How Do You Make Behavioral Changes Last?

What’s the most significant behavioral change you’ve made as an adult? For some, it’s quitting smoking or drinking, or making healthy changes in eating and exercising. For others, it’s becoming a better listener, a more effective manager, or a nicer partner or spouse.

No matter what changes you’ve made, whether physical, social, or work-related, almost everyone agrees that lasting change is hard. It requires determination, motivation, vigilance, persistence, and long-term commitment.

Most people would agree that asking for help from a trusted friend, mentor, or professional coach helps. Many of my coaching clients come to me highly motivated to make changes.

Yet even with high motivation, support, and ideal conditions, it’s still hard to break bad habits. For example, two-thirds of smokers who say they’d like to quit never even try. Those who do usually need six attempts before they succeed.

Six Seconds to Set Up Change

Here’s a six-second tool you can apply at any time to help you make any behavioral change: take a long, deep breath. This allows you to step back from reactive habits and initiate a new, healthier response to any situation.

A six second breath is a way to pause, gain awareness, gather energy, and make a preferred choice of action.

Knowing Isn’t Doing

The guidelines for changing habits are pretty simple:

  • If you want to lose weight, eat fewer calories than you burn up, and do it over a length of time until you reach your goal weight.
  • If you want to quit smoking, pick a quit date, get rid of cigarettes and smoking triggers, and don’t smoke no matter what, until the urges stop and the chemicals are out of your system.
  • Same with alcohol: don’t pick up the first drink; get social support with recovery groups.
  • To get fit, go to a gym or learn a sport, practice every day, get some coaching or training, and track your progress over a length of time.

None of these programs are complicated. But simplicity doesn’t mean that they are easy to follow through with. All humans resist change; we’re susceptible to fallibility when making plans and sticking to them.

If we understand human nature enough, we should be able to anticipate resistance and circumvent unhealthy reactions that sabotage our efforts. But that doesn’t always happen. What about you? Have you successfully made behavioral changes and stuck with them?

I’d love to hear from you, you can contact me here and on LinkedIn.

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