How to Build Habits of Moderation

In many ways, breaking a bad habit is easier than creating a new, good habit. Going to the gym takes up a time slot every day you do it. But “not smoking” or “not eating junk food” don’t require you to block out any time at all.

In other ways, breaking bad habits is incredibly hard. Nearly every person I’ve ever met has self-professed bad habits they feel unable to control. Maybe it’s not even an addiction, just something simple like using your phone too much or watching too much television.

Is it Best to Go Cold Turkey?

I’ve always been a lot better at breaking bad habits by going cold turkey than aiming for moderation. I was a vegetarian for nearly eight years (currently pescetarian), and although most people insist they could never go vegetarian, I’ve had far less difficulty maintaining this habit than waking up early, going to the gym or even flossing.

Although it wasn’t a bad habit per se, Vat and my decision to not speak English in order to learn languages during our project, also worked best when it was a clear cut rule. When I was learning French in France, I just wanted to speak less English, not stop speaking it entirely. The result, unfortunately, was that I spoke English about 90% of the time, and my learning suffered.

Completely omitting a bad habit may be easier, in some cases, because it’s what James Clear calls a bright-line rule. A bright-line rule is a clear, unambiguous standard, such as never eating meat or never speaking in English.

Bright-line rules conserve willpower. Since you always know whether or not something violates your rule, you don’t have to think about tricky situations in grey. Because you need to think about them less, they use less mental effort to sustain.

Then Why Does Going Cold Turkey Fail So Often?

If bright-line rules make asserting willpower easier, and going cold-turkey is a perfect example of such a rule, why is it often so hard to go cold turkey? Why do diets that never let you eat bread, or decisions to completely abstain from vices rarely last long-term?

I believe the reason is that the bright-line rule is making a compromise. For many bad habits, you don’t actually want complete abstinence. Maybe moderation would be better for your life.

Consider junk food. I hardly want to spend every day eating potato chips and cola, but if you told me I could never eat them again for the rest of my life, I might rebel against that. The truth is, I want something in-between, maybe eating junk food only a third or half as frequently as I currently eat it.

Or consider aimless web browsing. I’ve previously gone on complete internet fasts, eliminating all non-work related web browsing from my habits. But they rarely last—because even if I sometimes surf to excess, completely eliminating all entertainment online isn’t ideal either.

Creating Obstacles to Vice

If you’ve decided that moderation—not abstinence, nor excess, is what you want, how do you make it a habit?

There are many ways to do this, but one of my favorite is to introduce obstacles to using the bad habit. When you add obstacles it nudges you towards a different behavior.

I recently found an excellent one for taming my web surfing habits: leech block. It’s a simple add-on to your web browser which can selectively block websites. With it, I can block off chunks of time when I don’t want any web browsing (say for work), or restrict to a certain amount of time (say 10 minutes every two hours). You can also restrict specific websites, so the tool needn’t disable your other work tasks.

Another which I’ve been experimenting with is using timer-controlled switches for television. Normally you buy these timers to control lights in your house, but the principle is the same for any electric device. You control when power goes into and out of the device, therefore you can set your television to be off at certain hours of the day.

None of these obstacles are insurmountable. If I really want to surf online, I can use a different browser, my phone or another computer. If I really want to watch television, I can unplug the timer and plug it directly into the wall socket.

But the obstacles make that vice slightly harder. Since I was engaging in these vices mostly out of laziness anyways, the push to read a book or work instead is a bit easier to manage.

The nice thing about these two examples, again, is that the expenditure of willpower is one-time. I only need to setup leech block and the timer once, for them to impede my access to the vice for as long as I want.

Other types of obstacles can also be introduced, but they still require ongoing willpower. One example, if you’re trying to keep from eating bad food, is simply not to keep any junk food at your house. But now you need to exert that willpower each time you shop. An improvement, perhaps, but not always a perfect one.

Still, I can imagine a hypothetical grocery delivery service which gives you the option to lock in your weekly deliveries in advance. That way, your groceries come automatically and, therefore, the obstacle to getting junk food would be much larger—a completely separate trip to the store.

Technology as a Habit Multiplier

Consumer technology often gets a bad rap for enhancing our vices. We’re slaves to the whims of our devices and social media accounts.

But, at least in the case of apps like leech block, I think technology can work in the other direction. It can provide new ways to move our behavior in a deliberate direction. As a result, I think technology will act like more of a multiplier—enhancing both our virtues and our vices—in the future, and it’s up to us to decide which.

  • William Norman Ryland

    Habit Loops are scientifically proven …
    http://charlesduhigg.com/how-habits-work/

  • William Norman Ryland

    Habit Loops are scientifically proven …
    http://charlesduhigg.com/how-h

  • Anonymous

    Hi Scott,
    Your mentioning pescatarianism reminded me to refer you to this: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IHPBCOS/

  • Anonymous

    Hi Scott,
    Your mentioning pescatarianism reminded me to refer you to this: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IH

  • Aldo Garbellini

    Monitoring the occasions where you practice a bad habit may also help. Data can help one evaluate how frequently (how much ‘moderation’) often one drinks coffee, for example. I recorded the number of cups I had in a day, and now see that five is too many, but three is okay. I now space out the number of coffees I have. There is the element of brite line rule in that I make the rule of three cups instead of five. But I determine the number, and cold-turkey was not applied.

    On Thu, May 21, 2015 at 1:08 PM, Scott Young wrote:

    Hey Aldo,

    In many ways, breaking a bad habit is easier than creating a new, good habit. Going to the gym takes up a time slot every day you do it. But “not smoking” or “not eating junk food” don’t require you to block out any time at all.

    In other ways, breaking bad habits is incredibly hard. Nearly every person I’ve ever met has self-professed to bad habits they feel unable to control. Maybe it’s not even an addiction, just something simple like using your phone too much or watching too much television.

    Is it Best to Go Cold Turkey?

    I’ve always been a lot better at breaking bad habits by going cold turkey than aiming for moderation. I’ve was a vegetarian for nearly eight years (currently pescetarian), and although most people insist they could never go vegetarian, I’ve had far less difficulty maintaining this habit than waking up early, going to the gym or even flossing.

    Although it wasn’t a bad habit per se, Vat and my decision to not speak English in order to learn languages during our project, also worked best when it was a clear cut rule. When I was learning French in France, I just wanted to speak less English, not stop speaking it entirely. The result, unfortunately, was that I spoke English about 90% of the time, and my learning suffered.

    Completely omitting a bad habit may be easier, in some cases, because it’s what James Clear calls a bright-line rule. A bright-line rule is a clear, unambiguous standard, such as never eating meat or never speaking in English.

    Bright-line rules conserve willpower. Since you always know whether or not something violates your rule, you don’t have to think about tricky situations in grey. Because you need to think about them less, they use less mental effort to sustain.

    Then Why Does Going Cold Turkey Fail So Often?

    If bright-line rules make asserting willpower easier, and going cold-turkey is a perfect example of such a rule, why is it often so hard to go cold turkey? Why do diets that never let you eat bread, or decisions to completely abstain from vices rarely last long-term?

    I believe the reason is that the bright-line rule is making a compromise. For many bad habits, you don’t actually want complete abstinence. Maybe moderation would be better for your life.

    Consider junk food. I hardly want to spend every day eating potato chips and cola, but if you told me I could never eat them again for the rest of my life, I might rebel against that. The truth is, I want something in-between, maybe eating junk food only a third or half as frequently as I currently eat it.

    Or consider aimless web browsing. I’ve previously gone on complete internet fasts, eliminating all non-work related web browsing from my habits. But they rarely last—because even if I sometimes surf to excess, completely eliminating all entertainment online isn’t ideal either.

    Creating Obstacles to Vice

    If you’ve decided that moderation—not abstinence, nor excess, is what you want, how do you make it a habit?

    There are many ways to do this, but one of my favorite is to introduce obstacles to using the bad habit. When you add obstacles it nudges you towards a different behavior.

    I recently found an excellent one for taming my web surfing habits: leech block. It’s a simple add-on to your web browser which can selectively block websites. With it, I can block off chunks of time when I don’t want any web browsing (say for work), or restrict to a certain amount of time (say 10 minutes every two hours). You can also restrict specific websites, so the tool needn’t disable your other work tasks.

    Another which I’ve been experimenting with is using timer-controlled switches for television. Normally you buy these timers to control lights in your house, but the principle is the same for any electric device. You control when power goes into and out of the device, therefore you can set your television to be off at certain hours of the day.

    None of these obstacles are insurmountable. If I really want to surf online, I can use a different browser, my phone or another computer. If I really want to watch television, I can unplug the timer and plug it directly into the wall socket.

    But the obstacles make that vice slightly harder. Since I was engaging in these vices mostly out of laziness anyways, the push to read a book or work instead is a bit easier to manage.

    The nice thing about these two examples, again, is that the expenditure of willpower is one-time. I only need to setup leech block and the timer once, for them to impede my access to the vice for as long as I want.

    Other types of obstacles can also be introduced, but they still require ongoing willpower. One example, if you’re trying to keep from eating bad food, is simply not to keep any junk food at your house. But now you need to exert that willpower each time you shop. An improvement, perhaps, but not always a perfect one.

    Still, I can imagine a hypothetical grocery delivery service which gives you the option to lock in your weekly deliveries in advance. That way, your groceries come automatically and, therefore, the obstacle to getting junk food would be much larger—a completely separate trip to the store.

    Technology as a Habit Multiplier

    Consumer technology often gets a bad rap for enhancing our vices. We’re slaves to the whims of our devices and social media accounts.

    But, at least in the case of apps like leech block, I think technology can work in the other direction. It can provide new ways to move our behavior in a deliberate direction. As a result, I think technology will act like more of a multiplier—enhancing both our virtues and our vices—in the future, and it’s up to us to decide which.

    Best,
    -Scott

    P.S. – What obstacles do you have to push you away from bad habits. Share your ideas and suggestions in the comments:

    http://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/2015/05/21/habits-of-moderation/ScottHYoung.com, 1529 W. Pender Street, 1101, Vancouver, Canada V6G 3J3

    Unsubscribe | Change Subscriber Options

    6073 HILLANDALE DR.
    LOS ANGELES, CA 90042

    323-428-5048 (c), or try SKYPE

  • Aldo Garbellini

    Monitoring the occasions where you practice a bad habit may also help. Data can help one evaluate how frequently (how much ‘moderation’) often one drinks coffee, for example. I recorded the number of cups I had in a day, and now see that five is too many, but three is okay. I now space out the number of coffees I have. There is the element of brite line rule in that I make the rule of three cups instead of five. But I determine the number, and cold-turkey was not applied.

    On Thu, May 21, 2015 at 1:08 PM, Scott Young wrote:

    Hey Aldo,

    In many ways, breaking a bad habit is easier than creating a new, good habit. Going to the gym takes up a time slot every day you do it. But “not smoking” or “not eating junk food” don’t require you to block out any time at all.

    In other ways, breaking bad habits is incredibly hard. Nearly every person I’ve ever met has self-professed to bad habits they feel unable to control. Maybe it’s not even an addiction, just something simple like using your phone too much or watching too much television.

    Is it Best to Go Cold Turkey?

    I’ve always been a lot better at breaking bad habits by going cold turkey than aiming for moderation. I’ve was a vegetarian for nearly eight years (currently pescetarian), and although most people insist they could never go vegetarian, I’ve had far less difficulty maintaining this habit than waking up early, going to the gym or even flossing.

    Although it wasn’t a bad habit per se, Vat and my decision to not speak English in order to learn languages during our project, also worked best when it was a clear cut rule. When I was learning French in France, I just wanted to speak less English, not stop speaking it entirely. The result, unfortunately, was that I spoke English about 90% of the time, and my learning suffered.

    Completely omitting a bad habit may be easier, in some cases, because it’s what James Clear calls a bright-line rule. A bright-line rule is a clear, unambiguous standard, such as never eating meat or never speaking in English.

    Bright-line rules conserve willpower. Since you always know whether or not something violates your rule, you don’t have to think about tricky situations in grey. Because you need to think about them less, they use less mental effort to sustain.

    Then Why Does Going Cold Turkey Fail So Often?

    If bright-line rules make asserting willpower easier, and going cold-turkey is a perfect example of such a rule, why is it often so hard to go cold turkey? Why do diets that never let you eat bread, or decisions to completely abstain from vices rarely last long-term?

    I believe the reason is that the bright-line rule is making a compromise. For many bad habits, you don’t actually want complete abstinence. Maybe moderation would be better for your life.

    Consider junk food. I hardly want to spend every day eating potato chips and cola, but if you told me I could never eat them again for the rest of my life, I might rebel against that. The truth is, I want something in-between, maybe eating junk food only a third or half as frequently as I currently eat it.

    Or consider aimless web browsing. I’ve previously gone on complete internet fasts, eliminating all non-work related web browsing from my habits. But they rarely last—because even if I sometimes surf to excess, completely eliminating all entertainment online isn’t ideal either.

    Creating Obstacles to Vice

    If you’ve decided that moderation—not abstinence, nor excess, is what you want, how do you make it a habit?

    There are many ways to do this, but one of my favorite is to introduce obstacles to using the bad habit. When you add obstacles it nudges you towards a different behavior.

    I recently found an excellent one for taming my web surfing habits: leech block. It’s a simple add-on to your web browser which can selectively block websites. With it, I can block off chunks of time when I don’t want any web browsing (say for work), or restrict to a certain amount of time (say 10 minutes every two hours). You can also restrict specific websites, so the tool needn’t disable your other work tasks.

    Another which I’ve been experimenting with is using timer-controlled switches for television. Normally you buy these timers to control lights in your house, but the principle is the same for any electric device. You control when power goes into and out of the device, therefore you can set your television to be off at certain hours of the day.

    None of these obstacles are insurmountable. If I really want to surf online, I can use a different browser, my phone or another computer. If I really want to watch television, I can unplug the timer and plug it directly into the wall socket.

    But the obstacles make that vice slightly harder. Since I was engaging in these vices mostly out of laziness anyways, the push to read a book or work instead is a bit easier to manage.

    The nice thing about these two examples, again, is that the expenditure of willpower is one-time. I only need to setup leech block and the timer once, for them to impede my access to the vice for as long as I want.

    Other types of obstacles can also be introduced, but they still require ongoing willpower. One example, if you’re trying to keep from eating bad food, is simply not to keep any junk food at your house. But now you need to exert that willpower each time you shop. An improvement, perhaps, but not always a perfect one.

    Still, I can imagine a hypothetical grocery delivery service which gives you the option to lock in your weekly deliveries in advance. That way, your groceries come automatically and, therefore, the obstacle to getting junk food would be much larger—a completely separate trip to the store.

    Technology as a Habit Multiplier

    Consumer technology often gets a bad rap for enhancing our vices. We’re slaves to the whims of our devices and social media accounts.

    But, at least in the case of apps like leech block, I think technology can work in the other direction. It can provide new ways to move our behavior in a deliberate direction. As a result, I think technology will act like more of a multiplier—enhancing both our virtues and our vices—in the future, and it’s up to us to decide which.

    Best,
    -Scott

    P.S. – What obstacles do you have to push you away from bad habits. Share your ideas and suggestions in the comments:

    http://www.scotthyoung.com/blo…, 1529 W. Pender Street, 1101, Vancouver, Canada V6G 3J3

    Unsubscribe | Change Subscriber Options

    6073 HILLANDALE DR.
    LOS ANGELES, CA 90042

    323-428-5048 (c), or try SKYPE

  • Aldo Garbellini

    A good tool for understanding habits. I do shy away from ‘scientifically proven’ because these can change as one understands the phenomenon more completely (does anyone talk about type-A personalities, anymore?)

  • Aldo Garbellini

    A good tool for understanding habits. I do shy away from ‘scientifically proven’ because these can change as one understands the phenomenon more completely (does anyone talk about type-A personalities, anymore?)

  • frozenpineappleblog

    What works for me is setting a New Years resolution to kick a bad habit for only one year. After one year, I become less inclined to do the bad habit even though I stop restricting myself.

  • frozenpineappleblog

    What works for me is setting a New Years resolution to kick a bad habit for only one year. After one year, I become less inclined to do the bad habit even though I stop restricting myself.

  • Yoni Binstock

    You should check out Goodnight Chrome – it’s a chrome extension that turns off the internet at a time when you set – bit.ly/goodnightchrome

  • Yoni Binstock

    You should check out Goodnight Chrome – it’s a chrome extension that turns off the internet at a time when you set – bit.ly/goodnightchrome

  • Duncan Smith

    One year is a long time to commit to something: http://www.scotthyoung.com/blo

  • I like the idea of technological solutions to problems created by technology. Here one that I have found useful: http://www.rescuetime.com. It tracks work vs. play web sites, and I find the goal-setting approach to be a good way to limit Internet distraction.

  • Duncan Smith

    I like the idea of technological solutions to problems created by technology. Here one that I have found useful: http://www.rescuetime.com. It tracks work vs. play web sites, and I find the goal-setting approach to be a good way to limit Internet distraction.

  • Some words of caution. Obstacles to vice seems innocuous, but they really lead you down a slippery slope to despotism over your vice-loving self. Who are you to dictate what your self should do on the internet 10 minutes from now? How do you know what’s best for your self that far into the future? It starts out innocently enough – leech block here, time-controlled switches there. Next thing you know you’ve “obstacled” out the rest of your life… sleeping 8 hrs every night, eating balanced meals, reading a varied collection of books, exercising every day and so forth. You completely stifle that fat kid inside every one of us who just wants to enjoy life and play some video games. Why can’t you let that kid just play some video games? And all this under the guise of “obstacles to vice”! Paternalistic libertarianism in its natural habitat.

  • Tony Yin

    Some words of caution. Obstacles to vice seems innocuous, but they really lead you down a slippery slope to despotism over your vice-loving self. Who are you to dictate what your self should do on the internet 10 minutes from now? How do you know what’s best for your self that far into the future? It starts out innocently enough – leech block here, time-controlled switches there. Next thing you know you’ve “obstacled” out the rest of your life… sleeping 8 hrs every night, eating balanced meals, reading a varied collection of books, exercising every day and so forth. You completely stifle that fat kid inside every one of us who just wants to enjoy life and play some video games. Why can’t you let that kid just play some video games? And all this under the guise of “obstacles to vice”! Paternalistic libertarianism in its natural habitat.

  • Cris

    Could you please add a pinnable image to your posts? I want to be able to reference these articles relative to other habit-forming strategies.

  • Cris

    Could you please add a pinnable image to your posts? I want to be able to reference these articles relative to other habit-forming strategies.

  • frozenpineappleblog

    I do challenges during the 40 day lent period and I return to my bad habit afterwards unfortunately

  • frozenpineappleblog

    I do challenges during the 40 day lent period and I return to my bad habit afterwards unfortunately

  • Hey Tony,

    Good comment. Those who favor a hedonistic world view would agree with you. Those who favor a eudaimonic world view would argue that denying the fat kid in you leads to a virtuous life (assuming the vice is not virtuous). Personally, I think a balance is required. I like playing video games and eating junk food as much as the next person but too much of either makes me feel crappy.

  • swiedner

    Hey Tony,

    Good comment. Those who favor a hedonistic world view would agree with you. Those who favor a eudaimonic world view would argue that denying the fat kid in you leads to a virtuous life (assuming the vice is not virtuous). Personally, I think a balance is required. I like playing video games and eating junk food as much as the next person but too much of either makes me feel crappy.

  • Eudaimonic.. love that word. Haven’t looked into that dichotomy with hedonic before.

  • Tony Yin

    Eudaimonic.. love that word. Haven’t looked into that dichotomy with hedonic before.

  • Your imagined grocery delivery service exists. Sort of. In the UK at least. We have Ocado – a delivery service where one of the best or worst features ever (depending on how you use it) is that they let you set up a weekly delivery slot and then *auto populate* the “basket” based on a combination of your settings and prior shopping. You can add exceptions (things that should always be included, or that should never be added automatically) to tweak what gets added, but overall it is very good at picking based on your past behaviour (which is where “worst feature ever” comes in if you don’t manage to exert some willpower when you start using it).

    It has its flaws, but in one way it is great: It is now a chore to change the shopping list, as we know that by default we get a reasonable set of defaults if we do nothing. To change it we need to log in, pick other items and save, and need to do that before a certain time late Thursday evening (our delivery is due each Friday evening).

    Even though nothing stops me from logging in and adding 2kg chocolate to the shopping list, this acts as the kind of sufficient obstacle that you describe:

    I may want more chocolate, but it’s rarely a strong enough urge that I will log in and change the order for something I know is bad for me. If I *have* to log in to modify the order, I can aim to do it when I’m full and rested and far less likely to make stupid choices on impulse, but often I never log in to change the order. More importantly: It keeps me out of the grocery store, which is where the vast majority of my failures of willpower happens.

    Suddenly it feels like an obstacle to order more chocolate even though it’s the effort of our weekly shop that has dropped, not the effort of getting more chocolate. In fact, the effort to get more chocolate is smaller than it was before we got our weekly shop set up – the delivery slot is picked, and payment details registered, after all, but sticking with the “standard” shop has gotten much easier than that again.

    I see this in another area too, as a happy coincidence with the marketing desires of a take-away aggregator:

    Smoothing a reasonable course of action indirectly creates a *perceived* obstacle for undesirable actions by making a more reasonable course simpler.

    Every Friday afternoon I get a marketing e-mail. The one marketing e-mail I react to. Hungry House reminds me I can re-order from my favourite Chinese delivery place from them the easy way. It is genius: They remember when I usually order and e-mail me right before that, and *only* then, so I don’t get annoyed with them. They also remember rom where, and give me a link. When I click it and log in, my usual order is available for me to just click “re-order”, make amendments, and confirm.

    The thing is: On one hand it acts as a “vent” that makes it easier to stick to my diet other times. It’s the one take-away I get every week. On the other hand it makes all other take-away orders seem like a chore in comparison, and so acts as a barrier to excess: Once a week I get an e-mail where I just have to click the link to get me to a reasonable sized order that will make me full but not bloated, and it will take just a couple of clicks and it’s on its way. Having that re-order button prevents me from being tempted to start a fresh order and go amok.

    I like to seek out not just barriers, but things that makes the good or reasonable choices so much easier that the bad things starts to *feel* like there are obstacles to them.

  • Vidar Hokstad

    Your imagined grocery delivery service exists. Sort of. In the UK at least. We have Ocado – a delivery service where one of the best or worst features ever (depending on how you use it) is that they let you set up a weekly delivery slot and then *auto populate* the “basket” based on a combination of your settings and prior shopping. You can add exceptions (things that should always be included, or that should never be added automatically) to tweak what gets added, but overall it is very good at picking based on your past behaviour (which is where “worst feature ever” comes in if you don’t manage to exert some willpower when you start using it).

    It has its flaws, but in one way it is great: It is now a chore to change the shopping list, as we know that by default we get a reasonable set of defaults if we do nothing. To change it we need to log in, pick other items and save, and need to do that before a certain time late Thursday evening (our delivery is due each Friday evening).

    Even though nothing stops me from logging in and adding 2kg chocolate to the shopping list, this acts as the kind of sufficient obstacle that you describe:

    I may want more chocolate, but it’s rarely a strong enough urge that I will log in and change the order for something I know is bad for me. If I *have* to log in to modify the order, I can aim to do it when I’m full and rested and far less likely to make stupid choices on impulse, but often I never log in to change the order. More importantly: It keeps me out of the grocery store, which is where the vast majority of my failures of willpower happens.

    Suddenly it feels like an obstacle to order more chocolate even though it’s the effort of our weekly shop that has dropped, not the effort of getting more chocolate. In fact, the effort to get more chocolate is smaller than it was before we got our weekly shop set up – the delivery slot is picked, and payment details registered, after all, but sticking with the “standard” shop has gotten much easier than that again.

    I see this in another area too, as a happy coincidence with the marketing desires of a take-away aggregator:

    Smoothing a reasonable course of action indirectly creates a *perceived* obstacle for undesirable actions by making a more reasonable course simpler.

    Every Friday afternoon I get a marketing e-mail. The one marketing e-mail I react to. Hungry House reminds me I can re-order from my favourite Chinese delivery place from them the easy way. It is genius: They remember when I usually order and e-mail me right before that, and *only* then, so I don’t get annoyed with them. They also remember rom where, and give me a link. When I click it and log in, my usual order is available for me to just click “re-order”, make amendments, and confirm.

    The thing is: On one hand it acts as a “vent” that makes it easier to stick to my diet other times. It’s the one take-away I get every week. On the other hand it makes all other take-away orders seem like a chore in comparison, and so acts as a barrier to excess: Once a week I get an e-mail where I just have to click the link to get me to a reasonable sized order that will make me full but not bloated, and it will take just a couple of clicks and it’s on its way. Having that re-order button prevents me from being tempted to start a fresh order and go amok.

    I like to seek out not just barriers, but things that makes the good or reasonable choices so much easier that the bad things starts to *feel* like there are obstacles to them.

  • Scott Young

    Agreed. A lot of vices are probably good–in moderation. I don’t think living a perfectly virtuous life is necessarily best either. But moderation is itself a difficult habit, so obstacles seem like a plausible way of achieving it.

    I think the problem with some habit-changing efforts is that people misconceive what a life without diversions actually looks like, because normally they are unable to actually achieve it, so with habit tools they go a bit overboard and eliminate everything pleasurable. The correct perspective is that pleasurable distractions (television, a glass of wine, glazed donuts) are probably good things at some level of consumption. Fine tuning and hitting that correct level is what’s hard.

  • Scott Young

    Agreed. A lot of vices are probably good–in moderation. I don’t think living a perfectly virtuous life is necessarily best either. But moderation is itself a difficult habit, so obstacles seem like a plausible way of achieving it.

    I think the problem with some habit-changing efforts is that people misconceive what a life without diversions actually looks like, because normally they are unable to actually achieve it, so with habit tools they go a bit overboard and eliminate everything pleasurable. The correct perspective is that pleasurable distractions (television, a glass of wine, glazed donuts) are probably good things at some level of consumption. Fine tuning and hitting that correct level is what’s hard.

  • Scott Young

    “Proven” seems an overstatement. I doubt most scientists would use those terms. Perhaps, “has some corroborating evidence that’s not just some guys opinion”?

  • Scott Young

    “Proven” seems an overstatement. I doubt most scientists would use those terms. Perhaps, “has some corroborating evidence that’s not just some guys opinion”?

  • Aldo Garbellini

    Questioning and having a skeptical outlook is helpful in evaluating and judging the soundness of an idea. I am not interested in “feeling superior on the internet…” or “PooPoo [ing] something that is solving big issues for lots of people…”
    I gave an example (type-A personality) which is no longer influential in modifying conduct which may lead to high blood pressure or heart disease. This idea was once considered a legitimate scientific conclusion.
    Statements like “Well, it works. Period” are statements I can NOT question, evaluate, or judge. They are dogmatic, and I’m not sure Scott Young is trying to disseminate declarative statements and dogmatic comments that cannot be questioned.
    I have not read The Power of Habit. The introductory comments seems to correctly reflect ideas found in Contingencies of Reinforcement: A Theoretical Analysis (Skinner, 1969). I have no interest in your personal opinions. I am only interested in asking questions to better inform my understanding. Lastly, I am interested in expanding discourse, not excluding or eliminating questions.

  • Aldo Garbellini

    Questioning and having a skeptical outlook is helpful in evaluating and judging the soundness of an idea. I am not interested in “feeling superior on the internet…” or “PooPoo [ing] something that is solving big issues for lots of people…”
    I gave an example (type-A personality) which is no longer influential in modifying conduct which may lead to high blood pressure or heart disease. This idea was once considered a legitimate scientific conclusion.
    Statements like “Well, it works. Period” are statements I can NOT question, evaluate, or judge. They are dogmatic, and I’m not sure Scott Young is trying to disseminate declarative statements and dogmatic comments that cannot be questioned.
    I have not read The Power of Habit. The introductory comments seems to correctly reflect ideas found in Contingencies of Reinforcement: A Theoretical Analysis (Skinner, 1969). I have no interest in your personal opinions. I am only interested in asking questions to better inform my understanding. Lastly, I am interested in expanding discourse, not excluding or eliminating questions.

  • That guy

    Maybe there is a way to combine the advantages of moderation and going cold turkey. What if you set a bright line with very clear rules, but rules that still allow you to do something in moderation. For example: you allow yourself to drink only one glass of alcohol a day, and it can only be wine or beer, and it has to be in a standard glass. With these rules you can’t cheat, so if you do it right, there is no gray area.

    Even with this method, I still think cold turkey is much easier in the long term. I would rather eat no junk food at all than have one small slice of pizza a day. This is mainly a problem for me in my internet use. Anyway, I’m still thinking about this and I think I will find some way that works someday.

  • That guy

    Maybe there is a way to combine the advantages of moderation and going cold turkey. What if you set a bright line with very clear rules, but rules that still allow you to do something in moderation. For example: you allow yourself to drink only one glass of alcohol a day, and it can only be wine or beer, and it has to be in a standard glass. With these rules you can’t cheat, so if you do it right, there is no gray area.

    Even with this method, I still think cold turkey is much easier in the long term. I would rather eat no junk food at all than have one small slice of pizza a day. This is mainly a problem for me in my internet use. Anyway, I’m still thinking about this and I think I will find some way that works someday.

  • William Norman Ryland

    One of my greatest life lessons is that we only see in others that which we deny in ourselves. It was a hard lesson to learn because once a thing is denied, then we literally cannot see it. It seems obvious that it CANNOT be true.

    It makes sense, because Perception is Projection… the evil you see in others is actually the negative characteristics (that you don’t accept about yourself) that you sling onto your “view ” of the world.

    We like to think that we are not like THOSE PEOPLE, so we deny the truth about ourselves.

    Don’t worry, I’m not singling you out. We all do it. It is part of what makes us human. But, most will disagree, because they simply cannot see it in themselves.

    We are all Hitler, and all M. Theresa.

  • William Norman Ryland

    One of my greatest life lessons is that we only see in others that which we deny in ourselves. It was a hard lesson to learn because once a thing is denied, then we literally cannot see it. It seems obvious that it CANNOT be true.

    It makes sense, because Perception is Projection… the evil you see in others is actually the negative characteristics (that you don’t accept about yourself) that you sling onto your “view ” of the world.

    We like to think that we are not like THOSE PEOPLE, so we deny the truth about ourselves.

    Don’t worry, I’m not singling you out. We all do it. It is part of what makes us human. But, most will disagree, because they simply cannot see it in themselves.

    We are all Hitler, and all M. Theresa.

  • Aldo Garbellini

    I do not agree that Perception is Projection, or that I see evil in others. Or that evil or good even exists. The point is to be able to examine statements, and evaluate their agreed upon usefulness. I appreciate your respectful and careful reply, and I hope we can all continue to examine and comment on each others views as a way to ‘move ahead’ in one’s journey to making better decisions, and trying to act in ways that harm no one and benefit as many as possible. I understand/conclude/know you are NOT singling me out.

    I might include that the only feature humans have in common is that we are very adaptable and varied in the way we express humanity.

  • Aldo Garbellini

    I do not agree that Perception is Projection, or that I see evil in others. Or that evil or good even exists. The point is to be able to examine statements, and evaluate their agreed upon usefulness. I appreciate your respectful and careful reply, and I hope we can all continue to examine and comment on each others views as a way to ‘move ahead’ in one’s journey to making better decisions, and trying to act in ways that harm no one and benefit as many as possible. I understand/conclude/know you are NOT singling me out.

    I might include that the only feature humans have in common is that we are very adaptable and varied in the way we express humanity.

  • William Norman Ryland

    Aldo, did you ever buy a new car and then suddenly it seems like half of all cars on the road are that exact same model? Before you owned it, you rarely saw the car. Now, it’s everywhere!

    If I don’t own it, I don’t see it. It literally does not exist. What I see is me.

    In fact, there is no OUT THERE, out there.

    Yes, I know…. you disagree. The Truth never seems right at first blush. I don’t expect you to agree, or even comprehend.

    Like most people, you think that you are a being inside a world, detecting the outside. In truth, your brain is interpreting electrical signals IN THERE.

    Science is proving it… Color doesn’t exist… In fact, neither does matter or space, distance, time, planets, etc.

    They’ve been looking OUT THERE, when it’s been in here all along. Their biggest mistake was assuming that the Universe was real!

    I should stop, as I am way off topic here. My bad.

  • William Norman Ryland

    Aldo, did you ever buy a new car and then suddenly it seems like half of all cars on the road are that exact same model? Before you owned it, you rarely saw the car. Now, it’s everywhere!

    If I don’t own it, I don’t see it. It literally does not exist. What I see is me.

    In fact, there is no OUT THERE, out there.

    Yes, I know…. you disagree. The Truth never seems right at first blush. I don’t expect you to agree, or even comprehend.

    Like most people, you think that you are a being inside a world, detecting the outside. In truth, your brain is interpreting electrical signals IN THERE.

    Science is proving it… Color doesn’t exist… In fact, neither does matter or space, distance, time, planets, etc.

    They’ve been looking OUT THERE, when it’s been in here all along. Their biggest mistake was assuming that the Universe was real!

    I should stop, as I am way off topic here. My bad.

  • Aldo Garbellini

    You are correct about the inability to prove the external world. Truth with a capital T is not something that can be demonstrated. We can agree and carefully examine our impressions/ideas/perceptions (see Hume), and agree that “this is true based on what we know and our consistent use of rules of reasoning.” I am not a realist (technical philosophical term), I also agree that we are now way off topic, I appreciate the discussion. “MY BAD”? I doubt that.

  • Aldo Garbellini

    You are correct about the inability to prove the external world. Truth with a capital T is not something that can be demonstrated. We can agree and carefully examine our impressions/ideas/perceptions (see Hume), and agree that “this is true based on what we know and our consistent use of rules of reasoning.” I am not a realist (technical philosophical term), I also agree that we are now way off topic, I appreciate the discussion. “MY BAD”? I doubt that.

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