Several years ago a junior in my class wanted to make three self-
improvements: study more, spend less time in "bull sessions," and use
fewer drugs. He proposed changing his environment to solve all three.
I thought that was too simple; that he should reward the desired
behavior, learn better study skills, make out a schedule, use
punishment or covert sensitization, etc. He decided to do it his way.
He lived in a fraternity house, where it was difficult to study. So,
he planned to go to the library after supper until 10:00 P.M. Sunday
through Thursday. He still had time after 10:00 for bull sessions with
his brothers. On Friday or Saturday night he had a date; on the other
night he partied with his drug-using friends.
Most of his friends accepted these changes (the heavy drug users
"became less friendly"), after he explained. He found it satisfying to
study; indeed, he met a girl there who also enjoyed studying. His
grades went from C's to A- that semester. He spent about $12.00 less
per week on drugs and alcohol. Last I heard, he had just started
practicing law in his home town.
Learn new behavior; follow a model; use self-instructions; try the as
Self-observation and self-evaluation (methods #8 & #9) may
result in our feeling a need to change. One way to change our
behavior is to change the environment, as we have just discussed.
Another way is to learn some new and better way to respond in the old
situation. That's obvious! What's not obvious--indeed, it's confusing--is
all the different ways of learning new behavior. Consider this:
A number of self-change methods were described in chapter 4,
including operant, classical, and observational learning methods. There
were also discussions of how to increase motivation and reduce
procrastination, how to stop bad habits, how to prevent relapse, and
how to develop a comprehensive behavior modification plan.
Moreover, this entire book deals with changing some form of behavior-
-changing values in chapter 3, changing emotions in chapters 5 to 8
and 12, changing skills in chapter 13, changing your mind in chapter
14, and so on. These behaviors are dealt with separately simply
because it won't all fit in one chapter. However, even when we limit
ourselves to simple, unemotional, conscious behaviors, there are lots
of tricks and gimmicks and techniques for "changing behavior" or
preparing to do so (including all 20 methods in this chapter).
This section really focuses on three major learning techniques:
learning from observing others, the use of self-instructions, and
practicing new behaviors. These approaches to learning new behavior
are generally useful in many situations to replace many different kinds
of unwanted behaviors. All three are among the most commonly used
approaches to changing. Each will be briefly described.