How to have more control over your behaviour

Do you find yourself doing something that doesn’t serve you out of habit? Well you’re not alone, you and I and other human beings have all done it. It’s human nature.

Today I’m going to share a process I’ve put in place with you to help address this.

Why do we do certain behaviours automatically?
So I’m talking about instances when you’re bored and maybe distract yourself by reaching for your phone. You’re hungry and you go and eat something bad for you. You’re feeling lonely when you text someone you shouldn’t.
Then you regret the action later.
It’s because our brain is automating our behaviour to save energy. It also likes to get out of short term ‘pain’. Pain being emotions and feelings like boredom, loneliness, hunger so it looks for a quick fix and can become our default when repeated.

How can we solve this then?
It’s in what I call ‘magic moments’ these are the moments you notice yourself starting to get into the trigger and behaviour.
Then it’s not a case of cursing yourself for having that urge, but rather a praise of recognition. Then looking at a quick alternative.

Sound like a bit of work?
Well when we make changes to automated behaviour it can be at first, until the new behaviour is drilled into us from repeating. That’s why I like to make anything new one – two minutes.
I however have a small card to follow based on my triggers for undesirable behaviour.
So let’s go through the three columns to put on the card. After a while you won’t need to look at the card. Also make it as easy as possible, again the brain likes easy things to save energy.

Trigger / behaviour
This is column one. Write down all the triggers you get e.g bored so go reach for your phone on social media. E.g going to the chip shop down the road when hungry. I have five triggers and behaviours on my card at present.

This is the pattern interrupt. This is when you recognise it and celebrate yourself for recognising. It’s not dismissing you are feeling a way but acknowledging it, we don’t want to repress things. This interrupt middle stage is the same for all behaviours.

Then write in the third column an alternative way to respond when the trigger in the first column comes up and the behaviour is about to start. E.g instead of going for the phone when bored you can get up and walk for 1 minute or meditate for 1 minute. You need another (but better behaviour to replace what you would have done).

So in order to change behaviours we have to become conscious of it. This only takes a minute or so. Notice the trigger / behaviour starting. Then praise yourself for recognising. Then do the alternative on the card. You may find it a bit of conscious work at first but it’s like anything the more you do it the more it becomes automatic. Making it simple to do though will increase rate of following through.

By Jonny Pardoe

Podcast Host, Confidence & Podcast Coach and Author

© The Self Esteem and Confidence Mindset Ltd February 2022
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