Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Four Stages of Behavioral Change

Everyone's success journey will involve adding or changing behavior. As you learn and as you grow your behavior will change. Oprah Winfrey was not born the person she is today. As she experinced life her experiences help mold her into the successful business mogul she is today. This holds true for any other successful person in the world past or present. This holds true for you as well. To make your journey a little easier you need to be aware of the following four stages of behavioral change.

Stage 1: Aware
Becoming aware of a new process or procedure is the first stage in learning something new. This information was not part of your consciousness before. Once you become aware you move immediately to stage two.

Stage 2: Clumsy
Any time you are changing behavior it will be uncomfortable and you will no doubt be clumsy in your attempts to put the information into successful action. Think about customer service training. Most companies have specific greetings for their employees to use. At first these greetings come across very scripted and unnatural. As the employees practice and use these greetings with customers they become less clumsy and the employees move into stage three.

Stage 3: Comfortable
As you practice a new behavior or process you become comfortable with it. It starts to feel natural. Staying with the greeting example from above - the lines change from being unnatural and scripted to a more natural sounding speech pattern. The employees understand and are comfortable with the greeting. They have incorporated it into their natural speech pattern and it flows naturally. In addition, through repetition they no longer have to concentrate on the words themselves but understand the greeting at an unconscious level. This leads them right into stage four.

Stage 4: Automatic
Over time, and through repeated practice the behavior becomes automatic. When this happens you can say that the learning is complete. The information has been absorbed into the mind and the behavior has been modified to match the need and expectation.

Conventional wisdom notes that it takes 30 days in order to change behavior. It is in stage two, the clumsy stage that most people fail. Since the new behavior feels odd most people will stop trying and revert back to previous more comfortable behavior. You have to power on and get through to the comfortable stage in order to truly change behavior. The 30 day period provides enough time to push thru all four stages and truly establish a new behavioral pattern.

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