5 Mistakes that prevent positive change

behavioural change Mar 25, 2020

One of the greatest human gifts we have is the power to adapt quickly to uncertainty. But changing behaviours and creating new healthy habits is hard, and we have all struggled in the past. And whether we like it or not change is happening to us. So rather than resisting, now is the time to master the art of habit formation and positive behavioural change.

How many times have you tried and failed to change a diet, or started a new exercise routine full of motivation only to drop it 2 weeks later, or maybe you promised to stop drinking only to find yourself with a glass of wine in hand 5 minutes later. We have all been in a similar situation, right? 

And it’s incredibly demotivating when we slip even though we made a perfectly rational decision to stop or start something only to undermind ourselves weeks, minutes, sometimes seconds later.

This is something that has fascinated me and I have spent the best part of 10 years trying to unlock the change code. And hopefully, I can share some insights that will help you. Because now more than ever we will need to make quick efficient behavioural adaptations and changes that will allow us to grow strong in adversity. 

Below are just 5 of the most common beliefs that can prevent you from making lasting positive change.

  1. Once I understand, I do

The belief that understanding something means we will do it, is the most common trap.

If you’re in any doubt ask yourself, how many times have you decided to implement a new behaviour only to slip up a few weeks, days, hour or minutes later?

  1. I won’t give in to temptation, I have willpower

‘People who achieve through remarkable willpower are “strong” and “heroic”. People who need structure are “weak”. This is crazy –because few of us can accurately gauge or predict our willpower. We not only overestimate it, we chronically underestimate the power of triggers in our environment to lead us astray. Our environment is a magnificent willpower-reduction machine. ‘ Marshall Goldsmith

This is the most important lesson of all – people who create structure are the strong ones. I have studied many of those so-called ‘willpower’ heroes we admire and they are not blessed with iron discipline - they design it. Creating daily routines, rituals and accountability are key elements of creating lasting change. Winging it and hoping for willpower on tap does not work. 

Take charge of your day from the moment you wake. Map out every minute if you must. And remember winging it or making it up as you go - does not work. Everyone without except who wants to adapt and achieve happiness needs a plan.

  1. But today is a special day

There is always a ‘special day’ or celebration or commiseration, or day ending in ‘y’ that wants to make us exempt from change. But this inconsistency trips our subconscious and prevents deep-seated improvements. 

Mulligans, tactical days off or breaks will only weaken your healthy habit. 

If you plan on making a change - go all in until it’s part of you.  


  1. At least I am better than…


If we lower the bar enough you will always find someone who needs to change more than you. This belief wants you to give up. Making positive change hurts at times. So you have to push yourself beyond your comfort zone to make these changes happen. 

If you catch yourself trying to back out using a low ball comparison, flip the compassion and aim upwards.

Who do you admire and would love to emulate? How would they act in this situation? Would they take the drink, eat the cake or lose their temper?


  1. I shouldn’t need help and structure

Let’s get this out there. We “all” need help and structure. The sooner you make peace with this, the sooner you can construct the life you always wanted.

Dr. Atul Gawande’s book ‘The checklist manifesto’ demonstrates that infections almost disappear within intensive care units when doctors follow a 5 point checklist.  Despite these findings, the Doctors resisted. They believed they did not require reminding, it was demeaning. How wrong they were.

‘When we presume we are better than people who need structure and guidance, we lack one of the most crucial ingredients for change: Humility.’

A great way to bring structure to your life is through a morning routine. Check out ‘The morning miracle’ by Hal Elrod and ‘The 5 am miracle’ by Jeff Sanders. Both are great books that will help you transform your world before breakfast!


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