For the longest time, I’d been trying to change my eating behaviour. And sometimes with a loving mum, that can be difficult…

With one of her widest smiles, my mum walked up to me and handed me a 3-pack Kinder Bueno box, knowing that I love chocolates. Most of the time, this would be a great thing, except that I recently put myself on a diet. The last time I happened to received a Kinder Bueno box from my mum, I placed it on the dining table in plain sight; the whole box was finished in a couple of days. This time, I was determined to resist it. With great willpower, I took the pack and placed it in my mum’s room.

A couple of days passed, and I had the urge to snack on something. Against my will, my body walked itself over to my mum’s room to get the Kinder Bueno, and fortunately, it was gone! Suddenly it occurred to me that I could snack on something else. I went to the kitchen and made some tea for myself, which interestingly enough, removed my urge to eat the chocolate.

Two Tips for Changing Behaviour

Behaviour Tip #1 – Reject or Accept, Don’t Resist

This episode reminded me of what someone shared with me on emotional intelligence. “Reject or Accept something, but never resist it”. Resisting is somewhat of an in-between; it is neither here nor there, yet takes up enormous amounts of energy.  Placing the Kinder Bueno on the dining table was a form of resisting, eventually resulting in my willpower breaking down and succumbing to the chocolate.

This is also applicable to work.  Ever resisted work that needs to be done?  It takes a hell lot more energy putting it off repeatedly rather than just getting it done, or rejecting it.

Ever had a request from a friend that you really didn’t want to agree to, so you decided to put off the decision to later? Realise how frustrating and tiring that was? That’s resisting. It would be easier to just reject up front.

So the first tip to changing behaviour is really to make up your mind; either accept or reject something to reduce the amount of resisting on your part.

Behaviour Tip #2 – Don’t Stop the Behaviour, Replace it

It is difficult to stop behaviours because the brain doesn’t recognise negatives. “Don’t think of a pink elephant”, and the first thing that comes into your mind is a pink elephant.  Think of a blue car, and the thought of a pink elephant disappears (until I mentioned it again!).

If you have a behaviour you’re determined to stop, you need to decide what behaviour you would like to replace it with. That needs to be decided on beforehand, so your brain won’t have to expend processing power to decide when the trigger comes.

Want to stop smoking? Decide beforehand what you would do in its place instead. Of course, quitting smoking is much more complicated than that, but this increases your chances by a huge margin!

Want to stop eating chocolates? Have some almonds or tea instead.

Often times, identifying the new behaviour to replace the old one can be challenging. Here’s where an understanding of your own talent themes comes in really handy.

When I was leading a group of youths in the past, I had some difficulty challenging them to move out of their comfort zone.  It was a real struggle because I felt every discomfort they felt. An understanding of my talent themes later revealed that it was my Empathy talent theme that was getting in the way. I found that when I tapped into my Developer talent theme instead and focused on what would help them to grow the most, I could now better challenge them.  I shifted my focus from what they were feeling, to how I can best develop them.

So there you have it – two quick tips on behavioural change. Where would you apply this knowledge in your own life?


About Alex Wong

Alex is a Strengths Enthusiast who is both a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, and a Certified Strategic Strengths Coach. His passion is in helping people grow into the best versions of themselves by appreciating and growing their innate talents. In his spare time, Alex is a hobbyist magician and a volunteer at his church Sunday school. Top 5 StrengthsFinder 2.0 Themes: Empathy, Individualisation, Developer, Strategic, Learner