Self-change is tough, but it's not impossible, nor does it have to be traumatic, according to change expert Stan Goldberg, Ph.D. Here, he lays out the 10 principles he deems necessary for successful change.
(1) All Behaviors Are Complex
Research by psychologist James O. Prochaska, Ph.D., an internationally renowned expert on planned change, has repeatedly found that change occurs in stages. To increase the overall probability of success, divide a behavior into parts and learn each part successively.
Stage 1 Precontemplation
Stage 2 Contemplation
Stage 3 Preparation
Stage 4 Action
Stage 5 Maintenance
Stage 6 Relapse (optional)
Strategy: Break down the behavior
Almost all behaviors can be broken down. Separate your desired behavior into smaller, self-contained units.
I wanted to quit smoking, so I wrote down what that would entail: avoiding triggers, coping with stress, anticipating the reward stimulus, relearning boredom, finding healthy distractions to use, etc…
(2) Change Is Frightening
We resist change, but fear of the unknown can result in clinging to status quo behaviors—no matter how bad they are.
Strategy: Examine the consequences
Compare all possible consequences of both your status quo and desired behaviors. If there are more positive results associated with the new behavior, your fears of the unknown are unwarranted.
The consequences of smoking go far beyond health! They include all of the negatives of any addiction. Plus the money! Plus the hygiene! There’s a whole laundry list! The consequences of quitting are all positive! Health, happiness, stress relief, improved self image, money, … When it comes down to it, you really have nothing to lose and so very much to gain!
Strategy: Prepare your observers
New behaviors can frighten the people observing them, so inform them of your plans. There’s a great letter you can use to talk about what they can expect and how they can help:
Strategy: Be realistic
Unrealistic goals increase fear. Fear increases the probability of failure.
By understanding what withdrawal actually looks like and having a timeline for the process, you are much less likely to be or become afraid and retreat back into your smoker’s world! Dale Jones has it all laid out for you:
(3) Change Must Be Positive
As B.F. Skinner's early research demonstrates, reinforcement-not punishment-is necessary for permanent change. Reinforcement can be intrinsic, extrinsic or extraneous. According to Carol Sansone, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Utah, one type of reinforcement must be present for self-change, two would be better than one, and three would be best.
Strategy: Enjoy the act
Intrinsic reinforcement occurs when the act is reinforcing.
Becoming a Happy Quitter makes the whole process go smoother!
Strategy: Admire the outcome
An act doesn't have to be enjoyable when the end result is extrinsically reinforcing. For instance, I hate cleaning my kitchen, but I do it because I like the sight of a clean kitchen.
Keep a list of the wonderful way you feel and look, how your food tastes better, compliments you receive from others, great check ups and high fives from doctors and dentists, Notice the good things about quitting! Becoming a Happy Quitter makes the whole process go smoother!
Strategy: Reward yourself
Extraneous reinforcement isn't directly connected to the act or its completion. A worker may despise his manufacturing job but will continue working for a good paycheck.
(4) Being Is Easier Than Becoming
Strategy: Take baby steps
In one San Francisco State University study, researchers found that participants were more successful when their goals were gradually approximated. Take it one day at a time and make the Daily Pledge to keep moving forward by stacking those days!
Strategy: Simplify the process
Methods of changing are often unnecessarily complicated and frenetic. Through simplicity, clarity arises.
Strategy: Prepare for problems
Perfect worlds don't exist, and neither do perfect learning situations. Pamela Dunston, Ph.D., of Clemson University, found cueing to be an effective strategy.
We can cue you till the cows come home, but you have to be logged in and reading the Blogs to get it! When you participate you are literally retraining your Brain!
(5) Slower Is Better
Everything has its own natural speed; when altered, unpleasant things happen. Change is most effective when it occurs slowly, allowing behaviors to become automatic. You didn’t become an Addict overnight and you won’t recover overnight either! Understanding and accepting the 130 Day Challenge will make your quit journey more doable.
Strategy: Establish calm
Life is like a stirred-up lake: Allow it to calm and the mud will settle, clearing the water. The same is true for change.
Strategy: Appreciate the path
Author Ursula LeGuin once said, "It's good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end." Don't devise an arduous path; it should be as rewarding as the goal.
(6) Know More, Do Better
Surprise spells disaster for people seeking change. Knowing more about the process allows more control over it. KNOWLEDGE is POWER!
Strategy: Monitor your behaviors
Some therapists insist on awareness of both current and desired behaviors, but research suggests it's sufficient to be aware of just the new one.
In my Blogs, I recorded the time taken for each step along the way toward recovery.
Strategy: Request feedback
A study in the British Journal of Psychology found that reflecting on personal experiences with others is key to successful change. Give the observer permission, suggests Paul Schutz, Ph.D., of the University of Georgia, and you will receive feedback. That includes folks in Your New Community and in your 3D World.
Strategy: Understand the outcome
Success is satisfying, and if you know why you succeeded or failed, similar strategies can be applied when changing other behaviors.
(7) Change Requires Structure
Many people view structure as restrictive, something that inhibits spontaneity. While spontaneity is wonderful for some activities, it's a surefire method for sabotaging change.
Strategy: Identify what works
Classify all activities and materials you're using as either helpful, neutral or unhelpful in achieving your goal. Eliminate unhelpful ones, make neutrals into positives and keep or increase the positives.
Strategy: Revisit your plan regularly
Review every day how and why you're changing and the consequences of success and failure. Research by Daniel Willingham, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, showed that repetition increases the probability of success.
Strategy: Logically sequence events
According to behavior expert Richard Foxx, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Penn State University at Harrisburg, it's important to sequence the aspects associated with learning a new behavior in order of level of difficulty or timing.
(8) Practice is Necessary
Practice is another key approach to change, suggests one study on changing conscious experience published recently in the British Journal of Psychology. I've found that the majority of failures occur because this principle is ignored. Practice makes new behaviors automatic and a natural part of who we are.
Strategy: Use helpers
Not all behaviors can be learned on your own. Sometimes it's useful to enlist the help of a trusted friend. That’s what we’re here for! If you get into a sticky situation and become flooded, come here first and Blog HELP! I assure you that 24/7 people have jumped right on and saved more than one teetering quit!
Strategy: Practice in many settings
If you want to use a new behavior in different environments, practice it in those or similar settings. Dubbing this "generalization," psychologists T.F. Stokes and D.M. Baer found it critical in maintaining new behaviors.
As you become more sure of your quit you can resume your social activities that once were a trigger and one by one learn to take them on smoke FREE!
(9) New Behaviors Must Be Protected
Even when flawlessly performed, new behaviors are fragile and disappear if unprotected.
Hanging out with your smoking buddies at your old smoking places is not a good strategy for success. Going it alone and forfeiting the daily blogs and support available to you is a clear warning sign that you’re headed toward relapse. Relapse doesn’t just happen! Folks that relapse have been thinking about it for days!
Strategy: Control your environment
Environmental issues such as second hand smoke and level of alertness may interfere with learning new behaviors. After identifying what helps and what hinders, increase the helpers and eliminate the rest.
I literally skipped by breaks at work for the first weeks. I also had my Wife gas up the car. On the other hand, I found myself spending more time with my nonsmoking friends, both exsmokers and never smokers.
Strategy: Use memory aides
Because a new behavior is neither familiar nor automatic, it's easy to forget. Anything that helps memory is beneficial.
N.O.PE. is the most effective memory aid you can use. It’s both simple and complex and says all you really need to know to become a successful quitter.
(10) Small Successes are BIG!
Strategy: Map your success
Approach each step as a separate mission and you'll eventually arrive at the end goal.
Place a quit counter on your home page. Celebrate your milestones on the FREEDOM TRAIN! Blow your own horn and let the whole Community share in your TRIUMPH!
The process of changing from what you are to what you would like to become can be either arduous and frustrating or easy and rewarding. The effort required for both paths is the same. Choose the first and you'll probably recycle yourself endlessly. Apply these 10 principles, and change, once only a slight possibility, becomes an absolute certainty. The choice is yours.