Top 10 Mistakes in Behavior Change

Written by: Center for Body Trust

Behavior change is a process, and people often approach change from all the wrong angles. BJ Fogg, a Stanford University professor, talks about 10 mistakes people make when trying to change their behavior:

1. Relying on willpower for long-term change. Imagine willpower doesn’t exist. That’s step #1 to a better future.

2. Attempting big leaps instead of baby steps. Seek tiny successes, one after another. No need to check all the boxes.

3. Ignoring how environment shapes behavior. When context changes, lives can change.

4. Trying to stop old behaviors instead of creating new ones. Focus on the addition of new behaviors, not avoidance.

5. Blaming failures on lack of motivation. Solution: Make the behavior easier to do.

6. Underestimating the power of triggers. No behavior happens without a trigger.

7. Believing that information leads to action. We humans aren’t so rational. We are emotional beings with a history of surviving and coping. Trust the wisdom in the room.

8. Focusing on abstract goals more than concrete behaviors. Abstract goal: move more. Concrete behavior: walk for 15 minutes today.

9. Seeking to change a behavior forever, not for a short time. A fixed period works better than forever.

10. Assuming that behavior change is difficult. Behavior change is not so hard when you have the right process. Lead with kindness and compassion.

So which of these stand out to you the most? Which ones have you relied on the most?

One thing we notice is how people (and health care providers) get so hung up on #7. We think if we read another book, or if someone tells us what to do, that will help us change. And while knowledge is important in the change process, it is not enough. Transformation doesn’t happen in the head.

For example, you can read every book ever written about playing the guitar and you still can’t play the guitar. You can talk to your therapist about how badly you want to be able to play that guitar, and it doesn’t mean you can play the guitar. You have to pick the guitar up, and play it. And at first, it is messy, clunky, and it sounds like crap. But if you keep picking up the guitar and practicing, it gets easier over time. The same is true for becoming an intuitive eater. It takes time and practice.

What is one small thing you might do differently today?


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