Most people have some behavioral patterns they’d like to change. I’d like to be better about going to the gym. And eating right. And writing more frequently. These are activities – and when they’re considered over time, as part of my life, they are behaviors.
I can go to the gym once, or eat a healthy meal occasionally, but that’s not what I want to change. I want to change the regular action – my behavior. This is possible, but it’s hard. People do change behaviors – but the vast majority revert back to where they started.
Why are some people able to change their behavior, while most aren’t?
Successful behavior change requires focus on three things:
- Setting clear goals that clarify the behaviors you want to change.
- Creating new habits.
- Replace existing habits.
And requires avoiding the one thing that most people get stuck on:
- Trying to simply stop existing habits.
Habits are key
Behavior – the way we act on a day-to-day basis – is driven by habits. Research indicates that if we want to change our behavior – or someone else’s – we need to ignore the behavior itself, and change our habits, the individual tendencies and practices that make up our behavior.
Stopping a habit is virtually impossible.
The key thing to recognize with changing habits is that it’s very difficult – virtually impossible – to simply stop a habit. The more you resist, the more you think about it, and the harder it is to resist. “Thought suppression has counterproductive effects on behaviors.”
Instead, focus on (1) creating new habits, and (2) replacing existing existing habits.