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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Bari Levine

Strategies for Behavior Change

The first step towards meaningful change is identifying what is important to you and the tangible steps you can take to achieve it. But, despite what G.I. Joe said, knowing is not half the battle. You actually have to do the work, take the next steps, to feel a difference.

Fortunately, there are a few strategies to help us start and keep going. You've likely heard and maybe even employed these tools before. Or, if you're like me, you may have brushed them off as too obvious to be useful. But experience has shown me that these tactics work.

Monitoring. Consistently tracking what we eat, or when we work out, is more valuable information than a program from the most credentialed nutritionist or pro athletic trainer. The mere act of monitoring and becoming aware of a current habit can itself lead to change. It can also help to identify triggers for bad habits, obstacles to change and links between behavior and physical or emotional well-being. So grab a pen and paper, or one of the many tracking apps available, and start paying attention.

Scheduling. Knowing when you will perform desired behaviors is not merely an exercise in time-management, it can also help determine the best way to incorporate the change into your day. For example, consider tying a new habit to an existing habit like brushing your teeth after putting your children to bed to avoid late night snacking, or taking a weekly conference call outside to get more steps. The more routine you make it, the easier it will be to stick with.

Accountability. Thinking about your goal will not bring it to fruition, you need to make it a priority. Sharing your goal with others, and expecting to be held accountable for your progress, utilizes social norms to further behavior change. This is one of the reasons wellness coaching has become so prevalent, it combines "empowerment-based self-management strategy" with regular check-ins. Accountability strategies include hiring a coach, joining an accountability group online, recruiting a friend to embark on the journey with you or using an app that makes you feel responsible (Duolingo is not a wellness app but it has a knack for guilting me into practicing each day).

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