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Want to successfully change behaviours in 2023? Follow these 4 tips

smiling woman working out

The holiday season is over, the new year has begun, and now is the time to take your New Year’s resolutions seriously. Whether you want to get healthier, start exercising, quit smoking, or start your own business, you will need to change some behaviours to make something happen. 

You have probably already planned out what you want to do and how (your change action plan), and you are undoubtedly very motivated. However, motivation is not constant, and we need to develop some strategies to ensure we achieve our goals successfully to avoid slipping back into old patterns and routines. 

Fortunately, at Optimist Performance, we specialise in creating long-lasting behavioural change, and we have some strategies and tips that will help you succeed in changing your behaviours. 

The 6 stages of change (behaviours)

According to The Transtheoretical Model (also called the Stages of Change Model), developed by Prochaska and DiClemente in the late 1970s, there are 6 stages of change:

  • Precontemplation: During this stage, people are still not considering a change. 
  • Contemplation: Stage where people become more aware of the potential benefits of making a change. 
  • Preparation: In this stage, people are ready to take action. 
  • Action: Stage where people change their behaviour and intend to keep moving forward. 
  • Maintenance: People have successfully created new behaviours. 
  • Relapse: A common stage where we relapse into old behaviours. 

Let’s assume that you have already gone through the first 3 stages. You are ready to take action, and more importantly, you have created an action plan. 

Let’s focus on the last 3 stages: action, maintenance and relapse. We’ll share some strategies to include in your plan if you want to achieve success. 

4 steps to successfully change behaviours

Successful and long-lasting behaviour change requires us to break old habits and form new ones. The time it takes to alter behaviours will vary based on the behaviour you want to change, so despite how often you’ve heard that it only takes 21 days, this is not as simple as it sounds.

Therefore, let’s create some techniques that will keep us on track as the new year’s euphoria subsides and moves us beyond relying just on our motivation to succeed.

1. Recognise your triggers and barriers

woman holds apple in one hand and donut in the other

Whatever the behaviour you want to change, there are going to be some triggers and barriers that will make it more challenging. The first step is to recognise these triggers and barriers so you can prepare for them in advance. 

  • Triggers are actions or events that play a role in prompting particular behaviours. 
  • A barrier is an obstacle that stops you from achieving what you want. 

For example, a common barrier to exercise would be a lack of time. 

Once we know our barriers and triggers, we can implement strategies for when they occur. Take some time and think about the triggers and barriers stopping you from achieving your goals. 

2. Develop coping strategies

We are all for being optimistic, but that doesn’t mean closing our eyes to reality. So instead of overestimating our motivation, we prepare ourselves for when things get challenging. Using the previous example of exercising, waking up an hour earlier can be a solution to the lack of time barrier. 

A strategy to fight against triggers can be to develop “autopilots” (the chimp management book); this means creating an automatic response or belief in your mind to react to a specific trigger. 

This may seem challenging, but in reality, we have a lot more power to change our thoughts than we believe. Since you now know the triggers and barriers to changing the desired behaviour, you can develop strategies to overcome them. 

3. Reward yourself

As we mentioned before, motivation is not constant, so instead of focusing on maintaining our motivation, we can use rewards to increase our self-efficacy. 

Self-efficacy is a person’s belief in their ability to complete a task or achieve a goal. Many studies show self-efficacy is a great indicator of success when changing behaviours. The more we believe we can do something, the greater our chance of succeeding. 

Creating short-term goals and rewarding ourselves for small wins along the way is a great strategy to achieve success. It’s a way to reassure ourselves that we are capable of change, increasing our self-efficacy and, in turn, our motivation to keep going. 

4. Reaffirm yourself and keep your commitment front of mind

It’s easy to feel motivated and committed to our goal at the beginning when we are creating our plan. However, routine has a way of sending us right back to old behaviours. 

Who hasn’t set the alarm to go to the gym the night before, just to keep snoozing it in the morning until it’s time to go to work? This is why it’s important to reaffirm ourselves and make sure we keep our commitments front of mind. 

Instead of setting a goal and focusing only on what you need to do, frequently think about what it is you want to achieve: what’s the outcome you are aiming for?

So for example, rather than saying to yourself that your goal is to exercise and therefore you need to make time to go to the gym regularly, you might reframe it in terms of wanting to be more actively involved with your kids or wanting to join the charity walk organised by work for later in the year. You can write down your ultimate outcome, create a vision board or just keep reminding yourself of it when you are tempted to go back to the old ways. 

woman smiling

The Optimist view…

We know that creating long-lasting behavioural change is not an easy task, but these tips can help you stay consistent and achieve your goals this new year. 

At Optimist Performance, we also help individuals achieve their goals through our optimist coaching. Our coaches act as that critical friend and give you the time, support and guidance we all need to achieve our goals. 

  • This article originally appeared here.

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