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Driving Behavioural Change

Life skills help in layering a solid foundation in children’s life. This in turn will help them adapt to different circumstances. It will equip them with the tools and systems needed to navigate volatile life scenarios, overcome various challenges and succeed in every aspect of society. When life skills are not taught/imparted it affects not only their personal and social lives but also their careers and professional lives. 

Life skills cannot be left to a gamble of picking- it- up -on- the -way. Since life skill plays such an important role in weaving social, emotional, and interpersonal aspects of one’s life it needs to be inculcated consciously and with focused effort. Today, informed parents are taking efforts to develop learning skills in children. The good news is: life skills can be taught through a framework of behavioral change. 

How do we make a behavioral change?

Is the intent to make a change enough? 

Causing a behavioral change relies on many factors. According to the study developed by Fishbein and Ajzen (Theory of Reasoned Action), these are some of the elements involved in behavioural change: 

1. How you think and feel about this behaviour

  • Do you believe the behaviour is enjoyable or not? 
  • Do you believe the behaviour is going to be beneficial or harmful?

For example: If you intent to exercise, it would mean different things: do you enjoy going for a jog? If you do not enjoy exercising, the intent becomes weak even if you think exercising is beneficial. 

2. The support given by family, and friends

  • Do others around you encourage the behaviour?
  • Do the people around you engage in the same behaviour?

For example: If you have peers who jog, the chances of you taking up and sticking to the habit increases. On the other hand, if you have peers who encourage the behaviour but do not engage, the intent becomes weak/moderate.

3. The confidence in your ability to execute the behaviour: 

  • Do you believe you can overcome obstacles and barriers?
  • Do you believe in your ability to see through the task?

For example: Confidence in your capability and trust in overcoming the challenges can help you better in making a behavioural change.  

It goes on to show that you may have the intent but there are other factors that influence behavioural change. It is also important to learn the art of self-discipline to form a strong intent. 

How to form a strong intent? 

An analysis by Webb and Sheeran found that a medium-to-large change in intention leads to a small-to-medium shift in behaviour. This is known as the intention-behaviour gap

Let us explore some ways to form a strong intent: 

  • Perceive the activity as enjoyable and beneficial.
  • Get the support of family/ friends and other members of the social group who already engage in the behaviour.
  • Inculcate confidence in your ability to meet the demands of the task. 

Here’s a scenario to make it easier: 

Intent: To cut down on your TV time. 

For a strong intent: 

  • You need to chart out and understand the harmful effects of watching too much TV. Remind yourself of the unenjoyable consequences, such as watery eyes, headache, lack of time for other activities such as homework and playing, etc. Find a healthy replacement that you will enjoy, such as reading. 
  • Look for people who will support this change and join in on your intent. 
  • You must also believe in your ability to forego the urge when it strikes and restrict your access to TV. 

If you do not enjoy your replacement or if you don’t have people who support you, your intent might become weak. 

Try out this exercise! Find an area in which you wish to make a behavioural change. Chart out what it would look like to have a strong vs. a weak intent and let us know how your experience was.

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