Do you find yourself breaking your New Year Resolutions easily each year?
Do you vow to eat healthy food only, but are usually eating the sugary stuff, soon after? Is it your extravagance that makes you realize you must save, but you already know you won’t?
These are some problems that most of us face daily. We know that doing certain things is RIGHT, but we can never motivate ourselves enough to get the results we want. If that is a problem with you as well, then I hope reading will help you through.
But let us tell you if you are sticking around for some magic trick to help you with all these problems and most importantly provide you with a lifetime solution, this is something we aren’t committing. Our purpose here will be to share some practical knowledge about the behavior change techniques, and that would require your involvement in the entire process – from its understanding to its actual implementation. So, be ready for putting in your part.
Before we jump to the solutions or behavior change techniques that you can utilize to alter behaviors – yours and of the others around you. Let us have a brief overview of what actually is hindering us to change.
Why don’t we accept change?
We all love equilibrium. Be it in our body, our lives, in our society, or in our world. But why is that so? Because we are afraid. We want to maintain the status quo even with clear long-term benefits. We are ready to fight for the current status and resist change to the best of our abilities.
Changing behaviors would require extra energy and power, which we aren’t willing to spare because we are too focused on resisting it. Unknowingly, we are already spending our energy on maintaining the stability of the current situation. To maintain the equilibrium, we need forces that must act in a way to keep things balanced. Theoretically, everyone knows it but applying it to our own lives as a behavior change technique is something we always forget and this is what creates a problem.
Living with the same equilibrium for years can make the change process even more haunting. Do you know why?
We tend to exercise the force for maintaining the equilibrium without even knowing what we actually are doing. It is just like driving a car. When you have years of car driving experience, you are not switching on the car headlights or moving the steering with a deliberate effort. It becomes part of your unconsciousness.
Similarly finding your way back home doesn’t require active search effort from your brain every time. You know the way, however, fetching the details from the stored memory, identifying the area, etc. is done, but it is so smooth that you don’t even have to think about it.
So, when we are talking about changing behaviors that have been there for years, we are trying to change the unconscious memory, which isn’t an easy task and you need something different You would definitely agree, right? Implementing the behavior change techniques is the answer.
What efforts do we put in for the change?
Most of the changes that we expect from ourselves are radical. We don’t give ourselves enough time to understand the change in clear terms. In some cases, we want things to be changed overnight. It might seem motivational and good to hear, but our minds and bodies usually do not welcome such changes. Besides, this isn’t something that the scientific method involving behavior change techniques would support. And this is what gives answers to the opening questions we raised.
We resolve a day or two before the New Year and expect to follow a tight schedule or an excessively healthy routine from the next day and so on. Similarly, for adapting to the healthy routine, we come up with a schedule that leaves nothing that our taste buds crave and want it to be fully implemented. Usually, we start it as well, but just a day after, it seems we aren’t ready for it, or in some cases, we feel we don’t actually need to follow this healthy behavior anymore.
With all this discussion, you might be wondering, are we really stuck with these behaviors, forever. Well, the answer to this is NO. And we don’t want you to believe that you cannot change the behavior. The only point that we want to make is to help you understand why do your efforts for change always go unaccomplished.
People aren’t aware that there are some techniques to influence long-lasting change. With these behavior change techniques, you can be in charge of your attitude. You won’t have to longfor the change in your behavior, you can actually bring one.
Behavior Change Technique – what is it?
It is a scientific concept in which a systematic procedure is adopted to be part of the action plan to trigger change. It is usually gradual and time taking and has certain characteristics as defined in one of the studies conducted by Susan Michie and Charles Abraham.[RM1] According to this study, these characteristics require the plan of action to be replicable, observable, and irreducible, with a component of the intervention (stimulator for a change), and a guiding force to shape the change according to needs.
With the definition and characteristics, one thing is clear that our expectations of the overnight change aren’t helping us in changing behavior at all. And you need to get rid of it as soon as you can.
Basically, this method highlighted in the study focuses on capitalizing on the psychological perspective to trigger the behavior change. You need to tell your brain about the need for change; rather than experimenting with the body to trigger the change.
Brace for the change:
It is better to take a paper and create a list of the potential advantages that you can enjoy with the change. Don’t forget to include the minor ones because sometimes the minor changes could be the real triggering force. However, you can enlist them separately to measure the real impact.
By bracing for the change, you stimulate your mind and get into one of the stages of accepting change, which is a good thing to happen and definitely a way forwards towards winning the fight with the change resisting force.
Besides, another important thing you should keep in mind here is whether you already have all the information regarding change, its benefits, and things you’ll have to do in the long-term to sustain change. Because in most cases, we aren’t aware of the clear benefits.
This behavior change technique urges you to acquire information – all the relevant information to accept change. In most situations, people often base everything on assumptions and what others around them say (not the experts).
Let’s take your eating habits as an example. If you want to be a healthy eater, you might know already that healthy eating can help you in living longer by decreasing the chances of disease onset and increasing life expectancy. But this information is too broad and too far stretched to keep you motivated for long. Don’t you think?
In this specific case, if you would gather information like how can the fats in the oil destroy your health it would be a better psychological trigger. Because the next time, youconsider fried food, your brain will recall this information, and prevent you from ordering this. So, you would be a step closer to ease the change process.
The same is the case with the other food items. Seeking specific information, which can help you in keeping your guard up with the behavior that you want to transform, is the behavior change technique you need.
Keep the process gradual:
Make sure that the process of change is gradual but constant. You don’t have to acquire all the information in a single day and resolute to abide by the healthy behavior that it would trigger. It is not going to happen.
You’ll need to eat the elephant bit by bit and this is the only way you can expect the right implementation of behavior change techniques that would be reflected in your behavior in the form of permanent change.
We’ll continue with the same example to explain this trigger as well. For example, if you’ll start learning about the negatives of consuming excessive oil, carbohydrates, sugar food, etc., you’ll end up mixing everything. So, when you’ll have a plate of fries in front of you, your mind won’t be able to determine the theoretical negatives of excessive oil and it would suggest going on with it this time as you aren’t sure if it is harmful at all or would just make you obese.
Look out for the resistance:
Another important thing that you should not ignore in the implementation of behavior change technique is that you should look out for the reasons for the resistance towards change. If you can handle the reasons for the change in detail, you’ll be in a better position to satisfy yourself and create a plan that would work for you in the long-term.
Let’s continue the same example. What is stopping you to at least think to change? You might believe that healthy eating habits would cost you more. You might be thinking that a healthy diet is not for the taste buds. You could also have in mind that you might not satisfy your appetite with healthy food (although this one is a bit too absurd, you got the point, right?)
If any of these aspects is sitting in your subconscious, then you would not feel comfortable in adopting change even if you get over-ambitious and start dieting. Within a day or so, these resistant thoughts would overpower you and the result would be the same – No result at all.
So, to reduce the resistance in your thoughts, you need to find the answer to these questions. You can start step-by-step and collect information. Meanwhile, instilling your brain to changewith it will eventually mean better results.
Chances of going back?
When you are new to a change, there is a higher chance that you can get back to the original. Remember the need for equilibrium that the entire universe is serving for? It will require your change to have an equilibrium too.
This is where your will power comes into play. You need to take a stance and exercise more power for the change, so that would become your new equilibrium – Healthy Eating.
When you have successfully adopted this change, there won’t be going back. You might not even like to go towards an unhealthy diet. Moreover, at this stage, you’ll be witnessing the benefits of the change as well, which were theoretical previously, giving you even more power for supporting the change.
Now when you are aware of the behavior change techniques, let us highlight the stages that you would often encounter during the change process. Understanding them would give you a standard guide to figure which stage are you at and what behavior change strategy should you follow.
Stages of Behavior Change Technique:
Stage 1: Precontemplation
The first stage of the change is the precontemplation. In this stage, you are not even accepting that you need a change. Probably, you are not thinking that you even need a change in your eating habits, no matter how hard your friends, family, or even doctors are asking you to do so. People are usually in the denial stage and the actual problem is ignored.
So, what should be done here, you should start by analyzing your thinking, and access the risks involved in staying in the current position and the future state.
Phase 2: Contemplation:
In this stage, thinking over the issues sets in the debate with your inner self. You know it is important but still don’t want to do it because you love the status quo. In some cases, you show an ambivalent attitude.
This is the point when you need to be rational. You should evaluate the pros and cons of a particular situation, of the things that you have been pondering upon. You should identify what is stopping you and analyze the things from a third-party situation, so you can reach a fair decision.
Phase 3: Preparation:
This stage only occurs if you pass the second stage successfully. Now you want to prepare yourself for the change.
You should enlist your goals at this stage. Better to write them down and even find the motivational triggers to get this done.
This is the stage where motivation can help.
Phase 4: Action:
After preparation is the action stage. Better to stick to your original plan to get results. Any movement from that plan would allow you to find excuses for your goals as well.
So, it would be better to follow the plan. However, if you are pretty sure that there is something wrong or you find some new information regarding your goals and strategies, then it would be better to move back to the previous stage, create a revised version of the plan and then get back to the action stage again. This is the right strategy to adopt while following the behavior change techniques.
Phase 5: Maintenance:
In this stage, you should reinforce that what you have done is the right thing and there is no returning back at this stage, you’ll face temptations and would have to make sure you avoid them at any cost. At this stage, you are usually very close to the change. So, you need to reward yourself to maintain persistence.
This stage of the behavior change technique might make you feel frustrated and failed, however, in most cases you wont really have failed. It is the previous force of the status quo making its last effort to revert you to the older condition. Unfortunately, this last push is very strong and can take away all your effort within seconds.
But at this stage, it is important to remain steadfast. You can create an action plan, take steps for maintaining it, and keep these activities in the loop until you are sure that the change you brought is the new status quo.