1. Knowing what to do is not the same as doing it. Even if you have given good advice, even if your clients agree with you and are strongly motivated strongly motivated to follow it—none of this means that they will start behaving this way. It’s because most situations in life don't allow for reflection and conscious decision-making. In the flow of performing or in a busy workplace, things often happen so fast that there’s little time to consider options. Most of the time, deeply ingrained habits kick in. People do things the way they usually do them—without thinking. If you want clients to consistently do something differently, they’ll need to ingrain your recommendations as a new habit.
2. It takes a lot of repetitions to rewire the brain for a new habit or skill. This is because ingrained skills and behavior patterns are triggered by neural pathways—interconnected brain cells related to the behavior. When any behavior is repeated often enough over time, the brain cells involved in the action will be stimulated to grow together. Once all the brain cells are interconnected, the habit will be ingrained. Only then will the new behavior pattern kick in automatically.
NOTE: This is true of positive, desired behavior patterns AND negative patterns such as bad habits. The brain doesn't know the difference. This is simply how the brain works.
3. Most people get discouraged and quit before they can rewire their brains. Because the new way isn't a habit yet, at first your clients will often forget to do it. Instead, the old habits will kick in. Even if your clients make a conscious effort, in the early stages their effort will be unpracticed and feel awkward. These failures are an inevitable part of the behavior change process and can be quite discouraging. The disappointment clients feel is what I call “the crunch point." Many of them conclude that what you’re asking them to do doesn’t feel right and may not work for them. So they give up trying and fall back on what's comfortable. However, if they persist, eventually their success rate will improve as the new skill begins to wire itself. Then the skill will get easier and ultimately, the new pattern will become the default way of behaving. The effort to rewire the brain to improve a behavior pattern can take from three weeks to three years, depending on the complexity of the old pattern and how long it has been ingrained.
4. It's hard for anyone to make it through the rewiring process without coaching. It makes a big difference to have someone who cares enough about your clients’ success to give feedback, coaching, encouragement and accountability. This is the real reason they need you—to be there over the long haul to help them work through the crunch point and ingrain the new behaviors.
5. Core strength is always a component of success. Even if a client ingrains a new habit, without personal strengths and strong people skills the new behavior pattern may not be enough to bring success. Adversity is a fact of life; without patterns of personal strength, skill alone probably won't be enough to prevail. And nearly everything we do involves others. Being a skilled communicator is worth its weight in gold. So your client needs to be strong in these ways, too.
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Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2012. Building Personal Strength .