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Episode 95: Q&A: How Do You Treat Behavior Objectively

You’re listening to The Work Of Becoming podcast! My name is Dr. Karin Nordin. I am your host as well as a behavior change expert and self-proclaimed tornado girl. I spent years of my life struggling to change before I finally got my PhD and learned the psychological tools that I needed to actually make those changes happen. Now, I’m bringing you five-minute sneak peeks of how I’m applying the real science of self-help to my life. Let’s get started!

Welcome to today’s episode of The Work Of Becoming podcast, which is a Q&A episode! So, our question from our listener today is:

“How do you treat your own behavior objectively?”

I think this is coming from someone who probably has a difficult time looking back at past behavior and being neutral about it. And so, I’m gonna talk a little bit about that in this episode.

But before I jump into it and before I jump into my process for objectively looking at my own behavior, I want to remind you that it is impossible for us as humans to be truly objective on our own behavior, which is one of the reasons that recently my process has involved having a coach. So, I signed up for my own coaching program. I’m now working with a behavior change coach, and that is specifically because I looked at my process, and I was like, “This is getting really subjective. My own perceptions, my own shoulds, my own expectations, my own societal ideas, all of this is really infiltrating my perception of my own behavior, and that is changing my decision making and is changing my approach.” And so, I knew that more neutrality and more objectivity is gonna be what moved me forward to my next version of myself. And so, that’s one of the reasons why I chose to engage in coaching.

So, if you don’t feel like you’re 100% objective about your own behavior, congratulations, you are a human! This might be a time where you need a coach, okay? With that said, here is the process that I follow when I want to look at behavior objectively.

Step number one is I measure it. The saying is what is measured is managed, and that is absolutely true. So, I really, really like, as much as possible, to get numbers involved, okay? So, for example, let’s say that I set a goal one month of I want to tidy something in my house every day. I’ve actually done this goal before, and it was interesting because after the first week or so, I started getting into a mental debate about what counted as enough tidying to checkmark that habit. And so, some days I would organize my tiny little wallet, and it would take, like, 30 seconds, and I’d be like, “Oh, I tidied!” And then other days I would organize the whole house, and it would take, like, an hour and a half, and I’d be like, “Okay, I tidied.” And so, when I was reflecting on that — and I was struggling, right? I was struggling later in the month to be like, “Oh, well, if I did this, does it really count? I kind of grabbed something out of the car today, does that count?”

And so, any time I set a goal I decide with very, very clear parameters what is my rubric for yes and no. What is my rubric for one of those? So, for tidying it became that I actually used the stopwatch on my Apple Watch, and I said, “In order to count as my daily tidying, it has to have taken five minutes.” So, I can organize my wallet, but if that wallet organization only takes 20 seconds, then I have to do something else. So, step number one is to figure out how you’re going to manage your behavior. Very specifically, what counts and what doesn’t count.

Step number two is at the end of the week or month or day or year or whatever that you have that data from the behavior that you’ve measured very clearly, you gather all that data together and then — and this is the really important part — you take time away from it. So, I will count up at the end of the month, “Okay, I worked out 13 times this month. I did five walks and six workouts,” and I’ll put it all in a list. Inevitably, when I’m looking back through all of that data, when I’m gathering all of it up, I start to have feelings and judgments about it. I’m like, “Oh, wow, this was a really rough month,” or I’m judging myself for not doing something enough or I’m failing to recognize a strength of mine.

So, what I do is I gather all the data and then I take 24, at minimum (likely closer to 48), hours away from it, and I come back to that data after 48 hours. That time helps you distance yourself from that emotional part of you. It helps snap you out of that initial reaction to seeing the data, okay? Your brain actually processes quite a bit when you’re not paying attention to a particular thing, which is why if you’ve ever had a really good idea in the shower, that’s why. Your brain needs idle time in order to fully process. So, that space, that 48 hours also gives you time to sort of being in idle.

And so, then, step number three is I intentionally put myself in a coach perspective. So, I switch into third person, and I’m like, “Okay, Karin worked out 14 times this month. What do we think about that?” Actually distancing yourself and putting your rhetoric into third person there can be a really, really powerful tool because then you’re treating yourself more like an other, and you can ask yourself, “Okay, why do I think Karin did that?” You can treat Karin (yourself) essentially like a case study, and you can get really curious and really neutral and really interested in that data rather than being kind of swamped in the self-judgment.

So, that’s my personal process. Number one is getting everything into a numerical cut-and-dry format, number two is taking 48 hours away, and then number three is putting on my coach hat and really viewing that data with an intentionally-objective lens. If you don’t have that ability, that’s something that I learned from working with coaches.

So, we learn through modeling, right? You learn by watching other people, and when you work with a coach, you watch that coach react objectively to your own behavior. You hear what that coach is saying to you, and so, you learn to kind of develop that self-coaching voice in your brain.

That is what I’ve got for today! I will see you all in the next episode!

PS: if you are on a journey to become a better you, and you want to learn the tools and techniques that will actually help change your life, make sure you check out my Change Academy Membership. Each month, we do a 1.5-hour workshop on a different psychological topic, but we also provide resources like journal prompts, worksheets, and trackers. We host community events and more. If you’re struggling to close the gap between knowing what to do and actually doing it, this membership was built for you. Go to www.karinn4.sg-host.com/change-academy to learn more!

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Hi, I'm Karin

I’m a funfetti flavor super-fan, a loving dog mom, a PhD expert in mindset and behavior change… and I’m here to help make personal development and transformation a process that’s actually fun.

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