[Noun; ~Pronunciation: /bih-heyv-yuh-riz-uh m/]
- Definition: Using positive reinforcement to train yourself into becoming a better, healthier, funnier and wiser person. I mean, if it works for dogs, pigeons and small kids, it surely works on adults too, right?
“Psychology helps to measure the probability that an aim is attainable”
– Edward Thorndike –
Changes don’t happen overnight, no matter what Gloria Estefan sings about in Oye Mi Canto. If you wish to change yourself or certain aspects of your behaviour, first of all understand you are in it for the long haul. Trying to turn actions around, and ways of thinking you’ve embraced for such a long time they seem to have become automatic responses, is not easy!
But, if one can train a dog, it’s surely possible to train yourself out of your own “bad behaviour”, right?
I am hoping you’re nodding in agreement, because I am not yet 100% convinced of this myself.
Okay, here is the story. It’s come to my attention, for starters, that my WhatsApp behaviour is less than ideal. My brains operate in this manner: have I spoken to him/her in a while?, will I see him/her soon?, and: do I feel like texting right now? If any of the first two questions is answered by “yes” or the latter by a “no”, I don’t reply.
Well, not straight away. Which causes some understandable frustrations among friends.
Another bad habit of mine is snapping at my parents. I tried becoming a paragon of good behaviour, but it’s safe to say I failed. It’s taking a lot of effort for me to sit and hear the same stories come around every other day or hear my parents quibbling without bursting out in agitated screeching.
Then there are my eating habits. I am desperately trying to cut back on carbohydrates to lose that last little bit of weight I gained in the past months, but it’s not working. My weak spot for (mainly) sugar appears to be too big. I know I am not overweight, but I just want to feel happy in my body and right now I don’t.
This all got me thinking that maybe my actions aren’t wrong, but my way of thinking is. What if instead of seeing WhatsApp as a chore I see it as just the way it is: a means to communicate with people? And what if I see my parents as they are: two older people with everyday worries? And what if I stopped looking at the numbers on my scale and just focused on feeling good by eating healthy?
I think I am in need of some basic training. Now, I am not going to zigzag through poles or jump through a hoop, but I am convinced if you can teach a dog to eat at a certain time or even to talk (I saw a husky on TV a few days ago who clearly whined “I love you” at its owner), it’s possible for me to train myself into becoming a better communicator, a better paragon and even a better eater.
Behaviourism, or rather conditioning, works in two ways: praise good and punish bad behaviour. The first can be done by positive reinforcement, which basically means giving yourself a treat after displaying the preferred behaviour. The latter can be done by taking away something you like, known as negative punishment.
I am not sure as to how I can implement this into my own life, but I do know all change starts by realising something is wrong. Figuring out a way how to change is the next step and maybe conditioning is the key. We’ll see :)
Besides, aren’t we all “humans in training” in one way or another?
One thing is for sure, though. With or without training, at least I won’t end up like the dogs in the video!