How to eliminate unwanted behaviour from your life

​I love biscuits. I want some right now. But only because a friend sent me an image, bragging about the pack he is just about to eat. The premium packaged, rich, chocolate covered kind that are my favourite.

But I don’t have any in the house. And I’m not about to go out just to buy some. Too much effort.

So, alas, no biscuits for me.

B=MAT is BJ Fogg’s behaviour model. This is what it stands for: 

Behaviour = Motivation + Ability + Trigger.

An example using my biscuit love: The picture triggers my desire for biscuits. I have the motivation as I’m hungry. And I have the ability to go and get them. I could walk for five minutes and buy them from a shop. But that seems like too much effort.

Only two of the three requirements are satisfied, so I don’t engage in the behaviour.

In most cases, the B=MAT model is used as a way to try and engineer a new behaviour. Like we see in Nir Eyal’s book, Hooked. We can use it to figure out how to better sell a product, create an audience or encourage virality.

In this manner, it’s used to try and create a new behaviour. I think it’s more interesting when you use it in reverse. To try and end undesirable behaviours. Like gun crime.

Gun crime is a problem in America. No doubt. A simple way to stop it is by applying the B=MAT model to break the behaviour. Behaviour only occurs when motivation, ability and trigger align. So you can inhibit the behaviour by making sure one of those three is never present.

You can’t take away the motivation. People will always be angry and violent and crazy and cruel. You can’t take away the triggers. Guns and violence occupy central roles in a tonne of entertainment and culture. But you can take away the ability. 

It’s obvious, but if guns were incredibly difficult to procure, gun crime would drop.

Another example. 

Say I don’t want to spend as much time on social media. Again, it’s going to be hard to eliminate the motivation and the triggers. The easiest target is the ability to access it.

So what can I do?

I could take all the apps off of my phone and use it only for texting and calling. I could also use apps like StayFocusd and Self-Control

But what if I needed access to them for professional reasons? There’s a simple answer.

Completely removing the ability to complete a behaviour is not the only way to do it. You can also lower the frequency of a behaviour by making the ability to do it more complex or difficult

I could remove the Twitter and Facebook icons from my bookmarks. Now instead of just clicking, I have to type the URL in. I could bury the links deep in a collection of folders. I could set up an app that only allows me to access social media at specific times. Or set it up so that I only have a certain amount of time per day on these sites.

The possibilities are numerous. But it comes down to this: If you want to lessen or eliminate a behaviour, you have three options.

1) Remove or hamper the motivation to do it. This requires an understanding of the idea that the only prerequisite for change is awareness. It’s hard, but doable, and probably the most sustainable long term option.

2) Remove or censor the triggers and cues in your environment that make you want to do it. This is where strong filters and monitoring your information diet comes in.

3) Complicate and obscure the process of performing it. This is perhaps the easiest because it requires the least amount of effort.

The three are not mutually exclusive.

In fact, the best chance you have for taking a harmful behaviour down is the co-ordinated assault of all three.