Intro to Your Habits
Now we are just about ready to get started with arts course. Now, before we do, I want to tell you a little bit about art markman if you are not familiar with him. Art markman, phd, is the annabelle area on worship centennial professor of psychology and marketing at the university of texas at austin, and he's, the founding director of the program in the human dimensions of organization it's. Now he has written over one hundred fifty scholarly papers on topics including reasoning, decision making and motivation. Art also serves as the executive editor of the scientific journal cognitive science. In addition to his academic work, art blog's frequently for psychology today, the huffington post and fast company he's written several books, including smart thinking, inhabits of leadership. His most recent book, smart change, was published in january of twenty fourteen. Ladies and gentlemen without further ado, please welcome art markman. All right, wait here. We are so happy to have you here...
. Lots of people out there have been struggling with their habits, trying to establish good ones. Get rid of the bad ones. And we are pleased to have you here because you're the expert on this we need you to teach us how to do this we've got some great students here and you've got lots more students out online watching so I know you got a lot to cover I'm gonna let you take it away awesome thanks so much for me to be here has anybody doing today all right? I am pumped to be here um so really over the next couple of days what we're going to do is to talk a lot about how your mind works and and really focus on the question of where to our habits come from how do we change those habits and generally speaking, how do we make ourselves do smarter things? That's really by the end of the end of the day on wednesday you'll have a much better sense of how tow to really maximize your ability to change your habits but also maximize your ability to think effectively in a variety of situations and that's that's ultimately where we want to go now if we're going to do this it's probably worthwhile for you to under is and why it is that I'm the one who's here talking to you today and you know, some of this is that I've spent the last twenty five years studying the way that the mind works but you know it's more than that I mean when you write scientific papers, you spend a lot of time writing papers that are written, read by, you know, forty or fifty people around the world and on that's wonderful, but one of the realization zay had several years ago is that almost everybody has a mind and almost nobody knows how it works and that it turns out that through an accident of history, most of us never get any psychology in our in our background. So on the accident of history is that the modern curriculum that most of us get when we go through schools was laid down at the beginning of the twentieth century's about one hundred ten years ago and and at that point the three mature sciences were biology, chemistry and physics, and I love biology, chemistry and physics they're wonderful sciences, but most of us will probably never split an atom at home. We may not makes a lot of chemicals on unless you're ah, doctor or I happen to like to dissect things in your basement. You're not necessarily going to directly use a lot of the biology that you've had, but you do have a mind and we don't teach you a lot of psychology, in part because in nineteen o five or so psychology had just barely arrested itself free from philosophy, and so it didn't have a heck of a lot to teach you but one hundred ten years later it has a huge amount to teach you and we still don't spend much time teaching it to people and my belief is we all live our lives a little bit better if we actually learned a little bit more about the way that the mind works and I'll give you actually an example because people say to me oh yeah ok but have your life has your life ever been changed by psychology so I'm going to tell you a little story about fifteen years ago I was I was reading through the psychology literature and I read some research on regret now it turns out that if you're a psychologist and you want to study the way that people think the first thing that you do is you study college sophomores because they're there the fruit flies of psychology your search there they're cheap and plentiful e available uh and so if you go into ah into an experiment and you ask a bunch of college sophomores what it is that they regret almost universally what they regret are the stupid things that they've done in their lives right? I regret getting drunk and throwing up all over the place I regret making fool of myself at this party I regret crashing my dad's car in some silly thing that they did now you might then begin to believe that regret is all about regretting the things that you've done but some but but a guy by the name of tom gilovich. Actually, cornell went into a bunch of old age home, so he caught people in their eighties and nineties, and he asked them what they regret. And it turns out, if you catch people towards the end of their lives and you ask them what they regret it's almost universally the things they haven't done in their lives they regret not learning to salsa dance. They regret not traveling to europe. Whatever it was, it was the things they haven't done because when you hit the end of your life, you begin to realize, you know, I'm not gonna have the chance to do all of these things where when your college software and believe you're gonna live forever, you figure all of these possibilities there wide open. And when I read this research, I started thought to myself, ok, one thing that you could do if you really want to change your behavior is to do what I call looking back in orderto look forward and so project yourself to the end of your life and ask yourself, what will I regret not having done? And for me, it was learning to play the saxophone. Um I love jazz I have a big jazz collection in my office I listened to it when I'm when I'm trying to drown out the noise from around the building and uh and it occurred to me that that it would be really awesome tto learn to play the socks and I never had on dso ah and then I tried to figure out why that wass right and I discovered that the reason I never learned to play the saxophone was because when I was in fifth grade and I asked my mom if I could take another instrument she said no, you're learning to play the piano eso you can't take another instrument right now and I never asked again you know what? By the time I hit my head thirties it just wasn't her fault anymore and so I at that point decided I was gonna learn to play the sax and if I had just resolved to learn to play the cycle I still wouldn't play it to this day but actually went to a blues jam last night so so I do I do play now and over the course of the day today and over the next few days I'm going to talk a bit more about how it was that I managed to succeed to learn to play the sax because just having a realization that I would regret not playing the sax wouldn't have been enough I really needed to implement that into my life in a specific way and and that's a lot of what we're going to talk about and for me, those kinds of lessons and, you know, bringing the things that you that you might tell somebody else into your own life, such an important part of this and so I've spent a lot of time over the last several years really trying to figure out how can we help people use the science of psychology to do what they do? Mohr effectively and that's why I blogged or ah, bunch of different venues that's why I've been on the advisory boards of tv shows and have written these books, because for me, the more that we can get some knowledge about the way that we think out there into the world, the more the better, that everyone can live their lives and that's really what I'm all about and that's what we're here for for the next few days, so okay, enough about me. Um, if we think about it, uh, a lot of us want to be effective in our lives. I mean, our goal is not just to exist. It's not just to make it to the weekend. I've always said that my least favorite letters in the in the in english or t g I f right, I mean, if if you live just to get to the weekend it's really a shame we want to have that degree of effectiveness throughout our lives, which means we wanna have really good habits because it turns out that the bulk of our lives involved things that we do without thinking about them. And so we want to make sure that when we're acting without thinking, we're acting in ways that actually promote the effectiveness in our lives. We want to be able to think effectively, we want to do smart things, you know, at the end of the day, we want people to look at us and think, wow, that person's really got it together. That person really does great things, and and we also want to live a life that is authentic to who we are, you know, way all had a chance to talk for the people. For those of you at home. Hi, I had a chance I don't have a chance to talk with all of you, but I did have a chance to talk with with the students were here and, you know, one of the common themes that came across this from those discussions is that is that people are really struggling to find how is it that I can do the thing that's really right for me? And some of that requires knowing yourself a little bit more, and so over there, what I tried to do when I put this class together was really to think about how could we hit all of those themes? How can we do a better job of creating and maintaining good habits, having habits that really help us to do effective things in the world? And how those habits can also help us to live a life that is authentic to who we are as individuals, and so that's a lot of what we're going to dio and the reason one of the big reasons that we struggle with this is because we don't know enough about ourselves, all right? We haven't really learned a lot about our own psychology and who we are, and so that's a big piece of what we want to do. So, as I said, the way we're going to do this is actually by taking some lessons from the signs of psychology, we wait just wait don't teach people enough about the way that their minds work and it's so important toe learn about how you operate. I mean, each of us has a domain of expertise and that allows us to operate effectively in that domain. Why is it that we're not experts at ourselves? You know, most of us need you know, if you if you look around most of us know somebody who's been in therapy before or maybe we have ourselves, why do people go into therapy? The reason that people go into therapy is because we actually live our lives in blissful ignorance of how it is that we ourselves are doing what we do, okay, our motivational system, that system in our brain that drives us tow act is located really deep inside your brain it's so deep inside your brain, it doesn't communicate well with the rest of your brain, which is why we often act without really understanding why we've done what we've done and then later on we have to look back and tell a story about what it is that we did and why we did it, and we forget that story wrong, and sometimes we need to therapist to come by and say, you know, here's some other reasons that you may have done what you did here some habits you may have, and so my goal is to teach you some psychology to really get you jump started into thinking mohr effectively about how it is that you do what you do okay just like just like you had to learn extensively teo be able to survive in your domain of expertise I want youto have some expertise in the way that you operate so that's what we're gonna do we're gonna think about the way that we think okay so that's where we're going over the next few days and those of you who are at home please make sure that you ask all of your questions the invitation that I have to all of you is how many times in your life do you have a psychologist standing up in front of you it's not so often I have a bunch of things I want to talk about but they're also things that you want to know so please I ask all of those questions I promise you I will answer any question that doesn't start with I have this friend all right so what are we going to do today okay we have four units that we're gonna be going through over the course of the day today we're going to start with something that I call the role of three it turns out that there are lots of threes in your mental world and you need to respect that you need to understand that and so in some sense this first unit is about howto learn mohr effectively because if we're going to spend three days together we may as well make sure that we really nail all the information that we were going to be getting, and also that we learn a little bit about how to present ourselves more effectively to other people. So we're going to start with that, and then we're going to dive into issues, have it so you know, the habit quiz that you god, I promise we're gonna get to all of the information that's in here, and we're going to start by talking about what are your habits? How can you become a little bit more aware of the habits that you have and when they're working well for you and when they're not working so well, so that we understand the formula that's involved in creating habits? And then once we understand that formula, then we're going to move on and understand a little bit more about the way that your brain actually works. How exactly do those habits get created? How is it that we stop ourselves when when we're doing something that we shouldn't be doing? And how can we help ourselves, then to create plans that are going to help us tow tow act mohr effectively in the future? And so the afternoon is really going to be focused on how does this motivational system work? How do we create the kinds of plans that will allow us to do the right thing mean, from my standpoint, I learned to play the saxophone, not because I said I wanted to play the saxophone and let me ask a question to all of you, how many of you have ever made a new year's resolution? Okay? And how often do you get to the end of january and then realized that that new year's resolution is toast, right? I mean, uh, it just saying you want to do something isn't enough. You have to actually create a plan that makes reference to specific events in your life that's going to help you to implement that, to change your behavior. And so by the end of the day today, we're going to understand how to create those plans, and we're gonna take our first steps towards creating one of those plans for a habit that we're trying to change and that's what we're going to get to by the end of the day. All right? So I want to start by talking about something I call the role of three, okay, which is really a basic organizing principle for the way that your mind works and it's useful to understand this because once you understand that we have some limitations in the way that the mind works, then we can use that to influence what it is that we remember about new things and what it is that we do when we're trying to present ourselves to others people and by the way feel free to stop me at almost any time to ask questions and if questions come in, you know via the chat room than you know, people here will stop and we can we can go through those so, uh I want this to be his interactive is possible, but being a college professor, I am also capable of talking at length on dh so if nobody asks any questions, trust me, I will go on okay notice I'm starting this overview with three things one of the things that you need to learn whenever you're presenting information to people is that, uh, you want to make sure that you prepare people for what it is that they're trying to learn, and I try to practice what I preach in this, so we're going to start every unit with a little overview of three ish things uh, we're going to start by recognizing that your memory and your mental world is organized around threes, and when I say three, I mean three ish three small numbers of things sometimes too we're four, maybe five definitely not twelve or thirteen okay, now, once you understand that you khun, use this knowledge to organize what it is that you remember about the events of your life and also used that to organize your presentations, to organize how it is that you present yourself, which is true, either if you end up in a situation like this, where you're standing up in front of a group of people, or if you're just sitting in a job interview, right, you have to remember that that interviewer is going to remember roughly three things about you. In fact, at the university of texas, one of the things that I do is I teach the honors seminar, teach these honors students, and we do a lot of professional development with students, and invariably, every year we have some student who's viciously tattooed or has huge piercings or has blue hair or something like that, and they always ask me, uh, so when I get my first interview, do I have to dress normally, and I and I say, look, you have to remember that the interviewers going to remember approximately three things about you. So if one of those is gonna be your hair, your piercings, the other two had better be really, really good, okay, so you really want to bear in mind that the way that you present yourself to people is that you're going to be influencing what it is that people remember about their encounters with you, whether you're on stage or just in a more personal interaction with them. Okay, so let's, start with this. Your mental world is organized around threes, small numbers of things and this is true in a variety of different levels. If you tell a story to someone, you tend to focus that story on who did what to whom, right? A small number of things you know, every once in a while you get someone who tells a story that starts at the beginning and three hours later gets to the end, but but generally speaking, we distill our stories into a small number of events that people are telling in addition to that were overwhelmed by large numbers of things. So think about the last time that you went shopping at a place like like bed bath and beyond, right? Um if you stand in front of the wall of blenders, it is an utterly overwhelming experience. I had to buy a blender not too long ago, and it was it was nerve racking and I knew what was going on, but I walked in there and they were literally thirty blenders and I just I walked in and I looked around and I grabbed a blender and I ran out and I have no idea whether I got a good one or a bad one, but if they'd had four or five, I think I would have felt more comfortable standing there and looking at them and comparing them because we can compare to things to each other. Sometimes we can compare three things, but but at the point where you have thirty it's, just you don't know what to do with it and our life. You know, we think, oh, we want variety in our lives. The fact is that too much variety, all it wants is utterly overwhelming because the brain is not really designed to handle that much information. And so we really need to cut our world down into a relatively small number of things. Not only that, but even our ability to remember things for a very brief period of time is limited. Now you may have heard in psychology that there's something called a magical number seven plus or minus two, which is supposed to be the number of things that we can remember at any given moment, which is the reason, for example, why your phone number tends to have seven digits in it. Kind of gets messed up now that you have to dial the area code with numbers all the time. But we can remember approximately seven digits. It turns out there's a hidden three. And there a cz well, and I'm going to show it to you. I want to play a little game. Okay, so, here's, what we're gonna do, everybody. You ready for the next ten seconds or so? I want you to remember the words cat, dog and man, you ready? Go. How'd you do, like, uh, fine. Okay, let's, try another one for the next ten seconds. I want you to remember the words watermelon, superstition and hippopotamus. Ready? Go. All right. How'd you do? You're like. Ok, I still did find. Okay, let's, think about what you did when I said. Remember the words cat, dog and man you all in your heads. You went cat dog man. Cat, dog man over and over for the ten second. Now, when I gave you watermelons, superstition and hippopotamus, you did the same thing on ly. Now you want watermelon, superstition, hippopotamus, watermelons, superstition, hippopotamus. You set him faster in your head. Why? Why would you say them faster? Well, it turns out you have a loop of about three seconds of audio information that you can hold onto this isn't that this is their because it helps you to understand language, and so you've got to fit whatever it is that you're trying to remember into those three seconds. So if I give you a lot of multi syllabic words, you've gotta run through him really quickly in order to fit him into that three second loop. And so the reason that you can remember roughly seven digits of your phone numbers that you can basically say about seven digits in in in that three seconds. And if I give you ten digits, you tend to bleed over the edge of that three seconds and you lose some of the digits. Okay, so there's there's, even a three in your ability to remember things for a very short period of time. So they're everywhere these three's air everywhere, persecuted by the number three. Okay, so what does this mean for us? I want you to try a little exercise. Everybody out there, grab a sheet of paper, okay. Blank sheet of paper. And for the next one minute, I want you to list all of the vegetables that you can you ready, go. Now we do have a lot of people out there who are entrepreneurs, small business owners so I know this may be coming up just kind of set the tone we have had some questions about some of the best habits for entrepreneurs, ways for people to expand their business positive habits that could help them run their business so just letting you know that's kind of what what's going on in the chat room right now awesome, and we will get to that, ok, I spend a lot of time talking with people and businesses about howto fix their habits perfect never fear, but they shouldn't be listening to that right now they should be they should being vegeta exactly vegetables right now, all right and stop that was about a minute. So what I want to know and hopefully some people will weigh in on the chat on this is, well, um, first of all, how many of you think you listed every single vegetable? You know, nobody yeah, so what I'm going to ask in a second is, how did you do it? That is how did you come up with your list? But before we get to that and hopefully we'll get some people from home doing that as well, I want you to understand why you weren't able to list every vegetable, you know it turns out that your memory is a lot like a bunch of five year olds who want to be kicked for the to picked for the kickball team case if you've ever watched five year olds doing this you got to captain standing infront you got a bunch of five year olds okay? Now what's happening is the five year olds wanting picked her jumping up and down and shoving the kid next to them and the kid who jumps the highest and shoves hardest gets picked first and then the kid jumps second highest and shoves second hardest gets picked second and then the kid who jumped third highest and shoves third hardest gets picked third and by that time everybody else is lying on the ground and while they're picking themselves off everyone's got to stand around and wait and that's more or less what happens when when you're trying to do something like list all the vegetables you can you start out? You think ok, what do I know? That's a vegetable? Uh carrot that's usually the first thing people start with carrots so they write down carrot and that's because carrie jumped highest and shoved hardest and then maybe you get cucumber and then maybe you get lettuce and after you get the third one, you're just stuck because because what's happened is in memory not only of things jumped up, but they've inhibited they've damped down all of the other things in memory, and so they've shoved everything to the ground. And so at that point, you need another strategy. So let's sew so let's, hear what were some of the strategies you guys used? Well, actually, yesterday I was at the store buying vegetables for a salad, and I just started seeing the display. I'll go after I wrote down the stuff I bought. You know, I started thinking about what I saw. There you go. So it was you took you took a walk through your mental, your mental grocery store, something similar. I have been trying to get a variety of vegetables in my diet, so I was basically thinking of, you know what I have I eaten recently, what's in my refrigerator, so it was just the things recent that have come up. Awesome, yeah, categories, okay. So's greens. And then it was things with seeds and then think that air starchy, cool. Think about my grandma's garden what she growing just going by the mental garden did we get anybody at home with it with another strategist room? We're going through the grocery store kind of visualizing it we're looking at a shopping list and kind of thinking about it from that perspective when they're normally in the grocery store yeah so why is that right? Why is it that we do it this way? You'd think right if we were computers it would be easy you'd google list of vegetables in your mental directory and there'd be a file of vegetables and it would just get spit out and you'd be ableto write all these things out and that's not the way it happens and the reason that it doesn't work that way is because your memory desperately wants to please you your memory wants to give you the information he thinks you need when it thinks you need it and so the way your memory works is that it finds information that is related to the situation that you're in and it makes that information really available for you. So walking through that grocery store walking through your garden, walking through foods that you've eaten recently or even just thinking about these broad categories of things is putting yourself in a situation that is related to the one in which you'd need vegetables and so your memory makes that information really easily available in that situation what this means is that one of the habits that you have is that you are focused on information that is connected to the situation that you're in right now your memory is all about connections and this is going to be really important because if we're going to present information effectively if we're gonna learn effectively we need to create these connections among pieces of information that we know about okay it's all about connection and this is why people have so much trouble remembering names so you guys I mean and at home how many of you have to have trouble remembering names anybody okay a couple of hands go up pretty much every hand in the room even people you can't see your people of people's hands at home we all have trouble remembering names and the reason that we have trouble remembering names is because the name you get is utterly unrelated toe every other piece of information about you you get your name right before or right after you pop out and so nobody knows anything about you at that point and then they get your name it actually be much better if we named people when they were about five and it was clear what their personalities were unfortunately it makes this fight first five years really awkward okay so here's what we're going to do if I teach you nothing else in the next three days and I'm going to teach you a lot of things over the next three years I'm going to teach you how to get better at remembering people's names okay something valuable right off the bat okay here's so here's the thing you need to do the very first thing you need to do when trying to learn people's names is pay attention so it turns out there's another three this is an unscientific one but I believe we have a mechanism in our heads that I call the peanuts effect you know the old peanuts cartoons every time that the adults speak it goes won't ball I believe we have a mechanism in our heads where as soon as somebody says to you hi, my name is the next three seconds of what you hear come out won't walk wrong okay um so you have to pay attention okay that's the first thing now since memory is all about the connections between things you need to find a way to connect the person's name to something else about them because you're going to remember all kinds of things about them later you're going to remember where they work and what they do and where they went on vacation last year and where their kids go to school. You're going to remember all of this information and then you're not going to remember their name so find a way of connecting the name to something you've already learned about them preferably not what they're wearing because they won't be wearing that the next time you see them but something else finds something about them that you can connect it to because memories all about connections now the third thing you want to do is to use their name as quickly as possible in the conversation because it turns out that information you produce for yourself is better remembered that information that you just here and so you need to find a way of filtering that information in and then producing it as quickly as possible uh and so you have now this is awkward right because you have to manufacture a reason to use their name the last place in the world you need someone's names when they're standing there right in front of you so you have to find a reason to use their name okay that's the third thing and the very last thing again by show of hands even those of you out there in internet land how many of you have trouble remembering names? Hands up hands in the air there you go everybody what does that mean? It means that if you've just been introduced to somebody and you forgot in their name there's a very high probability that they have also forgotten your name which means that it is socially acceptable to say to someone you know what I know we're just introduced I totally blew it can you please repeat your name. I actually did that this morning because I had the peanuts effect coughing. I mean, um and so yeah, it's perfectly acceptable to ask someone to repeat their name. But I warn you, when you ask someone to repeat their name, pay attention. Okay? Very critical. All right. So if nothing else, we've got names. Yes. Now, is this why? Until our on radio programmes, you'll hear the other host repeat this person's name in their full name? Yeah, quite often. That's, right, that's, right? I mean, it's it's a great habit to get into because it because, you know, if you think about it, a radio person needs to hold on to that name for the for the period of time, the conversation, and so there are two reasons why they do it. One is to help themselves to remember it, but the other is actually to help the audience, to remember it by continuing to repeat it, because chances are you know it particularly somebody's going to be on the show for ten minutes or fifteen minutes. You want to make sure that the people at home have some clue who it is that they're that they're listening to, and that peanuts effect goes off for us, even even when we're listening to the radio what's the point of connecting the person's name with something about them so I can think of if their occupations for me erica and my old occupation was engineer like e but can you give some other examples of connecting sure, a lot of sorrow, a lot of the of what you can use to help you, teo, to remember this to remember the name would be to figure out what it is you've been told so far, right? So if you found out where somebody lives or if you found out something, you know about the context in which you met them, so it could be, you know, erica, that I met before the show started, right, but something, you know, something about what they do, you know, obviously if you can come up with some kind of fun, demonic, like, you know, erica engineer that's great, but any kind of connection is really going to help, you know, and when push comes to shove, if you could just look at their face and say, okay, this is, you know, I'm going to remember the connection between some aspect of this face and the name, you know, that's better, I like I say, just not what they're wearing because that's that's the least effective, so, um, so, so far, what we've got is that when we're engaged in trying to learn some new things, one of the habits that we need to develop is the habit of finding connections among the pieces of information that we're learning about. And so this is all it's all about habits in this case, I have it to get a little bit smarter and this is going to matter. You know, we're talking about this issue of of of, you know what people could do in business? Remember that when you are an entrepreneur, in particular an entrepreneur, you're creating a new business, you actually need people to remember something fundamental about who you are and what it is that you do. And so these kinds of tips are actually crucial because you can't rely on people already knowing who you are, what you're about. And so we really need to be focused on creating these habits to, in order to create the kind of impression on other people that we want to create. So these air habits that are really critical for people who are out there in the business world, in addition to just being effective for our for our daily lives.