Step 2b: Build commitment - How confident are you?
Although a firm belief in the importance of achieving a health goal is necessary, it is not enough to ensure success. A person must also believe that they are able to make the change. In fact, research in the area of behaviour change has identified that self-efficacy — the belief a person has in their ability to do what it takes to achieve a goal — is a powerful predictor of success in behaviour change.
Several factors contribute to a person’s belief in their ability to make a change. The exercises that follow will help you explore your belief in your ability to do what it takes to achieve the goal you have set.
(Note: Download the interactive workbook and complete these exercises in it)
Exercise 2.4: Identify and use your strengths and skills. We all have strengths and skills. These are the positive qualities, assets or attributes that help us achieve our goals. By identifying the strengths and skills you have and how you can use them to achieve your goal, you increase your belief in your ability to achieve the goal, which in turn increases the chances that you will be successful.
Exercise 2.5: Identify competing priorities. Commitment to a goal requires dedicating time, energy and other resources to achieving it. This means making the goal one of your priorities. Each of us has many priorities in life including sleep, family, work, school, relationships, leisure, hobbies, volunteering, entertainment etc. The higher up on the priority list your health goal is, the more resources you will dedicate to it. If your other priorities consume all your time and energy, there will be no resources left to dedicate to your health goal.
Exercise 2.6: Identify other barriers. Another strategy to enhance your belief in your ability to achieve your goal is to identify potential barriers that you may encounter and to plan for what you will do in case you encounter them. By problem-solving ahead of time you will likely realize that the barriers are not as insurmountable as you may think. You will also be prepared the next time they arise and you will be able to overcome them more easily.
Developing commitment to a goal is crucial and involves two factors: importance and belief in ability to make the change. Even if a person sees a goal as very important, they are not going to make lasting changes unless they believe that they are able to do what it takes to achieve the goal. Take a few minutes to review your answers to exercises above and then complete the following exercise:
- On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 representing “not at all confident” and 10 representing “extremely confident”), honestly rate how confident you are that you can make the changes needed to achieve your goal.
If you rated your confidence as low, you likely will not wholeheartedly commit to this goal. After all, why would you invest time, energy and other resources into something that you don’t believe you will be able to do? Before you move ahead, you will benefit by giving more thought to your belief in your ability to make changes. There are some things we have listed below that can move your confidence rating to a higher number. Put some thought into these and then go back and rate confidence in your ability again.
• Review each of the exercises and give each one more thought. Did you identify as many skills and strengths as possible? Did you think of the many possible ways you can use your skills and strengths? As you identify more skills and strengths and how you will use them, your belief in your ability will grow. Did you list all important priorities? Are some of your priorities truly not all that important, especially when compared to your health? Did you think about all the possible ways you can overcome the barriers you listed in Exercise 2.6?
• Review past successes. Think about goals you have achieved in the past and how you were able to achieve them. At first they may have seemed quite challenging, but you faced the challenge and succeeded! What resources did you tap into to be successful?
• Look at people like you. One proven way to build your self-efficacy is to identify people like you who have already achieved the goal you have identified. These people likely faced similar barriers while working towards their goal. They were able to overcome these barriers. How did they do it? When we see someone similar to us succeed, it enhances our belief in our ability to succeed.
• Use positive self-talk. Another way to build self-efficacy is to use positive self-talk. Self-talk is those messages we tell ourselves that no one can hear. With positive self-talk you repeatedly tell yourself that you are capable of doing what you put your mind to. Identify negative self-talk and reword it in a positive way. Instead of saying “I can’t do this”, tell yourself “This is going to be a challenge, but I am ready and able to face it because it will make my life better”.
• Talk to those who are encouraging. Besides using positive self-talk, you can also connect with others who are encouraging and supportive. When you tell these people what you want to achieve, they will likely express confidence that you can do it. These people can be supportive throughout the change process, but in the beginning they can be instrumental in building your belief in yourself.
At the beginning of this section we pointed out that commitment to the goal is critical to success. Your heart has to be in it. You have to reach a point where you see the behaviour as a gift, not a deprivation — where nothing will get in the way of achieving this important goal.
Examine the final ratings you have given to the questions of importance and your belief in the ability to make changes. If you rated both importance and ability as high, you are ready to move on to the next step. You don’t need to score a “10” on each to be ready to move on. In fact, as you begin making changes and start reaping the benefits, you likely will see your goal as even more important than you did at first, and also confirm that you have what it takes to make your goal a reality.
If you score low on either importance or your belief in your ability (or both) and choose not to work to build either of these, then you are not ready to change. Continuing with the exercises would likely lead to failure, which would further undermine your belief in your ability to change, both now and in the future.
If you are not willing — or not able — to commit to the work and effort required to achieve your goal, then you have two choices. The first is that you can return to Step 1and set a more realistic goal. Continue working through the exercises with this new, more realistic goal in mind.
The second choice is to realize and accept that you are not ready to make the necessary changes to achieve the goal. This includes accepting that you will not reap the benefits that achieving your goal would bring. Many people wish to lose weight, yet they are not willing to do the (hard) work it takes to do it. They often feel bad for not changing their exercise and/or nutrition behaviours. This is not helpful. Accepting that losing weight is not a priority now is a more helpful response than feeling bad.
Change does not happen by accident: it takes meaningful, intentional action. If you don’t want to commit to the work, be honest with yourself and move on to other interests, pursuits and priorities.