Reprogram Your Genes For Health, Happiness And Vitality

Part 8: Design a success strategy

 

The last part in this article series on the 80/20 Lifestyle is probably most important as it addresses the Holy Grail of behaviour change. In terms of improving our health and wellbeing, most people at least know what they need to  do, but many don’t do it. This is what I call the ‘knowing-doing gap’. Behaviour change, however, is much more than just knowing what to do.

 

There are many academic theories about behaviour change. One of the most famous is the Trans-Theoretical Model, or

Stages Of Change Model, which proposes these five stages:

 

1. Precontemplation

2. Contemplation

3. Preparation

4. Action

5. Maintenance.

 

One of the most important things about this model is the concept of relapse – where we can drop back down through the stages at any time. Interestingly, maintenance refers to when someone has been behaving in a consistent way for more than six months and this is strongly linked to habits.

 

In order to create a healthier lifestyle, I believe there are three key complementary concepts:

 

1. For motivation, I often use the Self-Determination Theory (developed by two academics called Deci and Ryan). You can see from Figure 1, that a Continuum Of Motivation exists. The key concept of this model is that for successful long term change, people need to cross the ‘threshold of autonomy’, where they become self-determined. In simpler terms this means that they find their own reasons why it is important for them to change for themselves – not for anyone else. In the words of Anthony Robbins, ‘Find your why and you’ll find your way’, although he stole this from the famous German philosopher Frederic Nietzsche, who said ‘He who has a “why” to live for, can bear almost any “how”’.

 


Figure 1.

 

2. For habit forming, I really like the work of BJ Fogg, who runs the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stamford University in the USA. As you’ll see from Figure 2, for behaviour change to occur, three things need to collide at one time. You need some level of motivation, you need the ability to perform the behaviour, and you need to be triggered. And there is a trade-off between motivation and ability, in that if something is hard to do, you need lots of motivation for the trigger to work; but if it is easy to do, a trigger will work even when motivation is low. According to Fogg, health professionals and others who are trying to

change behaviour often focus too much on trying to enhance the motivation of others. Instead, he advises focus on ability and

triggers, by selecting lots of simple behaviours that will help move you towards the goal, and to activate your triggers

frequently.

 


 

3. The third is my idea of a Ritual Board. The key thing about a Ritual Board is that it must be visible – mine is in my kitchen. You may also want to have another one at work. The idea is to illustrate lots of little tasks, as well as a couple of harder ones, and each time you do one, you tick it off on the Ritual Board. This process releases the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain,

which is the chemical of ‘reward’ and it’s also highly involved in goal-directed behaviour. Essentially, what happens is

you feel good about what you’ve just done which, in turn, leaves you feeling more motivated to continue. During the times when you feel highly motivated, tackle the hard stuff, and when you feel a bit less motivated, do the simple tasks.

 

Through my corporate speaking, I have used this technique successfully with hundreds of individuals and, for me, it is a really effective method to achieve goals because it keeps your brain in the game every day.

 

Click the links below to read the previously published articles in this series:

 

Click the links below to read the previously published articles in this series:

 

The 80/20 Lifestyle: Part 1, by Paul Taylor

 The 80/20 Lifestyle: Part 2: by Paul Taylor

The 80/20 Lifestyle: Part 3: by Paul Taylor

The 80/20 Lifestyle: Part 4: by Paul Taylor

The 80/20 Lifestyle: Part 5: by Paul Taylor

The 80/20 Lifestyle: Part 6: by Paul Taylor

The 80/20 Lifestyle: Part 7: by Paul Taylor