After reading this post, I hope you will be convinced - if you are not already - that what most of us are most in need of, is more support. And that you will be motivated to look for and find that support. Put another way, education that consists solely of providing information is not enough. Information may persuade us of a need to change but few of us are able to create the change without support.
I would love to read your comments on this. You can write your thoughts at the end of this post.
A case in point is losing weight and keeping that weight off permanently. Currently in Australia there is considerable interest in this issue as evidenced by a recent episode of the ABC program, The Drum, being devoted to it. From a health point of view, we know that snacking on processed food throughout the day does nothing for our health; yet many people do just that because processed food is usually tasty, cheap and easily available.
Another example from my own life is exercise. I know that exercise is beneficial but to date have failed to find the motivation to build it into my daily routine! And that is despite my own understanding of the benefits of exercise and the ongoing efforts of my extremely knowledgeable and skilled exercise physiologist.
Yet another example would be meditation. The benefits of a regular meditation or mindfulness practice have been widely studied, yet when it comes to a daily practice, there is nearly always something urgent that needs to be attended to first!
I’m sure you can think of many of your own examples.
How does more support help?
- First of all, it needs to be the right kind of support. I remember a colleague reporting on his experience in being consulted to solve the very practical problem of ensuring that bar tenders in Irish pubs that stocked the popular brand, Guinness, poured just the right amount of creamy head for customers. The company had already tried training - several times using different approaches - to no avail. My colleague diagnosed this as a behaviour issue rather than a lack of information or skill. There was no doubt that bar tenders could pour the drink correctly yet they failed to perform consistently. My colleague diagnosed a motivation issue and proposed that customers be asked to vote for the best Guinness pour and the winner would be rewarded with (I think it was) a fully paid up weekend away for two. Problem solved!
- External reinforcement can help. Examples of this from traffic management in Australia include the mandating of seat belts, use of helmets by cyclists, speed limits, provision of cycle lanes and removal of level crossings. If you’ve ever driven in Thailand or India, you would notice the difference from driving in Australia. Being ‘forced’ to obey rules because we fear adverse consequences can often increase compliance and make it easier to do what we otherwise might find impossible.
- We all need each other. As humans, we are born with an inbuilt dependency on others, starting with our mother and father. It takes years for us to learn independency and some of us never learn how to make interdependency work. Often, what it takes to stay on track with our goals and the habits that support the achievement of these goals, is involvement with other people. Do it with a friend makes sense in so many contexts, from losing weight to travelling overseas: not to say that some people apparently are highly successful in going it alone but the majority of us find life much easier with the involvement of others.
- Take a sheet of paper. Draw a line down the centre and put the headings, Goals, on the left and ’Support for goals’ on the right.
- Write down three of your personal goals on the left. If you want to make this exercise more comprehensive you could choose a short term (next week), a medium term (next three months) and a longer term (next one to three years) goal. Or you could pick three areas of your life - work, leisure, friendship - and choose a goal for each.
- On the right side of your paper ask three questions of each of your goals: 1. What kind of support would be most useful - more information, more skill, or more motivation? 2. What external reinforcement(s) can I put in place - e.g. how can I make it easier for myself to do what I want to do - do I need to set up my office differently or in a different location or … ? 3. Who can I turn to for support - a friend to talk to, a coach to be accountable to, a medical professional for clarity … ?
If you need further help with this exercise, get in touch with me. I am offering free 20-minute phone consultation this coming week through to the end of this month (March 2019).
All the best,