Psychological Self-Help

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Time involved
Only a few minutes will probably be necessary to make up a sign
or a schedule for the day. It takes awareness and good intentions to
avoid certain situations but ordinarily not much time. The
"programming" of implementation intentions takes only a few minutes
but it has to be done in advance of getting into the action-initiating
circumstances. So, like the other techniques in this section, advanced
planning is required. 
Common problems with the method
Most unwanted behavior occurs because we, in part, want it to
occur and put ourselves in situations where it is hard to avoid. The
would-be dieter has more than 1200 calories of food on hand; the
smoker has a whole pack on him/her instead of just 5 cigarettes.
Likewise, desired behavior occurs when we are in the right place.
Recognizing the power of the environment to control our behavior and
providing a variety of reminders can help, but we may frequently
ignore the warning signs or prompting cues. If so, soon we won't even
bother to put the signs up or we won't bother to go to the "right"
place. The usual difficulty with the implementation of our intentions is
that we don't take the time to plan and make the mental connection in
advance between a specific situation and a specific behavior. 
Changing the environment is one of the best methods of self-
control you have; it is simple, safe, effective, and quick. The
disadvantage is that we are frequently unable to impose the method
on ourselves--we "forget," cheat, give up, "change our minds," or
decide to start changing tomorrow. In that case, perhaps more
reminders and rewards for doing the desired behavior are needed
and/or more punishment for neglecting the signs. Nevertheless, it is
one of the best self-help methods. The laboratory experiments done
with implementation intention suggest it is quite effective in that
setting; how it does in ordinary life is yet unproved but more practical
research is being done. 
Additional readings
Watson and Tharp (1972) are good; see their chapter 9. The more
radical behaviorist, contrary to what one might expect, places more
emphasis on changing the environment than on self-reinforcement
(Brigham, 1982). Birkedahl (1990) is a cognitive-behaviorist. See a
new book by Gollwitzer, P. M., Schaal, B., Moskowitz, G. B.,
Hammelbeck, H. J. P. & Wasel, W. (1999) about reducing stereotyping
and prejudice. 
Case illustration
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