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Behaviour Change....Simple, Not Easy

Why is it that when we want to change a certain behaviour, many of us initially fail in doing so? Think about those resolutions or habits you aim to implement into your life such as regular exercise, eating healthy, drinking more water, meditating. Think about those behaviours or habits you'd like to give up....perhaps you drink too much during the week, are easily agitated or would like to ditch that midnight snacking. We know that many of us have health-compromising behaviours that we would like to change, but we also know that behaviour change is simple, but it's not easy.

                           We're only human. 

Like anything worthwhile, behaviour change takes effort, conscientiousness and deliberate practice. It's not simply a set and forget process.

So how do you improve your chances of changing that behaviour so that you are enlisting health-promoting behaviours?

If we subscribe to and apply the health action process approach (HAPA)[1] model of behaviour change, we improve our chances of changing our behaviours. HAPA is divided

into two phases: a motivation phase and a volition/action phase. The motivation phase insists that we first and foremost have a strong, core belief that we can change ~ known as our self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is a direct predictor of our intention and behaviour and it provides a sense of control over our environment and behaviour [2]. We also need to highlight the positive outcomes of our behaviour change as well as gaining an understanding for the risks of not changing the behaviour.

So ask yourself, if you successfully implement a positive health-promoting behaviour, what good will come out of it? And, if you don't change a health-compromising behaviour, what are you placing at risk?

Once we have the belief and intention, we move into volition with action planning and coping. How are we going to set the stage and environment to support our behaviour change? What micro-habits should we enlist? What happens when obstacles get in the way, how will we overcome them? What is our plan B for when we feel undisciplined, stuck or stumble? Who can we surround ourselves with that will help reinforce the change?

The final component within the volition phase is the maintenance and this is where the grit comes in. How are you going to sustain the new behaviour? Self-efficacy plays a big role in this phase as well ~ the belief that you can, the belief that you have what it takes. The belief that you can re-engage when you momentarily slip up and the courage to start again.

Lastly, remind yourself that the behaviour is helping you lead the life you want to live. Remind yourself of all of the positive reasons of why you made the change. Regularly reflect on the good that has come from the behaviour change ~ take pride in it!

 People with an optimistic sense of self-efficacy visualise success. 

My personal example:

Desired Behaviour Change: Swim at 5AM, engage a strong core belief that I can; perceived obstacle of not being a swimmer or a morning person. Overcome obstacle by reminding myself that no-one ever regrets a swim, that it will improve my swimming and fitness and it will help me lead the life I want to live. Recognise that obstacles (ie a warm bed on a winters morning) will present themselves but that I will be able to overcome them with little pep talks that I have with myself and reminding myself of my why. Surround myself with people with the same desire, interests and active lifestyles. Know that I can get back into it when I miss a session or take time off. Remind myself that swimming at 5AM is helping me lead the life I want to live and is a precursor for more health-promoting habits. Reflect on how swimming always starts my day off with positive endorphins and provides me with the energy to do more and be more....and focus on the feeling it offers.

Kirsten is a Performance & Leadership Consultant who works with individuals, teams and organisations to help them develop their potential and perform at their best. Get in touch with her today if you're looking for some support, accountability and motivation to become a happier, healthier version of you!

[1] Schwarzer, R. (2016). Health Action Process Approach (HAPA) as a theoretical framework to understand behavior change. Actualidades en Psicología, 30(121), 119-130.

[2] Schwarzer, R., & Fuchs, R. (1996). Self-efficacy and health behaviours. Predicting health behavior: Research and practice with social cognition models, 163, 196.

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