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Episode 17: Creating lasting behavior change – with Dr. Kenneth Nowack

By December 29, 2022No Comments

Episode 17 Creating lasting behavior change – with Dr. Kenneth Nowack

The new year is here and with it comes new years resolutions for many people. But even though our intentions are good and our motivation seems flawless to begin with, a few months down the road most plans have been laid to rest. Behavioral change is hard. But knowing a little bit about what the science says about it gives us the opportunity to adapt to difficulties and prepare beforehand. In this episode we learn more about goal setting and what can help us move forward in achieving those goals. How many goals should you work on simultaneously? And how long does it take to create and automate a new behavior?

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Dr. Kenneth Nowack is a licensed psychologist living in Santa Monica, California, United States. He is the co-founder and Chief Research Officer of Envisia learning, an international consulting company dedicated to helping companies understand and develop systems for feedback and strategies to create behavioral change among its professionals. He is the author of two books, numerous academic articles, and several book chapters as well as editor in chief of Consulting Psychology Journal as part of the American Psychological Association. In addition to his other engagements, Dr Nowack has developed a platform called Talent Accelerator, a system to facilitate learning and behavior change. Through his years of work in research he has developed an expertise in coaching psychology and feedback strategies and on the side of his professional achievements he volunteers raising guide/service dogs for the blind, children on the Autistic spectrum, and individuals with PTSD. Through life his main driving force has been curiosity and an inner drive to continuously learn and grow.

Main topic notes

  • Goal setting vs goal striving [05.42]
  • The time it takes to automate a new habit [10.57]
  • Internal vs external motivation [13.48]
  • The negativity bias [15.30]
  • Maintaining motivation over time [17.12]
  • Implementation intentions and executing on goals [20.16]
  • The important of selecting level of difficulty [24.30]
  • Shortening the middle [26.00]
  • The perks of being a quitter and knowing when to quit [28.04]
  • Keeping things up over time [32.48]
  • How many goals to work on simultaneously and when to add on a new one [35.50]
  • Getting a goal mentor [39.00]
  • How to find the sweet spot of difficulty [42.14]
  • The concept of hardiness [44.00]

Main articles

Nowack, K. M. (2021). Hacks for Effectively Setting and Reaching Goals. Training and Development Magazine, May 2021, pp. 72-74. READ IT HERE

Nowack, K. (2017). Facilitating Successful Behavior Change: Beyond Goal Setting to Goal Flourishing. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 70, 1-19. READ IT HERE

Nowack, K. M. (2015). The Limits of Deliberate Practice. Talent Management Magazine, 11, 22-25. READ IT HERE


  • Research has shown that it normally takes between 65 to 90 days of deliberate practice to create automaticity in a new habit. Until the new behavior becomes comfortable we have a tendency to fight it. The friction becomes too much to deal with in addition to everything else we got going on in life. One of the most efficient ways of maintaining motivation and achieving goals is social support. To have someone like a family member, a colleague or a friend that can be both your cheerleader, someone to brainstorm solutions with and a source of accountability.  

  • To execute goals there are two important aspects, having a cue to know when to perform the new behavior and a plan on what to actually do. Setting a so-called implementation intention is an effective way of creating the structure needed to keep going with a new habit when we are distracted by other things in life. The first thing you need is a cue, a trigger, something you are already regularly doing automatically to trigger you to remember to also do your new habit. Then you need to define what you are going to do more, less or differently than before. “If and then” is a way of thinking about this, if this happens…then I will…. For example, If I brush my teeth… then I will practice gratitude by thinking of a few things I am grateful for. 

  • We often want to make big and fast changes in life. But when it comes to actually pulling through and achieving something the goal needs to be feasible to do. One way to do this is to divide a larger goal into subgoals or micro goals to make it less daunting. We are also more motivated at the beginning of and near the end of achieving a goal making the middle the hardest part to keep up. So shortening the middle is a way of increasing the likelihood that we will keep going. 

  • We are often taught that we should persevere and never quit on something we started. Turns out the research on this says that it’s better to know when to actually quit. Sometimes the things we set out to do are unattainable or just not good for us and then it’s much better for our mental and physical health to just say no and redirect or redefine. 

  • Working at 2-3 goals simultaneously maximizes success. Working on one goal alone is surprisingly enough less effective than working on two at the same time. It’s easier to lose motivation or forget about the goal when there is only one. When we have more than one we have more reference points. When you feel like the habit is automatic it is time to start asking yourself if you just want to maintain or if you want to refine. If you choose maintaining then this would be the time to consider adding on a new goal to work on. 

More from Dr. Kenneth Nowack

Envisia Learning