4 Steps to Changing Your Behavior


Every New Year, every birthday, every school semester and the first week of every new job, we promise ourselves to change for the better. Whether it’s to work out more or to gossip less, we tend to put in a lot of time and energy into reaching our goals. So it’s perfectly natural that we want to be as perfect as we can be. However, sometimes we fail no matter how much we try, and we don’t understand why.

I have recently signed up for kickboxing classes as an attempt to become physically fitter and stronger. This is very challenging for me as I have never been a very athletic person. I tend to choose the couch over doing anything that requires moving my limbs and I figured it was time to change that, especially with bikini season coming up.

However trying out this new lifestyle has not been easy. I realized that being fit requires more than just showing up to classes. It requires persistence, which is very difficult. We often think more about our sexy 6-pack, and less on what we need to do in order to achieve it. We need to understand that just wanting something is not enough. That is, we need to regulate our behavior in order to change.

Here are 4 essential components to regulating our behavior:

Know Your Goals

In order to change our behavior, we first need to recognize our goals. If we’re not exactly sure what they are, we become confused and discouraged.

My goal for kickboxing is to be more fit, not to lose weight. However, when I turn to the Internet for tips on eating right and other exercise options I usually receive health advice for losing weight. I think it’s really important to keep my exact goal in mind, to be able to stay on the right track and disregard irrelevant information.

Our goals stem from either our own ideals or from what other people expect of us. It is expected of women to want to lose weight, instead of just wanting to lead a healthy life style. Therefore, a lot of information out there is based on that expectation.

This creates two groups of people:

  • People who do it for themselves: These people’s goals are their personal dreams and wishes. They want to achieve their own ideals, and not other people’s demands.
  • People who do it for others: These people’s goals are their sense of responsibility and duty. They want to avoid disappointing others.

We need to identify where our goals come from, prioritize those goals, and decide which ones are the most important. If what you are doing right now does not match those goals, then you can work towards change.

Sometimes our own standards don’t match what other people demand of us. It can be difficult to decide between conflicting standards. Read more about how conflicting standards can make it hard for us to make decisions.

Keep Track of Your Progress

In order to change, we need to keep track of our behaviour. It is important to make adjustments along the way that help you continue.

Last year when I decided to start working out, winter came around. I did not want to leave the comfort of my warm house and commute in the viciously cold Canadian winter to the gym. This time around, I have decided to supply my basement with fancy little dumbbells and use the power of YouTube to work out at home when winter comes. No excuses.

Think back and identify what you did wrong the last time you tried to change and failed. Use that to come up with a new plan that fits you better. It is very important to keep track of our progress en route to attaining our final goal. Focusing on how far away you are from your goal might upset you in the short run. However the improvement you will see in the long run is worth it.

Keep Up Your Willpower

Changing is hard. And it takes energy. Blood glucose, which is our brain’s fuel, gives us the strength to control our behavior.

Every one of us has a limited supply of blood glucose. When this supply is low, changing gets even harder. You lose your will power and have trouble focusing your attention on your performance.

In fact, if you don’t have enough energy, you will end up doing exactly what you’re trying not to do. Lets say you’re trying to avoid eating sweets and junk food. At the same time you don’t have energy because you haven’t eaten all day, and you’re trying really hard not to open your kitchen cabinet and consume a bag of skittles or two. There comes a moment where you don’t even care anymore. You have no more energy to keep up your willpower. So you get up, open that cabinet and stuff your face with all sorts of goodies. Researchers have found that dieters who have to resist temptations are more likely to have reduced self-control, and eat more junk food.

Keep up your willpower by eating right and eating on time to enhance your performance. Whether it’s to lose weight or to study better.

Stay Motivated

The most important thing we need to change is our motivation to meet our goals. If we don’t care enough about reaching our goals, then we will probably quit after a few times of trying.

There have been times when I watched all the more experienced kick-boxers in my kickboxing class and found myself weak and slow in comparison. When we practiced kicks, the trainer would count up to five and I was still stuck on the second repetition with my leg awkwardly in the air. I felt like this was no longer what I wanted to do. My motivation dropped and I felt discouraged.

There are two types of motivations for doing things:

Because you WANT to: You do it because it is meaningful. This takes less energy, comes naturally to you and makes it easier to perform tasks.

Because you HAVE to: You do it because you feel pressured. You do it to avoid punishment. Being forced to do a task feels harder and takes more energy because it doesn’t come naturally to you.

Yes, the first one definitely sounds better. Reminding myself of what being fit means to me has definitely helped me catch up to others in my class. Keep up your motivation by doing things for YOURSELF and not for others.

Please take a minute and tell me one thing you’ve been trying to change about yourself. Go get ’em tiger!


One thought on “4 Steps to Changing Your Behavior

  1. I really appreciate the voice of your blog as it’s conversational yet very informative – a certain professionalism that makes me trust and believe in these strategies. Especially the portion of “know your goals” made me reflect on the motivations for my behaviour; personally things that are important to me I work towards intrinsically, but recently I realized most of my behaviours are to satisfy others. I definitely want to learn to be more introspective after reading this post, and I look forward to reading the rest of your blog.


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