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  • Tamar Balkin

Does Long Term Behavioural Change Have To Be So Difficult?

Updated: Aug 13, 2019

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” – Winston Churchill

Whilst perhaps we don't all aspire to be perfect like Winston Churchill, thank you to my readers for telling me how you have been motivated by my blogs to make changes to your behaviour. 

In response to the question I posed in my last blog "So what exactly have you been doing?", readers told me they are focusing on their wellbeing, inserting pauses and taking breaks in their work day. Some of you have educated your peers in the concepts of The Third Space in formal workshops. Others have begun prioritising what work you do to ensure it is aligned with your values and core business. The words of one reader summarised the sentiments of many others:  "I am  focusing more on thinking about what and how I do things in both life and work".  

So what about the rest of the readers who didn't reply to my question... 

I have formulated two hypothesises: 

1. You couldn't be bothered telling me the changes you have made. 2. You aren't doing anything differently, as everything is under control.

  or perhaps....

You are not doing anything differently because long term sustained behaviour change is VERY difficult and doesn't just come from reading a blog.

Readers may be familiar with the Transtheoretical Model of intentional behaviour change. It is the most comprehensive model of individual change that can be applied to a variety of behaviours, populations, and settings.  The model takes into account stages of change, decision making, self efficacy (or your belief in your ability to change), and the processes involved in change. 

The model identifies the following stages of change:

Pre-contemplation – no intention to change behaviour

Contemplation – aware of the need to change but is not yet committed to action

Preparation – intent on taking action

Action – active modification of behaviour

Maintenance – sustained change with new behaviour replacing old

(Please note that according to the model people do not progress in a linear fashion through the stages) 

The Cognitive and Behavioural Processes that enable change to occur are: 

1. Consciousness Raising 2. Pay Attention to Feelings 3. Notice Your Effect on Others 4. Create a New Self-Image 5. Notice Public Support 6. Make a Commitment 7. Use Substitutes 8. Get Support 9. Use Rewards 10. Manage Your Environment 

As with many models in psychology its apparent  that long term sustained behaviour change is complicated and really hard to do on your own...

Recent research has indicated that given the nature of individual differences in human behaviour and experiences, a bespoke, or tailored approach to individual behaviour change improves the chances of success. (To be honest, if behaviour change was easy I would be out of work, and coaching would not be a growing profession.)

Interestingly Gil Bozer and Rebecca Jones identified the following three aspects of individuals that impact the effectiveness of a coaching program: 

1. Learning goal orientation:  Having a growth mindset, a belief that one can always learn.  2. Self efficacy: A belief in your ability to achieve the goal 3. Coaching Motivation:  The desire to invest effort and persistence towards changing attitudes, skills and performance before, during and after coaching. 

Contrary to popular belief, the researchers found little evidence to conclude that similarity between the client and coach, and supervisor support for coaching made any difference to the success of the coaching program.  However the client's ability to trust the coach was most critical for coaching success. Therefore when selecting a coach for yourself or others be certain to research the professional expertise of the coach and their code of ethics, for when the limits of confidentiality are explicit and codified by a regulatory authority the level of trust increases.   (All Australian registered psychologists are publicly listed on the AHPRA website, and our code of ethics can be found on the APS website)

Does this mean I’ll stop blogging ??

Definitely not, because, in my opinion, my blog opens your minds to concepts that will help you to shift yourselves and others along the stages of change and it contributes to the cognitive and behavioural processes that enable change.  

Readers who are ready to make  long term sustained behaviour changes to improve their leadership capability and wellbeing, please contact me to discuss how I can help you achieve your goals.  -----------------------------------


Noar, S.M., Benac, C.N., and Harris, M.S. (2007) Does tailoring matter? Meta-analytic review of tailored print health behavior change interventions. Psychological Bulletin, 4, 673-693.

Bozer, G., & Jones, R. J. (2018). Understanding the factors that determine workplace coaching effectiveness: A systematic literature review. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology27(3), 342-361.

Dweck, C. S. (1986). Motivational Processes affecting learning. American Psychologist, 41, 1040-1048

Prochaska, J.O., DiClemente, C.C., & Norcross, J.C. (1992). In search of how people change: Applications to the addictive behaviors. American Psychologist, 47, 1102-1114. PMID: 1329589

Salas, E., & Cannon-Bowers, J. A. (2001). The science of training: A decade of progress. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 471499.

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