Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Challenge for Lent

How often do you set a New Years goal or give up something for Lent but after a couple of days you just can’t commit? I for one have tried some goals that were more difficult than I had imagined at the time. One year I gave up eating after 8pm so I could (lose weight) and be reminded of what God’s sacrificed for us. Another year I attempted to stop biting my nails. I used several techniques for both such as setting small goals, rewarding behaviors after a set time and even tried adverse conditioning methods. In this post I would like to cover some techniques that I believe are the most effectively for shaping behavior. I’ll use ‘nail biting’ as the example throughout.

Small Goals: Work on not performing the behavior for a couple hours. If the behavior is already less frequent (ex. Snapping at a spouse) work on staying calm for three days or a week at a time.

Rewards: Before you start trying to change any behavior determine how you will reward yourself. When I was working on not biting my nails I would set a reward schedule (ex. After week 1 I would get a manicure, after week 2 a new shirt, etc.). You need to pick rewards that matter to YOU, if they aren’t really reinforcing your behavior they will not motivate you to change.

Adverse Conditioning: AC involves the pairing of painful or adverse stimuli with the behavior. I used to put bitter (NO BIT) nail polish on my finger. Whenever I would forget and bit them there would be this really bitter taste that would immediately make me stop biting. When training my dog not to bark at the door I would shack a tin can full of pennies. Pairing the loud noise with his bark quickly stopped the behavior.

I hope you find these helpful as you work toward you New Years or Lent Goals.


Dawn said...

I like your tips and I think they are really helpful. That being said I think you are misrepresenting lent in the sense that it is intended to solely be a sacrifice that imitates Jesus' sacrifice for us. It is not suppose to be a time for self maintenance or self improvement. We are suppose to find something that means a lot to us. Something that we would never normally give up. Than we sacrifice by giving it up during lent. Jesus gave his life. So maybe we choose to give up chocolate, or television. It pales in comparison to life but let's face it we do fall short.

Brandon said...

Org. Psych Girl said...

Brandon after looking at this insert "Some simple tricks can help. The first step is self-awareness: The only way to fix willpower flaws is to know about them. Only then can the right mental muscles get strengthened, making it easier to succeed at our annual ritual of self-improvement." I think this ties back to the older post about others knowing things about you that you don't. Maybe for resolutions we should get our friends to tell us what to change. What do you think?