Book boosts behavior change

Posted: Sunday, January 12, 2003

We are now 12 days into 2003. How are you doing on your New Year's resolutions?

Do you need a boost in getting started on your journey of behavior change?

In the book, "Self-Directed Behavior: Self-Modification for Personal Adjustment," authors David Watson and Roland Tharp say, "To think clearly enough to change your own behavior, to know exactly where you are going, you have to take into consideration both the specific behaviors to be changed and the specific situations in which they occur. Together they describe your goal."

Watson and Tharp suggest eight tactics to help you specify your goals that may give you direction for beginning change.

Tactic one: To help you specify behaviors and situations write out a detailed example of the problem. Include the setting, how the behavior unfolds and your thoughts and feelings.

Tactic two: Make a list of the details of your problem. From this list, select those that appear critical to the solution of the problem.

Tactic three: Observe yourself behaving in different situations. Keep narrative notes of behaviors related to the problem.

Tactic four: Always increase some desirable behavior. Watson and Tharp mention, "You can't just get rid of a behavior: Something always pops up in its place. There is no such thing as a behavioral vacuum. Therefore, you have to develop an alternative behavior to replace one you want to get rid of."

Tactic five: List the chain of events that will successfully lead you to your goal. Knowing what events need to take place for desired behavior will help avoid the chain of events that lead to undesired behavior. If you can't figure out what chain of events would lead to your goal, move on to the next tactic.

Tactic six: When possible, observe others successfully doing what you are trying to do. If the behavior occurs where you can't observe, ask the successful person specifically what the chain of events are that lead to the desired behavior.

Tactic seven: Brainstorm possible solutions to the problem.

Tactic eight: Recognize that reaching your goal will require changing, perhaps removing or adding certain behaviors.

Watson and Tharp encourage, "Start observing yourself, and do it over a relatively long period of time. You will begin to see relationships between what you do (or don't do) and the goal you want to reach. You'll notice patterns. Try to find the answer to two questions: 1) what acts do I perform, what thoughts do I have, that keep me from reaching my goal, and 2) what behaviors do I need to develop in order to reach my goal?"

"Self-Directed Behavior: Self-Modification for Personal Adjust-ment" is textbook-like in format. This book is for people who are serious about changing behavior. What I have shared is just a sampling of information presented in the book.

Linda Tannehill is an agent at the Alaska Cooperative Extension Office. She is a home economist and involved in the 4-H/Youth Develop-ment programs. The Kenai Pen-insula District Extension Office is at 43961 Kalifornsky Beach Road, Suite A, Soldotna, AK. The phone number is 262-5824 or toll-free at (800) 478-5824.

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