As a teacher, I looked for ways to help children change improper behavioral responses to situations; academic or social confrontations. I proactively and provocatively allowed groups of students to use critical thinking skills to find more appropriate methods of behavior and resolving conflict; championing students as they experimented with various alternative, satisfactory solutions.
After all, I reasoned, they will eventually join the workforce finding jobs that require critical thinking skills grounded in fair mindedness, effective communication competencies peppered with exceptional listening skills, and thoughtful, positive engagement bringing (we hope) enthusiasm and passion to their work environment.
As a former entrepreneur of a fitness business and currently, a life coach who guides individuals to find simple means to take action to reach goals, I see that there is a formula to get to the finish line: it is Fogg’s behavior model: B=mat (Behavior equals motivation, activity, and triggers).
Three things must occur simultaneously in order for change to happen: there must be motivation (the higher the better); the task (what the person chooses to do) must be easy---reachable—so there is immediate success (a reward), and there must be a trigger to remind the individual to initiate the new behavior.
We know that behavior is a learned habit repeated over time so that it becomes an automatic response to an action, thought, or emotion. To break a habit takes time and old behavior patterns need to be replaced by new, healthier, and productive ones. Easier said than done? Yes. But it is not impossible.
Let’s take exercise, for example. Clients tell me they want to add a fitness program to their day. But they choose the “all or nothing” approach. They sometimes decide on unrealistic goals that set them up for immediate failure: “I will exercise 45 minutes each day!” And when they haven’t exercised for that period of time each day as avowed, they become disenchanted and “give up.” Another example might be a client who wants to reduce the amount of soda they consume in a day. So the unrealistic goal might be to remove all soft drinks from the house. But the more realistic, might be to reduce the amount of six sodas a day to three in the first week or two.
Clients often come to me highly motivated to change but they find they cannot succeed because the tasks they created for themselves are much too great. Plus, they omit the last component of this behavior change model: a trigger!
Let’s take the first client who decides on a daily 45-minute walking program. He comes home after work, checks mail, phone messages, and emails and then finds that the time for walking has come and gone. A trigger for him might be leaving his sneakers and warm up clothes by the door to remind him that his first priority upon arriving home is the walk. And, instead of starting with the daily 45-minutes, he changes it to 15-20 minutes twice that week. And, for him, he chooses to mark his weekly calendar with the days and times for those walks (another trigger, the calendar); checking off the days he successfully completed his exercise commitment. He might be saying upon arriving home that he didn’t feel like walking after a hard day, but his verbal recognition “I did it” gives him the impetus to challenge himself for the next walk, increasing the pace and the time by 5 minutes.
The second client can use a trigger at work to drink a cup of water instead of soda. The trigger can be his cell phone vibrating each 90 minutes to remind him to get up and go to the water cooler for a sip of water. And he can monitor the amount of soda at home by only putting three sodas instead of six in the fridge for the next 2 weeks, monitoring the amount to decrease his soft drink intake over time.
As a life coach, I firmly believe in celebrating with clients their accomplishments. Each little new learned behavior builds toward the ultimate outcome---their vision of a more healthy life. Sending positive affirmations and pointing out the “small” accomplishments as clients move toward their goal toward a healthier lifestyle further builds positive reinforcement.
I challenge you to look at behaviors you wish to change, and if you need guidance in motivation assessment, trigger choosing, goal setting and negative self-talk, contact me.
Let’s get you to where you want to be without pulling a trigger but finding the most effective “triggers” that work for you.