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Archives for May 2005
“What’s the hottest thing you’ve ever seen?”
“Two people kissing, like they mean it.”
If you’ve ever tried to change a habit or behavior, read this article, and then read the previous blog entry’s site/article.
Change or Die
What if you were given that choice? For real. What if it weren’t just the hyperbolic rhetoric that conflates corporate performance with life and death? Not the overblown exhortations of a rabid boss, or a slick motivational speaker, or a self-dramatizing CEO. We’re talking actual life or death now. Your own life or death. What if a well-informed, trusted authority figure said you had to make difficult and enduring changes in the way you think and act? If you didn’t, your time would end soon — a lot sooner than it had to. Could you change when change really mattered? When it mattered most?
Yes, you say?
You’re probably deluding yourself.
You wouldn’t change.
Don’t believe it? You want odds? Here are the odds, the scientifically studied odds: nine to one. That’s nine to one against you. How do you like those odds?
This revelation unnerved many people in the audience last November at IBM’s “Global Innovation Outlook” conference. The company’s top executives had invited the most farsighted thinkers they knew from around the world to come together in New York and propose solutions to some really big problems. They started with the crisis in health care, an industry that consumes an astonishing $1.8 trillion a year in the United States alone, or 15% of gross domestic product. A dream team of experts took the stage, and you might have expected them to proclaim that breathtaking advances in science and technology — mapping the human genome and all that — held the long-awaited answers. That’s not what they said. They said that the root cause of the health crisis hasn’t changed for decades, and the medical establishment still couldn’t figure out what to do about it.
Creating Passionate Users: Change or lose your mind
Why are people so resistent to change? Because of how our brains work. In a previous post I discussed how neural pathways are made stronger as you repeat a behavior: this is the secret behind your habits (good and bad) and also learning new things (practice makes perfect). What makes it so hard to change your bad habits? They are literally hardwired into your brain and you have to work really hard to change that wiring. It’s like becoming a virtuoso violin player – you can’t pick up a violin and expect to learn how to play in just one or two times… it takes years of dedication and practice to rewire your brain. It can be done, but it’s not so easy, and clearly requires a lot of motivation on your part.
So what’s the right motivation? As the article discusses, emotions play a large role in motivating you to change your behaviors. We know that emotion is important for memory and learning, so this makes sense. What I find particularly interesting is the discussion of Dean Ornish’s heart disease reversal program: he believes the key to the success of his program (determined by how many people actually stick with the changes in their lifestyle over the long term) is positive emotion. He says, “Joy is a more powerful motivator than fear.”
Fear of death and other negative-emotion producing facts, while they are powerful short term motivators, are not as powerful as positive emotions for long term changes. Just after an accident or after a health scare we may be motivated to change our behavior because we have a recent, emotional incident in our lives that provides a powerful, emotional reminder of what happens if we don’t drive slowly or take care of ourselves. But over time, that reminder diminishes (a big scare is a short term event) and we get lax.
Creating Passionate Users: Self-induced passion
Is there something in your life you know you should do you, but you just can’t seem to do it on a regular basis? For lots of people, this might include things like eating right, exercising, even cleaning the house! We’ve had many good ideas here about how to create passion in our users, how about creating passion (or at least something resembling that) in ourselves? It’s easy to be passionate about things you love to do already, but for the things you want to do, but aren’t passionate about, so you tend not to do them when you know you should – that’s trickier.
I recently read a great little book called The Intrinsic Exerciser: Discovering the Joy of Exercise by Jay C. Kimiecik. This book is all about how to change your mindset so that you exercise for intrinsic reasons instead of extrinsic reasons. The idea is that if you can do this, then you will want to exercise, you might even be passionate about it. After reading it, it struck me that this should work for anything you want to do in a more passionate way, but are having a hard time figuring out how to get there.
Examples from the book of shifting from an extrinsic motivation for exercise, to an intrinsic motivation, include:
* Instead of exercising because you want to lose weight, do it because it makes you feel good
* Instead of thinking about exercise in terms of the future (e.g., I will lose this much weight, or I will look better in X months), do it in the present – “I am exercising NOW because I like the way it makes me feel NOW”.
* Instead of exercising because you will have enhanced fitness, exercise because you want to master some athletic ability