I received an email the other day from someone concerned about a behaviour they wanted to take control of.
The person asked for tips on how to change it. I figured I’d expound on it so that we can all benefit from this general problem.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading and understanding about behaviour and habit change, and applying it into my own life.
I have realized one very important thing: everything I knew about behavioural change has been a MYTH!
Well… not exactly. But I believe we have been going about this all wrong.
Whenever we want to take control of a habit or a behaviour we have, we immediately think that avoiding the habit with sheer willpower is what will make the habit go away.
So when you decide that you are not going to yell at your spouse, for example, and on the third day of resisting all of his pet peeves, he finally pushes that button that sends you spinning into a rage about how useless he is, what do you do?
You start to tell yourself that you have absolutely no discipline, have no commitment to change, and that you will always be like this.
Well, my dear frustrated friend, I have good news for you. This is simply not the truth!
What is really going on is that you have no idea how to take control of what makes you berate your spouse, or what makes you walk into a shop to buy that bar of chocolate for 4 days in a row, or what keeps you on Facebook for the next 4 hours of your day, when you promised yourself you would study for your exams.
All of these scenarios have one thing in common: they all have triggers.
Remember this: You can only take control of your behaviour by taking control of the things that control you!
Basically, control what sets you off. How? Follow these extremely helpful tips by Al Switzler, author of “Change Anything!”
Below is his really insightful Ted Talk which I encourage you to watch:
www.tedxfremont.com How do you break down mental barriers and beat the willpower trap? Al Switzler, cofounder of VitalSmarts, researches methods for driving sustainable, measurable behavior change. Switzler is coauthor of four NYT bestsellers, including Change Anything.
1. Identify Your Crucial Moments:
You are not set off by your triggers 24 hours a day! Which will make it easier to point out when your triggers are most likely to be activated.
Are you particularly irritable at a certain time of the day?
If so, why?
Do you eat irregularly?
Do you get easily distracted because something bores you?
Are you fearful about the outcome of something and that’s why you procrastinate?
Once you know what triggers your behaviour, you’ve done half the work!
2. Create Your Vital Behaviours:
Create the behaviours you need in order to prevent you from falling into a bad habit or behaviour.
One really good option can be to write powerful, influencial statements in a cue card and keep them with you, in your pocket or in your bag.
These declaration statements can be incredibly powerful when you’re about to do something you are going to regret terribly later.
Write down exactly why you want to change your habit, and how powerfully following through with it can change the entire outcome of your life.
If you feel like your behaviour is way out of your control, then also seeking professional help while you do this can help you in remarkable ways.
3. Turn Accomplices Into Friends:
Your environment is the biggest influence in how you think and act every single day.
So if you have friends that influence you to a point where you engage in behaviour you do not like, you have two options:
you can either spend as little time as possible with them, or let them in on your intention to change your habit or behaviour, and ask them to help you in this journey.
If you are trying to stop smoking, tell them that you will no longer be joining them during smoke breaks, and ask them to support that, and not make fun of you for wanting to stop. Peer pressure is alive and well, even as adults!
Make your environment conducive to your intended changes!
4. Make The Helpful Things Rewarding And The Hindering Things Painful.
The behaviour we engage in that we do not like provides temporary relief. It feels rewarding to go on Facebook for hours instead of studying, but that high is temporary, and is usually followed with a lot of regret.
So as crazy as it may sound, dear student, turn your studies into something you do consistently, because you have dug deep, and found very crucial reasons why it is important to pass your exams, vividly visualizing yourself earning that intended degree or certificate, and how proud it will make you and your loved ones feel.
Visualizing your goals into pleasurable experiences, as often as possible, is what can help you control yourself when those urges creep up to distract you!
I know these strategies will help you.
I believe that if you make these a constant in your life, then you will be able to control your overwhelming urges, your thoughts and your actions.
Also keep in mind that a plan is not a plan unless it specifies how to deal with setbacks!
Hope this post helps you take control of your triggers and your life!