Stress Management, Well-being and Self-Care

Creating SUSTAINABLE Behavioral Change Part 11

Creating SUSTAINABLE Behavioral Change Part 11

by James Porter April 07, 2022

BJ Fogg is changing the landscape when it comes to the subject of behavioral change. And one quick way to see this is to glance at the chart below. Fogg wants us to understand that behavior change comes in an assortment of different shapes and sizes (15 in fact) and if you want to change your behavior it’s important to understand this underlying structure. He calls this chart “the periodic table of behavioral change.”

Understanding this chart will help you figure out how to launch a new behavior. Fogg breaks down behavioral change into three main categories. Dot behaviors are the behaviors you do one time. Span behaviors are the behaviors you do for a specific time period, like a week. Path behaviors are the behaviors you do from now on. In addition to those categories, you also have the five color-coded behaviors that range in a spectrum from starting a new behavior to stopping an old one.

  • DOT behaviors are behaviors that we do one time: If you wanted to try a spinning class (a stationary bike workout), and you had never tried it before that would be a green dot behavior, especially if you never did it again. If you took up spinning three days a week for one month that would be a green span behavior and if you started doing this most every week from now on that would be a green path behavior.
  • Going for a walk after lunch - if you don’t normally walk after lunch - would be a blue dot behavior. Going for a walk after lunch every day for a week would be a blue span behavior, going for a walk every day after lunch from now on would be a blue path behavior.
  • Eating at least five or more fruits and vegetables for one day would be a purple dot behavior. Doing that for a week would be a purple span behavior and doing that from now on would be a purple path behavior.
  • Eating less red meat for a day would be a gray dot behavior; for a week; gray span; from now; gray path.
  • Quitting smoking for a day would be a black dot behavior; for a week; black span; from now on black path.

The reason this periodic table is so important is that we all think BLACK PATH STOPPING BEHAVIORS are THE ONLY BEHAVIORS that we can and should change. And in some respects these ARE the Holy Grail of behavioral change. These are the toughest challenges and the ones we always think of first. But for many of us, we can get to that same place (total cessation of an unhealthy behavior) via a different route. And this periodic table of behavioral change can show us the way.

For example, THE GREAT AMERICAN SMOKE OUT is a famous Black Dot behavior: Giving up smoking for one day. And for some people, just giving up smoking for one day, gives them the confidence that they can do it for one week, one month and one year and so on. Or think of an even smaller dot, like choosing to smoke one less cigarette a day for your first month and using these small wins to help grow your self-efficacy and your resolve. So you can see how understanding this “periodic table” of behavioral change can really help you when it comes to THINKING about HOW to change.

For example, I’m always telling people to simply try things for ONE day. Like working from a clean desk,  arriving early (instead of ON TIME or late) or not blaming others and doing these behaviors for just ONE day to see how it feels. These small goals result in small wins which can lead to slightly longer behavioral changes and slightly bigger wins and more importantly, improved self-efficacy.

Another reason Fogg lays out this chart for us, is that all the behaviors listed here, require a slightly different strategy for creating the change. For black path behaviors you want to eliminate triggers (like hanging out with friends who smoke), for gray path behaviors (like reducing the amount of ice cream you eat) you want to change the environment (no ice cream in the fridge), for purple path behaviors (to increase healthy eating) you might want to have cut up vegetables and have them easily available in the fridge for snacking.

In the next installment we’ll talk about two critical steps that can help lead you and your clients to a healthy outcome.

James Porter
James Porter