Behavioral change is often counter-intuitive… meaning, the answer to your problems maybe contrary to what common sense would suggest. The following article is for those people who have recently set new years resolutions and will help them better understand why they will fail their goals and how to develop new and better ones based upon solid research. Moreover, it will provide insight as to why most people will fail or have failed accomplishing previous goals to do things such as gettting their finances in order, stopping smoking, and or getting healthy. A group of Standford researchers put together a top 10 list of mistakes made when trying to change your behavior. Here’s their list, following the point, I will expand to better help you make the changes you need and want to:
- Relying on will-power for long term change. You’re better off telling yourself willpower is bullshit, and it’s time to take responsibility in changing your behavior. For example, most smokers can’t quit on will power alone, they have a physical dependence to nicotine. All the willpower in the world wouldn’t help, rather medicine such as varenicline can help block the nicotine long enough for the user to physically withdrawal from the nicotine, so they can make the necessary lifestyle changes to remove dependency.
- Attempting big leaps instead of baby steps. Instead of saying that you will fix all your money problems this year, why not make a logical plan, to knock out one debt each month or two. With an ultimate end goal of being free of debt.
- Ignoring how environment shapes behaviors. If you’re trying to quit drinking and smoking, it wouldn’t make much sense to try and do that while continuing to go to the bar each night after work.
- Trying to stop old behaviors instead of starting new ones. It’s better to start a new routine than try and break an old one. Instead of saying I will quit eating fast food for lunch, start a new routine of bringing your lunch and going to the gym. In this way, you won’t have the time to go to get fast food and work out on your lunch break. Your new routine will help you break the old one.
- Blaming failures on lack of motivation. The old blame game never gets you anywhere. Bottom line, make whatever you’re wanting to do, easier to do. If your problem is you want to start bringing your lunch to work each day, set aside time the night before to make your meal, or better yet plan your meals and make them all on Sunday before the work week. That way, you’re not waiting to the last minute and missing your goal because of lack of time.
- Understanding the power of triggers. Say you’re a smoker, and you know that each day when you wake up, get ready for work, start the car and leave. You know that once you get going on your drive, you will want to or be triggered by boredom to light up a smoke. Leave the cigarettes in your trunk, so you don’t have easy access to them. Don’t buy the junk food in the first place, that way when your watching TV you remove the temptation to stuff your face with twinkies or the like.
- Believing that information leads to action. Most people know that smoking will kill them, yet they still do it! Information alone won’t change your behavior.
- Focusing on abstract goals more than concrete behaviors. Instead of choosing goals to tackle, tackle poor behavior. If you spend like crazy with a credit card when you go shopping, don’t bring a credit card with you. That will prevent any possibility of you splurging!
- Seeking to change a behavior forever, instead of a short time. If you set out with a goal to get skinny for life, you probably won’t lose any weight. Instead, set daily or weekly goals, of losing 1 to 2 pounds. Small, but achievable goals, that if accumulated, will help you get to where you want to be.
- Assuming that behavior change is difficult. Behavior change is making your knowledge work for you by changing the way you let your mind work. It’s not difficult, people do it everyday, and so can you.
Think now about the many failures of your past, and how the above can help you set new, attainable and realistic goals. Think about how you can better change your behavior, rather than setting numerous goals that you will ultimately fail at. This is your time to shine.