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What is the “When-Then” Behaviour Strategy?

When Then Behaviour Strategy

In the realm of behavioural psychology and personal development, numerous strategies and techniques aim to foster positive change and habit formation. One such effective approach gaining prominence is the “When-Then” behaviour strategy. This strategy operates on the principle of linking a specific situation or trigger (the “when”) to a corresponding behaviour or action (the “then”). By creating a clear connection between a situational cue and the desired response, individuals can better navigate challenges and work towards achieving their goals.

The Basics of the “When-Then” Strategy

The “When-Then” strategy is fundamentally rooted in the idea of setting up conditional statements that guide behaviour. It is a cognitive tool that capitalises on the power of contextual cues to prompt specific actions. The structure of the strategy is simple: “When [situation occurs], then [desired behaviour].” This formulation creates an explicit connection between a particular context and the intended response, fostering a more intentional and goal-directed approach to behaviour.

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How the “When-Then” Strategy Works

By establishing clear connections between specific triggers and desired behaviours, the “When-Then” strategy acts as a roadmap for individuals striving to make positive changes in their lives.

  • Identification of Triggers (When): The first step in implementing the “When-Then” strategy involves identifying specific triggers or situations that commonly occur in daily life. These triggers act as cues that prompt a particular behaviour. For example, if the goal is to establish a consistent exercise routine, the trigger could be a specific time of day, such as the morning, or a visual cue, such as seeing workout clothes.
  • Defining Desired Behaviours (Then): Once the triggers are identified, the next step is to establish the desired behaviours associated with those triggers. In the exercise routine example, the desired behaviour might be going for a run, doing a workout at home, or heading to the gym. The key is to define actionable and specific behaviours that contribute to the overarching goal.
  • Creating Conditional Statements: The “When-Then” strategy comes to life through the creation of conditional statements that link triggers to behaviours. For instance, “When I wake up in the morning (trigger), then I will go for a 30-minute run (desired behaviour).” This establishes a clear connection between the trigger (waking up) and the intended response (going for a run).
  • Reinforcing Positive Habits: Consistent application of the “When-Then” strategy reinforces positive habits by automating the decision-making process. When individuals encounter the specified trigger, the associated behaviour becomes a natural and expected response. Over time, this contributes to the formation of habits that align with personal goals.

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Applications of the “When-Then” Strategy

The applications of the “When-Then” strategy span a diverse array of areas, offering a versatile approach to behaviour modification and goal attainment. This powerful cognitive tool finds relevance in personal development, productivity enhancement, and habit formation.  From achieving long-term goals to breaking procrastination patterns, this strategy provides a structured framework that promotes consistency and intentional decision-making. Here’s how the “When-Then” strategy proves to be a valuable asset in fostering positive habits, breaking entrenched behaviours, and enhancing overall well-being.

Goal Achievement

The “When-Then” strategy is particularly effective for goal-oriented behaviour. Whether the goal is related to health, productivity, or personal development, linking specific situations to corresponding behaviours creates a roadmap for success. For example, “When I feel stressed (trigger), then I will take five minutes to practise deep breathing or meditation (desired behaviour).”

Breaking Procrastination Patterns

Procrastination often stems from a lack of clarity or motivation. By implementing the “When-Then” strategy, individuals can break the cycle of procrastination by pinpointing the situations that lead to avoidance and replacing them with proactive behaviours. For instance, “When I open my email in the morning (trigger), then I will tackle the most challenging task on my to-do list (desired behaviour).”

Behavioural Change

Changing entrenched behaviours requires a deliberate and strategic approach. The “When-Then” strategy serves as a tool for reshaping habits by introducing new responses to familiar triggers. For someone looking to reduce screen time before bed, the conditional statement might be, “When it’s 30 minutes before bedtime (trigger), then I will switch off electronic devices and engage in a relaxing pre-sleep routine (desired behaviour).”

Enhancing Consistency

Consistency is a cornerstone of success in various areas of life. The “When-Then” strategy promotes consistency by providing a structured framework for behaviour. When individuals adhere to the established conditional statements, they create a reliable pattern of actions, reinforcing positive habits over time.

Challenges and Considerations

While the “When-Then” strategy can be a powerful tool for behaviour change, it’s essential to recognise potential challenges and considerations:

Realistic Goal Setting

The effectiveness of the strategy hinges on the realistic and achievable nature of the goals and associated behaviours. Unrealistic expectations may lead to frustration and derail the effectiveness of the “When-Then” approach.

Flexibility in Adaptation

Life is dynamic, and unforeseen circumstances may disrupt established routines. It’s crucial to maintain flexibility and be willing to adapt conditional statements when necessary. This adaptability ensures that the strategy remains a practical and sustainable tool.


Successful implementation of the “When-Then” strategy requires a deep understanding of personal triggers and behaviours. Individuals must cultivate self-awareness to accurately identify the situations that influence their actions and reactions.

Consistent Application

Like any behavioural strategy, the “When-Then” approach relies on consistent application for optimal results. Forming new habits takes time, and individuals should be patient and persistent in their efforts.

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The “When-Then” behaviour strategy is a valuable and accessible tool for individuals seeking to make positive changes in their lives. By creating explicit connections between triggers and desired behaviours, this strategy streamlines decision-making processes and fosters the development of intentional habits. Whether applied to personal goals, productivity, or habit formation, the “When-Then” strategy offers a structured and practical approach to behaviour change. As individuals become more attuned to their triggers and responses, they gain greater control over their actions, paving the way for sustained personal growth and development.

EuroSchool employs the “When-Then” strategy for effective learning, linking specific cues to behaviours, fostering discipline, and personalised academic growth.

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