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Modifying behavior in 3 steps (Part 2: The Eight Weeks)

Did you do your homework?

From the first article on Modifying Behavior in 8 weeks, we talked about the stages of change: pre-contemplation, contemplation, determination/preparation, action, and relapse-maintenance. Some people get stuck at pre-contemplation, others take years to contemplate, and many, many others progress to the stage of relapse-maintenance where they face temptations (that hopefully reduce over the years) at the least imagined places (mostly conjured by their minds, the greatest traitor of all!).

By now, armed with the awesome feeling of knowing stuff, you should have some items ready: your motivation to change (written in the most specific manner), what you want to change, and what you hope to morph into.

See how it gets narrowed from a general behavior change: “I want to stop farting” into “I want to stop farting at my 7PM dinner”.

Step 1: Identifying the before (Week 1)

This is where the most action occurs at the least interesting stage. Observe, observe, observe, what you do to ignite the specific behavior. Some questions to consider:

1. What happens before?

2. What happens after?

3. How often?

4. What benefits do you get out of it?

5. How and when do you intend to start your modification?

6. What obstacles do you foresee?

This stage is important because the equation is simple — the more you strive, the more results you reap! Isn’t it gratifying? So much simpler than all other areas of life, where you could slave like a horse but be rewarded with puny lumps of sugar as treats (I bet they prefer juicy carrots! Or just a larger stall with air-conditioning).

(Don’t blame me for sounding like a drag, blame the politics in Malaysia: those who come across this article in year 2287 to research Malaysian history, google “Funniest cases of politics in Malaysia, late February, 2020)

Look at how the picture example answers questions 1 to 4. Interesting twist, the made-up owner of the behavior has some control and attentional issues.

A good example of how a person can keep committed to the behavioral plan by having specific steps taken. Even better if selected timings are involved.

Here we see punishments involved in the behavioral plan. Tip: never include a reward that you are not quite interested in. Only select those that will keep you motivated!

Step 2: Doing the work (Week 2 to Week 7)

Well, what we talked about before? Just do it.

Get yourself accountable if you can’t; tell someone exactly why you still need to fart at dinner time, perhaps some other factors may turn up. I kind of (perversely) enjoy this stage because no matter how much you thought you knew yourself, you never do. Like that time you convinced yourself that the roller-coaster at Resorts World Sentosa was perfectly within your capability to handle but you forgot that age and that yummy pisang goreng you had got the better of you. Hello, partially digested goreng pisang goreng flying about in the air!

Then it’s back to the drawing board (don’t worry, you don’t have to start again, just keep at it) to modify your plan slightly and keep the motivation going!

It’s a good idea to include rewards for each milestone within the weeks to remind yourself that your goal is worthwhile (as long as it’s not pisang goreng, that is!).

Step 3: The aftermath (Week 8)

I know. The name sounds like a cheap-B-grade movie you saw in August when there are no acceptable movies to watch anymore. Before you turn your nose up at this stage, it is where you cut back on all rewards, punishments, and motivational pep-talks in front of the mirror to see if what you worked at is going to succeed.

Congratulations if you do!

And fear not, mere mortals, even the best of us don’t miraculously morph into the perfect butterfly within one try.

Next up: Co-dependency, and how it messes people up.

*goreng pisang: delectable bananas coated with flour and then deep-fried (you can’t go through life without trying it at least once)