The Challenge of Behavior Change

Anyone who has ever made a resolution to get more exercise, to waste less time on Facebook, or to become more organized about their work already knows that it is incredibly hard to change our behavior. Once a behavior has become a habit or a part of our routine, it’s very difficult to replace that habit with something new.

Why is it so hard to change our habits?
If my goal is to get fitter, and I have the equipment, time, and motivation to do so, why is it so hard to stick to a goal like going running twice a week? I might manage my goal for a few weeks, but if I’m like most people then I won’t maintain the new habit in the long term. Even when I know that the new habit will make me feel better and will make me happier overall, it’s still tough to maintain.

The problem is that as humans, we are far less rational than we like to believe. We’d like to think that when we’re presented with clear evidence that a particular action is possible and would make us happier, then of course we’d change our habits. But in truth, we don’t weigh choices rationally. In a previous blog post we talked about an experiment where kids would rather eat one marshmallow now than wait ten minutes and get two marshmallows. It might surprise you to learn that adults do much the same thing. An experiment at New York University offered adults a choice: they could receive $20 now or wait a month and receive more money then. The majority of people chose to have the $20 now, even though they would have received more money if they had waited. The essential problem is that, as human beings, we are bad at weighing our future happiness against our immediate desires.

How can we influence our own behavior?
Given this problem, what can we do to change our behavior? There are two main approaches to this issue:

Firstly, we can get more information about the issue. In the case of exercise, we could learn more about the health benefits of exercise and how it could improve our life. Information like this can provide long term motivation in setting goals, but given that we do not make decisions rationally, it might not be so helpful in getting us out the door for a run right this minute.

The other approach to behavior change is to provide incentives. These can be either positive, like getting a reward for completing a new habit, or negative, like giving money away when you don’t complete the habit. Both positive and negative incentives can be effective, so it’s best to use a combination of the two. It also helps to keep us engaged if these incentives are fun and immediately rewarding.

The role of the environment

If you want to make new habits, there’s something important to understand about human psychology and how it applies to behavior change, and that is the role of the environment. People often think of humans as being “brains first” or “genetics first,” as if there is a core real “us” which is placed into the world. But this isn’t the case. Rather, our brains (and our minds) develop in response to our environment. Your brain and your mind are profoundly affected by the world around you – to such an extent that if you were taken completely out of your environment, you wouldn’t be “you” for much longer.

Instead of thinking of yourself as a pre-formed brain which should make rational decisions based on self-interest (which is not a helpful way to think when you’re trying to change your behavior) think of yourself as a bundle of intentions which responds to environmental cues. Information comes from the environment, it enters our brains, we respond to this information through behavior, and behavior drives outcomes.

Practical advice
What does this mean in practice? What actions can you take to make it more likely that you’ll stick to your new habits? Here are a few suggestions to promote behavior change:

  • Remove “pain points” to make it easy to do the right thing. For example, have your running gear washed, ready, and in one place, and leave your running shoes by the door. Then whenever you do want to go for a run you won’t be put off by the hassle of finding your gear.
  • Put physical reminders in your environment. For example, if you want to work on your finances each morning then put your accounting book on top of the papers on your desk. You’ll have to physically pick up the book to get to your desk so you’ll be reminded and incentivized to do your accounting.
  • Reward yourself for meeting your goals. The trick for this tip is to pick an appropriate reward. If you reward yourself for going running by eating fast food, then you’ll undo all of your good work. Instead, try something small like ticking a box or adding a sticker to your diary. It might sound childish, but a physical reminder of your progress like a sticker can be great motivation.
  • Related to this, do track your progress over the long term. For example, you could record how many days per week you do your accounting, or track how many miles you run each time. You’ll be able to see yourself improving over time, which will reinforce that each run adds towards your long term goal of getting fitter.
  • Get social support. One of the biggest factors in whether someone will be able to successfully quit smoking isn’t whether they use nicotine patches, or if they’re educated about health risks, or even whether they enjoy cigarettes – it’s whether they have support from their social circle. Having friends, family, and colleagues support you in your new behavior will be a big help in getting you to stick with it.

Next time, we’ll talk about perception and the ways that we perceive the environment around us – correctly and incorrectly. So check back soon for more.

Activate Success


The most successful people didn’t get where they are by accident; they had a plan, worked hard, and were rewarded with successful outcomes. Everyone’s definition of personal success is unique unto themselves, but what we can all agree on is that knowing where you are going and what to do is an important part of being successful.

Executing a plan that will lead to success comes from the goals you’ve already set for yourself. Your goals will ultimately lead you to achieve different objectives in your life, both personally and professionally, and often lead to greater feelings of success. This execution of the plan is the means by which we set out to accomplish these goals.

Step by step

Step by step, goals -and therefore success- are accomplished. You create a list of goals you wanted to achieve in various areas of your life that include physical, spiritual, family, friends, and finance/work goals. The hope is to align these goals with the passions you have in your life to create a happier, healthier, and more successful version of who you are today. These goals may not be able to be accomplished overnight, which is where the execution of the plan comes into play.

Setting goals based on passion and striving towards them with integrity doesn’t mean anything unless you keep at it. Failure happens, yet all too many people give up after failing to meet their goals. Some passions are harder to integrate into your life, just as some goals are harder to accomplish. Not giving up is an essential part of finding success.

Making a plan

Making a plan to accomplish your goals means evaluating them and knowing what you need to do to check those goals off your list. If you’re looking to change careers or get promoted in your current job, who do you need to network with? What other training or tasks can you do to improve your chances? Do you need another recommendation or perhaps networking in a new industry?

Your plan will change, which is just as frustrating as coming up against a perceived failure when trying to reach your goals. Rolling with the changes and re-evaluating your plan can help keep you in touch with what you’re trying to accomplish and spark the passion you have for the things you’re doing in your life.

Our goals are the lighthouse, and failures are the waves that keep us out of sight of our passions and goals. Failure happens, but we can always use the lighthouse to navigate our way towards our goals even if we get a bit off course.

Jung opened up an entirely new world with his discoveries, and discoveries into the psychology of personality and the self are still being made today. Insights Discovery is based squarely on Jung’s theories, and as such is an invaluable tool in helping people understand themselves and others. Schedule me, Scott Schwefel, as your keynote speaker, and I will come to your group and address the differences in personalities in a truthful, fun, and easy-to-understand way. Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to share my blogs with the color energies you work with!

Intentional Connection


Intentionally connecting with people spanning the range of the four color personalities can make your personal and professional lives run that much smoother. Understanding the details of good communication and adapting your behaviors towards other people can not only improve business environments but completely alter your interpersonal interactions with people you know and those whom you’ve just met.

Adapting and connecting to other people is the hallmark of the four color personalities. Knowing where you fit on the personality spectrum gives you a firm foundation for beginning to build strong connections with others. As you get to know them better, you can adapt your personality and style of communication to better fit their character strengths.

How to successfully engage

Successfully engaging others in meetings, one on one interactions, and during presentations can dramatically alter how you interact with the people around you. Using the strengths of each of the four color personalities, you can create lasting partnerships and open communication with the people around you.

Sunshine Yellow personalities are open and sociable. They are very relationally-driven and value the connection they have with other people. Taking time to establish a relationship opens the door for further cooperation and communication with all of the color personalities you may find around you. Working with a Sunshine Yellow personality will be the most successful if a relationship and rapport are established before any discussion of projects or work tasks comes about.

Earth Green personalities show others the importance of a listening ear. Rather than listening out of one ear and mentally forming your next response, seek to actively listen and hear what the other person is saying. This ensures that both parties are on the same page when it comes to projects or business arrangements and that the Earth Green personality doesn’t feel ignored.

Establishing a relationship

The third step of most communications is discussing what you need or what you want. In business this could be help, partnership, or requesting information from someone else. Demanding what you need right off the bat isn’t always conducive to a successful relationship with your employees or co-workers. Fiery Red personalities are very direct when they need to get something done.

Finally, Cool Blue personalities are strong when it comes to discussing things logically and rationally. Use these skills when negotiating or when discussing potential problems and solutions to current work projects. These skills are highly important when finalizing work details and when preserving open lines of communication with business relationships in the future.

Jung opened up an entirely new world with his discoveries, and discoveries into the psychology of personality and the self are still being made today. Insights Discovery is based squarely on Jung’s theories, and as such is an invaluable tool in helping people understand themselves and others. Schedule me, Scott Schwefel, as your keynote speaker, and I will come to your group and address the differences in personalities in a truthful, fun, and easy-to-understand way. Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to share my blogs with the color energies you work with!