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  • Kevin Patton

Change Your World

Updated: Sep 17, 2019

Common Mistakes in Behaviour Change (And how to Avoid Them)

Relying on willpower for long-term change

We all know that willpower is great, in the short term, and it can really help in a crisis. The trouble is that, when we relax, we revert – big time!

Imagine Willpower doesn’t exist as the first step to a better future

Attempting big leaps instead of baby steps

We all experience the consistent roller coaster of life. What matters more than the ups and the downs is the average level of the two. We may ride from a high of 10 to a low of 1, but if the average over time increases from a 4 to a 5 or a 5 to a 6, we’re going the right direction.

Seek tiny successes, one after the other

Ignoring how environment shapes behaviours

Up to 90% of what we do every day is habitual. In other words, a great majority of your day is a sum of habits that you do. Think through what you do every morning when you wake up and how you go about your day. Life is a sum of your habits. Many of these habits are formed in the context of relationships. We imitate behaviour in the words we say and the actions that we take.

To take this a step further a Stanford University study said that your yearly income is usually an average of the type of friends you hang out with. If you consistently hang around someone who is inspiring you to take action toward owning a business like they have, they will invariably pull you up with them. At the same time, if your friendships consist of people who walk around as victims you will develop the same world beliefs as them without realizing it.

It can be painful for many people as it means creating distance between certain friendships. Yet, it is absolutely critical that you surround yourself with positive influences.

Change Your Context And Change Your Life

Trying to stop old behaviours instead of creating new ones

Your brain has one goal: to be as efficient as possible. This means that it wants to run the bad habit anytime that it can. When you remove a bad habit by using avoidance, your brain has nothing for it to focus on. Temptation then increases because the brain has no script to run. When you have a good, healthy alternative the brain has something to latch onto. You are still faced with Habit Gravity in the beginning, but that will wear off soon enough.

Focus on Action, Not Avoidance

Blaming failures on lack of motivation

We often look for easy things to blame when we fail at something. We rationalize by saying, “Well, I wasn’t really all that motivated anyways, so who really cares.” The problem is that we begin to fall into a trap. We slip into a vain existence because as long as we lack motivation, goals, and aspirations we won’t be disappointed.

Break it down and make it easier to do

Underestimating the power of triggers

Awareness is one of the first steps to lasting change. If you can be aware of the triggers long before you dive into that bad habit, you can stop the process much more easily.

No Behaviour Happens Without a Trigger

Believing that information leads to action

Believing that we can just somehow “learn” our way through a negative habit is a bad philosophy. Learning and taking action are two entirely different things. The challenge is that they both “feel” like progress to us. Filling up your mind with tips and ideas for changing habits doesn’t mean a thing until you start taking action on what you know.

It’s not what you know, it’s what you do

Focusing on abstract goals more than concrete behaviours

Instead of having a generic goal like “get in shape” or “lose weight” you need to have focus on more concrete daily habits. A better goal would be “jog for 30 minutes 3x’s a week.” Then, during your weekly review assess how you have done. Even better yet, you can use a site like 42 Goals to easily keep track of the habits you want to track and create in your life. Taking a regular look at your habits is a great indicator of where you are going or not going with your life.

Abstract: Get In Shape

Concrete: Walk 15 minutes Today

Seeking to change a behaviour forever, not for a short time.

In a Standford University study, they found this to be a huge roadblock for people. They were not focusing on taking baby steps to change their habits but instead were trying to focus on making life changes. The only time I have ever witnessed life changes being made in a successful way is when a dramatic life altering event happens. This is either a death of someone, or a major health issue such as a heart attack takes place.

Choosing to do it for now works better

than trying to do it forever

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