Why Motivation Alone Stinks: Part II: Change-You Didn’t Fail; The Guru Did

Stan Goldberg, PhD

We place our trust in experts to instruct us how to change. With failure, we rarely blame the expert or her program. Most of the time, that’s where the responsibility should rest.

Confusing What and How of Change

I explained the difference between the what and how of change in Part I. Most people, including many well-known experts confuse the two. If you don’t make distinctions, you’ll blame a lack of motivation for failure. The problem is rarely motivation. We all know parts of ourselves we would like to change. But few are knowledgeable about how to effect permanent change.

Motivation and Success

I supervised a student many years ago instructing children on the low end of the autism spectrum. They sat in a circle, he held up a mirror and said to each child, “Look into the mirror.” If the child did, he or she was rewarded with a piece of fruit. When I asked the purpose of the activity, he said, “To teach interaction.” The activity made as much sense as the Nike ad, “Just Do It,” does for an overweight, out-of-shape seventy-year-old motivated to change his physical condition.

We would like to think change is easy; choose a behavior you don’t like and stop doing it or replace the behavior with the one you desire. What we often ignore is most behaviors we desire are not simple entities. They are complex. For example, normal interaction for a child on the autistic spectrum involves many parts including attention, greeting rituals, response rules, and language usage among others.

Ten Universal Rules of Change

You will find the same complexities in physical strengthening, weight loss, developing compassion, and stress reduction. The expert should understand successful, and long-lasting change involves at least ten components.

 1. All Behaviors Are Complex

2. Change Is Frightening

3. Change Must Be Positive

4. Being Is Easier Than Becoming

5. Slower Is Better

6. Know More, Do Better

7. Change Requires Structure

8. Practice Is Necessary

9. New Behaviors Must Be Protected

10. Small Successes Are Big

In Part III I’ll discuss how you can apply these ten universal principles to assess your approach to change or ones advocated by experts.  You’ll learn when the principles are ignored, motivation is rarely enough to change.

Preventing Senior Moments, by Stan Goldberg

Offers practical and achievable prevention strategies for senior moments.


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