The Challenge of Behavior Change

By Scott Schwefel, CSP, CEO, Discover Yourself

behavior change

Anyone who has ever made a resolution to get more exercise, to waste less time on Facebook, or to become more organized about their work already knows that it is incredibly hard to change our behavior. Once a behavior has become a habit or a part of our routine, it’s very difficult to replace that habit with something new. Let’s discuss the challenge of behavior change.

Why is it so hard to change our habits?
If my goal is to get fitter, and I have the equipment, time, and motivation to do so, why is it so hard to stick to a goal like going running twice a week? I might manage my goal for a few weeks, but if I’m like most people then I won’t maintain the new habit in the long term. Even when I know that the new habit will make me feel better and will make me happier overall, it’s still tough to maintain.

The problem is that as humans, we are far less rational than we like to believe. We’d like to think that when we’re presented with clear evidence that a particular action is possible and would make us happier, then of course we’d change our habits. But in truth, we don’t weigh choices rationally. In a previous blog post we talked about an experiment where kids would rather eat one marshmallow now than wait ten minutes and get two marshmallows. It might surprise you to learn that adults do much the same thing. An experiment at New York University offered adults a choice: they could receive $20 now or wait a month and receive more money then. The majority of people chose to have the $20 now, even though they would have received more money if they had waited. The essential problem is that, as human beings, we are bad at weighing our future happiness against our immediate desires.

How can we influence our own behavior?
Given this problem, what can we do to change our behavior? There are two main approaches to this issue:

Firstly, we can get more information about the issue. In the case of exercise, we could learn more about the health benefits of exercise and how it could improve our life. Information like this can provide long term motivation in setting goals, but given that we do not make decisions rationally, it might not be so helpful in getting us out the door for a run right this minute.

The other approach to behavior change is to provide incentives. These can be either positive, like getting a reward for completing a new habit, or negative, like giving money away when you don’t complete the habit. Both positive and negative incentives can be effective, so it’s best to use a combination of the two. It also helps to keep us engaged if these incentives are fun and immediately rewarding.

The role of the environment

If you want to make new habits, there’s something important to understand about human psychology and how it applies to behavior change, and that is the role of the environment. People often think of humans as being “brains first” or “genetics first,” as if there is a core real “us” which is placed into the world. But this isn’t the case. Rather, our brains (and our minds) develop in response to our environment. Your brain and your mind are profoundly affected by the world around you – to such an extent that if you were taken completely out of your environment, you wouldn’t be “you” for much longer.

Instead of thinking of yourself as a pre-formed brain which should make rational decisions based on self-interest (which is not a helpful way to think when you’re trying to change your behavior) think of yourself as a bundle of intentions which responds to environmental cues. Information comes from the environment, it enters our brains, we respond to this information through behavior, and behavior drives outcomes.

Practical advice
What does this mean in practice? What actions can you take to make it more likely that you’ll stick to your new habits? Here are a few suggestions to promote behavior change:

  • Remove “pain points” to make it easy to do the right thing. For example, have your running gear washed, ready, and in one place, and leave your running shoes by the door. Then whenever you do want to go for a run you won’t be put off by the hassle of finding your gear.
  • Put physical reminders in your environment. For example, if you want to work on your finances each morning then put your accounting book on top of the papers on your desk. You’ll have to physically pick up the book to get to your desk so you’ll be reminded and incentivized to do your accounting.
  • Reward yourself for meeting your goals. The trick for this tip is to pick an appropriate reward. If you reward yourself for going running by eating fast food, then you’ll undo all of your good work. Instead, try something small like ticking a box or adding a sticker to your diary. It might sound childish, but a physical reminder of your progress like a sticker can be great motivation.
  • Related to this, do track your progress over the long term. For example, you could record how many days per week you do your accounting, or track how many miles you run each time. You’ll be able to see yourself improving over time, which will reinforce that each run adds towards your long term goal of getting fitter.
  • Get social support. One of the biggest factors in whether someone will be able to successfully quit smoking isn’t whether they use nicotine patches, or if they’re educated about health risks, or even whether they enjoy cigarettes – it’s whether they have support from their social circle. Having friends, family, and colleagues support you in your new behavior will be a big help in getting you to stick with it.

Next time, we’ll talk about perception and the ways that we perceive the environment around us – correctly and incorrectly. So check back soon for more.


Contact Discover Yourself Today to learn more about how the Insights Discovery Program helps you understand your true behavior.

Click Here To Talk with a Representative today


Read More Blog Posts Below

Eight Color Personalities Put a Spin on Workplace Communications


You know better than most that there are more than just four generic personality types around you at home, at work or even when you’re out and about around your neighborhood. Personality is like color; there are as many shades and hues as the eye chooses to see. Strong personal characteristics can certainly follow similar patterns for different people, but they always take slightly different forms depending on the person.

Our individual histories, both environmental and genetic, teach us how to display our personalities. We subconsciously and consciously adjust our behavior in new situations whether we are at a party meeting new people for the first time or interacting with a different team in our company. We each display our personalities differently, even if there are many similarities between us.

Four more personality types

The four color personalities chart can be broken up into eight color personalities, or even 16! There is no way to represent every single personality out there in the world, but by breaking major character traits down into easy categorizations, people can begin to understand why they are the way they are.

Aside from the main four color personalities- Cool Blue, Fiery Red, Earth Green, and Sunshine Yellow- there are also four more subsets of these types that can be created. Rather than call them by a color they are called by a role they might play in the workforce that fits their personality type. These four personality types are known as the Coordinator, Helper, Motivator, and Reformer.

Coordinators are negotiators. They are willing to toe the line between two groups to come to a consensus and to make sure everyone’s voices are heard. They respond best to people who are willing, relaxed, and easy going.

Helpers seek agreement to reach a consensus during a meeting or about a project. Helpers are in tune with others who trust one another, are inventive with their solutions, and who are receptive to new ideas.

Motivators, Coordinators, Helpers, and Reformers

Motivators want to get things going and are particularly in tune with people who can match their active nature and fast paced problem solving style. Motivators don’t respond well to people who don’t speak up or who cause friction in a group.

Reformers get things done. They rely on thought and logic to solve problems and don’t always appreciate emotional appeals when dealing with a professional problem.

Jung opened up an entirely new world with his discoveries, and discoveries into the psychology of personality and the self are still being made today. Insights Discovery is based squarely on Jung’s theories, and as such is an invaluable tool in helping people understand themselves and others. Schedule me, Scott Schwefel, as your keynote speaker, and I will come to your group and address the differences in personalities in a truthful, fun, and easy-to-understand way. Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to share my blogs with the color energies you work with!

Motivated for Greatness


Motivation is an extraordinary thing. Motivation can be drawn from internal and external sources, and everyone has a source of motivation that stays strong despite what life throws at them. Some people are incredibly motivated, and not just in their personal lives- they can motivate others to greatness, which is an amazing thing to have in the workplace.

Motivators are what Carl Jung called ‘extroverted intuitive’ types. Motivators value results and, equally, the people who achieve those results. Motivators are natural participants who value the social aspects of their lives, but who are also very intuitive into the motivations and characteristics of those around them.

The strength of motivation

Motivators are great people to have in the workplace, both as employees and as leaders. Motivators value establishing a strong network of contacts and gaining the respect of those around them. They are willing to do the work required to reach the objectives they have for themselves and the objectives their work situation has placed in front of them. Motivators are equally as good at negotiation and mediation because they consider the diverse needs of people around them when making decisions.

Motivators are socially assertive and pick projects that make them and their team look good. They thrive in the spotlight but aren’t fame hogs- they give credit where credit is due. Motivators don’t always like detailed work, but will put their best foot forward to get the job done. They sometimes put too much trust in the things their team or coworkers can accomplish, which can make for some awkward moments and tight deadlines. Motivators are natural leaders, but can be difficult to manage if they aren’t already in leadership positions. While they can be quite successful as leaders, they aren’t natural administrators.

Working with Motivators

Other people might view Motivators as hasty and indiscreet, but they would classify themselves as dynamic and enthusiastic. Considering how others could view their actions can make Motivators better leaders and better coworkers. Variations in tasks and working environments keeps Motivators interested and on track when it comes to having control over their working environments.

Motivators are made more effective with control, direction, and written analysis of their projects and expectations for their job. Working with Motivators means having an encouraging and helpful person in your office who can help you see the bigger picture; being a Motivator means taking your energy from the people around you and their successes by motivating them to greater things.

If you would like further help in identifying yourself or someone you know who may be a motivator, schedule me, Scott Schwefel, as your keynote speaker. I will come to your group and address the differences in personalities in a truthful, fun, and easy-to-understand way. Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to share my blogs with the color energies you work with!