The Psychology Of Fitness

Mindsets, Body Types and Everything In Between
The 4 Elements of Behavior Change

The 4 Elements of Behavior Change

When making any behavior change, there are 4 main elements that ultimately determine the success of that behavior change.   These areas are inter-connected and interdependent on each other.  In other words, change one aspect and you will most likely change another.

1 – Your Beliefs ~  Almost anything we tell ourselves is a belief, except obvious facts.  Therefore, this will be the area that will change the most if you are to change your life significantly.  This is also the area responsible for “relapsing” into old patterns, despite taking on new behaviors.

The issue with beliefs is two fold.  One – Many of our beliefs began to solidify before we had a true say in the matter.   Two – We are not cognizant of those beliefs and therefore, act as though they are “facts” and “who we are” while rarely challenging those assumptions.

For example, telling yourself you don’t have time to exercise is a belief, not a fact.  Beliefs are supported by rules.  Rules are formed by our previous actions and our environmental customs.  Therefore, with the belief that you don’t have time to exercise, typical rules includes something similar to you “needing” at least 45 minutes to workout, your need to take a shower and “the fact” that you have to bring a change of clothes.  When you don’t have 45 minutes and/or a change of clothes, you’re rules form the belief that you “don’t have enough time to workout.”

2 – Your Habits.  Your habits typically start in reaction to an environmental cue.  For example, if you feel stressed and rushed one morning, you may skip breakfast.  After a couple of weeks of doing this, you actually try to have breakfast in the morning.  Since your body has adjusted to NOT eating breakfast, having it in the morning makes you feel queasy.  At that moment, you decide you don’t need breakfast and form the habit of not having breakfast in the morning.

How it started though, was your environmental cue of being hurried in the morning.  That “cue” created an impetus to a certain action.  That action led to a certain outcome.

That initial action stuck with you, forming a habit of action…but so did the outcome of that action.

3 – Your Specific Methods/Daily Structure and Accountability. This is the “most advanced” part of changing your behaviors, as this really discusses what actions you should actually be performing for the results you want.  If you want different outcomes, you need to take different actions.  That makes sense.

Typically though, both our beliefs and habits don’t conform to what the best methods of achieving a goal are.  For example, the best way to lose weight is to have a workout partner which will help keep you accountable to your workouts.  You should do that, while staggering both strength and interval training on different days, combined with some sort of elimination diet that limits the foods available to you.

Now that I’ve told you the best method for losing fat, are you going to follow it?  Probably not.  Not because you’re a bad person, but because of the first two elements, your beliefs and habits, are standing in your way.

With that said, that is where most diet and exercise programs start.  With their “best methods” for achieving a certain outcome.

4 – Your Environment.  If you are trying to cut sweets out and have a “sweet tooth” you may have issues doing so if your environment is working against you.  For example, say you work with people that bring in sweets 5 days a week and have a spouse that buys more sweets than any one person should.  If this was the case, you most likely will have an issue “cutting sweets out.”

Too often we beat ourselves up by playing a losing game with environmental cues that automatically set us up for failure.  If we internalize those “failures” as our own, we face an uphill battle with the behavior change.

The ultimate problem with poor environments for change is that not only do we start to believe that we lack “will power,” but we also start to make the Fundamental Attribution Error.

What’s the Fundamental Attribution Error?  It’s when we attritube a poor environmental cue towards the changes we seek onto our personal character traits.  By doing so we are internalize a “weaker” image of ourselves.  This “weaker image” leads to weak self-talk.  Weak self-talk leads to weak beliefs and weak beliefs lead to weak habits which ultimately cause ourselves to doubt taking on the best methods for the changes we seek.

After working in this field for over 8 years and trying to help 100’s of people change their health and fitness behaviors, I’ve realized that “the best methods” account for only 20% of the resultsThe other 80% are the mental and environmental aspects.  The breaking of entrenched beliefs, habits and altering one’s environment will have profound implications for the changes you seek.

Therefore, the question is what have you been focusing on?  Have you only been concerned with the actual structure of “what to do” without giving any thought to faulty beliefs?  Have you been a prisoner of self-contained habits that keep you grounded and not soaring towards you goals?  If that’s the case, what are you going to do about it?

If you need any help breaking those beliefs and habits with exercise, please contact me through my email

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  1. Hey there! I’m at work surfing around your blog! Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the outstanding work!

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