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Changing Behavior


Changing Behavior: Shining a Light on 5 Misleading Myths to Avoid.

“Jenny, I’ve read so many books about this, but none of them have helped and I don’t know which one I should be following now.”

Helen was in a new role at board level and was struggling with a stubborn bout of impostor syndrome.

She’d tried a lot of different things before she came to me, but while she understood what she needed to do at intellectual level, it was proving hard to put into practice.

Starting a journey of self-improvement often means navigating a landscape riddled with myths and misconceptions.

When it comes to changing behavior, you’re bombarded with advice, anecdotes, and assumptions that can lead you astray. And these myths can create unnecessary roadblocks, hindering your progress and success.

In this article, I’m shining a light on 5 of the most misleading myths about changing behavior.

From the belief that transformation is a long and arduous process to the notion that willpower alone can drive change, we’ll debunk these common but misleading myths one by one, empowering you to approach behavior change with confidence.

So, buckle up as we embark on a journey to dispel the myths and uncover the truths that will propel you towards lasting transformation …

Here’s the 5 Changing Behavior myths we’ll explore:

>> Myth #1: It Takes a Long Time

>> Myth #2: It’s Difficult and Painful

>> Myth #3: You Need to Dig into Your Past

>> Myth #4: Knowledge and Education Will Do It

>> Myth #5: You Need Willpower

Let’s get started.

Before we dive in though, let’s take a moment to define our terms. What do I mean when I talk about changing behavior?

Definition of Changing Behavior

Changing behavior is the process of modifying your actions, attitudes and habits to be aligned with a desired outcome or goal.

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Definition of Behavior Change - Pinterest Pin

Myths About Changing Behavior

Changing Behavior Myth #1:

It Takes a Long Time

Many people approach changing behavior with the preconceived idea that it’s a long, lengthy process.

As spare time is something that few (aka none) of us have, this myth can put you off even starting.

“I’ll start it after the holidays …” or,

“Once this project is finished, I’ll have more time to …”

Ever fall into this trap? My hand is raised. 🙋🏻‍♀️ I used to say this all the time.

But how long does it really take to change behavior? A recent LinkedIn poll shows that most people think it takes 8+ months – and they’re right!

LinkedIn Poll_How Long Does It Take To Change a Behavior

A quick google search shows us that it can take anywhere up to 254 days to change behavior so that it becomes your new automatic norm – that’s a huge 8.5 months!

The time involved is often dragged out because people start, but don’t maintain the new behavior and then need to start all over again.

In “Self-regulation and behavior change: Disentangling behavioral initiation and behavioral maintenance”, Alexander Rothman highlights that people who successfully start a new pattern of behavior more often than not fail to sustain that behavior over time. 🤦

And typically, the longer you’ve had a particular behavior, and the more ingrained it is, the longer it’s going to take to replace it with your new, preferred, behavior.

The good news is that it doesn’t HAVE to be this way.

Yes, your behavior CAN take a long time to change. But it can also be changed pretty quickly with the right tools and strategies.

There’s a lot that can be done to speed up the process and get you results significantly faster.

If this sounds good, be sure to book your seat on my upcoming free Masterclass, ‘How to Get Unstuck’ to learn how to do change your behavior a lot quicker than you thought possible.

Get Unstuck Masterclass_Blog Post_Full Width Image

So, there’s the first myth debunked. Changing behavior does NOT necessarily have to take a long time – with the right approach it can be achieved quicker than you think.

Changing Behavior Myth #2:

It’s Difficult and Painful

As humans we have a natural negativity bias.

We’ve evolved to scan our environment to be on the lookout for bad things that might harm us.

This is often done unconsciously, without you even being aware of it.

Back in the days when we lived in caves, this negativity bias was critical for our survival. But today it no longer serves us quite as well …

Here’s the thing.

Your unconscious mind is not always your friend – don’t believe everything it tells you.

One of the jobs of the unconscious mind is to keep you safe and alive.

Not to fulfil your potential. Not to realize your dreams, goals and aspirations.

Safe and alive.

And the unconscious mind will always take the easiest and most straight forward route to achieving it’s objective.

Unfortunately, what this means in reality is that your unconscious mind will do everything in it’s formidable power to retain what’s familiar.

Familiar = Safe.

Anything that’s new, different and unfamiliar is quickly labelled as bad and a threat. So, this puts your change efforts on the back foot right out of the starting blocks.

changing behavior
And then we’ve got your own past experience of trying to change your behavior.

I’m sure you’ve got an example of when trying to change was tough, unpleasant or downright frustrating.

These negative past experiences create to a whole host of limiting beliefs about your ability to change and actually achieve your goals.

Add the negative emotions and critical internal chatter that pops up when you start to think about making a change or stretching yourself and it’s not difficult to see where Myth #2 comes from.

For most people, past attempts to change behavior has been hard and painful.

But again, it doesn’t have to be this way.

The reason why we find changing behavior so hard and painful is that we haven’t got our unconscious mind on side.

It’s fighting against you every step of the way.

You want to achieve your goals and realize your potential. It wants to keep you in the safety of your familiar comfort zone.

The solution?

Clear out all the limiting beliefs and negative emotions that are holding you back and get your unconscious mind aligned and pulling in the same direction of your goals.

This might sound like a lot of work, but I promise you it’s not.

Myth #2 debunked. Changing behavior doesn’t have to be a painful and difficult process. If done right, it can be fun and empowering (yes, really).


Changing Behavior Myth #3:

You Need to Dig into Your Past

Ahh, the proverbial ‘emotional baggage’ we ALL have. The limiting beliefs and negative emotions such as anger, hurt, sadness, fear and guilt that we carry around all day, weighing us down and keeping us stuck.

Emotional Baggage

If you want to achieve your goals and aspirations and create the life you actually want (not the one you’re settling for) then you need to get rid of your limiting beliefs and negative emotions.

You simply won’t achieve what you’re capable of until you do.

Think of an anchor that drags along the seabed. It either slows the boat down or stops it completely. That’s what limiting beliefs and negative emotions do to you.

No matter how hard you work towards your goals, there’s something that’s pulling you back and stopping you from getting there.

And it can be immensely frustrating.

So, you need to do the work to clear out the limiting beliefs and negative emotions that are holding you back.

You know this.

But here’s where myth #3 comes in.

You don’t want to dig up the past and have someone dissect all those unhappy and unpleasant events that have created your limiting beliefs and negative emotions.

You’ve buried them away for good reason and have absolutely no interest in digging them back up again …

If this is you, then you’re in good company.

This reservation is extremely common and puts a lot of people off even starting any sort of coaching no matter how frustrated you are with the present.

You simply don’t want to go there.

It’s especially true for leaders who come to coaching from a work or business perspective. You definitely don’t want to dig into your past to improve your present.

But honestly, a dose of tough truth here, all those things you’re struggling with in work –

over-thinking, impostor syndrome, lack of confidence, perfectionism, being overlooked for promotion or less than stellar performance feedback

– they ALL stem from limiting beliefs and negative emotions.

Whichever way you look at it, you’ve got to deal with them. 😩

Even though many therapeutic approaches do dig into your past to clear your limiting beliefs and negative emotions, the good news is that it’s not the only way.

I have many tools and techniques in my coaching toolbox which don’t require us to dissect where your limiting beliefs and negative emotions came from in order to get rid of their impact.

Myth #3 debunked. It’s entirely possible to clear out the limiting beliefs and negative emotions that aren’t serving you, in a quick, comfortable and content-free way. It doesn’t matter where they came from, or how long you’ve had them, they can be cleared.

Changing Behavior Myth #4:

Knowledge and Education Will Do It.

Reading about your problem – how to increase your confidence, keep perfectionism in check or overcome impostor syndrome for example – won’t change your behavior for the better.

Books, training courses, blog posts – all they’ll give you is information, not transformation.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE books – my bedside table is spilling over with them!

But you need to manage your expectations as to what they’ll do for you.

They’re great to raise your awareness of your problem and how it might be playing out.

That’s a really important part of the change journey.

But when it comes down to actually changing behavior, you need intentional, guided action. You first need to clear out anything that’s holding you back, and then set the course for future action.

And that won’t happen by just reading about it. It would be nice if it did, but hoping won’t make it so. 😉

This is one myth that had me stuck for a long time.

As I’ve said, I love books. Perhaps a little too much! I would read and read and read some more …

… books, blog posts, training courses.

I knew all about the topic from a knowledge perspective, but it wasn’t until I actually took guided, consistent action on what I knew that I started to see results.

Changing Behavior - Reading Does Not Lead To Transformation

I see this all the time in my coaching practice.

Leaders know what they need to do at an intellectual level. They’re smart people. They’ve read the books and taken the courses.

But for some reason they’re not consistently doing what they know.

There’s a world of difference between knowing something and doing something.

“Learning is defined as a change in behavior. You haven’t learned a thing until you take action and use it.”

Kenneth H. Blanchard

Myth #4 debunked. This is a quick one to debunk.

Books and training courses will give you information but it’s only when you start to apply what you know on a consistent basis, will you achieve the transformation that you want.

When it comes to changing behavior, knowing isn’t enough, you need to do something with what you know.

Changing Behavior Myth #5:

You Need Willpower

Relying solely on your willpower to drive behavior change often leads to frustration and failure.

There’s a reason that weight loss is a multi-billion dollar industry – it’s near impossible to sustain behavior change when relying on willpower alone!

Willpower is a finite resource that quickly runs out, especially when you’re constantly challenged by temptations and obstacles.

As you experience day-to-day stress, tiredness, or competing priorities, your ability to muster the necessary willpower weakens, making it increasingly difficult to maintain the behaviors you want.

This over-reliance on willpower misses the importance of dealing with the underlying habits, beliefs, and environmental factors that are hindering your progress.

This narrow focus on sheer determination fails to account for the complex interplay of psychological, social, and environmental influences that shape your behavior.

As a result, when you’re faced with setbacks or lapses in willpower, you’re going to have those awful feelings of guilt, self-doubt, and frustration – you beat yourself up and this further undermines your motivation and resolve. And so the cycle continues.

So, it’s easy to see how depending solely on willpower sets you up for an uphill battle, which results in cycles of disappointment and stagnation!

That’s why it’s crucial not to beat yourself up or give yourself a hard time when your willpower falters because it’s not your fault.

Changing Behavior - Its Not Your Fault

It’s your unconscious mind that’s sabotaging your efforts. Yes, that old chestnut again – are you spotting a pattern yet?

Deep-seated habits, beliefs, and automatic responses programmed in your unconscious can override your conscious intentions, making it impossible to maintain your desired behaviors.

The great news is that getting your unconscious mind aligned with your desired behavior change can remove the reliance on willpower.

When your unconscious mind is on board with your goals, it naturally guides your actions, making the desired behavior feel like second nature.

By rewiring your deep-seated patterns and beliefs at the unconscious level, you create fertile ground for lasting change to take root.

Instead of constantly struggling against resistance and depending solely on sheer determination, you tap into an inner wellspring of motivation and alignment that propels you forward effortlessly.

This harmony fosters a sense of flow and ease in adopting new habits, lightening the mental load that typically comes with relying on willpower alone.

So, by harnessing the power of your unconscious mind, you pave the way for enduring behavior change with ease and effectiveness. Yay! 🥳

Myth #5 debunked. Understanding that unconscious habits, beliefs and emotions play a huge role in your behavior means you can let go of self-blame and frustration.

Aligning your unconscious mind with your desired changes simply removes the need for willpower – making your new behaviors feel natural and effortless. 🚀

Final Thoughts: Changing Behavior – 5 Myths to Avoid.

So, we’ve debunked the common and misleading myths about changing behavior once and for all!

Say goodbye to the idea that changing behavior is an uphill battle …

… it’s time to make it a breeze.

And when you’re ready to get started, I’m excited to invite you to a free LIVE masterclass called, ‘How To Get Unstuck: The 3 Secret Saboteurs that Keep You Stuck and Stop You From Realizing Your Full Potential.”

I’ve spent over 12,000 hours working with leaders around the globe and I want to share what I’ve learnt with you.

Join me in this free training to learn how to overcome a trio of secret saboteurs so that you can finally achieve your goals and live the life you actually want – without the stress and overwhelm.

Space is limited, so be quick and book your seat now.

Get excited. Cheers to a future filled with effortless transformation!


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I'm Jenny Ostick

As an Organizational Psychologist and Master Coach I’m on a mission to make good leaders exceptional leaders. My lifework is to help leaders overcome the unhelpful beliefs, behaviours and habits that are holding them back, so they can become the exceptional leader they’re capable of being.


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Breakthrough Coaching


I'm Jenny Ostick.

As an Organizational Psychologist and Leadership Coach I'm on a mission to make good leaders exceptional leaders.

I've spent the last 20 years working with leaders across the globe and have had the privilege of working with 1000+ leaders during this time.

I've worked with the likes of Deloitte, Virgin, Nestle and Coca-Cola to name just a few, and this has provided me with a unique insight into the difficulties that leaders face and the real things they struggle with.

My lifework is to help leaders overcome the unhelpful beliefs, behaviours and habits that are holding you back, so you can become the exceptional leader you're capable of being.

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