What do you tell your best friend who has been struggling to stick with a weight loss program? Best practices around sustained motivation tell us that we need to think holistically, help our friend form new habits and control their lives. There is a ton of research in this area that can be distilled into a few guiding principles.
You know your friend, so you probably have a pretty good idea about what makes them tick and what will motivate them, but perhaps you will find an employer perspective interesting. There are a few helpful frameworks employers use that might allow us to see our friends and perhaps ourselves in a different light. The first, based on the work of David Maxfield, recognizes that motivation and ability drive behavior and divides these domains into personal, social and structural sources. This recognizes that you are not just looking at your friend but also the social influences and the structural (what is available to them at home, at work, etc.). Thinking of behavior in this way allows us to focus our help in each area to see where there might be problems and where we could improve our approach.
The second is the self-determination theory of motivation. It is concerned with supporting our natural or intrinsic tendencies to behave in effective and healthy ways. To do this, according toRon Friedman, PhD., you can promote your friends autonomy, competence and connectivity.
The final is based on personality theory and requires that we marry the solution to the person's personality type. An easy theory to apply here is from Gretchen Rubin's work. Her four tendencies are the Upholder, Questioner, Obliger or Rebel. The tendencies you have tell us how you respond to expectations. This is important because when we are trying to form a new habit we're setting an expectation for our self. So for the Upholder who responds readily to both outer and inner expectation, both may work while for the Obliger who responds to outer expectations but has trouble with inner expectations you may need to make sure that you or others around them continue to give them a push. Other personality profiles like DISC or Myers Briggs can have application here too.
Considering these theories there are 6 guiding principles that you can use to help change your friends behaviors:
- Provide Feedback -- We manage what we monitor so individuals need an easy way to monitor their behavior and receive immediate feedback. Wearable devices are great because of this very reason. For example, we can immediately see how well (or not well) we slept.
As a human capital consultant I have worked with a wide range of companies large and small on their wellness programs, and these recommendations hold true. They are just expanded to cover an entire population. And while companies might offer a salary and benefits, you have an advantage with what you know about your friend and the support you can provide. My clients would love to tap into that support network to drive change. Now you can tell them to leave it to the professionals.