The point of the Ac(count)ability chart is to not make ourselves feel bad, but to reward ourselves for doing good.
The point isn’t to have a perfect score. The point is to change your score every week. To go from one number to a higher one. The point is to reward yourself for drinking that glass of water. And to offset the negative points by doing small, easy things to gain more positive ones. And after 8 weeks, you will have rewired your brain to automatically do these things – to drink 8 glasses of water. To practice gratefulness instead of pessimism. To stretch regularly.
The chart was based on cognitive behavioral lessons — proven ways to rewire your brain to change old habits.
How to motivate yourself to change your behavior is a Ted Talk by Dr. Tali Sharot, a neuroscientist at University College London and the director of the Affective Brain Lab. In it she explains what really motivates us to change our behaviors.
What gets people to change their behavior? Let’s say you’re trying to stop yourself from snacking? What do you tell yourself? Beware, you’ll be fat. We try and scare ourselves into changing our behavior. Science shows that warnings have very limited impact on behavior. Why? Why are we resistant to warnings? If you think about animals, when you induce fear in an animal, the most common response you’ll see is freezing or fleeing. Fighting not as much. So when we scare ourselves, we shut down and try to eliminate the negative feelings using rationalization (my grandfather smoked and he lived till 90) and this process can make you feel more resilient than before. Which is why scare tactics have a boomerang effect.
They did a study in a hospital in the US. They installed cameras to see how often medical staff sanitize their hands before and after entering a patient’s room. The medical staff knew a camera was installed, nevertheless, only 1 in 10 washed their hands before and after entering a patient’s room. Then an intervention was introduced. An electronic board that told the medical staff how well they were doing. Every time you wash your hands, the numbers went up on the screen and it showed you your rate of your current shift and the rate of the weekly staff. And what happened? Compliance raised to 90% which is absolutely amazing.
Why does this intervention work so well? It works because instead of using warnings about bad things that can happen in the future, it uses three principals that we know really drive your mind and your behavior.
- Social incentives: in the hospital study they could see what other people were doing. We care what other people are doing. We want to do the same and we want to do it better.
- Immediate rewards: every time the staff washed their hands, they could see the numbers go up on the board. Knowing that, made them do something they didn’t want to do. We want immediate rewards now more than rewards we get in the future. WE want to be happy and healthy in the future and it’s hard to make decisions that we can’t see Studies show giving people immediate rewards gives. Not smoking becomes associated with a reward. Drinking water becomes associated with a reward. And that builds a habit.
- Progress monitoring: the electronic board focused the medical staffs attention on improving their performance. If you want to get people’s attention, highlight their progress, not their decline.
If you want to change your behavior, you need to seek a way to control yourself and your environment.
Understanding this will help you better understand the point of the Ac(count)ability chart. I urge you to take this week even more seriously than you took last week and remember that the point is to reward, incentivize and monitor yourself for all the good things you do.
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