How can you motivate yourself to change your behaviour? Five steps that can assist in making behavioural change happen.
Struggling to change the way we want to is a common human experience. Many of the practical steps required aren’t easy or fun. This makes motivation a challenge. No matter our excuses – not enough time, energy, or money – we often say to ourselves that ‘it’s too hard’, ‘I can’t be bothered’, or ‘I’m just not that motivated.’
Tali Sharot, an associate professor of cognitive neuroscience at University College London, suggests that instead of using warnings, we should implement three principles that drive the mind and the behaviour: social incentives, immediate rewards, and progress monitoring.
We believe that if we scare people into action, we can influence their behaviour. However, in reality, this has little or no impact as we usually decide to shut down from the information told to us and make excuses in our minds. We seek positive actions wherever we can. We will always accept a better view of our futures over the negative. So, let’s see how you can use strategic rewards to boost willpower and perform at your best!
Motivate yourself to change behaviour: Why do we crave rewards?
Alexander Rothman’s theory of behaviour maintenance suggests that your ability to maintain a positive behaviour or habit is dependent on your perception of the benefits:
Decisions regarding behavioural initiation are predicted to depend on favourable expectations regarding future outcomes, whereas decisions regarding behavioural maintenance are expected to depend on perceived satisfaction with received results.
However, challenging and ambitious projects don’t always provide immediate rewards. Sometimes you even get negative feedback for prolonged periods. When we receive positive feedback, we become more motivated. And when our motivation increases, we perform better. It’s a cycle that feeds on itself.
We must perceive the rewards from a given behaviour as insufficient or receive negative feedback to maintain motivation. This lack of motivation might manifest as procrastination or a lack of energy.
Motivate yourself to change behaviour: Accept it’s hard
In a recent TEDx talk by Mel Robbins, an author, life coach, TV host and CNN commentator, she introduced activation energy as the primary ingredient for behavioural change. In chemistry, activation energy is the least energy required for a reaction. Her point was that creating behavioural change requires more energy than staying the same. She used the example that if you want to face activation energy head-on, start your day one hour earlier than usual.
One first step toward changing behaviour such as diet and exercise is accepting that it takes effort and energy to create new habits to replace routine ones.
The excellent news about behavioural change is that day 100 is much easier than day one. Going into any change, such as losing 14 pounds, requires intentional energy and realistic expectations. Losing one pound a week as a target suggests it will take around 100 days to lose 14 pounds.
Deciding to change behaviour also requires clarity on your motivation. It may be to support your health by lowering your risk for chronic disease and increasing your energy level so that you can play with your children. Such motivation is much more likely to work than simply saying you want to lose a few pounds.
Having realistic expectations and clarity on your purpose can help make change possible. This can help fuel the activating energy required in the early days to do what’s needed day after day to achieve your desired outcome.
Motivate yourself to change behaviour: Five steps that can assist in making behavioral change
Step 1: Define your desired outcome Once you pick something to change, write your goal in one simple, clear statement: “My goal is to lose 14 pounds.” Stick that note on your computer so that you can see it daily.
Step 2: Set realistic expectations for how long it will take to achieve your goal – Don’t look for immediate results. Set realistic expectations to prevent unwarranted judgment and frustration, as change takes time. So does moving from pushing oneself to do something that feels hard to transform it into an easy and enjoyable daily habit.
Step 3: Define why the goal is important to you – Be clear on your motivation that you can draw upon during those moments when you don’t feel like doing anything.
Step 4: Build and implement your action plan immediately – Once you decide to change, get moving fast. Determine your action plan and focus on what you’ll do and how you’ll do it. Measure your progress daily.
Step 5: Anticipate hard before easy – The excitement of a behavioural change plan can wear off fast. Staying committed to digging down and pushing through with new behaviours can be challenging. But as Mel Robbins taught, likely not much more complicated than pushing yourself to wake up an hour early. There’s often no escaping that we need to create more energy and internal drive to change than to stay the same.
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