Part 4: Accountability

One of the most effective ways to build good habits, or break bad ones, is to leverage the power of accountability. If a “magic pill” for habit change exists, accountability would be as close as it gets.

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15 min.

The Holy Grail: Breaking Deeply Embedded Bad Habits With Classical Conditioning

For decades, behavioral scientists, psychologists and therapists have told us that truly breaking bad a habit is impossible.

Consider extremely bad habits that turn into full-blown addictions — such as drinking or drugs.

Even the most popular addiction support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous don’t offer a permanent solution beyond lifetime management of the behavior. The rhetoric is, “once an addict, always an addict.”

How can this be? Is the human brain truly that intractable?

For decades, the focus of addiction management has been on the substitution of a bad habit for a better one.

Tools like therapy, “staying busy” or changing your social circle are all helpful — but ultimately, they only temporarily distract you from self-destructive habits — not solve them.

Until today. Enter classical conditioning.

Classical conditioning, as the name would suggest, is not a new development.

The premise is simple: in order to create an intended response, pair it with a stimuli over and over again until the stimuli alone creates the response.

Remember Ivan Pavlov, the Russian physiologist who trained his dogs to salivate every time they heard a bell ring?

At first, they only salivated when food was in front of them. Eventually, Pavlov realized that the dogs even began to salivate when he walked in the room in anticipation of the food. Fascinating. Did that mean that the salivation response was subconsciously “hard-wired” into the dogs, whether food was present or not?

To test his theory, he created a simple experiment by ringing a bell every time he fed the dogs. After they’d become accustomed to hearing the bell at mealtime, he tested his theory by ringing the bell, WITHOUT providing the food.

True to his predictions, the dogs salivated as a result of just hearing the bell because they’d learned to associate it with food. He could create the desired salivation effect on demand by simply ringing a bell.

Pavlov’s dogs are a classic high school history lesson — but the implications of his work have far surpassed salivation in canines.

It turns out that classical conditioning is MORE than just high school science — it’s also the MOST PERMANENT and MOST EFFECTIVE way to BREAK bad habits.

Operant conditioning is the best way to form new habits. Classical conditioning is the best way to break bad habits. At Pavlok, we designed our wearable technology so that you can use the same powerful principles to break your own bad habits and addictions.

The secret lies in the instantaneous pairing of a negative stimulus with the undesired behavior. This is called aversion therapy.

Imagine you’ve been smoking for twenty years. You want to quit, but nothing has worked. You’ve tried everything, from traditional therapy, to prescription medication, to cold turkey. You even tried nicotine patches.

Nothing sticks.

With aversion therapy, every time you smoke, you’ll receive a mild shock instantaneously.

It’s not painful, but it’s certainly annoying. After a very short time, your brain will actually begin to associate smoking with getting shocked. Eventually, not only will you lose interest in smoking…you’ll actually become REPULSED by the idea of picking up a cigarette.

This isn’t hype, and it’s not a gimmick. In fact, research at the Schick-Shadel Hospital has shown that simply self-administering a mild shock from a 9-volt battery as one smokes a cigarette has resulted in a 95% initial success rate in cessation of smoking — and a 50% rate the year after.

These results are far better than any other method of treatment — and the concept of aversion therapy can be applied to any deeply-ingrained negative habit that you want to break — from drinking, to drugs, to biting your nails.

How Pavlok Integrates Classical Conditioning to Change Your Most Difficult Habits

The proprietary hardware and software inside Pavlok makes implementing aversion therapy ridiculously easy. (Get our full use-case ebook here)

  1. First, set the bad behavior you want to eradicate
  2. Then, Pavlok will begin to monitor your behaviour using sophisticated sensors and algorithms
  3. When you perform that behavior, Pavlok will administer a mild shock that your brain begins to pair with the behavior

But don’t take the wristband off and try to “sneak in” a quick smoke outside, or grab a cookie. Pavlok will soon contain sensors that can measure almost any variable or vital sign, including nicotine levels, blood alcohol content and glucose level. As soon as you put the band back on, you’ll receive a shock.

Don’t want to put the the band back on? Fine. It will charge your bank account every day until you do.

With Pavlok, change is truly inevitable.

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Lesson 1: Accountability

The Importance of accountability in habit change.

15 min.

Accountability

One of the most effective ways to build good habits, or break bad ones, is to leverage the power of accountability. If a “magic pill” for habit change exists, accountability would be as close as it gets.

When you set out to change your habits using only your willpower and try to make massive changes by yourself, it’s easy to make excuses as to why you can’t reach your goals. Why? Because no one is truly holding you accountable.

“I had a rough day so… I can have just one cigarette.”
“I ate clean yesterday, so I can enjoy this extra large pizza today.”
“I can’t start going to the gym again tomorrow…no worries.”

The problem with these excuses, is they insist on showing up again and again. While you shouldn’t expect yourself to be perfect during your habit change journey, using accountability in your habit change process will significantly improve your chances of success.

Pavlok was built on the foundation of using accountability to help ensure you stay on track and hit your goals, even when things get difficult. In fact, the idea of Pavlok was born when our CEO and founder Maneesh Sethi hired a woman off Craigslist to slap him every time he became distracted.

Having a friend join you in your habit change journey is a great way to build good habits, but unfortunately, not everyone has a close friend or family member who is interested in self-improvement, which is why the Pavlok app and community is so powerful.

Accountability is so powerful in fact, that “The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) did a study on accountability and found that you have a 65% chance of completing a goal if you commit to someone. And if you have a specific accountability appointment with the person to whom you’ve committed, you will increase your chance of success by up to 95%.”

Source: https://medium.com/the-mission/the-accountability-effect-a-simple-way-to-achieve-your-goals-and-boost-your-performance-8a07c76ef53a

Now that we’ve established that accountability can without question help you hit your habit goals, we’ll share some of the ways you can incorporate accountability into your plan of attack.

Pain VS Pleasure

One of the reasons accountability works so well is that we have a greater natural tendency to respond significantly to avoiding pain than we do by rewarding ourselves with pleasure. While there is a place for a rewarding yourself with a small piece of delicious chocolate, for example, the focus for accountability should involve some ‘pain’.

One way our founder and CEO Maneesh ensures he hits deadlines is by pledging a decent amount of money to the KKK if he doesn’t hit his goal. Obviously, he believes the organization is abhorrent, so he is significantly motivated to ensure he hits his stated goal. To this day, he has yet to donate any money to the KKK.

Of course, that is an extreme example, but you can still use the fear of pain to help motivate you in smaller ways. Maybe you agree that your friend can post whatever they want on your social media account if they see you smoking. Perhaps you agree to take your uncle out to an expensive steak dinner if he hears you cursing.

When leveraging ‘pain’ to help reach your goals, it’s important to choose something that will sting, but won’t necessarily have life-changing consequences. It wouldn’t be wise for example, to commit to giving your friend your car if you miss the gym once during the week.

Another way to use accountability to reach your goals is by checking in with your accountability partner with a photo or at specific periods of time. For example, you can agree to send a picture of you at the gym each Tuesday and Thursday at 7 PM. If your accountability partner doesn’t receive a photo of you at the gym, they can then initiate a shock to your Pavlok or share an embarrassing story on your social media account.

When it comes to accountability, finding the right balance that works for you is essential. Be sure to choose an accountability partner or partners who will hold you accountable no matter what. If your friend is just going to ‘forgive’ you without enforcing the ‘discomfort’ that was agreed upon, that defeats the whole purpose.

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Lesson 2: Committment Challenges

Learn how commitment challenges can increase your success!

15 min.

Commitment Engine And Community Challenges

One of the biggest benefits of the Pavlok community, hardware, and software is that it incorporates what we have coined the commitment engine. Our goal is to get you into the habit of committing and following through.

Using our app you can place small wagers of “Volts” and compete with the rest of the Pavlok community and see who can consistently make progress towards their goals. For example, you can wager Volts when wanting to establish the habit of gratitude. Each day, login to the app, list the three things you’re grateful for, and continue your streak. Miss a day? You lose the Volts you wagered, and the last person standing wins. Not only is this a great way to build the habit of gratitude, it also allows you to earn our in app currency Volts which will be able to be used to unlock new app features and courses.

Using the Pavlok app, you can immediately find and connect with like-minded people who will hold you accountable throughout your habit change journey, and just as they will help hold you accountable, you can also keep them accountable to their desired goals, which creates a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Or you can create your own commitment engine with apps like WhatsApp or Facebook. Just get a group of people together, outline the terms of the challenge (like walking 10k steps a day, or going to the gym each day, or eating healthy, etc.) set the stakes, and require photo proof of completion and you’re on your way.

Today, commit to finding an accountability partner who can help you reach your specific habit goal.

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Study Questions

Test what you’ve learned by answering the questions below.

10 min.


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