Welcome back! Last week we talked with Dr. Ross about our food choices, and how they may impact the environment. If you missed that blog and would like to catch up, click HERE.
This week, we continue our discussion with Michelle, but this time we are going to talk about the how’s and why’s of change. We’ve all known that person who didn’t take care of themselves until they were faced with a life and death diagnosis. Heck, we might even BE that person! Why are human beings like this, and how can we change? I know I need to lose weight, so why don’t I? Some of those answers just may be in this week’s blog.
So grab A Cup of Coffee, and let’s talk.
By Michelle Jenck, M.Ed., Wholly Healthy LLC
Research cited by the CDC indicates that a person’s health Is correlated with their level of education. The inference is, the more intelligent or informed a person is, the healthier they are. To extend this further, we could assume that people who know how health is defined, make healthier choices.
This type of thinking embodies the Analyze ➔ Think ➔ Change model of decision making. We break a problem down to its parts and identify which changes we need to make to affect the whole. We do this a lot. “I am overweight. To be healthier, I need to lose at least 5% of my body weight. For a person with my body mass and height, this would be about 10 lbs. A healthy weight loss goal is .5 lbs/week. I will exercise 30 minutes/day five days/week and reduce my calorie intake by 250 calories per day for three months to achieve this goal.”
This seems doable. Broken down into its parts, with SMART goals, it appears to be a solid strategy. Problem solved, right? Wrong. Research shows that fewer than 5% of people who employ this strategy succeed. Why is that? What is the missing variable?
If knowing what constitutes a healthy lifestyle were all that was necessary for taking the right action, we should see this information being put into practice, but somehow that is not happening. Education attainment is a product of many important factors, not the least of which are motivation to learn and a belief that one is capable of learning. Motivation and self-efficacy are feeling-based traits. Feelings are what connect thoughts and ideas to motivation. Being aware of our feelings and how they influence our behavior is the basis of self-awareness.
This begs the question, then. Is it education or is it self-awareness that determines our ability to make healthful decisions?
There’s a difference between being educated and being self-aware. We all know someone who is “book smart” but who has no people skills. Could it be that it is our EQ (emotional intelligence) rather than our IQ that determines how healthy we are?
The Analyze-Think change model happens in the head, not the heart. For authentic, lasting change to occur, this process must involve both the head and the heart. In their book, The Heart of Change, John Kotter and Dan Cohen describe a See ➔ Feel ➔ Change model where an “a-ha” moment or epiphany allows us to see something in way we haven’t seen it before. This revelation generates a feeling which fuels motivation for change.
Knowing there is extreme poverty in the world is one thing. Traveling to a developing country and seeing it first hand, is quite another. These see-feel experiences are what drive people to leave the security and comfort of their western lifestyles to do missionary work in dangerous, primitive places.
It’s no coincidence that the majority of people who “know” they need to change their health habits do not engage in those behavior changes until faced with a devastating health diagnosis. People who experience a heart attack or receive a cancer diagnosis suffer a forced epiphany that the gift of life can be taken away at a moment’s notice. This is something we all know, but rarely act on until a crisis occurs – until we really feel the impact of that knowledge. The feelings generated by these experiences, whether they happen to us or someone we care about, drive our thinking and behavior in profound ways.
If there is a secret equation to the connection between education and health, it might be this:
Growth Mindset + Self-Awareness ➔“A-ha” Moments ➔ Motivation for Change ➔ Changes in Behavior
People who are self-aware, tend to have a growth mindset and vice versa. A growth mindset is generally associated with a desire to learn. When we pay attention to how we feel and apply knowledge to those feelings, we often discover new information about ourselves and our circumstances. This new information illuminates solutions not previously seen and provides the motivation we need to make changes both big and small.
The best part of the See-Feel model of change is that it feels like a gift and not a sacrifice. It feels like we knew the answer all along.
Here’s a 30 second clip that is worth the watch. Give it a listen, and thanks for reading us…we appreciate you!