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怎样彻底改掉坏习惯?心理学教授有妙招

Peter Gollwitzer 2019年05月09日

纽约大学心理学教授彼得·高尔威泽专门研究目标和行为之间的关系。此次他将向大家介绍如何养成更好的习惯。

人人都有坏习惯,比如有的人喜欢在心情不好的时候吃零食,有的会在和朋友聚会时酗酒,有的则把过多的时间浪费在社交媒体上,还有的容易与同事、朋友和家人发生不必要争执。

朋友和治疗专家可能会说,要改掉这些坏习惯,就必须将其作为自己的目标,然后假以时日,只要自己够努力,就一定会摆脱这些习惯。然而,动机学领域的广泛研究显示,设定控制坏习惯的目标与真正贯彻执行之间存在着巨大的差距。对于坏习惯来说,这一点千真万确,而且坏习惯影响着人们生活的方方面面,比如健康、工作和社交生活。因此,我们怎样才能缩小理想目标和现实行动之间的差距?

在我于美国和德国开展的有关“个人目标实现自律情况”的研究中,我发现人们必须制定贯彻目标的计划。最有效的计划会采用“如果-那么”的句式,详细列明当事人希望在何时、何处、以怎样的方式实现目标。以朋友聚会时酗酒为例。在计划里的“如果”部分,你应该写明哪些环境通常会触发你的这个坏习惯。可能这个动因是你的朋友请你喝酒。在“那么”部分,你应列明采取哪种行动来阻止自己接受邀请,例如回答今天我只想喝水。然后,你就可以将“如果-那么”连接起来,制定一个“如果-那么”计划,:“如果周五晚上我的朋友请我喝酒,那么我就会回答:我今天只想喝水” 。

听起来是不是太简单了?事实上,在同行评审的学术期刊上所刊登的众多针对全球儿童、成年人和老年人的研究都显示,“如果-那么”句式的计划能显著提高达到目标的成功率。这一点在医疗、成就和人际交往领域非常奏效,适用于不同文化和社会背景的人,甚至适合那些通常存在自律障碍的人,如多动症患儿、成瘾人士、患有大脑额叶功能障碍的病人。

为什么这个简单的“如果……那么”计划可以如此有效地改变人们的行为?我们通过实验发现,在遇到关键情景时,这些计划让“那么”部分详细列出的行为执行变得更加容易。计划实施者无需再提醒自己要改掉这个坏习惯,然后努力去做,而是会在碰到“如果”部分的重要情形之后,在不经意间迅速、毫不费力触发他们事先计划的反应。由于“如果……那么”计划会让当事人在遇到特定重要情形时启动计划设定的反应,结果,当事人在遭遇这类情形时就无需再有意识地去扮演自身行为“控制人”的角色,而是做出预先设置好、近乎自动的回应。

学习制作“如果……那么”计划并不困难。人们只需找出那些触发自身坏习惯的个人重要情形,然后甄别那些自己希望采取的行为,而不是自己的习惯性行为。笔者在纽约大学的同事加布里埃尔·奥汀根开发了一款应用程序,名为WOOP(愿望、结果、障碍和计划四个英文单词的首字母缩略语)。它通过多个步骤指导用户如何制定所需的“如果……那么”计划中的“如果”部分和“那么”部分。

因此,如果你一有空就想查收电邮,但又不想沉溺于这个坏习惯,不妨列一个这样的“如果……那么”计划:如果今晚有空余时间,那么我就去下载WOOP应用。(财富中文网)

译者:冯丰

审校:夏林

Everyone has bad habits. Maybe you snack when you’re distressed, and drink too much when relaxing with friends. Or maybe you waste too much time on social media, and get into too unnecessary arguments with colleagues, friends, and family.

To change these bad habits, friends and therapists might say you simply have to make it your goal, and down the road – if you just try hard enough – you will get rid of them. However, extensive research in the science of motivation has shown that there is a wide disparity between having the goal of controlling one’s bad habits and actually doing so. This is true for bad habits relating to all domains of life including health, work, and one’s social life. So what can you do to reduce these gaps?

In my research in the U.S. and Germany on the self-regulation of goal pursuit, I discovered that people have to make plans on how to implement their goals. The most effective plans are those that specify when, where and how you want to act on your goals by using an “if-then” format. Take drinking too much in the company of your friends as an example. In the “if” part of the plan, you identify the critical situation that usually triggers your bad habit. Perhaps the trigger is being offered a drink by your friends. In the “then” part, you specify an action that can halt accepting the offer such as responding to it by saying that you prefer a glass of water today. And then you link the “if” and the “then” parts together by making an “if-then” plan: “If on Friday evening my friends offer me a drink, then I will answer: I prefer to have a glass of water today!”

Sound too simple? Well, an endless line of studies published in peer-reviewed journals conducted with children, adults, and old to very old people around the world have shown that “if-then” plans significantly increase the rate of goal attainment. This is true for goals in the health, achievement and interpersonal domain, for people from different cultural and social backgrounds, and even for people who have problems with self-regulation in general (e.g., children with ADHD, people who suffer from addictions, frontal lobe patients).

How can simple “if-then” plans be so effective in achieving behavior change? In laboratory experiments, we discovered that these plans make performing the behavior specified in the “then” part much easier when the critical situation is encountered. The person no longer has to tell herself that she wants to break a bad habit and then try hard to do so. Rather, encountering the critical situation specified in the “if” part triggers the pre-planned response in a fast, effortless, and incidental manner. Since the “if-then” plan delegates the initiation of the planned response to the specified critical situation, it is taken out of the hands of the person who – as a consequence – no longer has to play the role of the willful “controller” of her actions. Instead, she now makes a pre-programmed, almost automatic response.

It is not difficult to learn to make good “if-then” plans. You only have to detect the personal critical situations that trigger your bad habits, and you have to identify those behaviors that you can and want to perform instead of the habitual ones. Gabriele Oettingen, a colleague at New York University, has developed an App called WOOP (Wish-Outcome-Obstacle-Plan) that guides you through a number of steps helping you to specify the “if” parts and the “then” parts of the “if-then” plans needed.

So if you do not want to fall prey to your bad habit of checking emails whenever there is a free moment, just make the following “if-then” plan: If I find a moment of quiet time tonight, then I will download the WOOP App.

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