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Audrey Cannata:

When we have these vague goals and we don't have the clear plan of how we're going to achieve those goals, you're less likely to stay the course and stay motivated and so it tends to seem unattainable.

 

James Robert Lay:

Greetings and hello. I am James Robert Lay and welcome to episode 214 of the Banking on Digital Growth Podcast. Today's episode is part of the Behind the Cover series, where today we are going to be taking you behind the cover of Tiny Habits, the small changes that change everything. Tiny Habits was written by Dr. BJ Fogg, who is a world renowned behavior scientist at Stanford University. Joining me for today's conversation is Audrey Cannata, operations lead here at the Digital Growth Institute, who will provide some perspective into tiny habits through what she is seeing and hearing with the training, coaching, and research we are doing here at the Digital Growth Institute. Welcome to the show, Audrey. It is so good to go behind the cover with you again today.

 

Audrey Cannata:

Yes, it is James Robert. So happy to be back.

 

James Robert Lay:

Well, before we get into talking about some of the key insights from a really fantastic book, Tiny Habits, a really transformative book, what is going well for you right now, personally, or professionally, it's your pick to get started?

 

Audrey Cannata:

Well, personally, I hit a really cool workout milestone. As you know, I'm really into F45, which is a functional fitness class. Last week I got a phone call from the owner of the gym, personally congratulating me on hitting 200 classes, which I think plays really well into our conversation we're going to have today with tiny habits, ties back into our conversation we had with never lose a customer again with that customer experience and really feeling that connection there because I had been a member for so long and he still took that time to reach out and give me a personal phone call. Who does that anymore right now? So yes, it was really exciting.

 

James Robert Lay:

Well, I've seen Jay Baer recently writing about a doctor, a physician more so a dentist who is, I believe, in the New Jersey area. This dentist will make phone calls on Saturday to patients, to new patients who have scheduled appointments the following week. 80% of patients that come in and then they do the followup survey always reference the phone call from the dentist on Saturday that, "Wow, the dentist called me. That made me feel really good." It set a very positive experience. It placed deposit into their trust fund that sits between their ears. So now when they're in the chair, they're a lot more comfortable.

 

Audrey Cannata:

Exactly.

 

James Robert Lay:

The anxiety has dissipated. It's those small, little touches, those tiny touches that are really rooted deeper into tiny habits that have exponential growth potential on the other side. To me, it's my hope within financial services at financial brands, we can develop processes and systems and coaching that empower people, that empower account holders and consumers at large to develop tiny habits that guide them beyond the financial stress taking a toll on their health, on their wellbeing and on their relationships to get them to a bigger, better, brighter future. So let's get into Tiny Habits and just kind of give us a general overview of the book before we dive into a couple of specific areas of focus today.

 

Audrey Cannata:

Sure. So Tiny Habits is really all about making things easy, because the easier a behavior is to do the more likely you are to repeat it and then it'll become a habit. So it's really about starting small, small is sustainable, small is repeatable and really finding ways to hack the system, hack your behaviors and manipulate your environment to work in your favor.

 

James Robert Lay:

There's so much practicality here in regards to financial services, because if you think about an individual's financial lives, the vast majority of it is habitual, and great case in point, right now I am drinking a Starbucks coffee. I stopped drinking Starbucks for a very long time to support local business.

 

Audrey Cannata:

I know.

 

James Robert Lay:

But for some reason, the habit has crept back in. Why? Because of how easy Starbucks has made it to buy a coffee, not have to wait in line through their app and then you literally go in and pick it up. So now that I have this mindful awareness, which we'll talk about how that's all plays back in a little bit later on, if we're wanting to transform our habits and our behaviors, it all is interconnected. So for the dear listener thinking about this, think about your financial brand or FinTech and where might there be opportunities to facilitate the development of tiny habits. I think it all boils down to starting here with what we'll call the anatomy of a tiny habit because tiny habits are made up of three different elements. What are these elements, Audrey?

 

Audrey Cannata:

So you have the anchor moment and that is something just simply to remind you to do the behavior, to act. Then you have the actual small behavior, which is a very, very simple version of whatever it is, whatever behavior it is that you want to create, something as small as doing two pushups in the morning. Then you have the instant celebration, which I think is the key in all of this, because that is the easiest thing to forget. But I think giving yourself that sense of pride, hey, I accomplished this, that's what keeps you coming back for more. You want that feeling of accomplishment again. So you're likely to repeat these behaviors over and over again.

 

James Robert Lay:

It's that sense of accomplishment. It's really where what we coach progress is far greater than perfection. We want to celebrate the progress. I like the idea of the anchor. It's the reminder. If you think about in financial services, that might be the notification in an app. Then once you reach a certain milestone, you might get another celebratory element. Now, case in point here, you got the phone call from your coach at the gym, the owner celebrating the progress and the milestone that you achieved. What that does, it hits us with a little bit of dopamine.

 

Audrey Cannata:

Absolutely.

 

James Robert Lay:

It feels good. When it feels good, we want to keep coming back for more, which is why, come back to the case of Starbucks, they've literally hacked the system. They've hacked the mind. In multiple ways, they've reduced the friction of buying a coffee, but we even know the caffeine is an addictive substance. So for lack of better words, Starbucks is just a glorified publicly-traded drug dealer. Well, habit formation is really rooted deeply in behavior. As BJ notes in the book, aspiration, I really want to make a distinction here between aspiration because a lot of us, we aspire for a goal or a new something to be even better than what we were before. Then there's behavior. Aspiration and behavior is different. What's the difference and why is it important to make the distinction here?

 

Audrey Cannata:

So I think we tend to blame ourselves when we can't make change happen. We're hard on ourselves naturally, but BJ Fogg reminds us, it's not you, it's the system. It's the approach that you're taking. You are not the problem. You're not failing. So I think in order to really understand the system, it's important to get clear on aspirations versus behaviors. So aspirations, these are not concrete things. These are very abstract desires and things that can't be achieved in any given moment. You can't suddenly achieve better sleep or you can't suddenly achieve weight loss.

So I think when we have these vague goals and we don't have the clear plan of how we're going to achieve those goals, you're less likely to stay the course and stay motivated and so it tends to seem unattainable. But if you're thinking about the behaviors, what behaviors do I have to do to reach that goal, then you're setting yourself up for more success. So behaviors are those small things that you can do at any given time right away. So if you're aspiring to get better sleep, well, the small behavior might be simply to put your phone on do not disturb every single night. It's easy to do. It takes a couple seconds. You have your reminder, every time you get in your bed, put your do not disturb on. So it's easy to repeat that behavior. It's sustainable, it's not too difficult, so the more likely that habit will become and then that'll lead to your better sleep.

 

James Robert Lay:

Yes. I like the distinction here. I aspire to lose weight. I aspire to save more money. Those are very intangible. I aspire to grow loans and deposits. We could say, "Okay, well let's make this more of a smart goal to where it's specific and measurable. It's attainable. It's realistic. It's time-bound." Okay. So I want to lose 10 pounds or I want to save $1,000, whatever it might be. But if we start reverse engineering that and we don't focus on the aspiration, but we focus on the behaviors needed to get to that aspirational point, I think it becomes much easier. It becomes a much more clear.

For example, I run marathons and it's been a while and I'm like, "I want to run another marathon." I need that big goal to aspire to. But for some reason there's a mental block in my mind right now to where I have said, "I'm not going to worry about the marathon. I'm going to just run a lap around the block."

 

Audrey Cannata:

Sure.

 

James Robert Lay:

Because three laps around the block, that equals one mile. Because for me, I have found that if I get out there and I run one lap, I'm not just going to run one lap, I'm going to run two. That two's going to become three and there's a mile. I'm not just going to run one mile. I'm going to run three miles. Then that three miles becomes five and then 10. But what does it all begin with? It all begins with that simple step. Then once it come back, it's that reward. It's the celebration. It's the dopamine hit that I get from the fitness. It's the dopamine hit that I get from the exercise, right?

 

Audrey Cannata:

Exactly. I can relate to that. There's often times where I'm not motivated, I don't feel like going to the gym, but I will tell myself, "Just get in the car, drive there and walk in the door." That's it. That's all you're going to tell yourself you have to do. Walk in the door and the rest is bonus from there. Nine times out of 10, I end up giving it 100% and I'm proud of myself for doing that. But I think it's just giving yourself that permission to not bite it off more than you feel like you can chew at the time. Just get in there. Open the door and walk in. I guarantee you're going to surprise yourself.

 

James Robert Lay:

I think the idea of aspiration versus behavior, it's important to make the distinction as well within the realm of financial services, because there's such a correlation between health and fitness and financial health and financial wellbeing. A lot of times it's the aspiration is in the future, right? The future for many of us might not feel so clear, especially now with everything that's going on, all of the challenges and the conflicts that we've experienced over the past couple of years that I predict that we're going to experience probably through 2030.

I say that not from a pessimistic point of view, but really to provide some perspective. I'm reading a book right now called The Fourth Turning and it provides insight into the cyclical patterns of basically societal change and that there are four seasons that, if we look back at history, we've all gone through periods of spring and summer and fall and right now we're really in a period of winter. If you think about the seasons in winter, and this is even ancient wisdom written in the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, everything has a season. Everything has a time. But winter does not last forever because what comes after winter? What comes after the darkness? It is the light. It is the spring. It is rejoicing.

But then what happens is we tend to get complacent and we take for granted what we have and then that moves us back into a season of summer where we get lazy. We think about the lazy days of summer. Then that moves us into the period of fall, which is then repeats back itself into the winter. But I say this because if you think about being in a wintertime, it's very hard to think about the future. But that's why the idea of mindset of hope, of optimism is so critically... I think it's going to be even more important over the next decade for us as individuals, as teams, as organizations to then allow that hope and optimism to spill over into our account holders' lives within financial services.

Because if we're setting goals for an unseen future, well, we might make decisions today that yeah, they feel good today, but they're going to hurt us going forward. That doesn't matter if it's a financial decision or if it's decision about health. So when we shift our focus from the future state and focus on the behavior in the present moment, eventually we will achieve that positive future state, right?

 

Audrey Cannata:

Sure. So going back to your Starbucks, that five, six, $7 Starbucks didn't feel like a financial hit today, but compounded every day for a month, you're going to add that up and feel, you're going to feel that yeah in your budget.

 

James Robert Lay:

Yeah. That's one reason too. I stopped, and I sound like an addict, I stopped and then I started it again. Then I feel a bit of frustration, and I mean, maybe even like to a degree shame, like, "Come on, man, you know better than this."

 

Audrey Cannata:

Right. Little guilt.

 

James Robert Lay:

Yeah. There's a little bit of guilt tied to this because I'm like, "You don't need to do this." But once again, it really is the tiny habit that Starbucks has created for so many that if we can establish tiny habits in financial services for good, that is really where we put the transformation of people over the transaction of dollars and cents. Now that we really have, and we've talked through this through a couple different lenses, an understanding of the difference between an aspiration and then more importantly a behavior and why behavior is so critical to really consider, what are the three factors that influence behavior that BJ wrote about in the book?

 

Audrey Cannata:

Yeah. So I think it's really important to take time and pick apart these three different factors when you're trying to build your behavior. BJ Fogg, visualizes it with the equation, which I know you appreciate this, James Robert. He says B equals MAP or B equals map, motivation, ability and prompt. I think, starting with motivation, there's a little bit of misconception when it comes to motivation.

 

James Robert Lay:

Absolutely.

 

Audrey Cannata:

Because it's easy to be motivated. It doesn't take a lot, but motivation alone just doesn't yield the results because it's the least predictable. It's the least sustainable. So it's really not as important as we think it is. I mean, we can all aspire to get a promotion or aspire to be financially stable. But what is the plan? So motivation is great for those quick sprints, quitting your job or something along those lines. But I think having those high levels of motivation just are not sustainable, so.

It's not your fault. You're not doing anything wrong. It's just that's the way life is. So BJ Fogg talks about working around the motivation monkey, which is where the other two factors comes in, ability and prompt. The ability is how easy is it for you to do, how realistic is it for you to do. If it's not, if a task is too hard, you're going to need a lot of motivation, but we know that motivation isn't sustainable. So if a task is easy to do, you don't need as much motivation. Brushing your teeth is easy. So you're less likely to forget no matter how tired you are before bed to brush your teeth to where it's so easy that you don't need a lot of motivation to do it.

Not setting being extreme and over-committing to something. Talking about a marathon. You did not go outside and say, "I'm just going to run six miles." You're not going to be able to do that every single day. It's just not sustainable. So I think really finding something that is easy for you to do.

Then he talks about the prompt. A prompt is something that prompts you to make an action. So whether it's an external prompt, like an alarm goes off, or an action prompt, which is when you X, you follow it up with Z, when you drink your coffee, you take your vitamins. That's your way of getting your vitamins in every day. Those are a lot more reliable because it's a forcing function. It's challenging to take your vitamins every single day because your schedule's always different. But guess what? You probably have coffee every single day. So if you follow that coffee up with your vitamins, you're not likely to forget.

 

James Robert Lay:

Motivation's like a muscle. It will tire over time. That's why, back to your point before, some days you just don't simply feel motivated to go to the gym. Other days you feel highly motivated. If we plant our flag into creating a bigger, better, brighter future on the idea and the ideal of motivation, we'll probably never ever get there. That's where I like the point of ability because ability, or really I would say even capability, it increases our level of confidence. I think a couple of things need to really be considered when it comes to ability or capability.

We might have a future state that we want to create for ourselves, whether that be personally or professionally. We understand what that future state is, but what stands in the way is the bottleneck. It's the roadblock. As ancient stoic wisdom notes, many times the obstacle as Ryan Holiday wrote in the book, The Obstacle Is the Way, or the roadblock, the roadblock is the path forward. It's just we have to learn, we have to gain clarity of how to work around that particular roadblock or obstacle standing in our way.

So that's where I think training provides that clarity because once you get clear about something and the confusion begins to dissipate, that builds our courage to commit to move forward with confidence. But just because you're moving forward with confidence, that kind of ties back into motivation, our motivation most likely will experience a dip and a decline as time proceeds. That is then where the prompt comes back into play.

This is the whole reason I am 100% I would say all-in on continuing to empower financial brands to bring coaching as a key competency to maximize their digital growth potential because yes, motivation, we'll put that aside. Ability, if someone's wanting to save and improve their financial wellbeing, we can create the ability to do so with we'll call them apps. I'm just going to use apps generally, mobile banking apps, and it might be an automated roundup system built within the app. So it's kind of the you spend a $1.50, we'll round it up, 50 cents automatically gets dumped into savings.

I think the more that you put some of the stuff on autopilot-

 

Audrey Cannata:

[inaudible].

 

James Robert Lay:

The better it becomes. But that does that change what we were talking about before, that does that change behavior. That does that change the behavior of the spending patterns that are so deeply ingrained in people's subconscious mind, and this is where the prompts can come back into play, where you're like, "Oh, well, can't you just do prompts through an app?" No. No. You could, but I'm betting on human behavior here is that desire in that present moment will far surpass whatever the goal is for the future state. So what do we do? We fall back on what is comfortable, what makes us feel good in the present moment where the prompt now comes from a coach.

 

Audrey Cannata:

Exactly.

 

James Robert Lay:

The prompt is the human connection of accountability which will far surpass any app, any AI, any automation. That to me is the path forward. Now, we can support and supplement some of the humanity of coaching and accountability and human prompts with AI and automation, but AI and automation alone is not the answer here.

 

Audrey Cannata:

Yeah. I think you nailed it when you linked the prompt to being the accountability piece. That is 100%, I think, spot on. When you're thinking about auto depositing into your savings account versus resisting a purchase at a store, I mean, the ability there, like you said, it is so much more challenging to not spend money versus saving money. When you think about the financial coaches being that prompt, and you mentioned an app, it's a lot easier to, let's say lie to an app or not be honest and truthful than it is face to face to a person. Because you're not going to want to disappoint, or not that they would care, but it's so much more difficult to look somebody in the eyes and say, "Yeah, I didn't do well," or, "I need help," than it is a piece of technology.

 

James Robert Lay:

Now, I'm looking here at my phone and you know this, I took email off my phone. I took social media off my phone. I took my web browser off my phone because of particular habits and behaviors-.

 

Audrey Cannata:

You removed the prompt.

 

James Robert Lay:

Exactly that I had. But then I look here and I have other apps. I have the Wim Hof app. I have the Hallow meditation app. I have the MyLife Meditation app. I don't get prompts because I turn the prompts off because I get so annoyed and distracted with ADD that if my phone was constantly prompting me to do something, it increases my stress. So what I've done is I've made my smartphone a dumb phone so that it works for me as opposed to I work for it. So I think there's a lot to be said that even with prompts coming from an app, we can easily turn those off.

 

Audrey Cannata:

Yeah. I mean, I think removing a prompt to achieve a behavior is just as important as responding to a prompt. I mean, if you want to lose weight, well, remove the prompts from your pantry or your refrigerator. Take things away, just like you did with your email on your phone, that is a way to hack the behavior as well.

 

ames Robert Lay:

Yes. Flipping this around on the other side of an example of where I'm using technology to try to at least gain some awareness, I downloaded an app called DrinkControl. I'm curious to see what my alcohol consumption is. Then from there, make some maybe optimizations, modificat... I don't know. Right now, this is a whole new experiment for me because I'm one that is wanting to always learn, but I know it's what I'm writing about making a change. If we are to continue to maximize our exponential growth, it all comes down to one thing. We have to act.

The very first letter in that acronym ACT, A-C-T, it is to climb to the apex of awareness of Mount Monte Teo. It's really looking at where we're at. Right, now I don't really have any clarity or awareness of what my alcohol consumption behaviors are. That's what I'm wanting to just gain some insight. That's where I'm using technology to kind of begin to document some of this. We'll see. It's an experiment, if you will.

 

Audrey Cannata:

I'm curious to hear how that goes. So keep us posted.

 

James Robert Lay:

Well, I mean, because it's like now that things are opening back up, I'm traveling more. I'll get a glass of scotch on the plane or, and then you go to a cocktail. We know alcohol is a poison. It is not good for us. Well, you can make the argument on the medical side. Well, a glass of wine, there's been studies shown and it's just conflicting points of view. I'm like, "Look, everything in moderation." But then it's like I don't have awareness into this area of my life because for the past two years, we're kind of at home and now that I'm back and doing more social drinking, I'm like, "I don't feel as good as I did."

I have a hypothesis, I'm not sleeping as good as I was because we know alcohol disturbs sleep. So therefore let's climb to the top of the apex of awareness. Let's just look because once you gain that awareness, then you can move to the C which is making the commitment to move forward one way or another. Otherwise, you fall back into the cave of complacency and then you get stuck repeating the predictable past.

 

Audrey Cannata:

Yeah. I think that awareness is so key because we're busy people. We are running around all day. We've got families and jobs and we don't take the time, most of us, to sit down and stop and really create that level of awareness. Think about your diet, how many of you have sat down and written down everything you consumed that day? You'd probably be shocked to see or calculate your calories or your intake. Who takes the time to really do that? So we lack the awareness to even know where to start with these new behaviors.

 

James Robert Lay:

So my wife, Delena, who you know so well, she has really, and this was kind of a COVID experiment for her and she is so... She's kind of like anti-tech to the degree because she sees the dangers of addiction. I think a lot of it has just been living with me and some of my struggles on that front. She's been using I think it's MyFitFoods is the app.

 

Audrey Cannata:

Yeah.

 

James Robert Lay:

She is pretty good about logging all of... Because she was wanting to get even more fit. She was wanting to lean up. But she had hit a plateau and she works out pretty frequently, but she had hit a plateau and she was stuck. So she was talking to a friend of ours who is a nutritionist and they got into the whole conversation about macros. She was like, "How do you do this?" So she said, "Get MyFitFoods. You kind of plug in what your goals are, what your fitness goals are, and then your weight and your age and kind of these other baseline data points and then it'll provide you with a plan and then you can track your macros, which is what your carbs, your fats and your proteins I believe.

It shows you how much I actually know about this stuff. Probably could be another area of optimization in my life, but I'm not there yet. She is. I'm inspired because she really does a great job. The prompts I do see, the prompts do come back into play because she gets prompts from the app saying, "You haven't logged your lunch or you haven't logged your dinner yet."

 

Audrey Cannata:

They make it easy because I've been on that app before and they make it so easy to select the foods. Even if you're at restaurants, there's plenty of restaurants who are tied to that app where you can log specific entrees that you order. I actually did this exercise years ago and it got to the point I was doing it every single day. After a while, it just became such a habit, the way I was eating and I was remembering the different food items. It got to the point where I didn't even need the app anymore because I had transformed my behaviors to eat certain things throughout the day. I'm not saying every single day, but generally speaking, I knew what I could intake or not intake to reach that level, that goal I was looking for.

 

James Robert Lay:

Well, it's that idea of the prompt is now increasing your ability over time to where it becomes second nature. It becomes the new habit because you're... It gets to deeper conversation around brain plasticity and the ability to reprogram your mind and your behaviors. But I think what it all boils down to is the desire to transform a behavior, an action, a habit. It has to be greater than the desire to remain the same. More times than not, we do that when something hurts. Because we typically don't change until something hurts enough that we want to make the change. Coming back to the point of budgeting, and this is a perspective I think for the dear listener to consider. I was reading a book written by P. T. Barnum, so who was characterized in the world's greatest showman.

 

Audrey Cannata:

Right.

 

James Robert Lay:

He wrote this book I want to say it was in the 1880s. It's interesting. 145 years later, he's writing about the same challenges of human behavior that we're all experiencing today. One of the things he was talking about from a budgeting standpoint, I'm like, "Ah, this is interesting." Because no one likes to budget. Budget is like tracking your macros. But I have a hypothesis here. The way he framed this down is from a budget is I think we've overcomplicated it.

Now, platforms like mint.com and PFM and Gizio, they have all brought budgeting to the forefront. It sits within online banking, mobile banking. But it still requires you to go in and input some type of data or do some type of filing. That requires motivation to get started, but kind of like MyFitFoods, PFM will remember a lot of that stuff so it takes once you kind of get the established framework down. Maybe that's where also some accountability to get started with a PFM over the first 90 days, which is like most critical period of let's call it onboarding.

 

Audrey Cannata:

Sure.

 

James Robert Lay:

It's the accountability during that time period, from the human perspective, that might actually increase number one, the adoption, number two, the usage, and then number three, the retention of a PFM platform. But coming back to what P.T. Barnum was writing about. He said, "Budgets, it's so simple. It's two columns. Literally, you document everything that you spend." This was written, like I said, I think the 1880s. You flag it, necessity or a want. Do I need this or do I want this? He said, "Your want column will be three to four times longer than what you need."

 

Audrey Cannata:

[inaudible].

 

James Robert Lay:

I said, "Oh my gosh, maybe this is a way to simplify budgeting." In a very simple format to create some awareness into the spending patterns and behaviors that we have because when we begin to visually see, wow, my want column is two, three, four times longer than my need column, what changes then do I need to make? So needs versus wants. Some "ancient" wisdom coming from P.T. Barnum. This is where BJ brings up a couple of questions in the book. We've kind of danced around some of this. We were talking about awareness. One of the questions that BJ writes about is the discovery question. What's the discovery question and how does it provide clarity?

 

Audrey Cannata:

So when you're thinking about a new behavior, it's really asking yourself what is making this behavior so hard to do. Really think about it, is it you don't have enough time to do the behavior? Or maybe you don't have enough money to do the behavior? Are you physically capable of it? Does it require a lot of energy? So figuring out what makes it challenging for you and then turning around and saying, "Okay, well, how can I make this easier?" Which is the breakthrough question. What can I do if it's a lack of time? Well, where can I find the time? Where can I create the time or buy back some time in my day? Or is it not fitting in my routine? Okay, well, can I realistically change my routine to make it fit? Or do I need to now change the behavior to then go fit into my routine?

 

James Robert Lay:

I'm glad you brought up the point of time, because you've been hearing this on coaching calls, I've been hearing this on coaching calls. There's been a pattern of time, a lament that, oh, we're so busy. We don't have enough time. We don't have enough time. Let's put this into perspective here. Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, they have the same 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 30, 31 days in a month, 365 days in a year that every single one of us has. From the research that I've been reading on a lot of these characters, it's how they look at and view time. Time is the great equalizer, but I think also time can be a multiplier.

What I mean by that, particularly with the use of digital technologies, the ability to multiply time. Take this podcast, for example, takes me an hour or so of my time, but it's going to reach thousands and thousands of years over time. How much time would it require me to go and do that in the "real world"? Meaning go to a conference, speak to an audience of a thousand people. Well you're talking a day, day and a half, two days by the time that you fly there, fly back and then there's the energy drain.

I think that's the other thing. Time is closely correlated with energy because your energy... A lot of times the question that we ask is, "Okay, well, how are you spending your time?" I think that's the wrong question to ask. The better question to ask is how are you investing your time? That simple mental reframe will start to show time as an investment because what you invest in time today, and was talking about this recently with Cathy on the podcast, is training and education. What we invest in training and education today will be a multiplier that pays off going forward in the future.

But the reason that we resist training and education today is because it's that payoff will not be instantaneous. There are more urgent, important matters that we believe, we've lied to ourselves, that these matters are more important and urgent. Well then it becomes a cost. So we're not investing in our future. We're not investing our time. What's happening is then we're spending our energy and our energy gets depleted. Ultimately. I think the last question to ask on this is what are we paying attention to? So time, energy and attention all come back to this idea of behavior modification because what we pay attention to is what we're going to get back in our lives.

 

Audrey Cannata:

I love the idea of thinking about time as an investment. We practice the 90 day growth methodology here, where we get together once every 90 days and dedicate an entire day just to strategy and goal setting. We'll hear, "An entire day? That is eight, nine hours. What are you getting out of it? Are we walking away with anything tangible?" No, but we are investing in the next 90 days. That is a very, very valuable day. Yes, it's the entire day, but what are we getting on the return? Well, guess what, in the next 90 days, we're going to have achieved and we're going to have grown more than we had prior if we hadn't have taken that time and dedicated an entire day, turned our emails off, canceled all of our meetings and focused on the future.

 

James Robert Lay:

Well, it's not even that. We start off the first hour by celebrating what's been going well. It comes back to how we open up this conversation here. We are taking time to celebrate those wins, to recognize the progress that was made over the previous 90 day period. You say, are we walking away with anything? I wouldn't say there's an immediate tangible "result", but we're planting seeds.

We're making investments of how we will grow over the next 90 days to then once again repeat the process, pause, look back and reflect on the progress that we made over that time period, which is this is the methodology that I want to teach financial brands, first and foremost, to implement internally with their own teams, build that level of capability, build that level of confidence to then let that bleed over into a coaching methodology for their account holders. So that they're reconnecting every 90 days with account holders and it can be done at an individual level. But I'm really seeing that there's potential here to do this at a group level and bringing together a group of account holders, grouping them in a cohort of sorts so that you create that space and time.

if you're listening to this and thinking, "That's a kind of a far-off wild idea." No, it's not. The Financial Gym out of New York has been doing this since I believe 2015, 2016, and they charge a monthly membership of around $95 a month. But the value creation on the other side is the fact that they save their members on average 5,000 to $6,000 a year. Why? Awareness into behaviors. Then two, they increase credit scores by about 50 points or so, which then creates more savings over the life. Better credit score, better rate on loans. So it's all interconnected.

I want to get your take on this because our habits really influence and really even more deeply predict our future. What do you see when it comes to opportunities through deploying tiny habits that can be applied to financial coaching at financial brands or FinTech?

 

Audrey Cannata:

I think when thinking about your behaviors and the tiny habits method, it is not a one size fits all idea. It is very personalized. It is very customized to that unique individual. We don't all have the same routine or abilities, capabilities. So I think when a financial coach, there's the opportunity there to really personalize your behaviors and what you can accomplish, because you can't just, like you said, pick up a book and budget. I mean, it looks different for everybody. So having that person who really kind of gets to know you, your routine, your behaviors, I think that's where the opportunity is to really customize these new habits or new behaviors to achieve those habits.

 

James Robert Lay:

Using the data and using technology as a supporting mechanism, but not the end all be all, bringing the humanity back in, and that's where putting the transformation of people beyond the commoditized transaction of dollars and cents. I see coaching, it has the potential to be the transformative element, the transformative experience, because the checking account is in fact we know it's commoditized, but it's coaching that empowers a financial brand to transcend the commoditized checking account and really developing a culture, developing a culture of coaching. This starts internally.

That's one of the reasons I get questions from people, why are you not doing this today and bringing a program like this to the market for financial brands. I don't think that financial brands are there yet. We have to build a culture of coaching first for that culture of coaching to then bleed over into the account holder market, into the community market. Because if we try to jump that step, because the way that I study this has been through the intersection of marketing sales technology and human behavior. I'm also looking at digital transformation in connection to human transformation, human behavior transformation.

We see 60 to 85% of digital transformation projects failing or failing to meet expectations, not because of technology, but because of the human element. We try to push that transformation from a organizational level into a team level, from a team level into an individual level. That's where if we try to do the same thing and develop a culture of coaching at an org level into the team, team into the individual, the results are going to be the exact same. So the only way that this type of thinking can really flourish is by transforming from the inside out and not from the outside in.

Transformation must begin from within at the individual level and then the team because teams are made up of individuals. Organizations are made up of teams. Once this type of thinking is the cultural norm at an organization, then and only then can it truly be integrated and adopted as the overall experience within a community, within a group of account holders. So I'm curious, what could hold a financial brand back from really committing to and developing a culture of coaching rooted in tiny habits?

 

Audrey Cannata:

I think it comes down to our conversation before about time and really viewing time as an investment. I think the biggest roadblock or the biggest challenge that we hear is there's just not enough time to dedicate to coaching, to dedicate to learning and training about coaching. So it's not just setting the time apart to implement, but it's learning. We don't give ourselves that time to train and educate and discover the new opportunities or optimize our current program. We end up getting kind of stuck in the day to day and repeating the same behaviors and patterns.

So I really do think it comes down to time and creating that awareness of how you're spending your time, where can you invest that time more into the future because we do get stuck. We don't give ourselves that time to really think and think far into the future, what can we achieve in the future versus just, okay, how many accounts have we opened today, tomorrow, how much should we getting loans, deposits. It's easy to get stuck in that mindset.

 

James Robert Lay:

I think three questions to leave the dear listener with when it comes to just your own, maximizing your own personal exponential growth, an exponential growth is where you're growing personally and professionally at the same exact time. How are you investing your time? Is it really focused on the present moment? Because if not, then the investment isn't a good investment. It's like any investment that we make. It's a long term payback period. We all want the shortcut and there's a lot of emotion that gets tied up into it, that's why people get scammed so easily because we're looking for that quick fix. It's not there. It takes time. It takes energy.

That's the question, what are you spending your energy on? Because energy can be quickly depleted. Or if you're working in a state of flow or focused on something, a cause, a purpose greater than the present moment, your energy will deplete at a much slower rate. We talk a lot about energy, Audrey, in our podcast about Colby, right, and where are you spending that energy? Because once energy is gone, you can't get it back unless you're going to recharge.

Then finally, what are you paying attention to? I think this right here is so critical for yourself as an individual, yourself as a team, an organization, and maybe even the conversations you're having with account holders, because the mindset that we have and either positive or negative, the mind can only keep a positive or a negative thought, and the more that we train the mind to focus on the positive, not necessarily ignoring the negative, but knowing that the negative is what can bring us down and really kill and drain our energy faster than anything else, which will then waste our time, it's what are we paying attention to? Is it positive or is it negative?

I think that right there, if we're aware of what we're paying attention to, has the potential to truly transform our actions, our behaviors, our habits, because what we pay attention to influences our very thought which influences then our beliefs that we make and then also our emotions that then drive our behaviors, our actions, our habits that lead to our predictable future. If there's one thing that the dear listener could apply from the book, because this is the one that I highly recommend reading as an individual, reading as a team, reading as an organization, if there's one thing the dear listener could apply from your perspective, Audrey, to maximize their digital growth, to maximize their exponential growth, what would that one thing be, Audrey?

 

Audrey Cannata:

I think it's really setting apart the time to really sit down and look at your goals, look at your behaviors and your current routine and your schedule and really assess where there are ways to hack your behaviors, really kind of gain awareness of how you're spending your time and your energy. Get really creative. You maybe you're like me and you have to go sit in a car rider line every single day to pick up your children. It's 30 minutes. What are you doing during that 30 minutes? Are you sitting and scrolling on Facebook or social media? Or can you hack your time, spend that 30 minutes maybe getting caught up on your emails or listening to a podcast for some professional development, and buy back those 30 minutes in your workday that maybe you can then even apply to something else?

Not only are you maximizing your time, for example, in this car rider line with a podcast or emails, but then you've also bought that time back in your regular day to then focus on another behavior. So that's where you see that exponential growth. I think it's all about hacking the system. I'm a single mother of a four year old and a seven year old. I work full-time and I survive on hacking the system and really trying to find ways to work smarter and not harder.

 

James Robert Lay:

Yeah, it really is. That's a great example about the car rider line. It's exactly why I listen to so many podcast, audio books when I go for a run. Because I know that I have 30, 45 minutes, an hour of not just taking care of my physical body, but I'm also really... What am I paying attention to? I'm paying attention to things and making deposits into not only my conscious mind, but I think more importantly my subconscious mind that will really influence my behaviors more than anything else considering the fact that 95% of our behaviors, our actions, our habits are rooted in subconscious programming.

It's that time multiplier of running and being physically active while also being mentally active, growing the mind to learn something new so that I can continue to be even better than what I was before day in, day out. Sometimes in the day in and the day out, it's like, "I'm not getting anywhere." But when you look back over a week, over a month, over a quarter, over a year, over a decade, that's when you start to climb up the mountain like, "Wow, I've really, really, really have come a long way." Or it's like, "Man, I really haven't moved," and not beat yourself up because of that but ask yourself the hard questions, what do I need to do to transform my behaviors? It all starts with small, simple, tiny habits. Audrey, this has been a great conversation. Thanks again for going Behind the Cover with me today. What is the best way for someone to connect with you, reach out and say hello?

 

Audrey Cannata:

Yeah. Please say hi to me, reach out on LinkedIn. Love hanging out on LinkedIn. Send me your book recommendations. Let's have a conversation. Yeah, look forward to seeing some of you listeners there.

 

James Robert Lay:

Connect with Audrey, learn with Audrey, grow with Audrey. Audrey, thank you so much for joining me for another conversation. What are we discussing next?

 

Audrey Cannata:

That is a great question, James Robert. I don't have the answer for you right now.

James Robert Lay:

Okay. Well, definitely, we have another book. We do not have a shortage of books at all that we are reading here and discussing. So I'm looking forward to it. Until next time and as always be well, do good and make your bed.

Brief Summary of Episode #214

We all aspire to be better.

But that desire for change isn’t enough. We have to put that intent into action. 

We have to be willing to adjust our behavior.

Audrey Cannata, Operations Lead at DGI, joins me once again for another episode of our Behind the Cover series as we discuss the ultimate by-product of personal behavior - habits.

In this episode, we break down one of our favorite books, Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything by B.J. Fogg.

Fogg writes that three factors influence our behavior: motivation, ability, and prompts.

As Audrey mentioned in our conversation, finding motivation for change is easy.

But firing up the ability to force change by prompting ourselves into action is key to developing successful habits.

And all change begins with a simple step.   

To quote Audrey on that step, “Motivation isn’t sustainable. It’s really about shrinking that behavior so that you don’t need a lot of motivation to do it.”

By investing in the human element, we can maximize personal and professional growth.

 

Key Insights and Takeaways

  • The 3 elements that facilitate the development of habits (4:29)
  • 3 factors that influence behavior (15:20)
  • Finding clarity in behavior by answering “The Discovery Question” (35:03)

Notable Quotables to Share

How to Connect With Audrey Cannata

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