One of my first corporate clients was a VP of HR at a healthcare organization. She asked a colleague and I to build an employee survey for her management team. During the process, she requested that she didn’t want the questions to “make the employees think.”
Her rationale? She only wanted them to respond to questions for fear that questions that made them think would cause the managers not to fill out the survey. While we appreciated her sentiment, the questions we were developing sought feedback; which, naturally would require them to think.
I often think of that situation. Since that time, my experience in corporate change management and individual coaching can appreciate her perspective (albeit misguided and limited to a survey) and the drain that occurs when continuously thinking before and during behavior changes.
The concern isn’t about having a decision or thinking, but reducing the number of conscious decisions you make during the change
Reduce your Decision Points
The process of change requires you to think, but the more you think about something the more mentally drained you become. When it comes to behavior change, your conscious thinking of your plans, actions, how to navigate the environment is taxing. The more times a day you have to consciously decide on the right decision during the change, the more likely you are to make the wrong choice.
Research has shown that the more times you have to make a decision contrary to your normal behaviors, the more likely you will make the wrong decision for that behavior or you will acquiesce on other decisions because you are tired. When you are tired, you just react to what comes naturally rather than the behaviors that will lead to your change.
Take an example of parents coaching their kids to clean their room. They might remind their kids on a continuous basis, but to do it every day is draining. In frustration, parents may sit back and give up, thinking, Let their room be dirty.” The everyday reminders aren’t worth it.
When you are changing your routines and behaviors, you are consciously and continuously thinking about the change. Successful behavior changes I’ve experienced reduced the number of decisions they made by doing the following:
- Plan Ahead – planning for situations where the behavior change would occur and minimizing the number of situations and instances when they had to consciously think about doing the right thing.
- Set Realistic Expectations – behavior change even when planning for situations it occurs, is hard to follow every day at first. Successful individuals in change were consistent in their behavior and did not beat themselves up when they did not. They refocused for the next opportunity.
- Support – when a decision needed to be made, those who were successful had a support system to reinforce and support the right decision. Surrounding yourself with a support system of your goals creates an environment where success is more likely to occur.
How can you reduce the number of your decisions surrounding your behavior change for success?
Dr. Ian Brooks