Behaviour Change

*Also take a look at behaviour change theories

“Habits are at first cobwebs, then cables” (old Spanish proverb)

The alarm goes off at 6.45am every morning, apart from the weekend. This is so I get 30 minutes to get up and do exercise every morning, but probably like hundreds of other people around the world, with good intentions, the temptation to hit the snooze button, turn over and have another 15-20 minutes is so strong!

I am fascinated by behaviour change and sustaining things you really want to change, both in my work as a Coach, and in my personal life. If you tap “behaviour change” into Google or look at Wikipedia, there are as many models and ideas as there are cultures.

I am interested in theories as models, but most interested in the practical application of them, and making them work for individuals who have set a course for change either in their career, their health, aspects of their behaviour that they personally believe (or others have told them) they don’t like. One of the key starting points for me is accepting the premise of the resourcefulness of the individual, one of the key principles of Coaching. The individual has really got to want to do it. Part of this depends on what the psychologists call “self efficacy”; the individuals own impression their ability to make the change. I honestly believe that most of my Coaching work has genuinely made a difference to the individuals I have worked with, but the odd one where it hasn’t worked so well, I have pondered on how much that individual really wanted to make the change, and how much did I explore that with them right at the start? In the classic Coaching question; “On a scale of 1-10 how much do you want the change?”

There’s the old adage “if at first you don’t succeed” and I think that applies to a lot of whether people make the change they have identified they want to work on. In behaviour change models, the potential to slide back or “recidivism” is very strong. I liken it to a game of snakes and ladders; you end up at the top of the board, but not before you have slid down many snakes on the way. Whether its snakes and ladders as a metaphor or something else, I find mental pictures are a strong support image to holding onto the desired changes, when it feels like you have slipped again……

Forming Habits

“Habits are at first cobwebs, then cables” is an old Spanish proverb. Of course, this cuts both ways. If they are healthy habits, then that’s good. But trying to change existing behaviour can take several weeks, and sometimes months, depending on what it is, and how entrenched it is. A client I worked with some time ago got anonymous feedback that his meetings were long and boring, and that he took too long to get to the point. He created a list of “golden rules” for his diary on “dos” and “don’ts”, put a sign on the back of his door, and asked people he worked with to tell him if he wasn’t following them. Another client working on confidence issues used some CBT (cognitive behavioural techniques) asking themselves “how bad on a scale of 1-10 is it?” and “what would my friends say” to review situations where they “crumpled” and felt they had let themselves down. The first individual got regular feedback that meetings are better, and more focussed; the second a more gradual improvement, with several slides “down the snakes”.

Me? I have my fitness chart up on the wall, the new year beckons, the glass is half full (has anybody done research on how many new years resolutions get kept?), I have entered a 10k run, and the Phoenix Trail beckons…..


If you want to read through an article on Top Tips for Positive Personal Conditioning it’s attached, and is a good read, that hopefully will set a few ideas going.