situations. Examples: the same social interaction skills are used with
new friends as with old ones, even though the new friends are much
more into athletics (or community service) than the old friends. Your
ordinary social skills are all you need to become a Candy Striper at a
hospital or a volunteer at a local nursing home; yet, your life might
change. The task is to put those old skills to new uses.
STEP THREE: Develop self-instructions that guide the initiation
and carrying out of the desired behavior.
If you think about it, a new behavior (one that isn't habitual) is
ordinarily linked with thoughts that tell the behavior when to start,
how to proceed, when and how to stop, and so on. We have a "coach"
inside our head. Thus, changing behavior might more accurately be
described as self-instruction modification. There is a therapy approach
called Cognitive Behavior Modification. Donald Meichenbaum (1977)
has developed and summarized many of the techniques using self-talk.
Our self-talk both guides our behavior and explains and evaluates the
outcome (see Attribution theory in chapter 4). It is our awareness and
our thoughts. Consider this example of uninsightful thinking and much
more aware and self-guiding thinking by an overeater:
I don't have the will power to
cut down on my eating.
Stop giving yourself excuses. Will power has
nothing to do with it; you just don't plan
what you will eat and you haven't yet
controlled your environment. Let's get
My life is so dull. I deserve a
good meal in the evening.
Another self-con! Come on, all this weight is
no fun. I don't look good; I have high blood
pressure; I'm lonely. I deserve the more fun
and health I'd have if I lost weight.
A small steak and a bowl of
ice cream later won't matter.
You are kidding yourself again. That is what
you said last night. It does matter; this
eating has to stop. Why not now?
No one is ever going to be
interested in me, any how.
What a pessimist! That kind of thinking is
ruining our life. Come on, let's go to aerobics
and have a cup of yogurt afterwards.
This is how we control ourselves much of the time--we talk to
ourselves. We know when our thinking is leading down the wrong
path. We can recognize excuses, rationalizations, depressive, and self-
defeating thinking, and then we can correct those thoughts. As a
result, our behavior is much more reasonable and results in our
reaching more of our highly valued long-range goals in life. Become
mindful of your mind.
How else can we use self-talk? Let's suppose we wanted to become
less shy and there was a particular person we would like to get to