Ever wondered why getting the difficult things in life done was so... well... difficult? Is there an easier way to get the ball rolling and to start being successful with your goals? What about those lazy kids who live in your house and don't seem to do anything? Why is it so difficult to get them to do simple chores around the house? Is there someway I can hack my brain in order to answer all of these questions?
Well, you can.
And the answer is with behavioral momentum.
Let me describe a situation that shows the importance of behavioral momentum, and the pitfalls that a lot of us fall into.
While I was working for an Applied Behavioral Analysis clinic for kids diagnosed with autism, I had the opportunity to observe parents place demands on their children. This was a pretty normal experience in this line of work. I was training, and I had a supervisor who was showing me the ropes and who was working with the parents. The parents were trying to get their kid to eat vegetables. A very difficult task for a child with sensory issues and the very distinguished yet limited palate for chicken nuggets. The parent had a bunch of vegetables cooked and was prompting the child to eat the broccoli, eat the carrots, eat the corn. That was it. This difficult request was immediately denied. The parents were not finding success.
The supervisor implemented a new game plan that was to provide small pieces in this order.
Instead of broccoli, carrots, corn.
Chicken, chicken, broccoli.
I think that a lot of times we do the same thing to ourselves. We put all the difficult things on the list.
Vegetables, vergetables, vegetables.
Your New Year's Resolution might have looked something like this.
Run 100 miles. Run, run, run.
Read 100 books. Read, read, read.
Lose weight. Diet, diet, diet.
If you are structuring your goals like this you aren't setting yourself up for the highest chance for success and you certainly are not hacking your mind with the psychological phenomenon of behavioral momentum.
Behavioral momentum refers to the use of high-probability requests in sequence before a lower-probability request in order to increase the likelihood that the lower-probability request is completed.
Another example of behavioral momentum is asking a child to give you a high five, make a funny face, then pick up a toy.
When a child follows through with the first two easy tasks, it sets them up to successfully complete the last task most difficult or undesirable task. The thing is, it works. If you tried to reverse this process and ask the kid to do the most difficult task first, it actually reduces the chance that they complete the desired task.
The question now becomes, how can we use behavioral momentum, an evidence based psychological phenomenon, to our advantage?
You break down difficult goals or jobs that you want to complete into parts. You differentiate the easy parts from the more difficult. An example of how we naturally do this is when we go out for a run. The easy parts are putting on your shoes, running clothes, stretching. Then the difficult part is actually running.
If you can complete the easy parts, putting on your shoes, running clothes, and stretch, you are significantly more likely to start running. I can almost guarantee that if you don't put on the running shoes, you aren't going to run.
Start making your goals focused on completing the easy parts of the difficult task, and the difficult task will inevitably have a much higher rate of completion.
And what about those kids who just don't seem to listen?
Utilize their brains against them by using behavioral momentum. Structure your demands as telling them to do things that are either easy or things that they want to do and then make the demand that they do the hard thing. If you can find a balance between easy and difficult tasks and implement this skill naturally, you will likely find your kids completing the difficult chores and doing the difficult things with less complaining, dragging their feet, and forgetting.
What is key to getting your kids to follow through on chores?
What is the key to getting you to follow through on your goals?
What is the key to achieving more in life?
It is all the same.
Use this psychological phenomenon to improve your parenting, set better goals, and achieve more.