Willpower is a great thing. It’s the force that helps you get stuff done, even when you don’t feel like it. However, if whatever you’re trying to achieve doesn’t work out the way you wanted, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you’re not committed enough, or that you don’t care enough.

Good news. There’s a little more to this. Al Switzer gave a great talk at a TED conference, and he came up with what he calls “the science of change”:

  1. Identify your crucial moments. Basically, almost all of our bad behaviors have their specific moments where you are the most vulnerable. As soon as you know this, you can move on to step two, and make sure you adapt your vital behaviors.
  2. Create your vital behaviors. In this step, you set up the elementary actions that are connected to the habit you want to break or the change you want to introduce. Switzer mentions removing all drinks with sugar because he wants to lose weight and limiting his portions of food to just one.
  3. Engage with the sources of influence. Now, this is the powerful part. Switzer identifies a couple of sources of influence we should take into account when we’re trying to change. This boils down to motivation (know exactly why you want to change and keep reminding yourself of this), involving your social circle (using friends and familie to cheer you on and keep you accountable) and setting up your environment (remove cigarettes from your house, making the bad things more expensive and the good things cheaper).
  4. Turn bad days into good data. I like this part. When we fail (and we all do) it's easy to let it all slip and turn back to your previous behaviour. By accepting that we fail and actively learn from what happened, we gather valuable data which helps us to then again revisit our sources of influence, re-create our vital behaviors and make sure we know our crucial moments. And with that, have another go at it.