The human brain is a complex system. It contains millions of communication pathways. It follows signals from instincts and from learned knowledge. However, if you understand how your own psychology works, then you can hack into its power to make permanent behavior changes.
In this post, we will focus on how you can leverage your own psychology to help you achieve your goals.
The Bandwagon Effect
The bandwagon effect is our tendency to do something just because other people are doing it. It’s like the old question: If everyone else jumped off of a bridge, would you jump too? While that may be an extreme example, the bandwagon effect can still hold to be true. When surrounded by people who do or think a certain way, you will be influenced to think or act in the same way (1). And this can be a very good thing!
You can take advantage of the bandwagon effect by surrounding yourself with people who have developed healthy habits. For example, you could join group in your community for people trying to lose weight. As you interact more with other individuals who are working towards losing weight, it will be easier to implement activities that would help you lose weight. You could likewise surround yourself with positive people, so that you feel more positive too.
But the opposite is true as well. If you surround yourself with individuals who don’t make healthy choices, then you might not make healthy choices either. For example, if your group of friends has unhealthy eating habits, then you might be more inclined to adopt their unhealthy habits, which could lead you to put on some pounds. Or if you hang out with negative Nancys, then you might become a downer yourself.
We aren’t telling you to ditch those friends or that anyone who doesn’t make particular choices is bad. We are just pointing out that you can leverage the bandwagon effect to help yourself get on the bandwagon of healthy choices. The people you surround yourself with can have a big impact on your results.
A scapegoat is a thing or individual who receives the blame for something. While scapegoating could be the result of you not taking accountability, it can also be a powerful tool to help motivate you to change your behaviors (2).
When selecting your scapegoat, you should assign blame to a projection of the behaviors at the root of the problem. An imaginary enemy. Why? If you choose a specific scapegoat, like your partner or the television, you might actually be shirking your own responsibilities.
You could assign blame to a collective “they.” People who don’t want you to reach your goals, the fat cells that don’t want to go away, any negative thing that dares to stand in your way.
As you direct your negative energy, frustration, and anxiety toward these intangible forces that are working against you, you can feel more fueled to fight them off and prove them wrong. This power can help you feel more in control of your behaviors and decisions.
A feedback loop is a circle of a stimulus, a change, and then a result. Many loops are built into our biology and psychology. The body, for example, has feedback loops that maintain balances of hormones. A sensor receives information about levels of hormones and has an opportunity to make adjustments as needed. In psychology, feedback loops could include a real-time situation with an opportunity to make a decision to move towards a goal or away from it. How you feel after the change could be the result that influences your future decisions (3).
For example, someone speeding down the road might get a ticket from a cop. The situation is speeding, and the feedback is a fine. The negative feedback could impact that individual to stop speeding in the future, resulting in behavior change.
The key to a feedback loop is that it is a loop, so the output of one cycle becomes the input of the other. This allows good behaviors to compound on top of each other, propelling growth. Likewise, it could cause a spiral of poor decisions.
You could create a positive feedback loop for yourself with a reward system. When you meet a milestone or discover a small win, you can reward yourself with a small indulgence, like a scoop of ice cream, a manicure, or something else you love. Creating a reward system for goal milestones can help you feel like you are making progress. Your brain will respond positively to the reward, creating a positive feedback loop that will make you want to continue making good choices.
The more you understand about how the brain works and what it takes to hack into your behaviors, the easier it will be to overcome challenges and resist temptations.
ASK YOURSELF THIS:
· Are there people in your life who have healthy habits you want to emulate? What characteristics do they have that you admire?
· What are some of the underlying bad habits that could form your scapegoat?
· What would be positive feedback that could help motivate you to continue making healthy choices?
When you feel yourself in the valley of despair, try one of these hacks to help motivate you to keep moving forward.