We are a basket of conditioned and unconditioned behaviours. In the not-too-distant future, I would like to write more on this subject but meanwhile if you wish to read more about it, this link will help.
The problem, as always, is that most of us unknowingly and unwittingly condition our own behaviours without paying heed to the results that emerge. When is the last time we have looked back on our results and analysed whether they are congruent to our behaviour in that period?
When is the last time we have deliberately changed our behaviour to see if they change the results? More often than not, introspection is not a priority we grapple with. We are more driven by the tyranny of the imperative than the contemplation of our outcomes.
As I have mentioned in my previous article, doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results is folly. So even before you read the rest of this article, make a commitment to yourself that you will spend a few minutes each day or each week reviewing whether or not the results you got were congruent with the actions you had taken.
We do encounter situations where we know what we should be doing (knowledge), but we find it difficult to get right down to it. Or we get started on a task (skills) but we just can’t seem to maintain the momentum (enthusiasm) to see it through to the end. When these situations become chronic, it creates a detrimental effect on our confidence levels and we are unable to complete the task (results). We either feel we lack motivation and drive or that we didn’t want it badly enough (desire).
One of the solutions to this is conditioning. Conditioning comes in two primary forms – thought conditioning and behavioural conditioning. Thought conditioning focuses on controlling what you think. This is a cognitive model of success, relying on the assumption that if you think the right thoughts, you’ll take the right actions, and thereby get the results you want. Examples of thought conditioning include speaking or reading positive affirmations, visualizing a positive outcome, transformational vocabulary (choosing positive words to describe your situation as opposed to negative words, as in, “I’m having a fantastic day”), and certain forms of meditation. And in many situations, thought conditioning is very effective, particularly when problematic thoughts are the root of the problem, such as a negative attitude causing you to rub people the wrong way.
One of the reasons positive affirmations don’t work is that they target the conscious level of your mind, but not the unconscious. A technique like Nirmiti Nidra helps you to access the subconscious (or unconscious) and leave your imprint thereon. One other reason that positive affirmations do not work, is that you are conditioning your thoughts, but not taking the correction action which is congruent to that thought. One of the problems with thought conditioning is that if you fail to take the right actions quickly, then your behaviour can de-condition the very thoughts you’re trying to adopt.
Behavioural conditioning comes from a behavioural model of success. This model assumes that if you take the correct actions, you’ll achieve the results you want, regardless of what your thoughts are. Behavioural conditioning focuses on forming new habits of action with little concern for what you think. Many behaviourists believe that if you take the right actions, the right thoughts will follow anyway. Examples of Behavioural conditioning include setting your alarm clock to wake you up each morning, giving yourself a tangible reward for working an extra couple hours, or punishing your child for misbehaving.
I have used both forms of conditioning quite successfully. Ten years ago, I used mostly thought conditioning. Today, however, I find that Behavioural conditioning is more effective for me and a lot faster. And the best is a combination of both thought and behavioural conditioning.
For example, if you’re trying to quit smoking, and you focus on doing some daily affirmations to that effect, but meanwhile you keep lighting up, then you’re sending mixed messages to yourself, and you’ll most likely slip back. Your continued behaviour is an affirmation too!
On the other hand, if you can manage to physically stop lighting up, even while you’re thinking you’re still a smoker, which behaviour will tend to induce thoughts of being a non-smoker. Behavioural conditioning works best when merely changing your behaviour (regardless of how you think) is enough to guarantee a result. For example, if you stop making impulsive purchases, you will save money, regardless of what you think about it.
What is important here is that you must have a desire to stop smoking, you must want to stop smoking. It is immaterial if others think you should stop smoking, what matter is what you think. In that respect, thought is equally important. If you do not really want to, no power on earth can make you do it. It is you who wants to change and you are the only person capable of doing it.
I agree with the behaviourists that motivation follows action. When you get yourself to take action, even when you aren’t initially motivated to do so, you will find that your motivation automatically increases.
The two primary elements of Behavioural Conditioning are –
1. Control, and 2. Substitution
Let the results you want determine the actions you need to take. The actions will define the behaviour. Once you have determined the actions that you need to take for the desired results, condition yourself to take those very actions. You are always, always behaving in some manner, so all you need to ensure is that the new behaviour will give you the results you seek. If you find that your present behaviour (and resultant action) is not congruent with your results, take control of the situation and substitute the correct behaviour for the incorrect one.
We always have a choice, just this morning – we had a choice to wake up late, have a leisurely breakfast and watch TV. What was the result? You can introduce a significant change in your life by banning TV. But we can also choose to wake up early, go for a long walk, have a quick breakfast and complete a couple of hours of productive work. You may be surprised that you feel energized instead of tired.
In my next post, I will explain briefly how to use Behavioural conditioning to form new habits or substitute old behaviour which is not giving the desired results. Thereafter, I will try to elucidate how you can combine both Thought Conditioning and Behavioural Conditioning for optimal results.
The author, Rajesh Seshadri, is an internationally recognized Certified Leadership Coach, Certified Success Coach and Certified Life Coach. He is also a NLP Master Practitioner, facilitator and therapist. The basket of therapies is holistic and integrative adopting techniques from Psychotherapy, NLP, Silva, Gestalt, Hypnosis and Silva UltraMind. Additionally, he is a seasoned corporate professional who continues to serve as a whole-time Director and Board Member. You can contact him here.