Monday, May 2, 2011

Commit To Change

We all want to change. Improve our eating habits and overall health. Do small things to improve the environment. Floss. Recycle. Moisturize and wear sunscreen. But, starting a change in our daily behavior is difficult without the right tools. Here is one tool I use to frame my goals.

Dr. Fogg of Stanford's Persuasion Tech Lab has formulated the behavior grid to help us clarify our actions into well-formed goals. I'm adding my interpretation of what behaviors would be effective in each behavior category.

One Time Big Time (Doing it once)
Behavioral change as a rule should work for us in the long term. My first impulse was to ask, "why are we even considering action that is only done once?" After looking at possible examples, I noticed that the acts in themselves are done once, but the overall impact have lasting effects.

Installation or First Encounters: An entirely new action once
Introducing yourself to influential people. Trying out different ice cream flavors. Installing a software program. Deciding to enroll in a fitness regime. Creating a plan of action. Writing your life's mission and vision.

Reinvesting for Another Look: You did it before, let's do it again
This include scheduled activities and reviewing good behaviors we've long forgotten. Updating goals. Going to the dentist.

Bargain Deals: Events-related improvement
If you plan to do just one thing, extend yourself. If you are going to volunteer your time for a couple of hours, why not volunteer for an entire day? If you participate in Earth Hour, why not make it a couple of Earth Hours?

Period of Awareness (Doing it for a duration)
A lot of times we are afraid to commit to something we are still uncertain of. We can try to convince ourselves by committing to a short period of time just to get the feel of this new thing.

Trial & Error: A new thing for a period of time
Just try it once or twice. It would be good if you were doing it in a safe environment. You could trick yourself into doing something with the pressure of peers. Or, if you are strong enough to do it by yourself then by all means, go do it in private.

Mindful Awareness:  Observing and questioning a past failure
If you've done it before, why haven't you done it again? There must be something to it that you consciously or unconsciously did not like. This time, be aware of the factors that encourage, facilitate or disrupt your actions. For instance, it's hard to segregate garbage if you don't have a separate trash bin for the recyclables.

Calibration: Adjusting changes for a period of time
Now that you're convinced in doing something, you want to refine the behavior. If your goal is to eat smaller meals more frequently, you might try with 4 meals a day for a week, then 5 meals a day a week.

Changing with the Seasons: Abstinence for extended periods
Daylight Savings Time is a good example of an institutionalized behavioral change that is time-bound. You can also note other seasonal cues that will help you change your habits. For instance, in tropical countries, you can choose to stop watering your outdoor plants during the rainy season. During summer, cut your hair short to use less water when shampooing.

Committed Like A Pig: Complete change
A chicken is involved with making the egg, but a pig was committed to making the bacon. These are lasting behaviors that we truly want to integrate with our lives.

Forced: A new thing that makes sense
It is extremely difficult to force a new behavior into your daily activities unless it is enforced by law or by everyone around you. Seat belts are a very good example. Forcing yourself using self-help tools and sheer strength of will is also possible.

Strong Determination: Deciding to change
If you've done it before, you can do it again. This time you will need the full strength of your will power.

Lifestyle Change: Changing slowly but surely
Once you are convinced, you can taper your bad habits or you can slowly inculcate a good habit into your regular schedules.

Cold Turkey: I quit!
Some people can quit just like that. Are you one of them?

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