Saturday, June 11, 2011

Motivational Change

Article by Michael Dylan


If you have ever tried to quit smoking or to change some major behavior that you have habitually done for many years, you will know how powerful our habits are. Human habits are a tough nut to crack, but like any tasty nut in a hard shell, it is very rewarding to break through the barrier holding you back.

A powerful way to reach inside and create new habits or behaviors is to learn why we do what we do, and how much better it would be if we didn't do it!. We simply do not change long held beliefs or behaviors unless we are somehow shocked by how bad our behavior is or we are motivated to change by seeing the benefits or rewards for our new actions. Another way of looking at it is that we act like donkeys: We run after the tasty carrot in front of us, or we run from the whipping of our behind.

Motivational Change with the Whip
Organizations like the animal rights group PETA understand very clearly how the whipping works on our habits and behaviors. On their PETA TV website they have very graphic and shocking videos that show the negatives of wearing fur or eating animals. Their aim is to shock us into changing our way of thinking about animals and the way they are treated in the fur or abattoir industries. In order to get us to stop eating meat and wearing fur they show us the most worst possible images that these behaviors create, urging us to change.

Motivational Change with the Carrot
With the opposite extreme, advertisers are very good at showing us carrots and changing our buying behaviors by bombarding us with images of pleasure and happiness. Their advertisements tell us that if we buy their products we can also have the carrots they are showing us, whether it is a beautiful woman in a new car, or amazing profits from a financial product, or a naked woman holding a beer. They want us to change our behavior by showing us how much better our life could be if we bought their products or services.

Motivational Self Change
To make our own personal changes we have to get very clear about what is negative (whip) about the habit and what benefits (carrots) we will gain by changing. List as many whippings and carrots as possible. Negatives can be reinforced with images and life experiences like visiting a cancer ward if you are trying to change your smoking behavior. While positives can be reinforced by images and life experiences like taking your dream car for a test drive or walking through display homes similar to your dream home.

We have to continually reinforce both the whipping (creating intense pain if we DON'T change) and the carrot (creating intense pleasure if we DO change). The more ways of emphasizing the good and bad associated with the behavior we want to change, the more likely we will continue with the new positive habit. Pain and pleasure are powerful driving forces when we learn to focus them and use them properly.