Creatures of Habit: With Guests Wendy Wood, Angela Duckworth & Stephan Kesting

11.18.2019 - By Choiceology with Katy Milkman

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Benjamin Franklin is one of the most revered figures in American history. He accomplished more in one lifetime--as a publisher, scientist, and politician--than most of us dream of. One argument for his success is that he was a creature of habit. His grueling daily schedule focused on repeating several habits of self-improvement. He hoped to achieve a perfect version of himself by automating certain positive behaviors. Whether or not he always stuck to his daily schedule of self-improvement is debatable, but his intuition about the importance of habit was right on the money.

In this episode of Choiceology with Katy Milkman, we look at the power of habit in shaping our behavior--for the better and for the worse.

We begin with firefighter Stephan Kesting. Stephan takes us through several of the drills that firefighters repeat over and over again in order to internalize certain behaviors. These behaviors can save lives in disaster scenarios. Stephan’s preparedness was put to the test early in his career when he and his team were called to a massive fire. You’ll hear how habits developed through intense training made all the difference in a life-or-death rescue operation.

Stephan Kesting is an officer in the Delta Fire Department in Delta, British Columbia. He is also a black belt instructor in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

To look at the science behind habit, Katy invited two top scholars to share their insights into this phenomenon.

First, Wendy Wood explains why we have habits, how they’re formed, and the reasons they’re often difficult to change. Wendy Wood is the Provost Professor of Psychology and Business at Dornsife College at the University of Southern California. She’s also the author of the new book Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick.

Next, you’ll hear from Angela Duckworth on how habits relate to self-control and persistence. She offers strategies that leverage the power of habit to help mitigate self-control challenges. Angela Duckworth is the Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

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