Make changes that actually work

Understanding more about managing change in our lives

Behaviour change is complicated and complex because it requires someone to disrupt a current habit while simultaneously adopting a new, possibly unfamiliar, set of actions. This can be very challenging for someone to deal with as they feel pulled in different directions.

We have all experienced the discomfort of committing to something and then not seeing it all the way through. It is common during these moments to be self-critical, hard on ourselves and feel that we are not good or even competent enough or that we don’t have enough willpower to achieve our goal.

  • clearer thinking
  • reduced anxiety
  • improved mood
  • increased self-esteem – so you can make the most of your potential
  • reduced risk of depression
  • improvements in relationships – so you can play a full part in your relationships, your workplace, and your community.

Ways to help you manage change

Try to see any setbacks as normal

Reflect on the challenges

Work on finding solutions

The more you use these ways to help with challenging situations, the more they will become a healthy habit.

Knowledge alone isn’t directly connected with behaviour. Quite often, despite knowing that a behaviour is harmful, individuals still do not make any changes.

Social pressure, habits, addictions, and other elements can have a much firmer hold on someone than knowledge does.

How does behaviour change happen?

It is not enough to simply know that a change would be a good thing, but this is the first step to change. It is also really important that we are not over-ambitious with what we want to change so we don’t set ourselves up to fail.

When making choices, you are most likely to choose what you are most comfortable with and makes you feel better. So, it is important that you make your goals easy. If we understand and recognise that setbacks are a natural part of the behaviour change process, we are also more likely to achieve our goals, rather than give up.

Once we understand how to change our own behaviour, we can also share our own knowledge and experiences to support and empower others on how to change theirs.

Below is a simple guide to help you and the people around you follow through with a desired behaviour change.

Has no intention to change behaviour in the foreseeable future.

Aware that a problem exists and seriously thinking about overcoming it but have not yet made a commitment to act.

Gathering information and planning. This is the preparation stage and it is the most important. Fifty percent of people who attempt behaviour change and skip this stage, will revert to existing behaviour.

Modify behaviour, experiences, or environment in order to overcome their issues. Action requires considerable commitment of time and energy.

Work to prevent reverting back to old ways and consolidate the gains attained during action.

Making this change for yourself

Do you remember a time when you decided to practice a new behaviour? Maybe it was to get more exercise, change your diet or call your parents regularly? How successful were you? Moreover, if you succeeded in adopting the new behaviour, did you also manage to maintain it?

An activity which can help clarify your values or the reason you want to make a change is called the decisional balance. The decisional balance takes into consideration the pros and cons of behaviour change. Understanding pros and cons can help acknowledge that behaviour change has good consequences but may require some sacrifices.

Take a piece of paper, divide the paper into two columns, labelling one ‘pros’ and the other column ‘cons’. Under each column answer the following questions:

What will be the consequences of my behaviour change be for me?

What will the consequences of my behaviour change be for others (family, friends, co-workers)?

What will my reactions be to my new self?

What will be the reactions of others (family, friends, co-workers) to my new self?

If the pros of change outweigh the cons, then you are ready to move into the Preparations stage. This lays the foundation for the preparation, action and maintenance stages to help you think about whether behavioural change is required within achieving goals linked to your values.

Remember, our natural tendency as human beings is to find stability. Change unbalances us and when equilibrium is lost, stepping too far outside the bounds of what is familiar, your natural instinct will be to resist the change and get you back to stability. If you try to make changes which are too drastic, you will quickly run into a massive roadblock!

Nearly anyone who has tried to make a big change in their life has experienced some form of this – so try breaking changes down into bite-sized goals and acting on them is the best approach.

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