Sean Young, PhD, MS, is the Executive Director of the University of California Institute for Prediction Technology, the UCLA Center for Digital Behavior, and a Medical School Professor at the UCLA Department of Family Medicine. He studies digital behavior and prediction technology, or how and why people use social media, mobile apps, and wearable devices. Sean also helps people and businesses apply this knowledge to predict what people will do in the future (in areas like health, medicine, politics, and business) and to change what they will do in the future. In his most recent publication, Stick With It, he examines the science of behavior change and provides practical advice about how to make real, lasting changes in one’s life. An exclusive excerpt from the book is available at the end of this article!
What are 3 things or experiences that bring you the greatest sense of fulfillment in life?
Other than the typical ones– family, friends, work– I get fulfillment from playing music, sitting in the sun, and relaxing in outdoor hot tubs.
What are the small things you do every day to be happy/fulfilled?
Play an instrument, dance, smile, get someone else to smile
People often find they don’t have enough time. How do you make time for those?
This has been against most people’s advice but it works for me. If there’s something I want to do, say yes to the opportunity to do it. I always manage to make time.
What health habits do you stick to no matter what?
Brushing/flossing, drinking a glass of water in the morning
What’s your best relationship tip?
Don’t let too much time pass to talk to people
You seem to balance both happiness and success. What’s your secret to being happy and productive?
Set small realistic goals.
What – in your opinion – is the best way to spread happiness and fulfillment to others?
Relax and it will come naturally
What is a quote you live by?
“It’s better to regret something you did do than something you didn’t do.” – Paul Arden
An excerpt from Sean’s new publication, Stick With It, which explores the nature of long-lasting behavior change and provides practicable advice based on evidence from the latest research:
Josh Nava hated the fact that he never followed through. As a student, he couldn’t get himself to do his homework even when he liked the topic. In later years, he collected shelves full of books but would drop one book midway to start reading a new one. Married with two children, he now found it harder than ever to stick with things. He had gone through a string of jobs and struggled to find a balance between his wife, kids, and work. Having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) didn’t help. He was easily distracted, and even small tasks like sending an email would take more than an hour. Josh would set his mind to do something— and inevitably fail to follow through. He asked himself, “How do I get myself to keep doing things I want to do when I keep getting in my own way?” Was there anything that could help him change?
How about a wooden spoon?
Josh had an idea. What if he started simply, focusing on something small? What if he tried doing this small thing every day, no matter what else was going on in his life? Josh had always enjoyed crafting things like chairs and cutlery, so in 2014 he created an Instagram account called @365spoons (Instagram is an online platform where people share photos and videos with friends). His plan: to craft a different wooden spoon every day and share it online with whoever wanted to “follow” him. His goal was to do it for a full year—365 days—and to stick to it, even if he only ended up with a handful of followers. He knew from bitter experience that he’d tried things before and would quit as soon as the novelty wore off. But this time he planned to do it differently.
Each day, Josh crafted a wooden spoon from recycled or unwanted materials and posted the image with a caption to Instagram. He also shared that with this project he was trying to solve the problem of always being “a quitter.” Within weeks, Josh gained hundreds of followers wanting to hear about his struggle to stick with a hobby, to see images of the beautiful spoons he had created, and to encourage him to keep going.
All that was good for Josh, but as he had anticipated, after a month the excitement of the project wore off. It became a chore. The last thing he wanted to do after a long day at work and spending time with his family was to complete a new spoon design. Josh was in a familiar head space—and ready to quit. But his Instagram followers wouldn’t let him. After he expressed his fatigue and discouragement, he was barraged with encouragement.
“I would not be able to maintain this project for a month and I am single with no kids. I have HUGE respect for your commitment. You are an inspiration!” wrote one fan. “You’re speaking my language brother! Your persistence in this knowing we have similar struggles is so impressive. So proud of you!” wrote another. And another commented, “You have inspired me! One collage a week for this year I’m going to do!”
Their words of encouragement kept Josh going. He not only completed his goal of creating a new spoon every day for the year but also accumulated an active Instagram following, too. Josh said he had come to an important realization for the first time in his life. “I learned that I was capable. It had just been buried. Like putting a stake in the ground, I realized I could follow through. . .It wasn’t about creating spoons. It was about confronting myself on an important issue. . .To look back and see that pile of spoons growing was meaningful.” Along the way, Josh tapped five of the seven forces of lasting change. Not incidentally, he now has a successful custom woodworking business called Suburban Pallet, where he sells spoons and other crafts to people who follow him or have heard his story.
Excerpted from STICK WITH IT. Copyright © by Sean Young. Reprinted by permission of Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.