Psychological Self-Help

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our behavior, becoming more "friendly" or pulling away, according to
how we read their signals. Likewise, we are using antecedent cues any
time we are observing the situation and trying to figure out "what to
do" (which means trying to predict what the consequences will be). As
self-helpers we are able to alter the consequences somewhat by
providing special rewards and punishment--and we can alter our view
of the consequences, emphasizing important values and long-range
goals which might otherwise be overlooked. 
In modeling, we learn specific ways of behaving in certain
situations or what the consequences are likely to be if we act a certain
way in a situation. Again, the environment is influencing our actions. 
It is said "the road to hell is paved with good intentions," meaning
that announced intentions are often useless and not believed. The bad
reputation of intentions is not entirely deserved. Science shows that
intentions are somewhat related to later behavior, but only modestly
(Gollwitzer, 1999). Good intentions account for only about 20%-30%
of the variance in the desired behavior. Of course, strong intentions
have more influence than weak intentions but strong and weak often
fail. Fortunately, research, as summarized by Gollwitzer, demonstrates
several ways to increase the power of the environment to implement
our intentions. Step 4 spells out these methods which use self-
instructions to strengthen the stimulus-response connection. The
process is called "implementation intentions" and has some obvious
similarity to self-instructions as described in the next method. 
Thus, within the change-the-environment method there are two
basic techniques for self-control: (1) avoiding situations that lead to
unwanted behavior and (2) providing stimuli that prompt desired
To decrease the frequency of undesirable responses. Examples: over-
eating, procrastinating, "bad" habits, irritability, self-criticism, etc. 
To increase the frequency of desired responses. Examples: doing
chores, studying, being understanding, being assertive, etc. 
Incidentally, the environment has the same kind of effect on emotions as
on behavior (see chapter 12). 
STEP ONE: Recognize the "bad" environment.
This may be easy--rich, delicious food surrounding the dieter,
friends urging the budding alcoholic to get drunk or the budding
scholar to "have some fun," or the discussion of certain topics that
lead to arguments, and so on. 
It may not be so easy--habits like smoking or nail biting tend to
occur without your awareness, but certain conditions encourage these
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