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I like the strategies in “How to Change” by Katy Milkman, particularly because the University of Pennsylvania professor shares the research behind them. My previous blog noted one of those strategies, pairing something enjoyable with the less enjoyable habit currently under construction — Milkman calls this “temptation bundling”.

I used other techniques when I set a goal to take a monthlong break from drinking alcohol, like picking a start date connected to the beginning of the week and the beginning of a camping trip. Milkman calls this the “fresh start” effect. I also had a plan for meeting the moment in the day when I typically have a glass of wine in my hand.

But I decided not to use one of the book’s strategies, a punishment for failing to complete a goal. With this strategy people commit to a financial penalty for failing to follow through. I considered, then discarded the idea. I need encouragement, not fear of a negative outcome, to help me with goals.

This book doesn’t sugarcoat the fact that making changes is challenging. In much of the research that psychologists considered successful just 20 or 25 percent of subjects sustained change. That is humbling.

I don’t recall now if Milkman said much about this but for me taking a moment to let myself be gratified by the small steps I’ve taken — written my 1,000-word daily quota, spent my half hour weeding the garden, practiced my guitar, etc. — often fuels me for the next day and the next small steps.