What’s your biggest remaining challenge?

Part 4, Influencer: The Power to Change Anything

Finally! The final post in my Influencer series. What a great book.

If you haven’t read the first three posts, here they are:

Tonight is the fourth and last post, focusing on structural (organizational) strategies to change. Patterson, et al, point out earlier in the book that the most effective strategies are the personal ones, then the social ones, then the structural ones. However, that doesn’t mean that the structural strategies are unimportant. Employing the combination of strategies that is right for you is what matters.

I say that because I have found a number of structural strategies very helpful, especially those that deal with ability.


Motivation: Design rewards and demand accountability

When I started fitness programs in the past, I almost always started with thinking about what I would reward myself with when I reached my mini goals along the way to my ultimate goal.


Turns out that that can backfire. Studies show that people conclude that because they are being rewarded, it must not be satisfying, and they must only be doing it for the reward. A bribe for some unpleasant activity. This just reinforced my belief that exercise was something to be suffered through.

So how do you use rewards? The authors lay out several criteria. Rewards:

  • Come soon
  • Are gratifying
  • Are clearly tied to vital behaviors

Here’s a simple one that works for me. I listen to my favorite band of all time only when I walk or run (exception: when I am on an airplane). That is a real treat and the music combined with the satisfaction of moving is absolute joy.

Other ones that work for me? Being one of the finishers of the Lazy Waister’s Triathlon. Being in the top three of overall losers in the Biggest Loser Blog Edition this week.

Now, the authors point out something very important — don’t just reward results, reward the vital behaviors along the way. Reward the changes.

Ability: Change the environment

When we see a problem, we often think of changing the person — in my case with fitness and weight loss, myself — but sometimes changing the environment is what is needed.

For example, there was a study (the endless soup bowl) that showed we don’t eat until we are full. We eat until cues in our environment make us think we are full. An easy fix? Using smaller plates. Eat a smaller meal, but still have an empty plate. Must be full. It works, I’ve been doing it.

Another study showed that people who were made aware of how much they were eating (every tenth potato chip a different color), ate less than those who ate with no reminders. I found the visual diary to be stunningly effective here, for me.

One of the most important strategies I’ve been putting in place is to make things easy. I have several bags packed at any time with the essentials to go to the gym, exercise and shower at the office, or go for a swim. I have home exercise equipment in the rooms in which I spend the most time so it’s right there — no excuses such as, well, I couldn’t get to the Y. I make it easier to choose healthier foods at home and at the office. I use stand up desks at work and at home so I’m not sitting all day.

I had been worried about working at home more because I thought I’d be more sedentary, but actually, I get on my exercise bike during conference calls and drink way more water than I used to and find it easier to run to the Y on the days I don’t have a commute.

Here’s an interesting post from one of the authors, Maxfield, as to how he applies some of the structural strategies to his fitness goals.

I hope you found the concepts in this book as useful as I did.

Here are some great resources from the authors of the book:

So what are some of your strategies??? I’m always looking for more :-)

Thu, October 16 2008 » Motivation, Strategy

6 Responses

  1. MizFit October 16 2008 @ 5:41 am

    AWESOME SERIES. and yes. n ow I shall read the book….

  2. M October 16 2008 @ 10:31 am

    What a fantastic series! Well done!

  3. Annette October 16 2008 @ 2:33 pm

    cool! Changing the environment really puts a different spin on things! Good tip :)

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