6 Factors That Influence Our Behavior

“This time is going to be different.”

Those are the first words we tell ourselves when we set a goal to change our behavior. It does not matter if that behavior change is to quit smoking, to lose weight, or to start exercising.

Despite our past failures, we believe this time we will summon the willpower to make it stick.

But…as you probably know well “this time” is rarely ever different. You set an unrealistic plan to achieve your goal, stick with it for a while, but burn yourself out within the first few weeks. 

However, not everyone is doomed to suffer this fate.

  • Some people are able to quit smoking.
  • Some people are able to lose weight and keep it off.
  • Some people are able to create an exercise habit that lasts.

So what are these people doing differently than the rest of us? 


Psychologist Al Switzler and his colleagues set out to answer that question.

They documented the progress of 5,000 participants who were all attempting to lose weight. Of them, 600 participants were able to change their behavior, achieve their weight-loss, and keep it off for 3 or more years! [1]

And these 600 participants did not do it through sheer willpower.

Instead, they mastered these 6 factors that influence our behavior for better or worse. Some of these factors are internal and depend directly on us and our motivation.

But more are influenced by our friends, family and the environment we put ourselves in. Below are the 6 factors Swtizler found that influence behavior change and how you can use them to achieve your goals. [2]


Willpower wasnt the only thing these success stories relied on, but it was certainly a factor.

You must genuinely want to change your behavior and willpower is necessary to do that. 

The participants who were able to achieve their weight loss had a deep desire to change their behavior and the discipline to follow through with their plans.


Increasing your willpower starts first with purpose.

If you don’t have a desire to truly change your behavior, you will not be able to find the strength you need to stick with your plan when you are inevitably tired, stressed, and bored.

When you have found your purpose, there are many things you can do to strengthen your willpower.

1. Here are exercises you can do to strengthen your willpower

2. Here is how you can use your perspective

3. Here is a simple way to avoid procrastination


Many of us set plans to better ourselves without having the right knowledge at our disposal.

We will set a plan to “eat healthier” without really knowing what foods we should eat. We will set a plan to “exercise more” without knowing how often we should workout and what exercises are best.

The successful participants did their homework. They researched what tactics really worked in weight loss. So they knew which activities were the best uses of their time, energy, and willpower.

With the right knowledge and skills to achieve their weight loss goals, they were able to direct their willpower more effectively.


Before you spend your time and energy on a new plan to quit smoking, diet, or exercise; make sure you have the right knowledge.

Do the proper research and commit to a plan with proven results.

Once you do this, you will want to have something that will help you monitor your progress. The successful participants tracked their weight-loss consistently.

This allowed them to learn which strategies worked better than others–which helped them to be more objective and less emotional about the process.


Most of us don’t think about how much influence our friends, family and colleagues have on us. 

We evolved to “fit in with the crowd” because the crowd helped our ancestors stay safe. This can be good or bad.

Some people around you will help to motivate and keep you accountable–these are known as allies.

Unfortunately, others will tempt you to stray from your goals, and provide justification for giving up on them–these are known as accomplices. [3]

The successful participants understood this. They communicated well with the people in their social groups and asked for their support, rather than their license to sin. 


The people around you can be allies or accomplices in the pursuit of your goals.

They want to see you happy and they want to see you achieving your goals, but even those with the best of intentions may end up tempting or enabling you without realizing it.

Be sure to communicate with everyone in your social groups effectively.

Explain to them your goal and why you are committed to it. Giving them the honest, passionate reason why you want to make a change will help ensure they become allies and not accomplices. [4]


The best way to accomplish something you’ve never done is to find someone who’s already accomplished it.

The successful participants found a mentor, a coach, or a support group to help give them the ability to make the change.

This goes beyond getting advice from a friend. This is expert advice from someone who can help you create a plan, give you proper feedback, and knows how to provide support while also holding you accountable.


Search through your network to see if there is some person or group that is familiar with the behavior change you are seeking. These could be friends, acquaintances, or even hired experts.

By finding someone like this, your likelihood of achieving your goals will increase exponentially.

Not only will you have people to motivate and keep you accountable, but they will also be able to give you proper advice and feedback.


Behavior change is not easy, but that does not mean it can’t be fun!

The successful participants created reward and incentive plans throughout their process of behavior change that helped them stay motivated.

There was no best reward or incentive. It all depended on the individual and what would motivate him or her most effectively.


Setting up a plan to reward yourself should be fun. It should not be as black and white as the simple “carrot and stick”.

As humans, we are much more complex than that. It could simply be the intrinsic reward of making progress, or allowing yourself to indulge in something that won’t hinder your goal.

For example, when I was trying to create a habit of waking up earlier, I allowed myself to eat whatever I wanted for breakfast.

To me, waking up early was more important than eating a healthy breakfast, so I created that reward. It gave me the extra incentive I needed to get out of bed, and made the process a lot more enjoyable!


The last thing the successful participants did differently was to create an environment where good behaviors were easy and bad behaviors were hard.

To achieve their weight loss, they got rid of the unhealthy food in their homes so it would be harder to get it.

They also packed a healthy lunch, so they wouldn’t be put in front of a fast-food menu. They got their gym bag ready the night before so it would be easier to exercise in the morning.

They set up these things in advance so they would avoid future temptations. 


What can you do to make your good behaviors easier and your bad behaviors harder?

Understand that you will be tired, stressed, and tempted in the future. This will make it harder for you to exert your willpower to make the right decision.

So set up your environment to make it easier to do the right thing.

Write down those times that your willpower feels drained and it’s hard to stick to your plan. Then play offenseby trying to think of ways to help your future self by setting yourself up for success. 


When we set a new goal, all too often we rely solely on our willpower to push ourselves through it.

We neglect the undeniable influence of our friends, our environment, and our own knowledge. Those who are able to successfully achieve their desired behavior change not only acknowledge these factors, but they use them to their advantage.

The next time you set a goal, make a plan that includes all 6 factors of influence. Set yourself up for success by ensuring that you have the willpower, knowledge, support, incentives, and environment that will help you achieve your goal.

Then, perhaps, this time really will be different!