Wellfie Wednesday Tip #58: Change Talk: Six Sources of Influence

     Happy Wellfie Wednesday! A few weeks ago, Aaron discussed #ScienceSecrets for health and longevity. The point of that post (#SPOILERALERT) was that knowledge alone is not enough to change behavior. Willpower alone is also not powerful enough to change behavior. So, what are the key ingredients to behavior change? That’s the topic of today’s post!

    Humans are hard. We’re amazingly complex in every facet of our being. Our behaviors are no different. Even our most mindless actions are the result of several sources of influence. Unveiling the sources of influence that affect our behavior can simplify our complicated lives. More importantly, awareness of these influences allow us to address each for a comprehensive behavior change plan. So, let’s reveal six sources of influence.

From the book Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success

1 & 2: Personal Motivation and Ability

     Willpower is usually where behavior change starts and often where it ends. Think about the times you’ve tried to make a lifestyle change. What inspired you to act? Was your motivation strong? If you got all the way to action, it’s likely your motivation was indeed strong! Which can then make it all the more upsetting when we fail to sustain our efforts.  Don’t fall into the willpower trap. Strong desire can be the spark that gets the fire started, but we need more than motivation to keep the fire burnin’.  

     So, tap into your personal motivation. Dig deep to find out what’s driving your desire for change. And get weird. I mean use descriptive language and paint a vivid picture of what the future looks like if you don’t change versus if you do change. Then, add some skill to your will. Be mindful of crucial moments. These are moments where you are most tempted to behave in ways that contradict your best intentions. Develop sayings and rules to follow during these crucial moments. Turn bad days into good data. Remember, progress over perfection. 

3 & 4: Social Motivation and Ability

     Maybe you’ve heard the phrase, “You are the average of the five people closest to you.” There is some truth to this. Humans are social beings. Much of our behaviors are influenced by our social connections. For example, obesity is in part a social disease. Sometimes our close friends might actually be accomplices to unhealthy behaviors. Recognizing this is half the battle. The other half can be more challenging. Crucial conversations can turn accomplices into friends. These discussions may be difficult to have, and you can’t expect everyone to support your change efforts. Ultimately, you may need to separate yourself from the unwilling. At the same time, you can discover new friends and support groups to encourage you. Think about a game of tug-of-war. You want as many people pulling towards your side to increase your chances of success. 

5 & 6: Structural Motivation and Ability

     The last sources of influence deal with our economy and environment. Humans are incredibly intelligent, and yet, indubitably irrational. That’s a lot of “I’s” (Shout out to the synonym function on Microsoft word). Our behavior is often influenced more by short-term pleasure than long-term consequences. Inverting the economy improves our likelihood to perform beneficial behaviors. Incentivize good behaviors, and raise the price on bad behaviors. Importantly, your incentives don’t need to be big. Your intrinsic motivation should be the primary incentive. Also, put some skin in the game. Humans are far more motivated to avoid loss than to receive a similar gain. In fact, there is a website dedicated to this “loss aversion” strategy https://www.stickk.com/ with all sorts of success stories.

     Finally, consider your environment. Our environment has an enormous influence on our behavior. It often works its powerful influence in subtle ways. For example, a larger plate size encourages us to eat larger portions. Similarly, the built environment has an influence on how physically active we are. The key is to first become aware of how your environment affects your behavior. Then, change your space to support your goals. Distance yourself from temptation. While “Out of sight, out of mind” may not always work, it will be much more successful than having frequent stare downs with temptation. Enhance your environment by providing visual cues of desired behaviors. For example, having your gym clothes already laid out in the morning may cue you to get up and put them on rather than keeping them in the closet. Write down your change plan. The simple act of writing it down dramatically increases your chances of success. It will also allow you to make changes. Expect to make changes. We are rarely successful with behavior change on our first attempt.  


     The goal of all the above is make the healthy choice the easy choice. Addressing all six sources of influence will greatly increase your likelihood of success. Check out the short YouTube video below to find out more! Reach out to the #WellfieWednesday crew and let us know what you’re working to change! Thanks for reading, and best of luck to you! And be sure to tag the WW crew members in your post (@PBernerSPT@Eric_in_AmERICa@AaronPerezPT@DianaKlatt) and keep the wave of healthy change going!

Change Anything Stats: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBIQLmESeU8&t=2s 

- WW Crew