Top 10 Mistakes in Making Behavioral Changes (and their solutions)
Do you want to create irresistible habits that lead to a healthy, happy and long life?
Sustaining long-term, positive habits is beyond frustrating for many people because they sabotage their success, sooner or later.
According to Stanford researcher BJ Fogg, the key to success with positive habits lies in establishing desired behaviors according to easy principles that work, while avoiding the top mistakes most people make.
Fogg is Founder of the immensely popular system called Tiny Habits, which has been the focus of much research and publicity.
More 20 years of research while working with thousands of people has revealed the following mistakes people make when attempting to create new habits.
Here they are, along with what to do instead:
1. Relying on willpower for long-term change.
Says BJ: Imagine willpower doesn’t exist. That’s step 1 to a better future.
Of course the challenge is to find a way to change your behavior without assuming the need for willpower. Wouldn’t that be a huge relief if it were possible?
2. Attempting big leaps instead of baby steps.
Says BJ: Seek tiny successes– one after another.
In NLP we’ve been teaching the principle of “chunking down” for years. Amazing how this doesn’t come naturally to so many of us. We try to eat the whole elephant in one impossible bite.
3. Ignoring how environment shapes behaviors.
Says BJ: Change your context & you change your life.
Harness the power of surrounding yourself with people and places that inspire the best in you. Context is everything. In fact, meaning itself is context dependent. Take the behavior of angrily yelling the words, “You suck!”
• Imagine yelling this at a child.
• Imagine yelling this at a football referee during an intense game.
• Imagine yelling this at a librarian who just asked you to be quiet.
• Imagine yelling this at your best friend who just beat you in 1-1 basketball.
The meaning of the behavior changes, depending on the context. It’s a powerful concept. Who you are and what you do is vastly affected by where and with whom you spend your time. We need to choose contexts for our lives that lead to good habits.
4. Trying to stop old behaviors instead of creating new ones.
Says BJ: Focus on action, not avoidance.
Another tried and true NLP principle. Simply focus on what you want, not what you don’t want. Get away from the mentality that suggests you “don’t think about the color red.” Just think green if you want to think green. Better, do green (and start tiny).
5. Blaming failures on lack of motivation.
Says BJ: The solution is to make the behavior easier to do.
Gotta love this one. Having a hard time getting psyched up to exercise an hour a day? Just do one push-up – even do it from your knees. It’s so easy that it doesn’t require motivating yourself. When you combine this one with #6, it starts to get very interesting.
6. Underestimating the power of triggers.
Says BJ: No behavior happens without a trigger.
Red light. Stop.
Put on socks. Put on shoes.
Established triggers lead to automatic behaviors. In NLP we call this anchoring – the process of pairing the response you want with a chosen trigger.
Triggers can ignite positive habits, too. You just need to identify already established routines in your day and pair them with the new, easy-to-do habit you want. Your day is already filled with potential triggers for the behaviors you desire. Huge bonus!
7. Believing that information leads to action.
Says BJ: We humans aren’t so rational.
It’s true. Knowing something does not mean you will apply what you know. So many of us know better, but take the self-sabotaging option anyway.
On a deeper level, this isn’t so irrational, if you ask me. We cling to familiarity. When the familiar option leads to misery rather than happiness, we so often choose the familiar option over happiness.
Familiar misery is often perceived as safer than foreign happiness. This is at the core of self-sabotage. Learn more about how self-sabotage works by watching this free video.
8. Focusing on abstract goals more than concrete behaviors.
Abstract: Get in shape. Concrete: Walk for 15 minutes today.
So clean, pure and simple. You know exactly what a 15-minute walk is. You know how to do it. When you pair it with an existing trigger in your life, you’ll more than likely do it. You can’t do the same with “get in shape.”
9. Seeking to change a behavior forever, not for a short time.
Says BJ: A fixed period works better than “forever.”
Back to the chunking down idea, here. Imagine doing something positive for the rest of your life. Now, imagine doing it for five minutes. The five minutes is easier, right? Set goals to do positive things for definite periods of time that you know are doable. Then, renew your goals if you’re happy with them. Simple.
10. Assuming that behavior change is difficult.
Says BJ: Behavior change is not so hard when you have the right process.
No more heavy sighs at how difficult changing is. No more feeling like a helpless victim. Establishing new and healthy habits is easier than you’ve ever imagined, with the right process.
The right tools make 100% of the difference. Would you attempt to mow the lawn with a pocketknife?
Then, why attempt to install new, positive habits without TinyHabits?
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Bundrant, M. (2014). Top 10 Mistakes in Making Behavioral Changes (and their solutions). Psych Central. Retrieved on April 21, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/nlp/2014/07/top-10-mistakes-in-making-behavioral-changes-and-their-solutions/