Health & Wellness Articles

4 Steps to Lasting Behavioral Change

Learn From Your Own Experience

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In the strategy stage, the core skill is creative thinking. If you decide that something needs to change, the most effective way to determine what kind of change will work is to imagine what things will be like after you have made the changes. Work backwards from there to figure out the particular steps you need to take in order to get from where you were to this new imagined place. Think of it as a creative form of reverse engineering.

In the action stage, the core skill is process thinking, an often-neglected aspect of effective problem solving. You are probably used to solving problems by thinking in terms of different outcomes: burning x number of calories instead of y; increasing your exercise heart rate from 60% to 70%; staying at the low end of your calorie range instead of the middle or high end, and so on. But deciding that a particular change is what needs to happen isn’t the same thing as successfully making that change. To follow through may require knowing how to find the extra time needed, digging a little deeper to find the motivation and perseverance to get through the discomforts, and changing your priorities and values, if necessary. Process thinking is about becoming your own best motivator, coach, cheerleader and fan, all rolled into one. And that means getting to know yourself well enough to know what works for you and what doesn’t.

One good way to begin working on all these skills is by keeping a certain kind of journal, where you focus on simply observing your own reactions to, and the results you get from, different behaviors and strategies. Another of my articles, The Before-During-After Journal, offers some suggestions on how to go about doing this.
This article is Step 10 in SparkPeople's Mind Over Body series, a 10-step program to ending emotional eating and creating a permanent healthy lifestyle. View the full series here.
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About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.

Member Comments

    One of the best, intelligently written articles on Sparkpeople. Well done. - 6/19/2016 7:55:39 AM
  • ASF220
    This article really resonated with me. I'm going to translate my proven praxis skills into various areas of my life; including my career and job search.
    Thanks! - 1/25/2015 10:15:12 AM
  • I will be using these concepts for more than weight loss! - 10/18/2014 4:18:21 PM
  • Knowing the actual steps involved in this type of behavior change (Praxis), with an explanation of the how's and why's is exactly what I need to make changes. I will apply this process to more areas of my life than weight loss. THANK YOU! - 5/20/2014 1:20:42 PM
  • example would be helpful - 3/22/2014 4:30:17 AM
  • The best, most educational article I've read in a long time! - 10/31/2013 10:44:51 AM
  • ELLY2017
    Praxis! Fantastic method for doing the work I need to do to achieve my goals. Praxis! The word alone can be a good anchor to help us me through difficult days. - 7/12/2013 10:59:23 PM
    I like the concept of the Before-After-Duri
    ng journal for writing the techniques or combinations that we try. I especially like that term then just a food journal. I've always found those to demotivate me. - 1/2/2013 11:49:55 AM
  • This is a great article! I agree that weighing yourself is the opposite of being mindful of the changes taking place within your body; in fact, the scale is a BIG DISTRACTION and makes it almost impossible to focus on what's really important. - 8/7/2012 12:16:01 PM
  • Oh ! I like the "dig deeper for motivation" statement! i NEED TO REMEMBER THAT ! - 6/25/2012 9:10:54 PM
  • I've known for a long time that the key to healthy mind, body, and spirit is mindful awareness, not only of the inner world, but also how one is affected by the external world. Know Thyself. Accepting "what is" is the first step in making any change, and to know "what is" requires keen, non-judgmental observation and honest, objective, fearless self evaluation.

    ..the ability to respond. The crucial question becomes how to respond appropriately and with tender, loving self-care. - 6/8/2012 5:46:05 PM
    This article has produced a series of "Aha" moments for me. Thank you so much for taking the time to write it and for giving us a toolbox full of amazing tools! - 1/27/2012 9:41:00 AM
  • This is the first time Ive been ready to analyze my behavior and make the neede changes to become more healthier. Thanks for an excellent article. - 12/11/2011 2:44:00 PM
  • Great piece! Has some really broad applications. Thank you. - 12/11/2011 1:04:17 PM
  • Thank you so much. Coach Dean, for this article. It's exactly what I needed in this run up to Christmas when I have slipped quite badly. It's the ideal way to look at what I'm doing and to send me on my way with greater purpose - and with more understanding of that purpose. I will be looking at all the others in your series too. - 12/11/2011 11:55:54 AM

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