The Inertia Problem

So I was in a meeting on Friday and a colleague, who happens to be a brilliant computer scientist, asked a really interesting question about physical activity: “Why is it harder to exercise intermittently than it is to not do any exercise at all or exercise every day?”

This got me thinking about Newton’s laws of motion, specifically the first law:

I think this represents some of the fundamental issues surrounding behavior change. The tendency and drive to do nothing is usually so high for most people who need to change (and sometimes even want) that no change ever takes place. Doing something consistently feels great, but engaging consistent behavior, especially over long periods of time, is really tough. So this leads me to three questions that I want to pose to you all:
[]How do we convince individuals satisfied with doing nothing to start doing something?
]How do we help people making only periodic or inconsistent changes feel okay about their behavior?
[*]How can you support consistent behavior while also allowing for individuals to seek progression, excitement and fun?

I find getting deep into the world of addiction/recovery helpful with those questions.

B.J. Fogg’s work is incredibly useful as far as personal change and designing for change (marketing as well).

I am short on time but thought I would throw those on the board.

I’ll be BACK.

While the idea of turning life into a big computer game is certainly trendy these days (full disclosure, I actually make games for a living), I prefer to be convinced by reason and the role of tracking/quantifying is to both gather the raw data and learn how to review it in a way that makes a stronger argument.

When it comes to a government or other large power trying to “convince” the masses…then perhaps the computer game techniques are best.

and then there is always old fashioned shame which has been changing behavior since time began!

While I agree that BJ’s work is good, I sometimes find it to be overly simplistic for helping people understand behavior change and the multi-faceted influences and processes that drive long-term behavior change. “Put hot triggers in the path of motivated people” resonates as a sound bit for the marketing crowd, but I don’t that addresses the core issues I asked about above.

[quote]How do we convince individuals satisfied with doing nothing to start doing something?

It is a marketing (addiction. evangelism) question.

I would say that part of what the quantified self does (more so, actually) is to expose our wrong questions.

I get where you are wanting to go. Better people. Better lives. Less suffering. Part of that is also a compassionate gesture of, “you do you and I will do me.” It does not assume that I know best. It hopes to be able to say, “I Know better for me.”

Religious folk, marketers, addiction specialists (I have been or been involved with all three as a profession) are involved with this question daily.

The answer? Put effort toward a better question.

  1. How do I envelope people and provide a captivating structure for people searching (key word) for a change?

That is different than finding motivated people. Searches are on the fringe and there are many out there. Getting them to take the next step is the kicker.

I hope question number one never has an answer.

Point being, I do not believe Newton’s law to be adequate to describe what is going on here.

I do, however, love the other two questions. I have found no clear cut answers as of yet.

It was great to meet you, Ernesto, last Saturday. I really like the questions as they are related to the pursuit of happiness.

  1. Very often we don’t need to convince anyone, just planting a seed of a better fulfilled life in their minds is a good start. Simply asking questions of what kind of life do they want for themselves? And sharing positive stories that may inspire them to make changes. Another catalyst is suffering (misery/misfortune/pain), that is so unbearable that a person will not be able to go on like that forever, they are forced to make changes.
  2. Big change doesn’t happen overnight, it grows little by little through our thoughts, little attempts, learning about others. A mentor/social support is very important to help someone make up their mind and go forward with major changes.
  3. Consistent behavior is not easy to sustain, but what keeps it going is understanding benefits and costs of doing the opposite. Also getting fulfillment from what you are doing and knowing that you live according to your values and beliefs is what gives people inner peace. The more people are challenged to answer if they are content with their lives and their behavior, the more they will challenge themselves and eventually come to important decisions.