Behavioral Modification

By Matthew Johnson

What follows are some strategies that are proven effective in assisting people to make lifestyle related changes. If you are committed to improving yourself, the following guidelines will help you achieve your goals.

Strategies to Maximize Personal Effectiveness in Behavior Change

Four Steps to Behavior Change

1. Identify and Specify Behavioral Goals and Objectives

2. Strategic Planning and Personal Contract

3. Develop a Support System for Your Goal

4. Program for Success and Maintenance

1. Identify and Specify Behavioral Goals and Objectives

Clearly defining and writing down your fitness related goals is proven to increase your likelihood of achievement. Your goals should be desirable, specific, measurable, and realistic. 


Choose Realistically

Another typical reason health programs fail, is because people make unrealistic and unattainable demands on themselves.  Consequently, people are almost always sure to fall short when they go to extremes. Therefore, keep your goals simple, realistic and attainable.

Also, you must always be certain to focus on specific behaviors.  For example, saying that you will lose 20 pounds is not a behavior. Loosing weight is a result of behaviors such as exercising and reducing your daily calorie intake. Rather than obsessing about your scale weight, you should focus on the daily behaviors that will lead to the desired outcomes.

Thus, people that fail to reach their goals usually don't define them, learn about them or even seriously consider them as believable or achievable. 

2. Explore the Behavior and Formulate a Strategic Plan

Research also concludes that by designing a detailed plan you will dramatically increase your success rate. For example, a crew can not construct a building without a detailed plan. Why should you view your health program any differently?    



A baseline is a measurement of  the existing behavior and noting when and how often that behavior occurs before treatment.  Examples include, how often and when a person uses tobacco, or eats high calorie foods, or displays outbursts of anger. The baseline measurement of the behavior, will helps you set realistic goals and identify future improvement levels. 



A trigger is simply anything that causes or increases the likelihood of a behavior. Therefore, if we know when and what is motivating a behavior, we can create future interventions by planning alternative coping mechanisms.


Learn by Looking About Your Past

If you have attempted to change your behavior in the past but have not succeeded, what exactly went wrong?  What will be different this time? Therefore, when you previously tried to reach a goal, you should have learned something about yourself and the behavior which can be applied to your new attempt.


Plan Specifically for Stress Management

Two of the most frequently cited reasons for personal failure is inadequate time management and/or increased levels of stress.  Changing behavior is hard enough without the additional difficulty of trying to balance out work, interpersonal relationships, family, and everyday life situations. Unfortunately, when things get stressful, people often relapse back to their old unhealthy behavior's.  Knowing this ahead of time, you must plan and prepare strategies for such future events. 


3. Develop a Support System for Your Resolution

Research concludes that the people who succeed at making lifestyle changes typically have exceptional support systems.  Consequently,  telling others about your goals and objective increases your accountability to the behavior. From the very start, your should begin by telling those around you about your fitness program, this way you will increase your likelihood of success by enlisting greater levels of support. This contract will not only increase the support of those around you but it will also makes your commitment public and help to convince both you and others that you are serious about this change.

As part of the strategy explained above, initiate ways to increase the involvement of others in your efforts. For example, you could always lure a friend into joining and committing to a behavior with you. Having someone to workout with or quit chewing tobacco can drastically boost your success rate. No matter if it a spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, roommate, co- worker, or even an acquaintance, being accountable to someone other than yourself will help to keep you on track.


4. The Program for Success and Maintenance

With any new venture or attempt it is imperative to have the right mental attitude. For instance, winners always have the mind set that their goals are possible and within reach.  Not everyone has this positive outlook, but it can be improved through both positive self-talk and visualization. Thus, you must visualize yourself already achieving your new lifestyle.You must develop a mental image of who you want to become and then act as if you are that person. See yourself as a non-smoker, as a fit - healthy person, as an emotionally pleased human being. 

Reward Yourself Frequently

Starting a exercise regimen can be physically and mentally draining, with few immediate results. An effective coping method would be to link an alternate activity that you find personally rewarding with your exercises. Therefore, you should find something to look forward to that can be combined or achieved with your exercise program. Choose something that makes you feel intrinsically great about your exercise commitment and you will increase you chances of success. Whether it is a deserving massage, hot tub, or a satisfying healthy meal, your behavior needs reinforcement so you can feel good about your effort.

Provide a Visual Record

Another way to increase your success and motivation is to keep a visual record of your accomplishments.  This can be done by simply writing on a calendar or using a daily progress chart. Although, most people today choose to track their achievements and setbacks by writing in a daily journal.  The journal works because it further holds you accountable to your daily behaviors. Therefore, if you write about your efforts, then you are more likely to follow through on your goals.