student to go to the library; getting there is the problem. The detailed
steps involved in getting to the library may include (1) finding a friend
who does or will go to the library regularly, (2) asking to study with
this friend, and (3) reinforcing the friend for being a good study
partner who reinforces you (Brigham, 1982). Throughout this book we
find that our behavior is a result of "the company we keep." We can
change our friends and/or find different friends.
STEP FOUR: Implementation intentions: Mental preparations
that increase the effectiveness of environmental cues to
prompt desired behavior.
As discussed in chapter 2, goals are usually more helpful if they
are (a) are very specific (time, place, and exact behavior) rather than
vague, (b) are in the near future, not distant, (c) involve learning
desired behaviors rather than evaluating of how well you are doing,
and (d) lead to positive outcomes instead of reducing negative
behaviors. Once the desired goals are in mind and committed to, i.e.
you have "intentions," this step helps you turn them into actions.
Rather than using self-instructions to guide yourself through to your
goal (as described in the next method), this approach uses self-
instructions to strengthen the connections between specific
environmental situations and specific desired/intentional behaviors.
This is done by deciding in advance when there may be good
opportunities to perform the desired goal-directed behaviors. Then you
give yourself instructions that prime the specific situation to elicit a
specific response, e.g. "as soon as I get home this evening and change
clothes, I will start to walk... jog... exercise... swim...". This
emphasizes the positive goal behaviors while avoiding the competing
old bad habits, distractions, and unwanted behaviors. This and the
following few paragraphs are summaries of a well documented article
by Gollwitzer (1999).
Not all desired behaviors can be pre-planned at specific times and
places. Suppose you want to tactfully mention to your husband that
most of his pants are out of style and too tight. By having some
thoughts earlier in the day ("pre-deciding") about commenting "let's
look for some new pants for you, honey" while having a good time
shopping together that afternoon, you make it much more likely that
you will think of it at an appropriate time and do it in an effective way.
To some extent in this method the burden of self-control is shifted
from your conscious mind to an automatic perceptual process--now
when the appropriate shopping situation arises, it reminds you to
make the comment you have previously rehearsed.
Likewise, implementation intentions can be designed to catch a
fleeting opportunity. Examples could be: "when I see a black man, I'll
be friendly, not suspicious" or "whenever I meet an old person...
someone with a strong southern accent... a homeless person... an
oriental person..., I'll try to avoid stereotyping them." "When someone
makes a sexist or critical remark, I will question the validity of their