So, I’m going to wax philosophical for a bit here and talk about knowledge as it pertains to behavior and life experience. I’ve found that some of the best behavioral changes in my life have come from things I’ve known my whole life, such as moderation in food portions and how to respond to and participate in social situations. Even though these things were in my head and I could recall them at any time, I didn’t change my behavior or even try to after a long time during which they just sat idly, reminding me that I was doing things wrong.
What I try to do however is learn and continually improve myself, so I’ve kind of set out to learn the process of learning and how it pertains to self-modifying behavior and to understand what inhibits it so I can make better progress quicker with behavioral modification.
It’s difficult to explain but it seems there is two kinds of knowledge, external and internal knowledge, that is knowledge that originates from external sources and knowledge that originates internally. These names are kind of misnomers, because you can recall both kinds of knowledge without external assistance, however internal knowledge is things like tying your shoes or what to say when someone greets you while external knowledge is another person’s age or how many million miles the Earth is from the sun. Again, it’s difficult to explain. Internal knowledge is easier to recall but more difficult to update, and in general it can pertain more to one’s behaviors whereas external knowledge is usually things like statistics and facts.
What I have found is even though you have received external knowledge relating to behaviors you wish to modify (such as eating smaller portion sizes or things such as performing hourly reality checks), it is very difficult to modify the behavior, even with good focus, concentration and willpower. One way to successfully accomplish behavioral modification using external knowledge is to constantly focus on the behavior you wish to modify until it becomes second nature, making sure to keep it on the forefront of your mind at all times. Many times, this is what happens to musicians as they may learn a song incorrectly so in order to re-learn the song correctly, they must practice it constantly until the new song is part of internal knowledge.
This approach only works in specific instances because we are not processors and we won’t always remember during our “interrupt times” to check the list of things that need to be checked.
Another way to internalize external information is to consider the new information as deeply as you can, perform self or group arguments against the proposed changes and gradually fade out the old methods. This is one I try to employ but even though it appears more effective than just forcing yourself to always pay attention to behaviors you wish to change, this technique is greatly flawed because sometimes you will arrive at a conclusion but you’ll be unable to internalize it and modify your behavior for a number of difficult reasons; such as the old behavior was easier or the new behavior makes you uncomfortable.
The final method is to internalize the information through experience. This is something I feel most people have issues with because constantly older people will warn younger people about their unhealthy habits or give advice to young couples that the couples can’t follow because they haven’t learned from experience. I feel experience is the major source of internal knowledge, because some things you have to “learn the hard way”.
What I want to do is change that and learn the easy way. One technique I hope to try is to analyze the differences between the behaviors and create small steps that will help bridge the gap but are easier to implement. For example, if I wanted to start working out daily, I would come up with a large number of small changes such as stretching when I remember, then stretching every day, then doing a little more rigorous physical exercise when I feel like it, then exercise on the weekends, then maybe I’d be able to make the jump to daily exercise. It would be more steps than that but hopefully you get my drift. One other large stepping stone in the way is just deciding what you want to do, and if you want to actually make that permanent change.
For example, at my heaviest I rationalized it that I enjoyed food more than I would enjoy being a healthy body weight, so that prevented me from losing weight until that rationale was overthrown.
In conclusion (and I hope to have the time to edit this so it’s more coherent), I think that behavioral modification is easiest when it’s planned out and there’s true initiative behind it. Maybe in a future edit or a future post I’ll talk about the inclusion of external factors such as android apps and other people, but as it is this post is longer than I’d want.