When you understand how you tick, with evidence backed by science, change is easier! Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net
Many of us have some aspect of our lives that we would like to change – hopefully it is for yourself, not to impress another person. This is because this is the first step to self-realisation, where your attitudes, emotions and behaviour are in sync with your goals.
Some changes are easier than others, depending on how major or minor they are.
However, research has shown we have limited ‘executive function’, a fancy way of saying ‘limited will-power.’ Therefore if act on our expectations that are too high in the first place, and ‘fail’ (inverted commas, because the standards would have been too high), we might just give up.
For example, we may wish to:
-be a better sister/aunt/friend
-have a tidier household
-save money better
Studies have shown (and references are available for interested folk) That are best chance of success is CHOOSING ONE of these changes to your lifestyle at any one time.
Otherwise, we run the risk of a phenomena known as “ego-depletion” – in simple terms we run out of will – power and give up. So it’s not a moral issue or a self-control issue – it doesn’t imply we are less strong. Everyone has this cognitive process occurring.
However, you might say “Yes, well I know somebody who has all these wonderful changes happening in their lives, not just one”. If you talk to them, you can bet your bottom dollar that they started out small, and built their way up to it. You don’t run a marathon when you’ve only been jogging 2 kilometres per day, and this is the best way to describe the phenomenon with all desired changes.
There is a model known as “The Theory of Planned Behaviour” which basically predicts that whether we carry out our intentions is influenced
1. By our attitudes- are they favourable or unfavourable to the activity. Not all goals other people have may be your goals. It is very individual.
2. What others expect us to do, and how important is that to us. Again very individual.
3. How much control we believe we have to perform the behaviour.
For example, I might have a favourable attitude to giving up smoking, so a favourable attitude (point 1) (By the way, I don’t smoke, just using it as an example).
2. People important to me want to but
3. I may feel I don’t have the control to do so.
Using this model, we know where to intervene. So you want to do it, you have others’ support, but feeling in control may be aided by nicotine replacement therapy, or support groups, or cutting down slowly, or spending money you would have spent on cigarettes on something else.
And this goes for any behaviour you wish to change. The Theory of Planned Behaviour model explains about 40% of whether we carry out our intentions to change a particular action we want to. It might not seem like much, but it may make a big difference.
Factors like impulsivity, or attitude instability (you don’t know how you feel about something), or unplanned spontaneous behaviour also influence whether your intention to change a behaviour will be successful.
But knowing the model gives you tools you can effectively use to analyse what is important to you, and what you can do if one of the components of the Theory is not supporting intent translating to behavioural change.
If you google “Theory of Planned Behaviour”, there will be a truckload of information!!