Change is hard. Behavioral change is even harder. Your behaviors are habitual responses, many of which have been in development for as long as you have been alive. Changing that habitual response can be an extreme challenge even when you consciously want to make change.
What often happens is that when you are in the moment and considering the action that is easy and natural versus the one you actually want, you need to have a strong enough reason to choose what is more difficult. This comes down to motivation and having enough motivation for the changes you want to be successful.
Finding the Right Motivator for Behavioral Change
Consider the example of going on a diet. Many people like the idea of going on a diet as a way to lose a few pounds and help get a muscle tone. But when a person considers the vague thought of “I’d like to lose weight” against the delicious looking box of doughnuts in the office break room, the donuts can easily win out.
But consider instead deciding to lose weight because poor health is currently putting you at risk for not getting to see your kids graduate college. This is a far more powerful motivator for many people and one that will often be effective against donuts at work.
The difference here is the motivation. With a powerful motivation, making behavioral change is more attainable and will be less of a struggle to accomplish. This requires:
- Choosing Your Goal – Once you decide to make a change, determine why you want that change. Consider both the intrinsic and extrinsic importance of altering your behavior and how worth it it is to you.
- Name the Motivation – When you have determined that the change is worth it, give an actual name to your motivation. List out specifically what it is and why you want to accomplish it. Writing it down can be helpful as well.
- Stay Focused on Your Motivation – You will want to keep your motivation front and center at each of the times you face challenges. There are different ways to do this, such as having sticky notes in areas you may be tempted to switch back into old habits, telling another person what the motivation is so they can remind you, or spending a moment of mindfulness focusing on your motivation each day.
With the right motivation, behavioral change of any size is possible. But in order to set yourself up for success, you will want to lay the foundation work and discover your motivation first. When you have the right motivation, it is easier to remember why you are pursuing this change and reach your final goal.