Psychological Tricks for Creating Lasting Change With Professor Katy Milkman

Katy Milkman

Verywell / Julie Bang

Every Monday on The Verywell Mind Podcast, Editor-in-Chief Amy Morin, LCSW, interviews experts, authors, entrepreneurs, athletes, musicians, and other inspirational people about the strategies that help them think, feel, and do their best in life.

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Meet Katy Milkman

Katy Milkman, PhD, is a professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. She’s also the host of Charles Schwab’s popular behavioral economics podcast Choiceology. 

She is the co-founder and co-director of the Behavior Change for Good Initiative, a research center whose mission is to advance the science of lasting behavior change.

Her new book, How to Change: The Science of Getting From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be is a best-seller that describes the little things you can do to make a big difference in your life.

Why Katy Milkman Is Mentally Strong

Katy invests her time into better understanding behavior change. And she turns her research into easy-to-understand strategies that her readers and listeners can apply to their daily lives.

She freely shares her own habits and how her research has changed how she approaches behavior change. For example, she discovered that listening to audiobooks while working out increases her chances of exercising. She paired something fun with something she doesn’t really enjoy, and it motivated her to exercise more often. 

Katy even talks about studies that don’t align with her expectations, such as the exercise study she conducted with Google. However, her willingness to share her insight to help others is one of her mental strengths.

What You’ll Hear on the Show

  • Why Katy focuses on getting rid of the obstacles to change rather than steps to create the change
  • Why flexibility might be more important than a set schedule when it comes to sticking to habits
  • What Katy’s favorite research studies have taught us about making habits stick
  • The most important steps you should take if you want to establish a new habit
  • The critical things you should do if you want to eliminate a bad habit
  • Why you should copy and paste from other people’s lives to increase your chances of success 
  • How to stop being lazy 
  • How to develop just the right amount of confidence for success
  • Why you should incorporate fun into your plan to reach your goals
  • Why it’s important to surround yourself with people who can help you reach your goals (and where to find those people)

What You’ll Learn About Mental Health and Mental Strength

Sometimes people assume you should be mentally strong enough to change your habits no matter what. And any failed attempts is a sure sign of weakness.

But, it’s clear that certain modifications to the environment can be key to creating lasting change. Setting yourself up for success is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Some mental health problems can make it more difficult to create change. Depression, for example, might try to convince you that your efforts won’t work. Anxiety might tell you that bad things are going to happen if you try to change.

But, mental health issues don’t mean change is impossible. It’s just another obstacle that you can work on addressing as you strive toward your goals.

Quotes From Katy

Katy Milkman, PhD

A great source of information is like-minded others in your social network who have similar constraints, similar lifestyles and have actually figured out already how to make progress. So why not try to learn from them?

— Katy Milkman, PhD
  • “When we create just the tiniest bits of friction, like putting things out of reach or behind in an opaque jar, we make temptations less visible and make it easier to choose healthy options.”
  • “How did Google become the great[est] search engine? Because it has this very efficient algorithm. It takes the path of least resistance. It looks for a fast solution. And that's what we do too. We prefer to choose the easiest way to achieve any objective.”
  • “Most goals fail. And if you aren't strategizing and making plans and setting goals and figuring out what could stand in your way and using the best science-based strategies, you're not giving yourself the best chance at success.”
  • “The challenge of overconfidence is we under strategize and then we fall on our face and we can't figure out why.”

More About the Podcast

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Reviews and ratings are a great way to encourage other people to listen and help them prioritize their mental health too.

By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.