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Hi, Dr. Cobb here.

Today we’re going to talk about something that’s incredibly empowering – it’s called “shrinking your danger windows” or “shrinking your challenge windows.” Remember, in the block so far, we’ve been talking about habits and habit change. And the whole concept I want to share with you today is the simple fact that most of us think about habits we want to change as 24-hour-a-day problems, and the fact is nothing could be further from the truth.

Most of us have small windows of danger or challenge – maybe once a day or spread throughout the day – that, if we can create strategies to deal with them more effectively, we can begin changing habits, just like that. It’s an incredible concept.

One of the reasons this was prompted for me is two days ago in the New York Times there was a very, very intense article (from my perspective) called “The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food,” by Michael Moss.

I highly recommend that you check this article out. It’s going to stun you and amaze you, and maybe irritate you and frustrate you, but the whole point is that there are corporations and scientists sitting around in labs right now, trying to figure out how to make food more addictive because more addictive food equals more money in their pocket.

That, to me, as a health provider, as an educator, tells me that one of our greatest tools is our ability to manage our habits. In that whole realm, which we’ve already been discussing, understanding that your danger windows are much smaller than you think allows you to devote extra intense energy to creating strategies that can help you during those times.

Close up of a young boy looking through a magnifying glass with complex math on the blackboard in the background.

Let’s look at it really practically, talking about junk food. If you are that person that loves to eat something that you know is generally not good for you, look at your day and go, “Hey, I’m not giving up junk food for 24 hours.” Instead, “When are the times that I’m most tempted? Lunch? Dinner? I had a long day at work, I’m tired, I’m fatigued, I don’t want to go home and cook. Going out to that other restaurant takes time out of my day. I’m just going to stop by whatever fast food chain and grab food.”

If that’s a common thing for you, realize that that decision is less than 30 seconds or two minutes in the overall scheme of your life. Applying willpower to choose something different isn’t about, as I said, 24 hours. It’s about that 30-second to two-minute window. If you can begin focusing on that, creating strategies around those 30-second to two-minute windows, you can change your life, literally a piece at a time, in a way that absolutely will astound you. This is one of the most powerful concepts that I know of in habit change.

We’re going to continue on this theme for a couple more weeks. I’m going to give you some more information on habits: how our brain develops them, how to create them, and how to break them.

We’re going to start introducing a little bit of outside technology into the process in the next couple of weeks, but for now do two things for me. You did an exercise last week to pick a habit to work on.

This week, what I want you to do is go back, look at the habit that you were interested in changing, and now I want you to start identifying your danger windows or challenge windows and begin creating some strategies to help you deal with them. Have a great week.

Thanks so much.

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