In February 2011, the Boston Celtics were riding high. They had the best record in the Eastern conference going in to the All-Star break and were already thinking ahead to the playoffs. Then came the call: their center, Kendrick Perkins, was being traded away. It was quite a blow…Perkins was a cornerstone of their 2008 championship team, and was loved like a brother inside the locker room. In the weeks following the trade the Celtics lost some of their shine, dropped in the standings, and were easily beaten swept from the playoffs by the Miami Heat in the second round.
When I tell you this story has everything to do with climate change and the power of belief, no doubt you’ll make a face. Here goes:
In a generic case of a habitual drinker, the cue might be feeling sad, the action would be drinking, and the reward is forgetting your problems.
I recently read a book called The Power of Habit, which lays out the mechanics of how human habits form and how they can be changed. (The book is also very entertaining and cool, I highly recommend it). Without going into too much detail, every habit works the same way: you have the cue, the action, and the reward. Should we ever want to change our habits, the mechanics are actually very simple: keep the Cue, but change the Action.
Yet while the mechanics are easy, everyone knows that breaking bad habits is actually quite difficult. What researchers found is that the people who succeeded were those that found a strong belief that success was possible. Even if a person had total commitment to their goal and possessed a logical plan of action, unless they really believed they could succeed, they would ultimately fail. This belief was most commonly established in some kind of external entity…often the deeds of other people or faith in some spiritual being. When the Celtics traded Perkins, they still retained more than enough talent, training and strategy to win the championship. But the trade doomed them nonetheless, because Kendrick Perkins was more to the Celtics than just the sum of his on-court contributions – he was their belief.