Monday, October 24, 2011

Get Past the 'Crunch Point' - The Key to Changing Behavior

What's the "crunch point"?

Say you're trying to change the way you eat. Or maybe you're trying to quit smoking. Or maybe you'd like to cut back on alcohol. Or you're just trying to change the way you do something.

The problem is, you already do it a certain way and have been doing it that way for a long time. By now, it's an ingrained habit, which means that brain cells are physically wired in a circuit that enables the old habit. So during the ordinary course of events, you'll do things the old way automatically, without thinking.

To change the habit, you have to catch yourself when you're about to do it the old way, and then decide to do something different, something better. Not just once, but time after time. Because it takes dozens of repetitions of the new behavior to rewire your brain. And if you don't rewire your brain, the old habit will remain and govern your behavior.

But there's a problem. Because the old habit is already ingrained, and the new one isn't, you'll forget a lot. Or you won't carry out the new way effectively. You'll fail most of the time, and you'll get discouraged. You may think it's too hard and not working, so why not just relax and fall back on what seems to come natural - the old way.

THIS IS THE CRUNCH POINT. You could give up. Stop trying. Which means that you'll fall off the wagon, you won't lose the weight, you'll start smoking regularly again, you'll have another drink, or you'll continue with the bothersome way of doing things. Every year, the crunch point causes millions of people to give up on their efforts to create healthier, more effective habits.

The key is to keep trying, even though you're failing most of the time. Push past the crunch point. Because the more you do something, the easier it gets. The repetitions will eventually cause your brain to rewire itself.

This will help...

1. Remember the crunch point. It helps to realize that early difficulty and frustration are natural, and that you just have to push past it.

2. Just keep trying. Every time you do the right thing, your brain is stimulated to rewire itself. Remember that you need to repeat the action dozens of times before it becomes an ingrained habit.

3. Acknowledge incremental progress. At the crunch point, you're probably doing it right only 10% of the time. Keep trying and take note when your success rate climbs to 20%, then 30%. After a while, you'll be doing it right 90% of the time, and higher.

4. Get friends to coach you and encourage you.

Don't let discouragement defeat you. Remember that failure is a natural part of the process of changing behavior.

Video about this...

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2011. Building Personal Strength . (Permission to use image purchased from


Sarcastic Bastard said...

This is very helpful, Denny. I am still struggling to incorporate some form of regular physical exercise into my life. It's like pulling teeth.

Love you mucho,


swaggerland said...

This has been really helpful thanks.

Unknown said...

Elegant write up......I pray people should learn from this JZK.