I hear variations of the same theme a few times a week in may office as patients tell me: “I’ve been following my diet for a week and I haven’t lost any weight”; I’ve made a deliberate attempt to speak up in class this semester and I still feel nervous when I do”; I’ve gone to the gym six tines in the past two weeks and I still don’t enjoy doing exercise”.
It’s great when behavior change brings immediate rewards like losing weight, feeling more confident, or enjoying working out. Since we are human beings, however, it rarely happens that way. Typically behavior change is a three-step process that involves setting goals, implementing behaviors that lead to reaching those goals, and then achieving or modifying those goals.
During that part of the process that involves implementing new behaviors, the only thing that we can judge is whether we are doing the behaviors. In many cases we can’t guarantee when or even if our specific goals will be achieved – but continuing the new behaviors is likely to move us in the direction of our goals.
How many books get bought and not read, and how many gym memberships go unused after the first month or two, and how many diets are ended if weight loss doesn’t occur quickly? In each case, good intentions were there but the follow through wasn’t.
When you decide to pursue a new goal, make a commitment to change, and then take pride every day that you keep trying. Evaluate your behavior rather than the consequences because behavior change occurs before consequences. Take pride in what you are doing.
You will enjoy the process much more, and your behavior will more likely lead to permanent change.
Ron Kaiser, Ph.D.