Getting Real about Change: Behavior Modification Spread

Filed Under Spreads and Reading Techniques | 2 Comments

One of the things we discussed in last week’s Tarot Journey was the difficulty of making real behavioral change. We all do things we know aren’t healthy for us – we eat too much sugar, spend too much time in front of a screen of some kind, spend money on things we don’t need or want, procrastinate, or some other behavior that works against our best interests.

Psychological experts have varying theories on motivation, rewards, avoidance, and other factors influencing behavior. What they don’t have is one surefire, 100% effective way to deal with modifying behavior to create new patterns.  So, I created this spread! (Okay, disclaimer: no guarantees that this is a surefire, 100% efective way to deal with modifying behavior, but I hope that you find it helpful in creating the behavioral changes you desire).

The spread contains four cards:





1.  Goal. This is the first card, because you have to know what you want to accomplish, or the rest of the spread doesn’t make any sense.

2.  How to create conditions to produce desired behavior. This card is in the base position, as it’s the foundation necessary for the desired result.

3.  How to remove / reduce attractiveness of undesirable behavior. This card is by itself, off to the left, to indicate what you need to move away from, what is to be left behind.

4.  How to provide reinforcement for desired behavior. This is the key between the foundation (Card 2) and the goal (card 1), so it visually links those two cards.

For each card, identify the issues, set an intention, and create an action to carry out the message of the card. Knowledge and intention are good, but if they’re not expressed through action, you are not going to change your behavior.

I used the Wildwood Tarot by Mark Ryan, John Matthews, and Will Worthington. (I don’t have scans of these images, so my suggestion is to acquire this amazing deck if you don’t already have it, so you can follow along.)  The behavior I want to address is the habit of working on my business all the time, to the exclusion of seeing my friends, having fun, relaxing, or taking time to be creative.

1. Goal: The Wanderer. This card corresponds to the RWS Fool. This fits nicely with my desire to be able to step away from my desk and take time to explore the world around me and spend time simply experiencing life. My action here is to create a list of enjoyable things I would like to make time for, and then actually schedule the time to do them.

2. Foundation: Six of Bows / Abundance. Wow. Whack upside the head time.  I need to step back and look at the truth of why I push myself the way I do. Where am I feeling a lack? Am I really worried about a lack on the material level, or am I attempting to fill some other deficiency that is more difficult to name, or that I am unwilling to confront? My action here is to answer these questions honestly, adjust my thinking and feeling to acknowledge the abundance that does exist, and address the real reasons I am experiencing feelings of lack.

3. What to Remove. Queen of Stones / Bear.  Aaaaand, another whack upside the head. The mother bear is about protecting, nurturing, caring.  The book reinforces this idea: “Many depend on you.” Well, yes – I have authors, clients, employees, friends, family. What the card says to me is to also use that mother bear energy to protect, nurture, and care for myself as vigorously as I do for others.

My action here is to set healthy boundaries around my time and energy, and say “no” to what does not truly serve me.  Below is a quote that sums it up perfectly:

“Whenever we deny our need to say ‘no’, our self-respect diminishes. It is not only our right at certain times to say ‘no’; it is our deepest responsibility. For it is a gift to ourselves when we say ‘no’ to those old habits that dissipate our energy, ‘no’ to what robs us of our inner joy, ‘no’ to what distracts us from our purpose. And it is a gift to others to say ‘no’ when their expectations do not ring true for us, for in so doing we free them to discover more fully the truth of their own path. Saying ‘no’ can be liberating when it expresses our commitment to take a stand for what we believe we truly need.”

~Ann Mortifee and John Robbins

4. Reinforcement. The Blasted Oak, card 16, a combination of the RWS Hanged Man and Tower cards. Whee!

Notice that the card position is about providing reinforcement for the behavior – it doesn’t specify whether that’s positive reinforcement (starting from a neutral place and ending in a positive place, such as with praise or a treat) or negative reinforcement (starting in a negative place and ending in a neutral place, for example, wearing shoes that hurt your feet, removing the shoes, and experiencing the relief from the pain).

“Positive” and “negative” don’t refer to the result, but to the starting point. This card is about the reinforcement, not the reward. The reward is the achievement of the Goal in Card #1. Too much casual pop psychology has created a muddle around these terms, so it’s important to be very clear how they’re being used in this spread. (For a concise discussion, see this blog post on “Best in Flock“.)

In this particular reading, The Blasted Oak is a negative reinforcement – that is, the lightning striking the tree breaks the restrictions I feel caught in. In so doing, this creates the freedom that is the Goal in card #1, which is a positive reward.


A rough reading – lots of internal work is required here, and that’s something I have not been giving myself time to do. However, if I give myself permission to step away from my desk and honestly work through the points raised in the reading, I can restore some sanity to my schedule and achieve a more satisfying work/life balance.

If you do this reading and want to share your results, please post in the comments. If you don’t want to share publicly, you can drop me an email and let me know how it worked for you.

2 Responses to “Getting Real about Change: Behavior Modification Spread”

  1. What a remarkable little spread! Spot on, too. Here’s what I pulled:
    1. 2 of wands
    2. 4 of wands
    3. Transition (AKA Death)
    4. The Magician

    1. 2 of wands; I want to develop my own business and get away from corporate America. I’ve been afraid of giving up the steady predictable income in exchange for the unknown…I’d kinda like to know I will be successful.
    2. 4 of wands; Being able to feel fulfilled by what I spend my day doing and harmonizing that with the desire for a comfortable income is the foundation and the ultimate goal.
    3. Transition; Stop resisting the transition and trust that this particular change is the next step.
    4. The Magician; Positive reinforcement that I should strike out on my own and go full steam ahead. The Connolly deck I am using lists the key to the Magician ‘know that everything is possible through the power of God’.
    I am going to spend some additional time pondering the message of these cards and how I can incorporate their message into my plans.
    Thank you for sharing this!

  2. Hi, Liz – Thanks for sharing your reading! It sounds like this is an exciting time for you, and that you feel ready. I wish you all the best as you move forward!