Behavior Change Myths–Part 5, Blaming Failure on Motivation

As usual, my thoughts come from this presentation by Stanford University’s Persuasive Tech Lab.

For me, I find myself blaming a lot of my failures on a lack of motivation. In other words, if only I really wanted it more….


The slides in that Stanford presentation all have a subtitle, and the subtitle for myth 5 was particularly effective: Solution–Make the behavior easier to do.

To put this in context, Courtney and I will often launch the New Year with goal, goals, and more goals. We also try to set a few goals. Each goal is large, significant, and often complex.

And we always fail. Typically by the 15th.

This year, largely as a result of this presentation, we decided to set a single, simple goal that was easily defined, easily measured, and easily achieved. The goal? Be more active. What active is is defined by each of us individually. How we accomplish it is the same. Today is the 17th, and we’re still going strong.

To move into the realm of scripture, the Lord commanded:

Mosiah 4:27 And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.

A handful of cool concepts here when it comes to goal setting and behavior change:

  1. Be wise in selecting your goals and attempting goal change.
    Often times, our goals are grandiose goals set outside the realms of expectation. I have a friend whose call is to be wealthy and retire by 45. He’s almost 40 and doesn’t have a job. Not really realistic to retire wealthy by 45, but his entire focus is still on that age and that goal.
    I don’t want to be around on his 45th birthday.
  2. You can only do what you can do.
    The Lord has promised us that we would not be tempted beyond our ability to bear (1 Cor. 10:13). At the same time, he doesn’t expect us to accomplish more than we can accomplish. The bar for each of us is set and that height is unique to our own circumstances and abilities.
  3. While the bar is unique to each of us and the Lord won’t ask us to do more than we can, He still wants us to do what we can.
    Growth and progress are attained through reaching limits, conquering those limits, and being strengthened in the process. The clearest example I have of this was weight training with a friend. I found myself stuck at a certain weight, and for about three months, I would only lift that weight. I felt like I couldn’t go higher, and I was discouraged that my progress had plateaued. Then, my friend insisted that I go up not one or two weights higher, but three full weight higher than what I was previously lifting. At first, I declined, but he insisted, and I was amazed to find that not only could I do it, but I could do it easily.
    The point is this: I had chosen to be stagnant in my progression, and my choice made me stagnant. It was only when I broke free of the bar I had set for myself that I was able to achieve the higher bar and continue growing.
  4. All things must be done in order.
    This scripture actually starts and ends with that phrase. Order.
    I’m learning as I strive to change my own behavior and free myself from the uncomfortable addictions and habits I have that order is essential. We all have issues, some big, some small. Instead of attacking the big ones, like I used to do, I try to focus on the little ones. The easy ones. Doing so makes the initial steps of behavior change simpler and builds my confidence to tackle future, more complex issues.

Behavior change is not a matter of simply having the motivation to change and failure is not a result of lack of motivation. Rather, it is a process of setting ourselves up for failure by not putting in place the systems and abilities to accomplish what we want to do. And, as stated in this myth, it’s the natural tendency to demand too much of ourselves. We can only do what we can do, and it is only after doing all that we can do that we’ll find that higher power to achieve the rest.

And once more, I find myself muttering, “baby steps to the elevator… baby steps to the elevator….”

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One Response to Behavior Change Myths–Part 5, Blaming Failure on Motivation

  1. Pingback: People With Goals |

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