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On Learning, Habits, and Snowballs

person behind a giant snowball rolling down a mountain
Image by Midjourney

When was the last time you learned a new skill or acquired a new habit? How did that happen? Odds are there were a bunch of ingredients present at the time, and they likely included one or more of the following:

  • play/games/fun

  • motivation (you wanted to learn it or you needed to)

  • you were able to do the thing, in some small way, even if you did it terribly, from the start

  • you felt progress

  • (preferably fun) people

  • prompting/reminding

  • movement

If you're not motivated to learn something, you'll be going uphill. I'd put motivation, which includes relevance to your personal life or work, at the top of the list. You may know about Stanford's Behavior Design Lab's BJ Fogg's formula for behavior design:

Earlier this week, during his office hours, there was a question about saving for retirement that started a conversation about different models for different situations.

If you want to lock in a habit of doing something that's not daily or weekly, automate it. You know this. Take the choice out of it, otherwise you might not do it. This is the genius of deducting from payroll or from your bank account directly into savings. So the MAP model isn't the tool for that.

The MAP model is, however, the tool for habits.

If you've tried to start or restart a mindfulness practice, you know how difficult it can be. You want to do the simplest thing in the world, but for some reason, you just can't get yourself to do it. Plus, if you took Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), the home practices STARTED at 45 minutes/day. STARTED.

Over at The Future of Financial Advice, we're doing something different. We're using the latest research and technology to help you succeed at learning as well as creating new habits.


First, we're going to have fun. We'll play games, do a group simulation where we imagine a future together, and spend a lot of time stretching our minds to more creatively problem-solve and adapt our thinking. Learning through play is something we value less as we age, meanwhile it never gets less valuable. If anything, it increases in value.

Next, we'll move. I don't know about you, but I get all my best ideas when I run. Just ask my friend, Julie Fortin, to whom I constantly text ideas with a picture like this:

Why not move a bit right now? Notice what parts of your body need a little love, and get your blood circulating. I'll wait . . .

I'm not going to give away all of the secrets of the new course, but I will divulge that we've partnered with the lovely folks at MindfulText, customizing their tool with our material to provide you with daily reminders of all kinds of science-based actions you can take that are small at the time, but mighty in their effects.

So what's with the snowball? Momentum. During the 8 weeks of the course, if you're motivated, having fun, moving, experiencing some wins with how you think, feel, and relate, and you're open to the format of the course, including the texting and getting outside your comfort zone, your momentum will build. You'll go from, "I learned some things in a course with some fun people," to "This has transformed how I do things and how I approach life and work." Enrich your being and your doing.


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