2. Understand the consequences
We often confuse the behavior (eating the cookie) with the consequences. In this case, we think boredom caused us to eat the cookie. While boredom may have caused the behavior, what was the consequence of the behavior itself? How did you feel while eating the cookie?
At some level, in order for us to continue to tie the antecedent and behavior together, we need to find the consequences rewarding. But you might be wondering why, if eating the cookie makes us feel bad for continuing to do so? It may be that the behavior leads to a positive effect in the very short term, which is just enough to keep us doing it again in the future, hoping it lasts longer. On the other hand, it might reward our initial antecedent thought (“I knew I couldn’t resist the cookie and here I am eating it.”)
3. Understand the big picture: the antecedent
Now that you have a better understanding of the whole antecedents-behaviors-consequences chain, you can challenge each part of the chain separately to make lasting change. Start with the antecedent; If stress at work causes you to eat a cookie that makes you feel better (even briefly), start by assessing your reaction to the situation.
Ask yourself the following questions: Why do you feel stressed? Is this a reasonable response to the situation? What would make you feel less stressed? How could you change your perspective on the situation so that you don’t need to feel stressed in the first place? You can either change the antecedent (for example, do not walk past the vending machine) or in cases where you cannot control the antecedent, change your reaction to it (for example, regard the vending machine as something that hurts, that doesn’t help your goals).