Over the past 26 weeks, I’ve been studying behavior change more diligently—what is it that motivates someone to begin and then sustain making better choices? The answer is to focus on the intrinsic. By definition, intrinsic means ‘belonging to the essential nature of a thing’. This is unique to every single person. It is also dynamic. Valuing the intrinsic allows a person to elicit his or her best thinking, which in turn enables healthier choices based on what’s important to that person.
Instead of doling out workout plans and diet plans, those of us who want to make healthier choices for the New Year would be better served by asking ourselves a simple, but not so easy question to answer: What is it that I’m wanting for myself that is important to me in relation to ___________ (you fill in the blank)? It’s only when we identify what we want for ourselves based on the intrinsic, and therefore it’s importance, can we truly begin to make lifestyle changes that last.
Sadly, the intrinsic is often ignored. Consider the “New Year’s Resolution” and the advice you hear from fitness “experts”—do this type of exercise, eat these foods, schedule time on your calendar, and on and on. While these tips may work for some on a short-term basis, if the intrinsic is ignored, the healthy behavior won’t be sustained.
Approximately 45% of people make a New Year’s resolution, yet only 8% actually achieve their goal. You can probably guess #1…yes, lose weight. While the beginning of the New Year often marks a renewed effort by many to attempt to lose unwanted pounds, weight loss is a goal for millions of Americans year round, which typically means people are attempting to eat better, eat less, and exercise more. So why do only 8% succeed and why are we such an obese nation?
With all of the 24/7 access to fitness centers, wellness programs, apps, and information on the web, the low success rates are discouraging, yet revealing at the same time. Less than half of all Americans exercise 3 or more times per week and only 14% eat the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables. Whether it is weight loss, or another “resolution”, it’s clear that information and education alone don’t lead to success.