Your positive change is going great. You have shown strength, determination, and courage as you persevere. But you come to a bump in the road. It could come in the form of eating that slice of cake, or skipping over the time you set aside to study. A slight slip unique to your positive change that slowly snowballs out of control and carries you back towards old habits.
That’s not to say that a slice of cake or skipping studying now again will inevitably destroy your positive changes. However, allowing these to get out of hand can.
At this Stage of Change it is important to keep on top of your internal motivation, self-confidence and positive emotions through your goal setting, pros and cons list, and positive emotion jar. With all of these remaining flexible and supporting you, rather than hindering you. For a recap on the Stages of Change, check out this post.
Despite our best efforts, there will come times where our positive changes are difficult to maintain. This is is, unfortunately, an unpreventable spanner that life likes to throw into the works. But by understanding these challenges and creating preventions we can easily navigate these tricky times.
Functional Analysis – Knowing your triggers and creating preventions
A functional analysis is a psychological technique that helps us to understand our triggers, ensuring that we don’t frequently put ourselves into position that jeopardize our efforts at long-term positive change.
To do this, simply draw a table similar to the one you did for your positive change pros and cons list, but this time make a three column table. Instead of “pros” and “cons”, however, write “trigger” at the top of the left hand column, “outcome” in the middle, and “prevention” in the right, just like the one below.
Think back through your past experiences – what situations/events have impacted on your positive change? Make sure to write these in the past tense – your past you doesn’t reflect who you are today; we are always learning and developing towards a better self.
To put the functional analysis into a real life context, take the cake analogy from earlier. Perhaps this happened when the person met their friends at a cafe. They saw everyone enjoying cake and, feeling hungry and left out, couldn’t resist the temptation of eating one.
In this example the trigger would be “Eating out with friends who tend to eat cake” and the outcome being “I feel left out and hungry which leads me to eat cake”.
So what can we do to prevent this?
Having a good social support network is import for wellbeing and happiness, and simply ditching your friends because they like to eat cake is probably not the best thing to do. They could, however, make sure that they eat before meeting with friends, so that they avoid the temptation that comes with a growling stomach. Or they could ask that they meet their friends in a cafe that provides healthy alternatives to cake, giving them the option to eat, while not ruining their dietary positive changes.
A brilliantly simple method, a functional analysis can help you to understand your triggers and help you plan ways in which you avoid situations that impact on your positive changes.
From action to maintenance
With all the skills you have learnt so far, overcoming the challenges of positive change will become easier. You will now be equipped with the tools and ability to sustain your positive change for the next 6-months, a milestone which marks your transition from the action to maintenance stage.
Be sure to follow to keep up to date and feel free to ask any questions in the comments.
Thanks for reading.