Last week we began a discussion on the difficulties and challenges we face whenever we try and implement long-term, sustainable change into our daily lives.
We discussed the frustrations many people have in sustaining weight loss, as witnessed by a recent news story outlining how many of the contestants on the reality show The Greatest Loser, have gained back most, if not all of the immense amount of weight they lost during their one-year participation in this show.
We also discussed the frightening statistic that 9 out of 10 people who have undergone cardiac bypass surgery will, within five years, discover that their transplanted veins and arteries are as blocked as were their coronary arteries prior to surgery.
And we ended the chat by discussing how societally we tend to lean heavily on pain and fear as our primary means of motivation.
Both pain and fear are extremely powerful causes of motivation and very often produce extremely beneficial results.
The challenge using these as tools for motivation is that the very moment the pain goes away and the fear of negative consequences subsides, then the driving force behind the motivation drifts off to the side, often never to be seen again.
So perhaps it is time for a paradigm shift.
Maybe, just maybe, the incentives we offer, and the consequences we focus on in order to inspire and motivate ourselves and others should shift 180° and pleasure, joy, happiness, perfect health and prosperity should become the foundations upon which we build commanding and sustainable strategies to motivate ourselves and others.
The old adage, “what gets rewarded, gets repeated” is indeed powerful as it serves as a prompt that when we receive a reward for a job well done, we are far more likely to do again that which generated the reward in the first place.
I have spoken with numerous people who, while representing only a minute percentage of the population, have successfully brought about massive change in their lives and in their world and have managed to sustain this for many years.
When questioned, they will all acknowledge – albeit somewhat sheepishly – that their initial and early incentive for undertaking the change was driven by pain or fear of some kind.
They will also acknowledge that as long as the pain and fear remained on their radar, they sustained the behaviours necessary to maintain the change and as soon as they became comfortable in their beliefs that both the pain and fear were permanently banished, they soon reverted to the very behaviours that produced the pain and fear in the first place.
These few folks count themselves among the lucky ones who quickly realized that in order to sustain the behaviours that were giving them the lives they wanted, they would need to focus – both in the present and future – on the happiness, joy and pleasure that these changes had brought into their lives.
And by shifting their focus they have been able to lay claim permanently to the lives they want and they all will confidently state their beliefs that as long as they remain motivated by the pleasure they have, they will continue the very behaviours that helped make their lives as wonderful as they are today.
If it is indeed true that we catch more flies with honey than we do with vinegar, then perhaps when we set out to bring about long-term change, we should focus on acquiring the sweet taste of honey rather than avoiding the bitter taste of vinegar.
After all, the continued pain and disappointment of losing 20 pounds only to gain back 25, and then losing 30 to gain back with 35 can easily bring about the phenomenon known as “learned helplessness” and that is a form of pain none of us ever want to experience.
So the next time you find yourself slipping off the wagon, spend a few minutes focusing on how good it feels to be back on the wagon.
And then climb back up again.
Till we read again.