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How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be Kindle Edition
'Game-changing. Katy Milkman shows in this book that we can all be a super human' Angela Duckworth, bestselling author of Grit
How to Change is a powerful, groundbreaking blueprint to help you - and anyone you manage, teach or coach - to achieve personal and professional goals, from the master of human nature and behaviour change and Choiceology podcast host Professor Katy Milkman.
Award-winning Wharton Professor Katy Milkman has devoted her career to the study of behaviour change. An engineer by training, she approaches all challenges as problems to be solved and, with this mind-set, has drilled into the roadblocks that prevent us from achieving our goals and breaking unwanted behaviours. The key to lasting change, she argues, is not to set ever more audacious goals or to foster good habits but to get your strategy right.
In How to Change Milkman identifies seven human impulses, or 'problems', that commonly sabotage our attempts to make positive personal and professional change. Then, crucially, instead of getting you to do battle with these impulses she shows you how to harness them and use these as driving forces to help instil new, positive behaviours - better, faster and more efficiently than you could imagine.
Drawing her own original research, countless engaging case studies and practical tools throughout to help you put her ideas into action, Milkman reveals a proven, inspiring path that can take you - once and for all - from where you are today to where you want to be.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Chapter 1: Getting Started
When I first visited Google's sprawling corporate headquarters in 2012, I felt like a kid entering Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. The company's campus in Mountain View, California, boasts state-of-the-art everything, with a bit of whimsy on top. As I wound my way between office buildings, I encountered beach volleyball courts, fanciful sculptures, a gift shop stocked with branded tchotchkes, and free world-class restaurants. It was stunning.
Google had invited me and a group of other academics to its headquarters to attend a retreat for its senior human resources directors, but I couldn't help wondering what this company-one of the world's most innovative and successful-could possibly need from us. The smiling employees whizzing by on bikes painted in the primary colors of their company's logo certainly didn't look like they had any problems. Google had raked in 38 billion dollars in revenue the year before my visit.
But everyone has problems-even Google.
The company had convened the retreat to find new ways to help its employees make better decisions both at work and at home, with a particular emphasis on improving their productivity as well as their health and financial security (both of which have been linked to improved work performance). Midway through the event, Prasad Setty, a Wharton alum and Google vice president who had been in human resources for several years, asked me a seemingly innocuous question that would set me on the path to one of my most significant discoveries.
Google, he explained, offered its employees a wide range of benefits and programs designed to make their lives and jobs better and to solve such problems as undersaving for retirement, overuse of social media, physical inactivity, unhealthy eating, and smoking. But oddly enough, these programs weren't widely used. Prasad was both puzzled and frustrated that so many programs his team had created (which Google paid dearly for) went largely ignored. Why weren't employees clamoring to take advantage of free skill-building classes? Why weren't they all signing up for the company's 401(k) match and personal trainers?
Prasad had considered a few possible explanations, all of them plausible enough. Maybe the programs were being poorly advertised. Or maybe employees were just too busy to take advantage of them. But he also wondered about timing. Did I know, he asked, when Google should encourage employees to take advantage of these resources? Was there some ideal moment on the calendar or in someone's career to encourage behavior change?
I paused. Prasad's question was clearly important, and yet, to my knowledge, academics had largely overlooked it. If we hoped to effectively promote behavior change, of course we would need to understand when to begin.
Although I didn't have an easy answer for Prasad, I did have a hunch. I told him that before I could offer a reply grounded in solid evidence, I would need to review the academic literature and gather some data of my own. I started itching to get back to my research team in Philadelphia.
The Power of a Blank Slate
Prasad was hardly the first leader I'd met who was perplexed by the stubborn persistence of unhealthy or unproductive behavior. I've spent countless hours talking with frustrated public health officials about how to reduce smoking, boost physical activity, improve diets, and increase vaccinations, and that's just for starters. I often hear the same exasperated plea: If you can't persuade people to alter their behavior by telling them that change is simple, cheap, and good for them, what magical ingredient will do the trick?
This book will offer many answers to that question (the most important being "It depends"), but one is particularly relevant to Prasad's problem. It starts with a remarkable medical success story.
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is every bit as terrifying as it sounds. Each year, tens of thousands of babies around the world die suddenly and inexplicably while sleeping. For years, SIDS has been a leading cause of death among infants in the United States between one month and one year of age. I remember being petrified when my pediatrician explained the risk factors during a checkup for my newborn son.
For decades, the medical establishment was at a loss over what to do about SIDS. But then, in the early 1990s, researchers made a major breakthrough. They discovered that infants put to sleep on their backs died of SIDS at half the rate of babies put to sleep on their stomachs. Half!
This was a discovery worthy of celebration-and fast action. It presented an opportunity to save hundreds of thousands of lives, so naturally, the public health community wasted no time spreading the word. The U.S. government launched an ambitious "Back to Sleep" campaign to educate new parents about the importance of placing babies to sleep on their backs. The National Institutes of Health flooded the airwaves with commercials and filled hospitals and doctors' offices with brochures.
Of course, there was no guarantee of success. Many such campaigns fail, which explains my frequent phone calls with frustrated public health officials. Just consider the recent high-profile attempt to reduce obesity by requiring calorie labeling in chain restaurants. It turns out that telling people how many calories are in a Big Mac or a Frappuccino reduces calorie consumption, well . . . essentially not at all. Or consider the efforts by U.S. health authorities, starting in 2010, to persuade Americans to get annual flu shots. The effects have been minimal at best: 43 percent of Americans now get flu shots, up from 39 percent before the policy was implemented. So there was every reason to expect that the Back to Sleep campaign would be the same old story, making only a small dent in a massive problem.
Thankfully, the campaign worked wonders. Between 1993 and 2010, the percentage of infants put to sleep on their backs in the United States shot up, more than quadrupling from 17 percent to 73 percent, and deaths from SIDS plummeted. The message hasn't gone out of style. In 2016, decades after the campaign began, my doctor handed me a Back to Sleep pamphlet when I gave birth in Philadelphia.
But if Back to Sleep was unquestionably a huge success, why had so many other, similar campaigns floundered? Prasad's question about timing inspired me to formulate a hypothesis.
The moment you become a parent is unquestionably one of life's starkest turning points. Just a day before your child's arrival, there was no helpless baby to feed, clothe, protect, and soothe; then boom-all of that changes. Everything about parenthood is new and different, and as a result, you have no old habits to break, no long-standing routines to disrupt. You're truly starting fresh, for better and worse. The message of Back to Sleep arrives at this critical juncture, when you're not yet set in your ways and are motivated to try to do everything right. My hunch was that the timing couldn't be better for changing patterns in people's behavior. No matter what your parents did or their parents before that, when a doctor tells you that it's vital to put your baby to sleep on their back, you're eager to comply and don't have to fight against bad habits.
Compare this with a public health campaign that attempts to influence eating, smoking, or vaccination habits for adults. These kinds of initiatives catch us in the middle of our busy lives, with entrenched routines that limit our openness to change. Even though the information can make the difference between life and death, it's no wonder that we often ignore it.
After my visit to Google, I came to suspect that this was an incredibly important but underappreciated insight: if you want to change your behavior or someone else's, you're at a huge advantage if you begin with a blank slate-a fresh start-and no old habits working against you.
There's just one problem: true blank slates are incredibly rare. Almost all of the behaviors we want to change are everyday, customary, and baked into our hectic and well-established routines.
But thankfully, change in the absence of a blank slate isn't hopeless-it's just hard. The hunch I had at Google was that there might be a way to harness the feeling of a blank slate, even in moments when no true tabula rasa exists.
THE FRESH START EFFECT
As soon as I got back from my visit to Google in 2012, I set up a meeting with my doctoral student Hengchen Dai (now a professor at UCLA) and Jason Riis, a visiting faculty member from Harvard. I was eager to tell them about Prasad's question and my intuition that people might be more open to change when they feel they have a fresh start.
As I explained my thinking, Hengchen and Jason lit up. Like me, they immediately grasped that timing could be critically important to change. We knew that people instinctively gravitate toward moments that feel like fresh starts when they want to make change happen. Just think of New Year's resolutions. And yet economic theory has always posited that our preferences remain stable over time unless we face changing circumstances, such as new constraints, new information, or a price shock that forces an adjustment to our beliefs or budget. Hengchen, Jason, and I suspected this assumption was incorrect and that there were, in fact, systematic and predictable moments when our circumstances don't change but we still feel compelled to change ourselves. In our excitement, we began sharing stories of times when fresh starts had prompted us to behave differently, discussing what each example had in common, and searching for insights about why our motivation had shifted.
Most of the changes we'd initiated around fresh starts had been small-working to kick a nail-biting habit, getting back behind the steering wheel after a driving scare, or exploring new dating strategies after a romantic slump. But I'd heard stories about more momentous changes, too. Take Scott Harrison, author of the bestselling book Thirst, for example. Scott famously took inspiration from New Year's Day to abandon his profession as a hard-partying club promoter for a life of sobriety and nonprofit work. Fresh starts seemed capable of inspiring substantial change.
During our team huddle, Hengchen, Jason, and I were particularly quick to acknowledge the power of the New Year, but we had a sense that this was just one well-known example of a broader phenomenon-one of many moments when people feel especially ready to change because they have the sense that they've been given a fresh start. The challenge would be to identify other moments that provoke the same reaction and to understand how and why they can unstick us and motivate change.
To get started, Hengchen began digging into existing research on how people think about special dates such as New Year's, and she came back with an intriguing discovery. Her search led her to a literature in psychology on how people think about the passage of time. She learned that rather than perceiving time as a continuum, we tend to think about our lives in "episodes," creating story arcs from the notable incidents, or chapters, in our lives. One chapter might start the day you move into your college dorm ("the college years"), another with your first job ("the consulting era"), another on your fortieth birthday, and yet another at the start of a new year or millennium.
This research helped us develop the idea that the start of a new life chapter, no matter how small, might be able to give people the impression of a clean slate. These new chapters are moments when the labels we use to describe ourselves, who we are, and what we're living through shift, compelling us to shift with them. We go from "student" to "working professional"; "renter" to "homeowner"; "single" to "married"; "adult" to "parent"; "New Yorker" to "Californian"; "denizen of the 90s" to "twenty-first-century American" all in the flip of a switch. And labels matter to our behavior. When we're labeled "voters" (instead of people who vote), "carrot eaters" (instead of people who eat carrots whenever they can), and "Shakespeare readers" (instead of people who read Shakespeare a lot), it influences how we act, not just how we describe ourselves.
If you've ever made a New Year's resolution, confidently predicting that the "new you" in the "new year" would be able to make a change, the potency of labels may resonate. Probably my favorite story about the power of New Year's comes from Ray Zahab, who was a guest on a podcast I host about decision making. Ray used the arrival of a new millennium, which ended the 1990s chapter of his life and began a new chapter, to turn his life around.
Before he managed to transform his life, Ray was a heavy smoker and drinker who would sometimes eat McDonald's for every meal. But when he reached his early thirties, Ray was desperate to make a change. He was tired of being broke and out of shape.
He wondered if he could be more like his brother, a successful long-distance runner, but he knew long-distance running was out of the question for a smoker. The obvious first step would be to quit. But he just couldn't. He tried and tried, but the cravings always pulled him back. He needed something more to push him over the edge.
And then Ray had an idea. He would use the turn of the century-New Year's Eve, 1999-to quit for good. "I used that date because it had such a huge finality, it seemed, in everyone's minds," Ray explained. "I mean, it was the end of the century, right? This was a reset switch for humanity."
Shortly before midnight on December 31, Ray smoked his last cigarette. "If I can't do it now, then I'll never be able to do it," he told himself.
The next morning, Ray woke up with a strong craving for a cigarette. "But it was January 1, 2000," he recalled, and with the arrival of the new millennium, he had crossed an important threshold-he was no longer the same Ray who had been unable to kick his nicotine habit. "Something in me, a little spark, said 'I can do this.'"
And Ray did do it-he quit for good.
In 2003, he won the 100-mile Yukon Arctic Ultra, one of the world's most extreme endurance races. He's quick to note that his victory started on the first day of 2000. That moment made everything else possible.
Ray is a dramatic example of someone who took inspiration from the start of a new year to make a life change. But every January 1, about 40 percent of Americans resolve to make life improvements: to get fit, save more for retirement, quit drinking, or learn a foreign language.
With the shift to a new year, it's almost as if past attempts to stay off social media, earn As in school, be a better colleague, and eat healthier can be dismissed as the failures of another person. Last year you couldn't cut it at work or failed to quit smoking, but "that was the old me," you think, "and this is the new me."--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B08P2STJKB
- Publisher : Ebury Digital (6 May 2021)
- Language : English
- File size : 1217 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 251 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #4,990 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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Top reviews from India
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The structure of the book is super appropriate, with a brief introduction to managing change, followed by an in-depth set of chapters dedicated to overcome specific challenges one might face on the path of change (e.g., laziness, temptations, flaking out), and closing out with truly vulnerable, down-to-earth advice on how to move against obstacles and make the change you wish to work.
Thank you, Katy Milkman, for a thoroughly enjoyable read, which at the same time, provides us with key tips & tricks to deal with any kind of change!
In her maiden book How to Change, the famous host of popular podcast “Choiceology”, Katy Milkman writes about strategies that can help anyone looking for a change. The ideas in the book are helpful for those who are unable to begin as well as for those who give up midway. The strategies are helpful in reinforcing existing good behavior. In short, it is for everyone. The book is neatly organized into chapters dealing head-on with the barriers to change. The chapters builds on solid theoretical foundations backed by up-to-date scientific research to showcase the best way to overcome these obstacles while making allowances for an individual’s power to customize any change. The chapters deals one by one with the problems one faces on way to change, beginning with the initial inertia to getting started. The idea of mimicking fresh starts suggest any timing of year or current situation can be used to start the journey rather than waiting for a real break from past. Similarly, the ideas of temptation bundling to combine an onerous task with something pleasurable makes intuitive sense as well as aid good habit formation. The book gives many tools to aid desired behavior formation, like cue based planning, use of checklists, the utility of giving feedback to others in improving oneself. The most immediate application of the ideas could help in boosting immunization rates for Corona vaccines and enhancing mask usage in public. The book is useful for it deals directly with issues and suggests scientifically-derived, proven strategies to better outcomes. The flow is like most books of the genre which narrates specific stories to showcase the extent of the problem. What differentiates the book is the sheer directness of the text to hit at issues obstructing growth and how quickly the author uses the specific context to make an experimentally proven general recommendation forged in fire. A well-intentioned feature of the book is the key takeaways at the end of the chapters, which gives the text unique advantage of being revised quickly whenever needed to aid habit formation. As one reaches the end of the book, it is natural to feel more equipped to deal with change as well as look actively for opportunities to change for the better. It may seem like a book of a single author but it presents to the reader distilled wisdom of the finest practitioners of the craft of Behavioral Economics, including the rock stars of the field. Katy Milkman herself is operating at the next frontiers of Behavioral Economics. The ever-increasing computing capabilities, improved understanding of the cognitive processes and advancements in technology have benefitted economists to better understand the field by dealing with humans as humans first, rather than profit-maximizing rational decision-makers. The book shall remain a popular bridge between scholarly articles and amateur readers. If Richard Thaler's Misbehaving was a tour de force about the growth and theories of the then-nascent discipline Behavioral Economics, Katy Milkman's book conveys the essence of those findings in the most readable manner. If you believe doing is better than saying, this tiny book shall drive you to act and be a better version of yourself, one piece at a time, today and tomorrow.
Top reviews from other countries
It is NOT your conventional self help with a few loose recommendations, but rather a well laid out roadmap to help you implement the chanegs you want with a sensible order so you can essentially plan as you go.