Pitfalls in Behavior Change: Why You Aren’t Perfect….Yet.
Everyone has something they would like to change about their life. Next time you are at dinner with friends and the conversation lags, ask what they would change about their life. If they are honest, you are in for good dialogue and insights. At a work dinner recently I asked that same question and a man from the corner of a long, packed table said a little too loudly, "My Spouse!" Undoubtedly his better half (literally) feels the same.
To better navigate the journey of life, we need to be able to change and adapt. Unfortunately, pitfalls often curtail our behavior change and we are left feeling stuck in a rut and powerless to change. To help overcome these barriers, let me share a few major mistakes we make when trying to change our behavior. These mistakes are based from the research of BJ Fogg of Stanford University.
4 Major Mistakes We Make When We Try To Change
1. We attempt big leaps instead of baby steps: Change occurs over time in a series of small steps that lead you to a positive change in the future. We celebrate the basketball team that makes it to the final four, but not what they overcame to get there. Our society has trained us to think about the end result and not the journey or the small steps that propel us to the end result.
2. Trying to stop old behaviors, instead of creating new ones to take their place: Forget going cold turkey when trying to quit habits, that is the exception, not the rule. Try replacing old behaviors or routines with a new one that delivers a reward your brain understands and likes. Have a habit of eating ice cream nightly? Don’t fight the habit, replace it. Choose instead to dig into a healthy coconut yogurt or do 50 sit-ups and pushups every time a craving hits. It is easier to replace a habit than to change it.
3. Believing information leads to action: Knowing information and facts about changing doesn't mean you are changing. (Your brain would like you to believe it does). Don't gather more information on what you need to do. Instead, start applying the information you have to real-life situations. Information doesn't get you where you want to be, engaging the information and putting it to action does.
4. Seeking to change a behavior forever, not for a short time: This mistake has to do with the time element of change and not the size of the change. We would love to change as quickly as our favorite actors do in their 30-minute sitcom. Sorry, rarely happens. It is about small changes over an extended period of time. Focus on your daily trajectory, not the timing.