It is a fact of life that there are many things we don’t like about ourselves, things that need to be changed. We cannot expect that those changes will happen with the snap of a finger. We all wish to say goodbye to our old negative thinking patterns and wake up one day to who we want to be. However, we need to realize that behaviour modification is not an easy task.
We tend to fall into a vicious spiral of self-blame, inevitable fear, and constant guilt, and we end up falling victims to a number of setbacks. What we need to know is that no one changes “just” because they want to or because someone else wants them to. We change because we feel the need for change and are very aware of it. We also have to be able to chase away the demons that tell us it is too hard to change, because they will only sabotage our efforts towards behaviour modification. Most people will attempt to escape the need for change by saying that they are who they are and even start coming up with excuses that nobody ever changes. It may be true that we are who we are, but we can still tweak many aspects of how we behave. So, yes, behaviour modification is very real.
Why Do We Need to Change?
Even though making healthy changes can take a long time, it is still worth fighting for. Being resistant to change is also normal; however, when you think of change as an opportunity to grow, then it can lead to several meaningful benefits. When you start to welcome change and release yourself from what you already think, feel, and believe, you become more open to the unknown, and therefore new possibilities will emerge. The mindset is significantly powerful, and when we learn how to self-program it, we allow ourselves to change and give room for alternative viewpoints. By welcoming change into life, we have a greater opportunity of exploring deeper into our consciousness and objectively create new ways towards behaviour modification and self-empowerment. Accordingly, making healthy changes can alter how we feel, our health, and our ability to function independently. It will also positively affect our risk for disease and enrich our relationships with others.
Why Is Behaviour Modification Difficult?
Doing something differently or thinking in a new way can be an extremely difficult task. At a certain time, we might need to change our strategy of behaviour modification. However, it can be demoralizing when we feel that all out attempts have not succeeded. Even for highly self-motivated people, adapting to a new habit or breaking an old one can be really challenging. This is when we realize that the old saying is really accurate, “it is easier said than done.” What makes behaviour modification difficult is that we are often motivated by a sense of guilt, fear, and regret and therefore tend to relapse or recycle all the steps we have made towards the change. This normally happens when we try to hurry things up or skip steps during the behaviour modification process. To avoid setbacks and backsliding to old habits, we need to put in mind that behaviour modification is a process, not an event. Even if you encounter setbacks from time to time, the efforts you make towards the right directions are still worthwhile.
How to Succeed in Behaviour Modification?
The first step towards behaviour modification is to be aware of the problem, and as they say, “a problem known is a problem half solved.” Normally when a person seeks behaviour modification, it has to happen through a number of stages. The first stage is known as “pre-contemplation.” At this stage, the person has no intention to change probably due to lack of awareness on the issue or because of previous failures to change. What happens is that the person usually avoids anything that reminds him or her of the issue, yet he or she remains triggered by outside influences, such as public awareness campaigns, stories or emotional experiences, or a family member’s concern. To pass this stage, one has to be aware that the behaviour, the negative thought, or the bad habit is at odds with his or her personal growth and personal goals.
When people become aware of the problems they may have, they start considering behaviour modification, yet they may still not be committed to an action plan. Being “casually” committed to behaviour modification will definitely not help and will eventually result in more setbacks and relapses. This is why the person at this stage needs to weigh and reweigh the pros and cons of the behaviour in order to move on to the next level. For example, if you want to quit smoking because you want to avoid lung cancer, but you are concerned that you might gain weight or be exposed to stress due to the new change, you will need to recognize the barriers of quitting smoking and learn new ways to overcome them.
Following this stage, you must prepare yourself for a real change. In other words, you need to start seeing the fruit of your behaviour modification attempts. In order for this to happen, you have to set specific goals; however, having too many goals can limit your attention and willpower. You also need to find practical ways to achieve your goal. For example, if your goal is to stick to a low-calorie diet, make sure you have a plan in place (keep a bottle of water, a cup of tea, or a healthy snack nearby). You may also want to change your lifestyle and make a list of alternatives like going to the movies or taking a walk in the park instead of going out for dinner with friends. It’s also important to note that you need to be realistic in your expectations. Don’t expect that behaviour modification is a one-phase process.
When you finally quit smoking or start exercising, you have succeeded in your own behaviour modification; however, this is not the end of the road. You will still experience many challenges without your old habits, while at the same time attempting to maintain your “new” and improved self. However, you have now passed the difficult stage of behaviour modification. All you need to do now is practise the alternatives and action plans you have set for yourself. Keep reminding yourself of why you are doing this. Write down your reasons and read them every day. Who doesn’t need to be reminded or reassured from time to time?! Witness your change, let others know the change you’re making, and be proud of it.
If you have been practising these changes for six months, it means you have kept the promise to become a better person. At this point, you are required to learn how to avoid relapses and integrate the new behaviour or habit into your life. You can do this by avoiding situations that may trigger old habits or disrupt behaviour modification. In certain occasions, you may also have to clear specific activities or friends to help you assimilate your new healthier habit.
The pathway to change is rarely straightforward, which is why most people tend to experience a number of relapses and setbacks in their behaviour modification process. If you do go back to a behaviour you don’t like, don’t be discouraged to try again. Learn from your old mistakes, re-adjust, find a new strategy that suits your priorities, and stay ahead of the game. In addition, remember that “casual commitment” will not do you any good, which is why your mind and heart must be in harmony to help you stay focused and in plan. Behaviour modification requires a lot of practice and self-understanding. You need self-discipline, perseverance, and hard work to witness outstanding results. However, you can’t expect to change if you blame others or “bad luck” for your own problems. Open your eyes now, understand without judgment, and start your journey towards behaviour modification.