Sean Young: “Stick With It: A Scientifically Proven Process for Changing […]” | Talks at Google

really amazing bio. We’re lucky to have
him here with us today for the Authors
[INAUDIBLE] series. He is a UCLA Medical
School professor, and the founder and
executive director of the UCLA Center
for Digital Behavior and the UC Institute for
Prediction Technology. He has a PhD in psychology and
a master’s in health services research from
Stanford University. And the work he
will present today is on behavior change based
on his research with patients and consulting with businesses. He’s tackled challenges ranging
from getting people to stick with New Year’s resolutions–
which we all would love to learn more about, I’m sure– to keeping healthier
and addressing some of the most important
would-be problems, like preventing
the spread of HIV. His book, “Stick With It,”
is available from Harper as of June 20th. Thank you for being here. [APPLAUSE] SEAN YOUNG: Thanks
so much, Jessica. I wrote this book
because, on a daily basis, I was hearing
stories from people who were having trouble
sticking with things that they wanted to do. For those of you who’ve
ever tried to do something and had a difficult time
sticking with things, it can be really, really tough. If you’ve tried doing
something, and you fail at it, and you really want to do
it, people can really suffer. Whether we’re trying
to do it for ourselves, to get ourselves to
stick with things, or we’re trying to get other
people who we really care about to stick with things
that they want to do or that are good for them. So when hearing these stories,
I really empathize with people. And at the same time,
half the time, I’d be empathizing with them,
and half the time, I’d be really frustrated
hearing their answers. Because their reasoning
behind why they couldn’t stick with things or why other people
couldn’t stick with things were often because someone
wasn’t dedicated enough. They were lazy. There were problems
with the individual. They weren’t motivated enough. And this not only makes us feel
bad about ourselves or about people to pin that
on the individual, but it’s actually not
the correct science. It’s not backed by science. So what I had learned
is that the reason why we don’t stick
with things is not because of a problem
with the person, not because of a problem with
ourselves or other people. It’s because we’re not
following the right process. So in this talk, I’m going
to talk about that process. And that’s what led
me to write this book. And this same process can be
used for small, mundane things, just like getting ourself
to stick with a hobby that we want to take on. But it can also be used for
really serious, important things, like getting
ourselves or others to stick with medication that’s
been prescribed, or getting ourselves or others
to stay free from diseases. So that’s why I wrote this book. Now as a social and
behavioral psychologist, I love that I get
to meet and help so many different
types of people. I get to meet with
entrepreneurs, with public health experts, with
engineers, and our own research participants. And on the way over here, for
example, on the flight over, I got into a conversation
with the person in the seat next to me. And he reminds me of my
Uncle Sid from New York. He has this strong
New York accent. And so he says to me,
[FAKE NEW YORK ACCENT] Dr. Young, every month, I pay
for my gym membership. I try to do something
good for myself. I know I should go to the gym,
but I don’t go to the gym. Why don’t I go? I’m paying for my
gym membership. Can you give me some drugs or
analyze my dreams to help me? {?_{?_[SPEAKING NORMALLY]_?}_?}
But I have to tell him, no, I can’t, because
that’s not what I do. I help people change
their behavior. But his problem is one
that I think a lot of us can relate to, the problem
of, how do we stick to things? A few years ago, by
the end of the summer, I planned to learn basics
of speaking Chinese. But at the end of the
summer, all I could say was, yeah, I’ll have the
Kung Pao chicken, please. Now problems like this are not
just about personal behaviors, like wanting to learn a new
language or stick with things. They also apply to business. So a team in your organization
may have plans to complete work by a deadline. But then they keep
missing their deadlines. But they plan their
own deadlines. Now the typical solution
to things like this, or the reasoning
behind it, is to say that the person is flawed,
that the person doesn’t have enough willpower, the person
isn’t motivated enough, and we need to
change the person. But that not only makes us
feel badly about ourselves as people with putting
blame like that, but it’s not the
correct science. So what I’ve learned
is that we just need to know that
there are three different types of behaviors. Once we know those three
different types of behaviors, there are a set of
tools for changing those three types of behaviors. So that’s what we’re going
to go over in this talk. Now when you walked
in, you should have received a card, hopefully. Raise your hand right now
if you didn’t get a card, and we can get someone to
get you a card right now. Great. Thanks so much. So on the card, I want to ask
you to write down a behavior that you want to change. This can be a personal
behavior, like getting yourself to read more books
or to be more engaged in work. It can be a business
type behavior, like getting your
employees to take better care of their health. Make sure to write it down,
because toward the end, I’m going to call on some of
you to talk about your behavior. And we’ll call someone
up here, actually. All right, how many of you
have had the situation where you are trying to get something
out, you’re trying to talk, and someone keeps
interrupting you? I think probably all of us have. Yep, all of us have
experienced that. Now how many of you
get frustrated when you’re trying to talk, and the
person keeps frustrating you? Well, it may not be
that person’s fault. So that person may be doing what
I call an automatic behavior. So an automatic behavior is
something where we’re not even aware of what we’re doing. It just happens unconsciously. And knowing that something
is an automatic behavior allows us to know
how to address it. So other examples of
an automatic behavior are forgetting that we’re
not standing up straight, eating food that’s just
sitting in front of us without even being aware
of what we’re doing. Those are automatic behaviors. But once we know
that something’s an automatic behavior, there are
a set of tools and strategies that we can use to change it. But before we get
into that, let’s talk about the second
type of behavior. So while waiting at a
stoplight to cross the street, I’d often pull out my phone,
check email to burn some time. And sometimes, I’d
even cross the street while I’m still
reading the email. That’s not always the best idea. It can lead to accidents. It can lead me tripping in
the middle of the street. I shouldn’t be doing that. But I feel like I
wasn’t able to stop. I felt like I had to just
finish reading this email, and then I’ll put
the phone away. So this is an example of what
I call a burning behavior. While automatic
behaviors are things that happen unconsciously,
automatically, burning behaviors
are behaviors where we’re aware of what we’re doing,
but we feel powerless to stop. We feel like we just can’t stop. So in my case, knowing that
it was a burning behavior, I was able to stop it. And part of that solution
comes from, every week now, I take a digital day of rest. So from Friday to Saturday,
I don’t use any apps. I don’t check email. I don’t even talk about work. It’s just time for
friends and family. And I was able to
address that and to stop what could be a growing digital
addiction, because I knew this was a burning behavior. But before we get
into that, let me tell you about the
last type of behavior and also go into the background
of how I came to study this. So this is my brother up here. And when I was in
graduate school, just down the street
here at Stanford, my brother came up to visit. Now he had been suffering from
an intestinal disorder called Crohn’s disease. And he came up to visit, and
he was just in too much pain to go back home. So we brought him to
the emergency room. And they looked at
him, and it turns out his intestines had burst. So he was rushed into
emergency surgery, and they saved his life. He was minutes away
from dying, they said. They saved his life. So he spent two weeks
recovering at Stanford Hospital. Then he was prescribed
daily medication, advised to change his lifestyle,
and then he was released. Now try to put yourself in my
brother’s situation the way that I did. You just almost
died, and you’ve been told, change your lifestyle. Now how likely do you guys
think you would be to do that? If you’re like my brother,
if you’re like most people, you’d say, I’m going to change. I’m going to eat differently. I’m going to exercise. I’m going to take my medication. I’m going to do everything
that I’m supposed to do. And my brother said
he’d do that 100%. But he didn’t. I didn’t understand why. I– my family and I
were really close. I love my brother. So I was on the phone with
my mom for hours every day. And we were trying
to figure out, what could we do to get him to
follow these recommendations? Why wasn’t he doing it? I was scared for him. I was worried. I was confused. And I was frustrated. And so I started
searching for answers. I started talking to all
different types of people, experts in education, in
medicine, in business, and I was trying
to find answers. But I kept finding the same
one size fits all solution and answers. People were saying he needed
to have more willpower. People were saying he needed to
be more educated about Crohn’s and how to change it. They were saying that he
wasn’t motivated enough about his health. But my brother’s smart. He’s motivated. He’s health conscious. He’s educated. So these answers didn’t
make sense to me. And so that’s why I
started studying this area. And after 15 years
of studying it, I’ve come up with some answers. So what I figured
out is it’s not about a one size
fits all solution, and it’s not about
blaming the individual. What we need to know is that
not all behaviors are the same. There are three
types of behaviors. While I was questioning why
my brother wasn’t changing, other things were happening
at the same time in my life. I was in a band and
trying to figure out, how do we get the
fans of our band to keep coming back to our
shows, to keep buying albums? I was teaching
classes at Stanford and wondering, why was it that
the students in our classes would wait until the
day a paper was due, and then they’d
ask for more time? Or I was wondering,
how could I get myself, where I was working on
so many different things, to stay engaged and motivated
in doing all of them? Now all these seem like
really different things, but if you look deeper,
they’re actually united by one common thread. And that’s, how do we get
people to stick with things? So people often
were even planning what they were going to do,
but they still kept failing. So how do we get people
to stick with things? Well, what I found
is that we need to know the three
types of behaviors. So the three types
of behaviors are automatic, burning,
and common behaviors, or what I call the
ABCs of behavior. So I’ll do a quick
recap about that. Automatic behaviors,
are behaviors that happen unconsciously, like
the example of the interrupter. Burning behaviors,
burning behaviors. are behaviors that are not
happening unconsciously, but we feel powerless to stop. Addictions are often
burning behaviors. And then third are
common behaviors. Common behaviors are the
most common of all behaviors. Common behaviors are
often due to motivation. So a common behavior
is something where we’re aware
of what we’re doing, but the risks of doing
it, or the energy that it takes for us to do
it, isn’t worth the benefits we think we might
get from doing it. So let me say that again. I’ll repeat that. Common behavior
is something where the energy that it takes
for us to do something, or the risk that it
takes for us to do it, isn’t worth the benefit we think
we might get from doing it. So let me give an example,
because that’s a lot. So my brothers lifestyle
change was an example of a common behavior. Because despite being told that
he should change his lifestyle, and that may keep him out of
the hospital, he didn’t think it was worth it to change. Why should he give up
things that he loved doing? Why should he change
the way he eats? Why should he exercise more,
meditate, take medication? Why should he do these
things if there wasn’t even a guarantee that it would work? That’s a common behavior. But knowing that something is
a common behavior, or an A or B behavior, allows us
to know how to fix it. We just need to know
the set of tools for fixing those
types of behaviors. So the set of tools
are what I call the forces of behavior change. Now you guys may have
learned in physics that there are forces that move objects– that move objects–
can’t move this. There are forces that move
objects in certain directions. Well, there are behavioral
forces that move people. They get us to behave
in certain ways. Now just as a flight crew, or
a pilot, or aerospace engineers need to know the physical forces
that move a plane in order to fly it safely, all of us need
to know the behavioral forces that move people so we can
behave the way we want. There are seven of these forces. So what I did, I came up with
a framework called SCIENCE, where each one of the
letters of SCIENCE represents a different
one of the seven forces. And it’s called
SCIENCE, not because you need a scientist to know it, but
because it’s based on decades of scientific research. So S stands for “Stepladders.” We know we’re supposed to
do things in small steps, but we often don’t. We often don’t plan small
steps to change our behavior. A few weeks ago, I ran
into someone at the market. And he was a cross-country
runner in high school. And he decided that he
wanted to run a marathon. He ran cross-country in high
school, so he knew how to run, but he hadn’t run since then. It had been 20 years since then. And he decides, I’m just
going to go run this marathon, and I’m going to do it. I’ve got the motivation. I’ve got the energy. I can do this. And he actually did pretty well. He got to mile 19,
but then he collapsed. And he said, I didn’t
finish that marathon, and I’m probably not going to
run another marathon again. Now that story, I don’t
know about for you guys, but there’s no way I could run
a marathon without training for it. So this makes a lot of sense. If we want to be
able to do something, if we want to
stick to things, we need to start in small,
incremental steps. But just like the
marathon example, we often make the same
mistakes in our own life. If we want to be able to
make a New Year’s resolution to go to the gym, we’ll say,
I’m going to go to the gym. I haven’t really been at
all before this past year, but I’m going to go five days
a week for the next year. And that’s a pretty tall order. So we need to think about
things in small steps. But the question is, how do
you know what a small step is? How do you know how
small a step should be? So I created this figure
here called Steps, Goals, and Dreams. The marathon example, if I was
going to try to run a marathon, I’ve never run one
before, I’m not going to be able to do it in a week. I’m not going to be able to
do it in a month, probably. It’ll probably take
me a few months of training to run a marathon. So that’s what I call a dream. It’s attainable, but it
takes some time to get there. If I want something
now to do, a first step would be something that
takes less than a week. So getting a pair of running
shoes may be a first step. Or if I haven’t run before
much, running for 10, 15, 20 minutes, just something
small would be a first step. So. this figure will
teach us how we can plan steps that are the right
size so that we don’t give up. So that’s Stepladders. C stands for “Community.” We all want to be
different from the crowd. We want to be different
than other individuals. But our social
environment matters. It matters a lot more than
we even think it does. And there’s a science
how to leverage social to create change. One of the studies that
we do in our research– I created what’s called
the Hope Intervention. Hope Intervention is
an online community where it’s designed
to motivate people to change their behavior. We invite people to a
12-week intervention. And we have found that
these interventions to change people’s behavior
across different areas– drug use, HIV, different
types of behaviors– we find that within 12
weeks, we can get people to change their behavior. And it leverages the
force of community through these
online communities. We find that people in
our Hope Interventions are about two to three
times as likely to change their behavior. Now I stands for “Important.” People won’t do things
unless they want to do it, unless they’re motivated, right? Yes, but no, not necessarily. Motivation definitely
matters, and that’s why it’s up here as one
of these seven forces. But people actually don’t
need to be motivated in order to stick with things. So I’ll give an example
from the Hope Intervention that I was mentioning. We did a Hope
Intervention on trying to get people at high risk
for HIV to get an HIV test. They weren’t interested
in getting an HIV test. We had them sign
up for our group. They took a survey. We paid them to take a survey. And then we said, all right,
you guys are free to go. You don’t need to be in
this community anymore. It was up to us to keep them
engaged, keep them motivated. Well, by the end of the study,
people in our Hope group were much more likely, two
to three times as likely, as people who weren’t
to test for HIV. They still weren’t interested,
necessarily, in testing, but we got them to test. So the point is important
and motivation matters, but if we’re using
the other forces, we can often get
people to do things, even if they’re not motivated
to do that thing themselves. Now E stands for “Easy.” If we can make something
easier for people to do than for
them not to do it, or easier for ourselves
to do than to not do, people will do it. It’s that simple. Just like we can get
people to do easy things by changing around
our environment, we can do that with behaviors. In this chapter on easy, I talk
about some business examples of how businesses were
able to make things easy. So who’s heard the
story of Joe Coulombe? So if you guys ask someone
about the story of– let’s see, what time is it? OK, we’ve got time. Let me tell you this story. It’s a good story. So Joe Coulombe– and
this took place in 1958, in the late 1950s– he had graduated from
Stanford School of Business, from the GSB. And he went to go work for
a company called Owl Rexall. Owl Rexall was a grocery
chain, grocery store chain. And what they told
him is, hey, Joe, we want you to go
off on your own and start this new chain
of stores called Pronto. So he starts Pronto. But Pronto is struggling. He wasn’t doing well. The reason is there was this
other competitor grocery store that had just
come out, and they were doing really well. They were called 7-Eleven. So 7-Eleven was open
at unprecedented hours. They were open 7:00
AM to 11:00 PM. They were offering
all kinds of products. Joe and Pronto couldn’t compete. So Owl Rexall said,
it’s not working. Let’s axe Pronto, and we’ll
do something else, Joe. But Joe didn’t want to do that. He left work from Owl Rexall,
and he mortgaged his house, and decides he’s going to go
on his own and save Pronto. But he didn’t know how to do it. So he says, OK, I’m going to
take a vacation, meanwhile. I’m going to go to the
Caribbean and think this over. While he’s in the
Caribbean, he’s relaxing, he’s laying by the beach. People are bringing
him Mai Tais. He’s drinking. They’re bringing him food. He’s listening to calypso
and reggae music there. And he realizes, this is a
pretty sweet setup for someone who’s on vacation. They’re making it pretty
easy for tourists to be here. Maybe there’s something that
I can do with this lifestyle, with this making it easy, and I
can bring this back to Pronto. So that’s what he does. So he goes back home. And compared to
competitor stores, which were offering 10
different types of mayonnaise, 13 types of bread, a ton of
different product choices, Joe decides, I’m going
to have just one. I’m going to make it easy for
people when they come in here. They’re going to know
what they can purchase. And it worked. It worked. People started not only
coming into his stores, but they kept on buying,
and it kept on working. And Pronto stores, which
ultimately changed their name, became a huge lasting success. They’re still around today. Anyone have an idea of
what the store chain is? You got it. Say it louder. Trader Joe’s. Exactly. So his name was Joe,
they’re inspired by the trip to the Caribbean. So now, when you see
the Hawaiian shirts, it’s from the story of Joe. Now Trader Joe’s
isn’t the only one to leverage this force of easy. Think about Amazon. Amazon Prime, Amazon
Dash, makes shopping easy. You don’t have to
leave your home. I don’t go shopping
anywhere anymore, just everything on Amazon. They can deliver to
you before you even know what you want to order. That’s pretty easy. Google, you guys have
actually done it too. And with some of
you in the group, you may have been
involved in this. So Google, as you guys know,
one of the founding tenets, one of the benefits
of Google, is that there’s food everywhere. Well, that also can lead to
the Google 15 or the Google 20. And so Google found that their
employees were not as healthy as they would like. So they decided, we’re going to
change around the dining halls, and make it so that we’re going
to take the unhealthier foods and put it in the back and
make them in containers that aren’t clear anymore. Had a big effect on
employee behavior, and on health, and on eating. So the force of easy
is a powerful way to change people’s behavior. Next, N stands for “Neurohacks.” Neurohacks are quick
mental shortcuts that can get us to
change our behavior. So just like hitting
Control-Alt-Delete on a PC can allow us to use a
program that was jammed up or reset things, neurohacks
allow us to reset our brain, and allow us to think and
behave in ways that we couldn’t before. I’ll give an example
of a neurohack. In the chapter on
neurohacks, I mention a story by a man named Mauricio. So Mauricio was a designer. He was in a funk though. He had just gotten a divorce. He didn’t feel motivated
to be a designer anymore. He didn’t feel
like going to work. But he didn’t know what to do. But he got an idea while
he was at work one day. He came across the
familiar screen of it’s flashing in
front of him, saying, you need to change
your password. And he says, I’m going to use
my password to change my life and get me out of this funk. So what does he do? So he says, I’m going to change
my password to the number “4 get her.” “4get her.” Forget her. Or sorry, not– “4give her.” “4give her.” So forgive her. So he decides, I’m going to,
every day, have to type “4give her,” and that’ll get me
to be able to forgive her for what’s happened. And when he first started doing
it, it was pretty difficult. You can imagine, he’s
going through this divorce, he’s having a tough time, and
now he has to type “4give her.” So the first few times, it was
difficult. But what he found is that as he kept typing “4give
her,” it became easier to do. He didn’t have these
terrible feelings that he thought he would. He didn’t have to change his
password to something else. He could continue doing this. And it just reset his
brain and made him think, I’m getting over her. I’m forgiving her. I’m forgetting. And I’m moving on. And he has moved on since. It was a neurohack that
allowed him to move on. But he didn’t just stop there. He also was smoking, and
he changed his password to “quit smoking.” And he told me that he
quit smoking overnight. Five years later, he
hasn’t been smoking since. That’s the power of neurohacks. C stands for “Captivating.” We know that we should
reward ourselves, we should reward people
for doing things in order to create lasting change. But rewards don’t always work. Think about the
gamification fad, which has kind of fizzled out. So rewards work, but not
always, because not all types of rewards work. Not everyone’s motivated
by points, and badges, and leaderboards. Now we need not just any
reward, but we need a reward that’s truly captivating. It’s got to be
important to people. Different things are
motivating to different people. So this chapter will
talk about the history, and there’s a long
history going back about 100 years, of
how to motivate change and how to create rewards. This chapter will talk about it. Finally, “E” stands
for “Engrained.” Barack Obama was
known for making a routine out of the
clothes that he wore, the food that he ate, so
that he could save time for making important
decisions about our country. Mark Zuckerberg, he has 20
versions of the same shirt. Writer Ernest
Hemingway, he was known for writing every day at the
same time in the morning. If you make something a routine,
it becomes easier to do, and it gets engrained
in our brain. So those are the seven forces. That’s the SCIENCE framework. And now, all need to do is– now that we know the ABCs,
we know that three types of behaviors, and we
know the seven forces, we just need to know which
of the seven forces do we use and when. So I created a
simple 2-step model. It’s pretty easy. Step one, identify
whether something is an A, B, or C behavior. And second, apply the
forces needed to change that type of behavior. So this is what I call the
Science of Lasting Change. And here’s the figure. You can see that, first, there’s
automatic behaviors, burning behaviors, and common behaviors. Automatic behaviors, we’re
not aware of what we’re doing, so there’s no brain in
the stick figure’s head. Burning behaviors, we’re
a little bit more aware. And then common behaviors,
we’re fully aware. And as you can see,
the seven forces are listed down at the bottom. And the more stars next to
that force, the more important it is for changing
that type of behavior. In general, as we get more
complicated types of behaviors, as we get more aware of it,
we need a larger set of tools to change those
types of behaviors. We need more forces. Now this framework is something
that I’ve put together based on decades of
scientific research from other scientists,
and psychologists, and from our own work. I found that this works across
a number of different areas. We’ve used them in
the medical school. And we’ve used it and
applied it to people at risk for diseases where we
need to change health. I’ve found that it
works in my own life for personal behaviors. And it works in business
work that I do too. So this gives you a
high level overview. And if there are more
questions, the book goes into a lot more detail
about this framework. But what I want to do now,
the purpose of this talk, I want to leave you guys with
understanding the difference between A, B, and C behaviors. So what I’d like to do
now as a type of Q&A is have someone come
up here, and we’ll talk about whether your behavior
is an A, B, or C behavior. But first, everyone
pull out your cards that we had at the beginning,
and raise your hand if you wrote down an A behavior. OK. Raise your hand if you
wrote down a B behavior. Half of you have hands halfway. Yeah, I think so. Good. What’s the B behavior? AUDIENCE: [COUGH] SEAN YOUNG: Coughing. AUDIENCE: Brushing
teeth at lunchtime. SEAN YOUNG: Brushing your
teeth at lunchtime, OK. And C behavior. Great. So what’s the C
behavior you had? AUDIENCE: Making music. SEAN YOUNG: Making music. Excellent. That’s one after my own heart. All right, so just to
settle it in and make sure we understand
the difference, let’s call someone up. Can I get a brave
volunteer to come up here and walk through it? All right, thanks for
coming up here, Chris. CHRIS: Sure. SEAN YOUNG: So tell us
about your behavior. CHRIS: Well, I’m really
into dark chocolate, and unfortunately, I’m
into it at nighttime. And the darker the
better, so I tend to eat it before I
go to bed, and then I fall asleep until 3:00
o’clock, and then I’m up. So it’s a pretty
common behavior, but sometimes, it feels burning,
like I just have to have it, because I get a lift. Sometimes, I can get
a little work done. SEAN YOUNG: Excellent. So you’re already
thinking about it. So here’s a chart. I was going to ask, do we think
it’s an A, B, or C behavior? So if it’s done without
awareness– so the behavior he mentioned was
late night snacks and eating chocolate
at nighttime. If it’s done without awareness– I’m with you, my guess is
that it’s a C behavior. But let’s just go
through for example. So it would be an A behavior
if you’re not even aware. You’re almost
either sleepwalking, or you’re just going in
there, grabbing chocolate. Sounds like you’re aware
of what you’re doing. CHRIS: Oh, I always
know what I’m doing. SEAN YOUNG: You
want that chocolate. Don’t keep me away
from the chocolate. CHRIS: Yeah. SEAN YOUNG: It would
be a B behavior– does it feel almost
like an addiction? Does it feel like you
can’t stop yourself? CHRIS: When I’m
really stressed out, it feels like I
can’t stop myself. SEAN YOUNG: When you’re really
stressed out, you can’t do it. And in general,
it’s something where you’re aware of
what you’re doing, but it’s just there
are other things that are driving you toward it. You’re aware of
what you’re doing, but you really
want the chocolate and feel like you should eat it. CHRIS: Well, it tastes
good, and I get a lift. SEAN YOUNG: Good. I would call that a
common behavior too. But this is a good example,
because some behaviors, based on the person or
based on the behavior, it can be in
different categories. And we’ll use different
solutions to address it. So let’s talk about
how to address it. Let’s go back here. So as you’ll see,
common behaviors, Community has three stars. So that makes it
really important if we can include community,
that will help out a lot. So the question is, do
you live with anyone? CHRIS: I do. SEAN YOUNG: You do, OK. CHRIS: Yeah. SEAN YOUNG: So the
person who you live with, do they also eat chocolate? CHRIS: She eats a lot
of sugar at night. I feel like I’m a little
more disciplined than she is, but she doesn’t have
any issues with it. She can just have her sweet
stuff, and she’ll go to sleep. SEAN YOUNG: So you guys see the
challenge that’s confronted? That’s one of the
difficult parts. If you’re living with someone,
and that person has no problem with the behavior
that they’re doing, and you have a problem
when you’re doing it, it can make it difficult. So one, this is where
discussions come in. Would she be willing to change? Could you have this discussion
with her where both of you guys could slow down or stop
eating late night chocolate? And if not, it’s fine
if the answer is no. But that’s a first solution. CHRIS: Well, she tends to
stay up later and watch TV, so we could have hours where she
eats her stuff, and I eat mine. SEAN YOUNG: Got it, OK. So that’s a more difficult one. But what we can do is
Easy is very important. Is there a way for
you to be able– it sounds like she eats her sweets,
but for you, it’s chocolate. Is there a way for
you to either just get the chocolate out of the house,
not have chocolate around? CHRIS: Well, I’ve moved
it out of the office and into the pantry. SEAN YOUNG: Perfect. CHRIS: So I have to go
downstairs to do it. So it’s further away. SEAN YOUNG: Excellent. So that’s an example of,
if it’s further away, then it’s going to
be harder to do, it’s not going to be
as easy, and you’ll be less likely to do it. And how has that
worked out for you? CHRIS: It’s lessened the intake. SEAN YOUNG: Great. So the next step would be, can
you get it out of the house completely? CHRIS: Uh, that– SEAN YOUNG: I don’t
want to do that? CHRIS: I don’t really want to,
but I can for periods of time. And then I feel like
I have to sort of– I just have to have some. SEAN YOUNG: So if
you can make it where you have to
go to the store in order to get
the chocolate, that will lessen the amount of
chocolate that you’re eating. That’s a simple one that
definitely makes it easy. Also, are there
other kinds of foods that you would like that you
can put, other than chocolate, you can make closer to you? So when you’re sitting
around, watching TV, can you put food in front of
you, other than chocolate, that you would eat, and
it would just fill you up? CHRIS: Yeah, I like fruit,
and that won’t keep me awake. SEAN YOUNG: Great, great. So that’s another example
of how we can use Easy. We can do this in
a gradual process, like don’t just necessarily
throw all the chocolate out of the house if you don’t
think that will work. But you can start with just
putting fruit in front of you, and eating the
fruit or other food. And what you’ll find is that
as that becomes a routine, it will become
engrained in your brain. Every day, you’ll
start doing it. And it’ll become a neurohack. So you might think, I’m not
capable of stopping myself from eating chocolate. But as you see, day after
day, that you’re eating fruit instead, you’ll realize,
there’s nothing wrong with me. It’s not like I’m just wired
to have to have this chocolate. But you’re capable of doing it. And it will reset your brain
and reset your behavior. So these are the
ways of incorporating the Science of Lasting Change,
and this is a quick example of a Stick With It session. So let’s all give Chris a hand
for coming up here, being brave for doing that. Thanks so much, Chris. CHRIS: Thank you. SEAN YOUNG: All right. Now before we end off,
after all, I’m a teacher, so I can’t have you guys
leave here without giving you an assignment. Now just for showing
up here today, you guys have already activated
some of the important forces for lasting change in being able
to change the behavior that you wrote down. And what we want to do is
keep that energy going, keep the motivation going,
and keep the forces. So with this take
home assignment, this is something to do
immediately, to do today. What I want you to do
is take the behavior that you wrote down
on the card, and I want you to tell someone else. It could be a coworker,
could be a friend, could be a romantic partner,
could be a stranger. I want you to tell
them, do you think the behavior is an A, B,
or C behavior, and why? Why do you think that? And just by going through
this process of discussing it with them, it helps to
reinforce in your head– it will teach you how
to know the difference and will keep the energy going. Second, please email
me and let me know. You can reach me at, or on Twitter, @SeanYoungPhD. Tell me whether you think
it’s an A, B, or C behavior, and why. Now I went into this
area because I really wanted to be able to have
an impact on the world and to help people, so
please reach out to me. I really want to be able
to try to help with this. Now before I finish off,
I have good news to share, going back to the
story of my brother. In the years since
then, my brother has changed his behavior. Really healthy
eating, he exercises, he takes his medication. He does everything that
he’s supposed to do. And best of all,
he’s really healthy. He’s been feeling great, and
he’s been doing really well. And since he’s my
brother, I can pretend to take some credit for that. So I’m going to leave you guys,
and if the information in here, if this was helpful, if
you like this, hopefully, you learned something
and enjoyed it. If you did, there’s
this great book out here that you guys can
all read that will give you more info about it. You’re laughing at this pic. I think my favorite
thing about this picture is that it makes me wonder
if the other photographer was a cat wearing a
GoPro and taking it. This quote at the top, often,
when we’re trying to do things, we think that if we can’t do
it, it’s because we’re not motivated enough, because
we’re not inspired, we don’t have enough willpower. But those are
temporary feelings. They come, and they go. So we can’t have behaviors
last just based on inspiration. What we need is to have a
process that, doesn’t matter how we’re feeling
at the time, we’ll be able to follow that process. So that’s where I say,
motivation, inspiration, and willpower are
temporary feelings. The secret to sticking
with something is to use a process that you can
follow, no matter how you feel. You guys have been
a great audience. Thank you so much
for inviting me here. And I look forward
to hearing from you. [APPLAUSE]

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19 thoughts on “Sean Young: “Stick With It: A Scientifically Proven Process for Changing […]” | Talks at Google

  1. basic CBT will let you have this talk, im unsubbing from these talks cause im a counsellor, i dont need basic people, who are spinning their own therapy to seem revelational, trying to sell something you got, some basic idea u got, from some basic THINKING. Sad, real therapy involves changing yourself in a way u cannot articulate. Douche bag is selling himself………..

  2. This google talk was very useful and helped me identify the types of difficult behaviors I have been struggling with as well as a strategy to get me started. I went out and bought the book after watching this talk and now I really feel equipt to make some changes in my life.

  3. I'm a new yorker– liked his attempt at a NY accent about 5 min in…

    Great talk. I've always been frustrated that I read self-help books or go to motivational talks and feel inspired but it then wears off and nothing changes. Breaking it down into 3 types of behaviors makes sense as to why it's been hard to stick with changes and how to change in the future.

  4. This is a great Google Talk. It is to the point, helpful, and gives very concrete ways to change behaviors. I have read many self help books and they often do not give steps to actually make life changes in realistic ways. I really appreciated what Dr. Young said in his talk and I even ordered the audio book and started listening to it. The book gives stories of peoples lives who were changed by taking the steps discussed in the book so I feel motivated to keep using the steps myself as I listen to the book. I will be buying hard copies and passing it along to friends and family since I really do see this book as very helpful.

  5. Google Talk should invite Swami Sarvapriyananda for a talk. The Swami is a monk, and the minister of the Vedanta Society of New York. He is an enlightened soul, and an incredible speaker. His talks are around eastern philosophy, and consciousness studies. Most importantly, you will feel uplifted in his presence. I am not exaggerating, and have no axe to grind. Listen to one of his talks on YouTube and see if you can stop listening!

  6. For some reason this guy seems like an alter-ego of the veritasium guy to me. Its the way he talks, the way he looks, and the way he holds himself. Maybe I'm trippin' balls or something, but I cant lose the thought and needed to post about it.

  7. Your Uncle Sid sounds like my Uncle Mario- same accent, and similar
    problems! But in all seriousness, I think your talk could've helped my
    uncle because he was an alcoholic and your process might have helped him
    live a longer and better life.

  8. finally heard something that i can use-you don't need motivation or inspiration to stick with change.that means i can read everyday my course books although i may not feel like reading .

  9. BS with eisegesis of the relevant literature. AKA self-help book, not behavioural psychology, neuroscience, ethology and psychiatry (in vitro, ex vitro, clinical, experimental or theoretical

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