The difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits. An amateur has amateur habits. A professional has professional habits. We can never free ourselves from habit. But we can replace bad habits with good ones — Steven Pressfield
Do you struggle from time to time with bad habits? Do you want to quit smoking? Do you hit the snooze button when you wake up? Do you eat sugar? If you are the kind of person that wants to get in charge of his life and his habits, then the gadget that I am presenting in this article might be of value to you
We humans spent more than 50 % of our lives on autopilot. Or as I prefer to say inhabit. Whether we have good habits or bad ones determine what kind of person we are. Think about it. In my opinion, the difference between a millionaire and a broke person lies in their different habits.
I think of your brain as your iPhone. Habits are apps that you can download. If you have too many bad apps on your phone, your iPhone becomes slow and dysfunctional. If you have good apps on your iPhone your phone becomes an amazing device that is capable of helping you in major ways. A good habit could be for example the habit of learning languages daily, or an exercise regiment, or a meditation practice. This would be the equivalent of a good app such as Evernote or Duolingo
A bad habit could be for example the habit of smoking, or overeating, procrastination or doing drugs. This would be the equivalent of bad apps. It robes your iPhone of its precious memory, that you could use for something productive.
Therefore it is essential that you learn how to delete bad apps from your brain phone and replace them with better ones. I wrote an article about habits.
We are what we REPEATEDLY DO. Succes is not an action but a Habit ” Aristotle
I am a bit geek when it comes to behavior-changing technology and biohacking devices. The following article shows you one gadget that helps you to get rid of bad habits. Humans are horrible when it comes to self-discipline. We all know that smoking is not good for us but we do it anyway. We know that snoozing is a bad habit to have but we do it anyway. We all know that procrastinating with social media robs us of precious time but we do it anyway. We all want to go to the gym daily but we dont do it.
As a behavior designer, it is now the focus point of my work on teaching people how to design against undesired behaviors. Relying on willpower and motivation is not enough, because if that would be the case we all would have 6 packs and would speak 8 languages. Somehow our lazy brain always goes the most comfortable way to immediate gratification. We must actively design our environment against behaviors and habits that we don’t want to have and we must change the very things that we link pain and pleasure to. Our brain will always want to get pleasure and avoid pain. If we hack this pain and pleasure system we can guide our behavior and become the person that we want to become. So what is pavlok!
What is Pavlok?
Pavlok is a biohacking bracelet that you wear around your wrist that is designed to help you break bad habits. It does so by giving you mild electric shocks when you perform a behavior that is undesired. First, you identify the habits that you want to break. This can be for example that you have the bad habit of smoking. Every time you succumb the temptation of a smoking you receive an electric shock from the wristband!
- First, you identify the bad behavior that you want to eradicate
- Then, Pavlok will monitor your behavior. It monitors your behavior with sophisticated sensors and algorithms.
- Now when you perform the bad habit, Pavlok will give an electric shock/ Or you give yourself a shock with pavlok.
Pavlok also has automated features where you combine for example a plugin for your browser with pavlok. And every time you go to facebook you get zapped.
If you want to buy the device click here
If you want to know more about the product click here
Whats the theory behind Pavlok?
The device was named after a Russian physiologist who was mainly known for his work in classical conditioning of the most famous and important psychological contributions ever made.
So what is classical conditioning?
You might have heard of Ivan Pavlov as the crazy scientist who trained his dog to produce spit overtime his dog heard a bell.
The idea is easy: to create an intended response, pair it with a trigger and repeat it until the stimuli alone creates the response.
In his experiment, Pavlov rang a bell and gave his dog some delicious dog food.
And the dog produced saliva. After some time the dog began to salivate when Pavlov entered the room. The Dog was anticipating the delicious dog food and produced salvia in advance. Amazing right?!
In order to test the theory, he created an easy experiment. To prove that the dog was producing salvia in anticipation of the food, he rang a bell every time he gave his dog some delicious dog food.
After a while, he rang the bell without giving his dog the food.
And the dog produced salvia just as a result of hearing the ring!
Pavlov and his experiment with his cute salvia producing dog are way more than just a classical psychology lesson. Classical conditioning can be used as a tool to get rid of undesired behavior.
Remember Operant conditioning is best suited for forming new habits. Meaning that our brain wants to repeat what is rewarded.
Classical conditioning is there to get rid of bad habits. By pairing a behavior with a negative stimulus( pain or discomfort for example) you can weaken bad habits.
Do you have bad habits like eating junk food? Skipping workouts? Being depressive? Playing video games instead of following your dreams? You can weaken them all!
So whats the link between bet classical conditioning and getting rid of bad habits?
I mentioned earlier that in order to create a new habit it is best to add a reward at the end of the behavior.
If you want to get rid of a bad habit that alone, I found adding a reward is not enough. You have to add a negative stimulus to the bad habit. A tiny punishment.
In psychology, this is called aversion therapy. It means that you add a negative consequence to your behavior.
It is a famous practice in the military. If you are interested in that you should read the book „ Living with a Seal: 31 Days with the toughest Man on the Planet from Jesse Itzler and Tony Goggins. Click here to buy the book
Think of your brain as your dog. And that you train him either by giving him food or punishing him a little bit. If your dog pees on your couch again and you immdiatly show him that you are not happy with his actions he will link discomfort to that behavior and will try to avoid it. Humans and animals learn very simular when it comes to behavior.
3 Takeaways from the Pavlok
It is fast
Pavlok promises that with their device that you can break a bad habit in 5 days, in only 5 minutes. It forces you to basically zap yourself everytime you want to have a cigarette. After only 5 days your brain does not link cigarettes to pleasure anymore. Your brain associates the cigarette with the electric shock. This may sound crazy and radical, but the speed is amazing.
Yes, training your brain by inflicting little trauma is extreme as well, but so is smoking for years. If you can stop a bad habit like smoking and you manage to substitute the emotional reward that you were getting in a healthy way you have won.
Pavlok uses aversion therapy
Pavlok uses proven psychological mechanisms out of Aversion therapy that was developed in the 6o-90ties. It sounds super harsh to use punishment as a form of changing your behavior. But the makers of Pavlok have found that even minimal punishment works. And it works ridiculously good. Due to social reasons, punishment and aversion therapy have a bad reputation. But I am quite the extreme guy. And I understand the concerns. It is basically training the dog by kicking him. But the pain that one receives from pavlok is so minimal that it does not cause any harm.
It is expensive
170 dollars is a fucking lot. But in my opinion, it is a worthwhile investment. Think of the possibilities you have when you are in charge of your behavior. Let’s say you have the bad habit of Netflix binging. Think of the time you save if you could eradicate this habit in 5 days. Let’s say for example you want to stop smoking. With this device, you not only prevent yourself from getting lung cancer thing you save a whole lot of money because you don’t have to buy cigarettes.. 170 is a lot yes. But the possible return of being fully in charge of your life is a bargain in my opinion.
Lifehack: What do I do if I don’t have 170 dollars for buying Pavlok?
I totally get it, 170 dollars for Pavlok is a lot. And if you are not a psychology geek like me you will probably hesitate. If you want to condition yourself; starting today I would recommend that you use a rubber band and snap it every time you succumb to the bad habit.
What I don’t like about Pavlok
The idea that habits simply can be broken sounds almost too good to be true. And in my opinion, it is. Just using aversion therapy is not enough. Each and every behavior that we have has an emotional reward that we get from performing that behavior. If we take a bad habit away we must first analyze what the bad habit was giving us. What was the reward that this behavior was giving us, or what was the promise that this habit was making?
Identifying the reward can be a complicated process. But in order to really change our behavior, we must also look at the needs of humans. Let’s take for example the bad habit of smoking. We want to quit. And with pavlok we will be able to run the fun in smoking and we will stop eventually. But smoking was important for us because it was giving us relief, and company and coolness even maybe. Often we are not even aware of what a behavior is giving us. In order to completely get rid of a habit, we must find a habit that gives us the same kind of emotional reward. A habit that gives us what the previous habit was giving us but in a more healthy way.
If smoking was giving you a stress relief you can, for example, form a meditation practice. If drinking gives us self-esteem than maybe an exercise regiment can boost our self-esteem in a similar way. I think pavlok does not emphasize enough that there are reasons why we have bad habits and that we have to substitute in order to fight them.
If you break a bad habit but you don’t substitute for it the person will find a different behavior that is scratching the itch. It is essential that we face what our true needs are and what pleasure we are getting out of a bad habit.
Also, I think it is understated that in order to design against undesired habits we must change our environment.
We are all products of our environment and if we want to form positive habits it is essential that we don’t live in toxic environments.
Finding an environment of hungry, inspirational positive people is key. It sadly also works the other way around if you are surrounded by toxic people you will most likely learn their dysfunctional habits almost by accident.
Call to action
1. Get a rubber band that fits tightly around your wrist.
2. Now take a piece of paper and write down 10 habits that you want to get rid of.
3. Make a circle around the habit that you believe holds you back the most.
4. Now every time you perform the bad habit, snap your rubber band.
5. Write down daily how often you snap the rubber band. In order to see your progress.
6. Tell everyone you know that you have stopped with the bad behavior, this can be for example that you tell all your friends that you have quit smoking.
Read more about Pavlok