Knowing does NOT equal doing when it comes to creating lasting behavior change
Today, we will spend some time talking about difference between knowing and doing when it comes to lasting behavior change. We will talk about something you can do to make the transition from knowing to doing including creating awareness, identifying beliefs about yourself, creating a supportive environment, and maintaining consistency. Let’s go!
Recently, I have been baking holiday cookies and they are constantly around my kitchen and in my line of vision. I find myself eating cookies ALL the time. In the morning with my tea, before dinner, and for dessert. I find myself mindlessly eating them even though I am not hungry. I know that I don’t want to be eating them, but I continue to eat the damn cookies. It’s because they are delicious and are offering me some sense of comfort. Knowing that if I keep eating the cookies will lead to weight gain, make me have low energy, and feel sluggish isn’t quite enough to stop me from eating the cookies. It’s recognizing that the cookies are bringing me a sense of comfort and relief which I have prioritized during a particularly difficult time at my day job.
I know we all have examples of doing a behavior that we KNOW we don’t want to be doing. Whether it be eating too much, smoking, drinking too much alcohol, not sleeping or exercising enough. The effects of all of these things have been well studied, so most of us KNOW the consequences. Having that knowledge isn’t enough to stop us from doing that behavior.
Knowing doesn’t equal doing!!
Knowledge/Knowing. Gaining knowledge is easier than changing a habit. Gaining knowledge will help us understand why something is important and necessary for our life. It does not require more effort than the learning part. Knowing WHAT to do, does not change the BEHAVIOR.
DOING requires that extra step of initiating the steps and creating a plan to achieve the goal you want. It requires effort and consistency. Emotions like being tired, angry, stressed, anxious, overwhelm – may all make it difficult to make the changes occur.
Now that we have talked about the difference between knowing and doing, what are the next steps to making a lasting change? What are some things you can do today to start the transition from knowing to doing?
Awareness. What is it you want to be doing?
Identify the habit that you want to change. Decide if this habit is something positive in your life and will bring you closer to the goa or negative and will bring you further away from your goal? It will be hard to change a habit if you are unable to identify its impact on your life. What habits are you doing that are helping you achieve your goals? What habits are making it harder for you to achieve your goals?
It’s hard to change the habit if you’ve never changed the underlying beliefs of your past behavior. True behavior change comes with having a change in your identity. James Clear Atomic Habits.
What you believe about yourself will have an effect on making the behaviors last longer than just a few times. You may be able to change a behavior for a few days, but not able to maintain the behavior if It doesn’t align with the belief you have in yourself.
If you identify as someone who doesn’t like to exercise than it will be harder for you to make that new habit of exercising stick if you continue to be someone who identifies as not liking to exercise. Even though you want to exercise, you may not prioritize because you don’t believe you can or won’t be motivated enough to maintain it.
How do you start to align the behavior you want and your identity? You choose the habit and repeat the behavior consistently. The HABIT will help transform your identity. The more you repeat the behavior the more that behavior bring you close to who you want to become. The action of doing the behavior will create the identity you want, and you will start to believe that you can do it and who you are becoming. The more evidence you present to yourself that you can do something, the more you will be more likely to change the habit.
Align your environment to support the goal you are trying to achieve. It may be harder over the long term to maintain will power and motivation. Creating an environment that is positive and supportive to your goal will work better for lasting change. It may be a lot easier to avoid temptation altogether than to have to resist it. The goal is to make the environment more conducive to what the behavior is you want to achieve. Examples include:
If you want to eat healthy and your goal is to not eat junk food, then the best way to avoid that is to not have junk food lying around where you have access to it.
If you want to make exercise a priority, have your work-out clothes and sneakers out where you can see them so that you can exercise in the morning or the evening.
If you want to make sure you get 8 hours of sleep, then create an environment conducive to sleep like having a dark cool room, evening ritual, and staying away from social media.
All of these are ways to make your environment conducive to DOING the new habit.
Consistency – not perfection.
Consistently doing the behavior you desire is the key to long lasting behavior change. It’s the act of the behavior not how good it is done that matters. Consistency is what helps create a habit and provide motivation in times when it all feels hard. The behavior doesn’t have to perfect it needs to be completed. Aim for consistency and completion, not perfection.
Most of us know what to do but don’t know how to start the doing. We rely on motivation to keep us going not considering that motivation fades as time goes on. This journey into changing behavior will take time, consistency, effort, and determination. It will require you to become aware of your beliefs, align them with your identity of who you wish to become, create an environment conducive to habits, and be consistent in your actions. It may be messy and hard, but it’s not about being perfect, it’s about being 1% better each day. Thank you for listening.