Changing Behavior

Behavior can be thought of as a physical thing one does, such as a morning routine. At the same time, it can also be likened to a non-physical process, such as replaying negative thoughts in our heads all day long. A few of our behaviors are instinctual and built-in, while the rest are learned through satisfying our moment-to-moment needs. What this all means is that many times our behaviors are motivated by our needs. So, when we have negative behaviors and we want to change them, we find it isn’t always so easy because these learned behaviors that we exhibit are actually rather complex. So, how can we go about changing behavior? With one step at a time.

What motivates us?

There are two types of motivation that move us to action based on perceived positive/negative feedback–the motivation to approach something and the motivation to avoid something. When we desire something, we are motivated to approach or pursue it based on receiving positive reinforcement or feedback. When we avoid something or flee, we are motivated to avoid it due to the belief that we will receive negative reinforcement or feedback. This is pretty simple. We understand that when we eat something sweet, most of us have a pleasant experience and, conversely, when we eat something sour, our faces pucker and we try to avoid that experience again (negative mental feedback).

What’s funny is that “the thing” doesn’t create that behavior, we do. It’s brain chemistry, plain and simple. Some people yearn for that adrenaline rush of jumping out of an airplane. It’s exhilarating, and they repeat it again and again because it has a positive effect (mental feedback again) on them. They desire that feeling and are motivated to seek that experience. Some people, however, are the complete reverse. They avoid even the thought of setting foot on an airplane, let alone purposely jumping out of one. Did the airplane create these behaviors? No! Statisticians have said time and again how safe airline travel is when compared other forms of mechanized travel. No, we learn these behaviors. Our behaviors and motivations, therefore, stem from the experiences (physical and perceived) we have with things, experiences, tastes, smells, thoughts, etc. They all influence our own personal thoughts and behaviors.

Changing behavior through practice

So how can we change our behaviors? Start with your changing how you think. A change in your mental perceptions about a thing can be the deciding difference between your pursue/avoid responses.

Let’s look at an example specifically related to your business. Say you want to become a strong public speaker but you are petrified of standing in front of people. How can you overcome this fear, build confidence, perform, and knock it out of the park? You have to change your behavior so that you are motivated to approach public speaking effortlessly without turning into a sweaty mess. In other words, you have to change that inner voice giving you negative feedback into one that is positive and supportive. It’s when we combat personal fears that we begin to turn the tide. The following points cover a few ways to begin:

Practice, practice, practice

Anything you try for the first time will be clumsy and awkward, maybe even difficult. By practicing that speech over and over again we begin to change the conversation. You want it to be so engrained in you that it flows off your tongue as if it were just another story you are telling a friend. By making the speech your own you build confidence to speak to several friends or a small group. That confidence begins to form other associations with the thing you were in fear of.

Shaping the conversation

Practice your speech and ask your audience (family members, friends, mentor, coach) for feedback. Try giving the same information several different ways. Break down the speech into bits and mix it up. As you gain feedback and experience with the content you can be correcting your approach and delivery until you shape your presentation and performance.

Chaining it together

Very good and effective speeches, keynote talks, and sales pitches are complex. They are made up of many components designed to get you to the end result you desire–sell a product or service, share a thought or program, build rapport with your audience, create new clients. Whatever your end result is, your speech has to be built on a framework. All the individual parts need to work together to create the desired effect. Chaining is a way you piece it together so there is a natural flow, a rhythm that mesmerizes the audience.

Think about a really good comedian who gets up on stage and tells little stories for the whole set and the last story wraps up and circles back to the first story. Perfect chaining like this brings the evening to a close so naturally you’re not quite sure what just happened. This type of experience moves you to give a standing ovation because you were mesmerized by how good he/she was. The result of that evening stemmed from hours of practice, the shaping of each story or joke, and then masterfully chaining them all together to provide that perfect experience.

While these examples are specific to one particular situation, they can be applied in a variety of situations–from creating the perfect employee reviews to leading meetings with strength and determination. By using these techniques, you can start to change those old behaviors that you don’t want and trade them out for a new one that you do want. Whatever you want to change, practice your new desired behavior, shape the new behavior by approaching it in different ways and ask for feedback all the while tweaking it, chain all the components of the new skills you are now mastering together and you’re on the way to successfully changing your behavior.

Hiring a business coach can greatly benefit your leadership team and company employees. Unlock Limits Coaching specializes in individual and group coaching. Contact us today to set up a time to talk about how we can help your team.


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