When it comes to behavior change on the Internet, there is no shortage of information highlighting and dissecting the challenges that stand in the way of long-term success changing behavior. Bloggers, scholars, scientists, psychologists, psychiatrists, marketers, corporations, government agencies, non-profits—even your friends and an ever-growing group of people who have no idea what they’re talking about—all have something to add to the conversation about successful behavior change. Some are helpful. Some are not. The trick is sifting through all of the fodder about behaviors and attitudes to uncover the hidden nuggets of useful behavior change info.
So when I stumbled across one of these rare gems buried among the videos of adorable kittens, celebrity photos and endless clips of humans humorously injuring themselves, I knew I had struck Google Gold and it was something worth passing along.
This top-ten list of behavior change mistakes and misconceptions comes from the Stanford Persuasive Tech Lab, a branch of the university’s Human Sciences and Technologies Advanced Research Institute that focuses on the role of computers in behavior change and persuasion. It’s a simple yet succinctly insightful list of the top 10 behavior change mistakes people make, as well as quick tips to remedy and address behavior change mistakes:
#1: Relying on willpower for long-term change
Imagine willpower doesn’t exist. That’s the first step to a brighter future.
#2: Attempting big leaps instead of baby steps
Seek tiny successes—one after another.
#3: Ignoring how environment shapes behaviors
Change your context and you change your life.
#4: Trying to stop old behaviors instead of creating new ones
Focus on action, not avoidance.
#5: Blaming failures on lack of motivation
Solution: Make the behavior easier to do.
#6: Underestimating the power of triggers
No behavior happens without a trigger.
#7: Believing that information leads to action
We humans aren’t so rational.
#8: Focusing on abstract goals more than concrete behaviors
Abstract: Get in shape . . . Concrete: Walk 15 min. today
#9: Seeking to change behaviors forever, not for a short time
A fixed period works better than “forever”
#10: Assuming that behavior change is difficult
Behavior change is not so hard when you have the right process
As people who have set and met or fell short of our own behavior change goals, or made similar behavior change mistakes, this list can help us avoid the more common failure-inducing pitfalls. But as professionals whose goal it is to change behavior, to persuade and create communications that inspire and encourage the audience to take action, it can be even more useful.
It essentially gives us ten different ways to talk to people about behavior change. Some behavior change mistakes we’ve maybe thought about before. Others are overdone. But chances are, there’s a pain point or two above that could potentially lead to a fresh way of framing extremely hard-to-sell information about behavior and attitudes change.
People tend to resist behavior change. This list and lists like it can have a big impact on helping them reach their goals, both directly with each tip and by providing added insight to the people trying to set the wheels of behavior change in motion on a grander scale—you just have to dig them out first.
Have any of your own lists, behavior change tips or inspirational stories to share?