I know, biscuits again. But the reason for choosing this subject is to highlight how blooming difficult it is to change behaviour, even your own, when you know what the triggers are and can see what the consequences of our actions are leading to; in my case a fatter bottom!

Even with all my knowledge and training, breaking habitual behaviour patterns is a long-term process that requires considerable positive reinforcement as any of you in the middle of a behavioural change programme with your organisation will know.

Know your triggers

Pile of biscuits

Hunger is the most obvious one you might expect. I’m sure it’s actually the sugar in biscuits that’s the addictive part and when I’m busy analysing the data from culture assessments I get very mentally drained so the sugar kick is useful. Then there’s the trigger that I like the taste and both of these are very definitely immediate, certain and positive (if this means nothing to you give me a call and I’ll send you the slides!)

What else triggers this need to raid the cupboard? Well of course, I deserve a treat after pouring through all the hot comments of the culture assessments and I also need little pick-me-up when it’s not going so well… Remind you of anything in your life you need to get control of?

So what did I do? Well yes, obviously I replaced the biscuits with something healthier and starved for a week because I didn’t want to eat the fruit and nuts. I also moved the biscuits so far away from my office I at least got some exercise at the same time if I did have to get one. ‘Have to get one’, listen to me, you see I have no control over this do I? Well of course I do, I can choose not to go to the cupboard – that’s easy, just don’t go near the cupboard I keep telling myself, we all have will power don’t we?

Then there’s the consequences

You’d think with all my understanding this would be the one area that would stop me and give me the will power to put the barrel down (biscuit not gun I’m not that desperate about it). You see the increase in weight is not as certain as you might think. It’s not absolutely definite, possible if I eat too many, but always with that element of doubt. But so far, this hasn’t been a serious enough contender it make me change my eating habits.

However, as my slowly creeping waist line became a reality, along with the realisation that my size 14 trousers would soon become a size 16, this consequence very shortly began to have a much stronger effect in terms of reinforcement of leaving the biscuits alone.

So why these confessions?

I’ve now shared more about me than you’ve probably ever wanted to know, and certainly more than you’ll ever find out about anyone else at JOMC. But for what purpose?

Well it helps to explain why it’s so important to understand all the triggers and consequences associated with a particular behaviour before you try to change it. Whether it’s getting people to stick to walkways or wear PPE, if you don’t know what their real drivers are you may well be implementing things that don’t succeed because they haven’t hit the triggers in the right way.

As I did with the biscuit, looking for triggers often leads to immediate changes that need to be made for people to easily affect the new behaviours you’re looking for. If the PPE is a ½ mile walk away it’s not going to get used, but that may only be the start. There may be social influences and peer pressures in place that are having a stronger effect than your awareness raising campaign. This type of stuff doesn’t just happen at school.

Equally, the consequences can be very complex and definitely aren’t the same for everyone so you need to really understand how these are coming into play and causing your programmes to stall. Not everyone is bothered by the same outcomes. People are all different in what they put a value on and this can be quite difficult to get to the bottom of.

So how do you find all this out? Talk to them, engage with them, don’t guess or assume.

I’m happy to talk about behaviour change issues you might be dealing with so please drop me a line.