mind over-and-over-again, everyday, while they cannot control themselves. The lesson here is: Do not keep any junk food in your house. If your friends aren't changing with you, then change your friends, too. It's that simple. Be wise!

  13. 1:05 the problem is how to control behavior
    2:39 ratio 600 success out of 5000,
    3:09 the willpower trap, control sources(personal motivation, social pressure, enviroment.)
    7:42 before and after going home, which will change the sources to support you
    motivation — want to
    skill and knowledge — can to
    people surrouding you — cheer you up, train you (vs) pull you down, lure you away
    rewards and incentive —
    struture — no ice cream, no soical media,
    9:09 scientist and subject — we need a personalized solution
    — identify your weakest moment — think about vital behaviour at that moment to defence
    12:00 six source, structure means things other than people

  14. Ace's too high
    Go look at the reasons for all susceptibility to addictions
    Adverse childhood experiences
    This is a cool video… but

  15. cue, action, reward… change the association you have about the REWARD and take a NEW ACTION when the CUE happens

  16. If this works for someone, great. If not, you might consider a 12-step program. Just google your problem, 12-steps and your primary problem, usually best to take on one tiger at a time many have found.

  17. This video has been one of the foundations of my improvements. I have seen it years ago when i was at my lowest point in life. In the meantime i quit smoking, i started eating healthy. I was allarmingly underweight, then got slightly overweight but eventually found my balance and i picked up a healthy gardening hobby, improving my mental stability, muscle strength and willpower. I'm on my way back to a fitting job now and i am no longer considered fully disabled. I still have challenges, but with the right placement and some support, those will likely dissove as well. This way of looking at problems in life is absolutely spot on. So many times i pictured those people pulling on the rope when i wasn't doing so well. It changed everything. Thank you so much.

  18. Fantastic, helpful information. Thank you! My mom was a chain smoker. One day she quit cold turkey after 38 years. She had tried many times too. So sorry about your mom. If only our mom's had these skills..

  19. "let's say I would want to lose some weight.." well, you are fat so you should man, difficult to listen to someones "smart advice" on how to change ones behaviours if the guy is obviously struggling with his!

  20. Healthy food is not more expensive , maybe you'll get to use more time to get to it in the beginning but it's ok , that happens when you stay doing something you didn't do before

  21. Thank you, this is so much more important and useful than one more talk about motivation. Thank you all. I would add to be careful of content made by people paid to influence you : marketers. TV, adds written on products and shops, and internet content have more influence than what we like to admit and there is very little regulation of this. If their influence did not work, they would simply not be paid.

  22. I was with this right up to the part where he talks about "control your space" and "I can only control my behaviours if I can control those who control me". A lot of behavioural problems behind addiction stem from control issues, an unrealistic feeling of lack control, then seeking a distractive, addiction to deal with it.

  23. Well said! The coach is my favorite. I will get a coach! In addition to my wholehearted strength I also need support. I would need it even before I had 4 surgeries.

  24. This is powerful! It makes sense and it comes right at the time when I need it most, now! Thanks Al, you make the point so clear!

  25. there is only one addiction for any man to really solve liking what he does beat an addiction by not liking it this is not willpower but intelligence good luck

  26. If it were only this simple. Addiction is chemical and behavioral. It is rooted in so many layers. This talk reminds me of bubble bath foam. It looks and feels good but it doesn't really clean the body of dirt.

  27. hey, I have this problem, I can't free the house of chips and chocolate, both my partner and my kids eat those things daily and I am the only one with food addiction so they kind of make fun of me… but won't stop buying these things

  28. You want to help people help people but please don’t play God. People are inherently who they are, sometimes these research God impersonators are the problem, did all these people know you were messing with them, or what is your narcissistic ideas who actually held more people back then helped, maybe I’ll research you in looks for that answer.
    Again we’re those participating know you were manipulating them. ? tired of narcissistic people who think they are God.

  29. I can completely relate to the circumstances you lived through. My mother was a saint to me. She too married young. Luckily for her she remained with her single mom however her older sister went to the orphanage. Her mom could not support both children by herself. After mom left home to marry at 16 she gave birth to my older sister and I. Everyone including my grandparents smoked. I remember pleading with her to stop smoking.
    She quit smoking a year before her death from emphysema and lung cancer. I was by her side, as she requested, to witness her suffocate to death at 50 years old. Both her mother and my father died from lung related disease but lived well into their 60's.

  30. Great live demonstration! I also have reaped a lot of nutritional information from the book The Pleasure Trap: Mastering the Hidden Force That Undermines Health and Happiness.

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  32. many's often mistake of reiterating the math and Sci of AA… good one for repeating the concept as something else hun. very useful info anyway you share it some can't deal with it being AA or NA. those with ego deficits.

  33. Excellent Ted Talk you've inspired me to change my habit of smoking. I have a son that I want to be alive and healthy for. I AM WRITING MY CARD KNOW

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