Nir Eyal: “There’s so much people get wrong about habits. Before you try and build or break one, make sure you know what a habit is and when it’s an appropriate method of behavior change. If you don’t know the difference between habits and routines, you likely regret your efforts.”
Everyone has at least one habit they’d love to shed, and at least a dozen they dream of picking up. But what is it that makes nail biting so irresistible—or daily exercise so elusive? While there’s an entire subsection of the internet devoted to figuring it out, it’s easy to find oneself surrounded by information and advice but unable to put anything into action.
Enter Nir Eyal. His site, NirandFar, explores some of the best ways to tackle habits (both good and bad), as well as the psychology behind our relationship with them. He also ties those very concepts in with personal development and business strategy in his books Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life and Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.
We called on Eyal to curate a collection of resources for people eager to overhaul their habits, but first, understand how they’re formed and tweaked. Read on as he helps us navigate self-help, endocannabinoids, and major habit myths.
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NE: “The idea that willpower is like gas in a gas tank is wrong. We don’t ‘run out’ of willpower. I wrote this for HBR in 2016 but this myth of willpower being a finite resource remains. It’s so important to take a different look at what drives us, and how to harness it for our own good.”
NE: “Internal triggers are just as important as the external triggers that lead us to bad habits. In 2013, a USC study explored the upside of internal triggers, like uncomfortable emotional states, that typically power ‘bad’ habits, but also have the potential to drive us to healthful behaviors as well. This Time article summarizes the findings nicely.”
Nir Eyal writes, consults, and teaches about the intersection of psychology, technology, and business. He previously taught as a lecturer in Marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford and has been called “the prophet of habit-forming technology” by MIT Technology Review. Eyal is the author of two bestselling books, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products and Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life, and his writing has been featured in The New York Times, Harvard Business Review, Time Magazine, and Psychology Today—as well as his blog, NirAndFar.com.