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Building Healthy Habits with Dr. Jon Finn

George Grombacher December 6, 2023

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Building Healthy Habits with Dr. Jon Finn

LifeBlood: We talked about building healthy habits, why so many of us are struggling with illness, how many of us sleepwalk through life, and what can be done about it, with Dr. Jon Finn, high performance psychology expert, trainer, and author.       

Listen to learn how five minutes a day could have a profound impact on your life!

You can learn more about Jon at TougherMinds.CO.UK, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Dr. Jon Finn

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:02
Dr. John Finn is a writer. He is a high performance psychology expert. He is the founder of tougher minds. He is the author of the habit mechanic, and he is helping countless people to improve their lives and many more have awesome careers. Welcome to the show, John.

Jon Finn 0:20
Hi, George, thanks for having me. excited to have you on.

george grombacher 0:23
Tell us a little bit your personal lives more about your work, why you do what you do?

Jon Finn 0:30
Yeah, I’ve I’ve worked in the fields of resilience, performance psychology leadership for over 20 years now.

As a younger man, I was always good at playing sports. So I got advice to go to university and study something I enjoyed. So I ended up studying sports science, I really enjoyed the psychology. So I did a master’s in that, and then eventually a PhD. And my mission is to make it as easy as possible for people to be at their best but using cutting edge in cutting edge insights from neuroscience, because what I learned very quickly, is that what I got taught in my degrees, didn’t really work in the field. Help people to know what they need to do to be at their best doesn’t actually help them to do it. Because we don’t do what we what we know we should do. We do we’re in the habit of doing is what cutting edge insights from neuroscience have shown is that most of what I think in most of the time, most of what we do most of the time, is mindless. Often that’s 100% we’re just running completely on autopilot. And at our best we have about 2% of consciousness. So what I’ve been working out over the last 20 years is how do we help people to reprogram their brands, so they can ultimate, better thinking and better doing. And I pulled all that thinking together in the habit mechanic book, which we released about 18 months ago took me over 20 years to write I mean literally is our playbook, how we teach people how to rewire their brands, but not just individually. Once you’ve learned how to become a habit mechanic, we then teach how to become a chief habit mechanic. So you can create cultures that make it really easy for people to build and change their behavior. So that’s a little bit about me and my background.

george grombacher 2:22
What about the personal life, John?

Jon Finn 2:25
Personal life? Well, I work an awful lot. So I mean, I don’t have much of a personal I’ll have to be honest with you. I’m very passionate about work. And yeah, so that’s why I do. Excellent.

george grombacher 2:36
Alright, so at best 2% of the time, we’re conscious, tell me a little more about that.

Jon Finn 2:45
Our brand is designed to serve energy. So for most of our existence is homosapiens energy has been a really scarce resource. There hasn’t always been a supermarket on the corner. So we’ve evolved to save energy. This is why we, for example, like to procrastinate on things and given to short term gratification because our brain wants to only expend energy on things that give it fast rewards. It’s also why the donor is more attractive than the apple. This our brain instinctively knows there’s more colorism, that donut. And for every bite that we invest in, every bite of energy out there that we invest, we know we’re going to get more back from the donor. So the the most efficient, energy efficient way to run things is to habitual eyes them is just to put things on autopilot. So that’s what we’ve learned is how our brain actually runs. So this idea, for example, that if I said to you don’t think of a white elephant, it’s already in your brain, you don’t have to think about it. It’s completely subconscious. And it’s quite hard because we are so ultimate, it’s quite hard for us to actually understand our automated we are we have this veil of idea that we are conscious, and we’re making these conscious decisions all the time that science shows time and time again, were largely largely running on autopilot and we spend more time rationalizing why we did what we did, rather than logically thinking about our time. And what I’m seeing in the purse COVID world is that it’s harder and harder to actually get that prefrontal cortex working, which is where the conscious stuffs happening. We imagine it from violet, a little character called Willamina power or willpower, just because we’re being bombarded and it’s almost like we’ve been catapulted into these perpetual transitional steps where nothing is feel certain anymore in our lives. So even the very simple things like Can I afford to pay the mortgage this month? Can we afford to put food on the table? Is there going to be another traumatic weather event we’ve we’ve had one serious war going on over the last 12 months now we’ve got another series well conflict going on, are the kids going back to school or they’re settling back in after the after COVID Are we going to stay hybrid work are we going to go back to the office full time. So it’s just even banking, you know, simple things like going to the bank or changing, we now do it digitally. So it’s all this every kind of certain thing that we have in our life is changing. And that creates stress and problems. And it just means that our conscious brain works less well. So we get a bit realized more easily to deal with unhelpful things. So we worry more often be the wrong types of food, we don’t sleep as well. People not exercising as much after the pandemic, because they don’t even have to leave the house anymore. These really basic things, where we live in a digital world where we’re being bombarded all the time, by messaging from big corporates that are trying to sell us stuff that are trying to get our attention. So I would argue that it’s harder than ever before, in the existence of, of our species to be healthy, happy and at our best, because it’s harder than ever to build sustain healthful habits,

george grombacher 6:28
which all, for lack of a better term checks out because if you look across the broad swath of humanity, we’re not doing well from a physical health, mental health, financial health standpoint. So

Jon Finn 6:40
yeah, and if you look at the US, you got the latest data that I read came out the Brookings Institute, earlier this year showed that 58 million American adults have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder. In the UK, we have were a much smaller country. But we’ve got one and a half million people signed off on the sick, whose primary or secondary diagnosis for that there’s anxiety and depression. We’re seeing projections that dementia is going to double in the UK, in the next 15 years, we’re seeing projections in the next 15 years, there’s going to be well, there’s going to be 39, but an extra 39% of our workforce that have got diagnosis for long term health problems. That includes anxiety and depression, that’s now sort of moving up the the charts if you like alongside cancer. So we’ve, it’s harder than ever to be at our best. The challenge that I see, as someone who’s worked in this field all my life, is the tools that are out there that are meant to help people to do better. They don’t work, because they’re all based on knowledge, more knowledge, tips, tricks, hacks, so see equivalent of, and we got some medicine as well, we can take but if I tear my cough, I might take an ibuprofen, and that dumbs down the pain a little bit. If I’m not feeling very well, if I’m a bit anxious, and I’m worrying a lot, I might take a Prozac tablet, and I might just quieten things down a little bit. If I turn my car off, I can go to the physiotherapist and they can get their fingers in there and they can start to work out the scar tissue. When you go to a therapist or a psychologist there can’t do that. And what they end up doing is giving you more knowledge about what you might need to do differently in order to worry less and be less anxious. And even if you agree with those ideas, typically you don’t go away and change your behavior. So we need to move to a model where we’re understanding that it’s not more knowledge and more skills. It’s actually helping people to build better habits, we see it with the five portions of fruit and vegetables are there messaging, more people in the Western world than ever before, understand and actually agree it’s a good idea to eat five portions of fruits and vegetables a day. But people still don’t do it. And in our in the UK, our National Health Service still spends over half its annual budget. And the National Health Services, the biggest company in Europe, we’re talking 10s and 10s of billions of pounds on diseases that emerge because people literally don’t eat five portions of fruits and vegetables a day. Because if they did, the illnesses they get, they wouldn’t get the illnesses and diseases that they’re getting. So we need to move away from knowing and actually helping people to build better habits, hence the habit mechanic. And that’s the word that I’ve dedicated my life to. And what we’re doing so we’ve spent the last 20 years working out how to help people to actually do this, take the science and embed it into their lives in a simple, practical way. So what we’ve done with the book is we’ve actually just created a resource that everybody can use. So it’s a man it’s a toolkit for success. It’s a manual for life. We have On app as well, they haven’t been Kennett University. And we actually have started growing people to become certified habit mechanic coaches, so that they can embed this into the work they’re doing to help other people. So that’s back to my mission is to make it as easy as possible for people to be at their best. And really just want to help people to use these these time tested tools now.

george grombacher 10:22
I appreciate that. I appreciate everything you said it makes sense. So it’s, it’s 1000s and 1000s of years, it’s our DNA, it’s everything. And and you’ve somehow made a way to make it simple and practical, that couldn’t have been easy to to take all that information and then make it actually a usable tool.

Jon Finn 10:48
Yeah, so we’ve we’ve had to try and test that idea with lots of lots of people, but we’ve done it across the lifespan as well. So we’ve got programs for young people at school all the way through to C suite, really some of the biggest businesses in the world. But when you strip back everything that we’re designed to do, so if you look at if you speak to the the anthropologists, and the the molecular neuroscientists, they’ll say, Well, actually, when we look at human biology, and what architecture is designed for, we’re really designed to move around about 12 miles a day, and solve problems, problems, first of all, related to survival, which makes a lot of sense. So that’s what we look like were designed to do, obviously, our modern lives look very different to that in terms of we don’t move anywhere near as much as that. But the way that I would think about it is actually were designed were designed to survive. That’s why our brain fundamentally saves energy. Because without energy, you can’t survive. That’s why it’s wired to save energy. But I would say were designed to try to control how we feel, and to control our environment. And we’re doing that mindlessly all the time. And this is why social media has taken off because it by prep by pressing the button on social media, we can make ourselves feel better. We now have access to lots of food that’s really unhealthy, but makes us feel good in the short term. And we’ve seen the rise again from a site when I was a teenager, I worked in McDonald’s. And actually back then there was the odd taxi service that would come the cab would come and pick up some food for someone. And we’re talking 25 plus years ago. But now if I want to McDonald’s, I can literally press a few buttons on my phone, and I can get it. So what we’ve got is the big corporates have worked out what humans are designed to do, and they’re flooded our attention streams with these things. Even the news is done this. Even very reputable news sites like the BBC, have worked out what we want to pay attention to. And it’s the new worrying, threatening story. So it’s Ukraine is Israel. And we’re just bombarded by that stuff on the front page of that website. More than these helpful because those guys are held being held accountable by their bosses for how many eyeballs are we getting on the front page of the of the News homepage every day. So big corporates have worked out what humans are designed to do. And they are bombarding us with things i interestingly, noticed last week that 33 states in the US are taking matter to court for essentially child abuse, because they’re saying they’ve deliberately gone out and actually hooked children in and it’s negatively affected their mental health. So people are starting to get wise to this now. But we’re still addicted to those behaviors. So it’s a real battle. So if we want to do better, the first thing that we need to do is actually understand ourselves in more detail, and how our brain works just level and what we’re designed to do. And that’s going to be really helpful in helping us to change our behavior. So what we’ve boiled things down to is, we know that some habits are more powerful than others, we call them. We call them the healthful habits that are more powerful than other super habits. And we call the unhelpful habits that are more powerful than others destructive habits. And we know that if we can start to identify some of these destructive habits in our lives, and also start to identify and build more super habits, that’s the key actually to success. And we’ve boiled down a process so that within five minutes, you can start to build new super habits. Because we don’t just use a neuroscience in our work about how our brain works. We actually use behavioral science, about why we do what we do. We’ve created our own proprietary behavioral science model. And we’ve boiled that down into a five minute habit building plan. So whichever behavior you want to change, you can use that planning process. It literally just takes five minutes to start to change. If you want to build better stress, manage stress, stress management habits, you can use that process better sleep diet and exercise habits, you can use that process, better focus and productivity habits, better performance and the pressure. It’s been a confidence habits, equally better leadership habits, better teamwork habits. So it’s about helping people to not just have tips, tricks and hacks. It’s about helping them to understand how to build and sustain helpful behaviors. We call them habits, helpful super habits and destroy destructive habits. So literally helping people to reprogram their brains, not just for the next five minutes, but for the long term future as well. Yeah, so that’s what we do. What if,

george grombacher 16:01
what if everybody, if everybody just spent five minutes a day on this? How, how quickly would these problems change from your estimation, mental health problems, obesity?

Jon Finn 16:16
Yeah, massive, absolutely massive. It’s interesting. At the start of the year, there was a big set of data that came out from some research about people with depression. And there were two intervention groups. One intervention group was CBT, which is cognitive behavioral therapy, which is seen as the gold standard therapy in psychology, that’s the model that I got taught on through my three degrees. The other intervention was just do something nice for someone else every day. So he needs to do just do one nice thing for somebody else every day, could be saying something nice to them, or they’ll physically doing something nice. The group that just did something nice every day had a huge ly improved impact on their depression, versus the people that were in CBT. interventions. Why? Because those people were doing something differently. And that is the key. But managing stress being more focused and productive, eating more healthily, sleeping better being a battery, they’re complex behaviors. So what we need is, we need to understand the knowledge and the skills that sit behind doing things differently. But then we need the tools to put it into practice. And that’s literally what we map out in the habit mechanic book in our approach. It’s what we teach our coaches how to do. But yeah, so we know that if you just if I just spend five minutes every day, creating what we call a willpower story, that serves me at least two or three hours every day. And I know what I’m doing. And if I don’t do that, I’m just not as efficient and effective. So we see that people that use these, this toolkit, even the people that are already doing pretty well, they can do an extra 20 hours of what we call high impact work per month. So it’s like an extra hour each working day. And the high impact work is the kind of clever creative work you do at work. So it’s, you know, when you really focused, we call it building ice sculptures, but it’s also the work that you’re able to do and yourself. So get yourself out and do the difficult run or make yourself a healthy meal, or get to bed a little a little bit earlier. Thus, people that are already doing well, the people that are not doing particularly well, they’ll do their continuum, we see that there could do upwards of an extra 80 hours of high impact work on themselves each month. So it’s seismically different. Because doing that focus, clever high impact work is harder than ever to do. We have a model called the breadsticks model. So in very simple terms, we think about the brand is a bit like a battery. It’s only got so much charging every 24 hour periods, and periods. And then it’s got three broad states that it operates in. We’ve got the recharge there. While we’re sleeping or relaxing or switching off. We’ve got the medium charge there, where we’re doing fairly automatic, mindless tasks, both at work but outside of work. And we’ve got the high charge branch there where we’re really focused, we’re really switching on that 2% of the brain function. And the trouble we find is, in the world we live in, it’s harder than ever to do the recharge, because we’re always on the temptation is to always be on always streaming, always checking, always posting. So we do too much media and charge brands that work. We can’t get enough recharge done. Because of that we can’t get To the high charge brands that now the trouble is, is that AI is coming along, and AI is going to do all the medium charge work, it’s going to be far more efficient at doing medium charge work than humans are. I’ve just written an article for this about Forbes for Fall problem. And the what AI isn’t very good at doing is the high charge work. So if we want to feel good about ourselves, if we want to get to the end of the day makin feeling like we’ve made some progress get to the end of the week, what we need to do is strike a much better balance between those three brands. That’s it. Now the high charge branch there is a cog is a scarce cognitive results. At our best, we can only get into that bridge there for about four or five hours each day. So we need to build our super habits up to allow us every day just to get into that high charge brands. So we can do really focused, clever, high impact work on ourselves, but also for our business or for whatever we want to do, you know, for our kids, or whatever it is. For me, that is the key. And it’s also the key to being happy to be happy. Because we’ve been led to believe that happiness is about Hedden ism, it’s about doing things that make you feel good in the short term. That’s important for happiness. But what’s more important, but also more difficult to do is to feel like you’re making personal progress is to deliver short term gratification, do something difficult and challenging, and then get the big reward out of it. That could be losing some weight, it could be running a faster time, it could be finishing a really challenging project or making progress on a project, it could be helping your child to improve their performance in one of their academic subjects. That all takes that high charge brainstem, which is harder than ever to get into. And that’s what becoming a habit mechanic is really about, it’s about getting a better balance between those three breads, that’s an unlocking what we call the 25. Our brand which has been able to get into that high charge brands that about five hours, five days a week, that is when you’re going to be on fire.

george grombacher 22:17
I love it. Like it’s really powerful. And it’s exciting that I think that the lies that we really want are closer than we think we just need to be able to access them the correct way and have mechanic is the way to do that. So thanks so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? How can they engage? Where can they learn about have mechanic University where can they get their copy of the habit mechanic?

Jon Finn 22:43
Yes. So if you go to our website, which is tougher minds dot code at UK and we shall it will be linked beneath in the show notes. You can find the habit mechanic book on Amazon, and all online, good online bookstores. The having the kind of university app is in the Apple App Store and it’s in the Google Play Store. When you can learn more about the book on the app and other things on our website. Right now on our website we have a short, free mini masterclass on stress and the three secrets to destroying your stress in as little as two minutes per day. So loads of free content on the websites is worth checking out.

george grombacher 23:22
Excellent. Well if you enjoyed as much as I did, Sir John your appreciation and share today share with a friend who also appreciates good ideas go to tougher and check out the great resources that John’s been talking about. Take advantage of that destroyed stress. masterclass mini course, go to the App Store the Google Play store and check out the habit mechanic University app and then pick up your copy of the hammock habit mechanic on Amazon and I will to John’s point link all those in the notes of the show. Thanks again, John.

Jon Finn 24:00
Thank you, George very much. Appreciate it.

george grombacher 24:02
Till next time remember, do your part like doing your best

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