Making Lapses Work for You

Looking for Fires and Making Lapses Work for You (Part 2)This article is a 2 min read

Using behavior chains to analyze a lapse

You may ask what’s a behavior chain? A behavior chain is a way to look at lapses as a series of events, as opposed to only the consequence. It considers the things that happened before the behavior, the behavior and the consequence. The ABC’s.

The idea is the “chain” can be analyzed and changed at any point (or link) in the chain. We call this the behavioral interruption.

In part one of this article, we used the example of a missed exercise session due to a last minute meeting at work. Let’s use the behavior chain to look at the sequence of events and see where we can interrupt the undesired behavior (missing an exercise session).


In this example, we see the progressive movement from a stressful meeting to emotional eating, negative self-talk, and quitting a healthy habit.

The earlier in the chain we can “break” a link the less damage done. Developing coping skills is important. For example, expect the unexpected and be flexible. If your boss calls a late meeting understand that this doesn’t mean you need to go home and eat cake, even if tired and stressed. If you are tired, hungry or stressed you can still go to the gym and exercise for a shortened session. You could keep some healthy snacks on your desk to have during or after that late meeting.

If you find yourself talking yourself out of exercising, take a moment and do a quick pro-con list. What is the upside of going to the gym and the downside of not?  What is the upside of going home to eat cake and the downside? See which one makes more sense.

If you skip exercise and eat cake, keep in mind that this has nothing to do with you going back to the gym. Sit and write a list of goals you have for being physically active. Why do you think it’s important.

If needed recruit the help of a friend or loved one.

As you can see we have some options and solutions, there are much more. Using the ABC’s of behavior and the Behavior chain, you can assess any difficulty you are having making your healthy lifestyle habits permanent.

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