Getting to Yes, And

Katy Milkman: How To Change


Katy Milkman

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Kelly talks with Wharton professor Katy Milkman about her new book: “How To Change: The Science of Getting From Where You Are To Where You Want To Be.”

I love this quote from the book: ‘Rather than perceiving time as a continuum, we tend to think about our lives as episodes, creating story arcs from the notable incidents or chapters in our lives.”

“I love that you pulled out that quote, and I will say I think that's one of the most interesting things I've learned about human nature is the way that we reflect on time. You know it's funny because we're talking during the COVID pandemic and I think people recognize it much more. In the last year there's been a lot of talk about how it feels like one really long week since this started, and there was a lot more discussion of the stretching and the strange taffy that is time. I think it's something we tend to under appreciate that time is a construct and that our memory and the way we think about it shapes our experience in important ways and it shapes our motivation, it shapes whether or not we pursue our goals, which is of course is what the chapter you're referencing is about.”

You created a habit for yourself at the gym that turned into an academic phenomenon that you studied. Can you tell us about that?

“It’s called temptation bundling. I only let myself enjoy my favorite entertainment, in this case, I turned on audio novels and books, like the Hunger Games trilogy or Harry Potter and I would only let myself listen to the next chapter, while I was exercising at the gym. What this did, is it motivated me to go to the gym at the end of a long day because I wanted to know what happened next in my latest novel. Time flew while I was there.”

There’s a physician you introduce us to who talks about change as being something we have to constantly be in practice on, like how we treat chronic diseases.

“You can make some progress, but it drops off a lot when you stop using the tactics or the programming that's gotten you started. And so what that led me to appreciate why we are doing things where we just put in that first burst of energy - or do a short program. We should look for solutions and tactics that we can continually use instead of things that are short term and treat these challenges just like a chronic disease. That can seem like negative framing but it doesn't have to be that negative if it's effective.”

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