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How to Effect Positive Change in Your Life

Updated on March 8, 2011

If you're unhappy with your life, change can seem overwhelming, but changing your life for the better can be as easy enough as using behavior modification techniques to break those bad habits that lower your self esteem and increase the positive behaviors you would like to increase.

  1. The first step in any program for change is always to identify the problem. Define explicitly what behavior you would like to change, and decide what you would like the end result to be. Studies have shown that trying to cease practicing a certain behavior is not as effective a motivator as setting one's sights on the ultimate goal: for example, rather than trying to stop biting your nails, decide that you'd like to maintain a neat manicure.
  2. Next, define how you will observe and measure your progress. It is important to set check-in points, such as when you wash your hands before each meal, when you will actively note whether or not you are adhering to your plan for change. In addition, there need to be observable degrees of progress (how many nails are unbitten or how long each nail is, for instance) so that the difference from one day to the next can be charted.
  3. Record baseline data-how often you bite your nails and when-without changing your behavior for a week. After all, you can't see progress if you don't know of where you started! Take note of the cues that precede the behavior, such as hunger, watching television, nervousness, and so on. Sometimes bringing awareness to the circumstances that prompt you to indulge in your bad habit can help you avoid the urges by anticipating what might trigger them.
  4. Now it's time to formulate a set plan to either increase or decrease the "target behavior," in specific terms. Like your start point and the progress checks, results must be quantifiable, to ensure that your goal is achievable, and that you will recognize when you've accomplished it. Commit to adding an hour of exercise time to your day, or to maintaining nails an eighth of an inch past the end of your nail bed.
  5. Choose an activity you enjoy to reinforce yourself when you do make positive change. Rewards can be as simple as treating yourself to dessert if you manage to keep your nails intact, or buying a new pair of shoes after a month of 60 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week. Pretty much any thing or activity you enjoy can be used as positive reinforcement. The key is to set incremental goals within the larger objective, and reward them, as steps in the right direction. (In psychological behavior modification research, rewarding these "successive approximations" of the target behavior has proven the most effective way to reach the ultimate goal.)
  6. After you've decided when and how to reward yourself, begin implementing changes in your daily life to bring you closer to your aim, and reinforce yourself according to those preset conditions. If you need accountability, find someone with whom you can check in at designated points to make sure you're not skimping on change and overloading on reward. At the same time, be sure that your smaller goals are not so hard to achieve that you become discouraged. Note and chart your progress in a notebook or on a spreadsheet. Seeing your progress on paper makes all the difference in perpetuating your motivation to continue towards your destination.

With these simple steps, you can effect the small changes, one by one, that make up the meat of the larger change you need in your personal pursuit of happiness. Little by little, you can transform your life and yourself to achieve a self-actualization specific to you, whatever that may be.


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    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 2 years ago

      Some great advice on how to get better at getting better. Be blessed.

    • Esther  Strong profile image

      Esther Strong 4 years ago from UK

      Great practical advice here.

    • FeliciaM profile image

      FeliciaM 6 years ago from Canada

      Thanks for the positive info on changes. Sometimes it can be all the things we shouldn't do so i like that this focused on what we can do! Your hubs are in inspiration!!

    • Daniela Daljac profile image

      Daniela Daljac 7 years ago from AUSTRALIA

      Great hub, thanks!

    • FloBe profile image

      FloBe 7 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      If we set a negative goal: "I'm NOT going to bite my nails" the brain focuses on "bite my nails" thus only instilling the bad habit even deeper. So, I like that you suggested we set positive goals which will actually enable the brain to learn a new habit.

    • profile image

      Christa 7 years ago

      I also write about life change, but I must admit that I did not think about the fact that the reason someone would want to make a change in his life is a problem. It makes sense as people don't like changes. So there must be some kind of a force to get them to think about a change and this force is a problem.

      I also like your system you offer here about how to build up the change.

    • kukuruyuk profile image

      kukuruyuk 7 years ago

      good tips. Love it, and thanks :)

    • profile image

      Tamarind 8 years ago

      Enjoyable hub. Thank you.

    • jabyrd82 profile image

      jabyrd82 8 years ago from Farmington,New Mexico

      Great hub!!!

    • profile image

      development11 8 years ago

      The simple steps are really uselful but its little diffucult to implement for me becoz as such u know that the difficult in the life is change but we have to accept it and this is really nice insight about positive change .

    • metaphysician profile image

      metaphysician 8 years ago

      I call it "Six Steps to Change Your Life."

      Change is a matter of motivation and most people are lacking this. By the way, to successfully change any area of life or habit, we must have a replacement over it. Because a vacumm state would tend to bring back the old habit or the pre-change state.

    • henrytom profile image

      henrytom 8 years ago

      What a fabulous hub. But i think another step in wanting to change is the willingness and determination to change.

    • ColinJames profile image

      ColinJames 9 years ago from Seattle, WA.

      Good stuff.

    • Evelyn Lim profile image

      Evelyn Lim 9 years ago from Singapore

      Great tips here. Most certainly, we need to break old habits so that we can infuse ourselves with new and more positive ones.

    • barryrutherford profile image

      Barry Rutherford 10 years ago from Queensland Australia

      nice blogg