Body Building Motivation to Change
Knowledge is necessary for behavior change, but it isn’t usually enough to make people act. Millions of people have sedentary lifestyles, for example, even though they know it’s bad for their health. This is particularly true of young adults, who may not be motivated to change because they feel healthy in spite of their unhealthy behaviors (see the box “Wellness Matters for College Students”). To succeed at behavior change, you need strong motivation.
Examine the Pros and Cons of Change Health behaviors have short-term and long-term benefits and costs. Consider the benefits and costs of an inactive lifestyle:
• Short-term. Such a lifestyle allows you more time to watch TV and hang out with friends, but it leaves you less physically fit and less able to participate in recreational activities.
• Long-term. This lifestyle increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and premature death.
To successfully change your behavior, you must believe that the benefits of change outweigh the costs.
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Carefully examine the pros and cons of continuing your current behavior and of changing to a healthier one. Focus on the effects that are most meaningful to you, including those tied to your personal identity and values. For example, engaging in regular physical activity and adequate sleep can support an image of yourself as an active person who is a good role model for others. To work toward being independent and taking control over your life, quitting smoking can be one way to eliminate a dependency. To complete your analysis, ask friends and family members about the effects of your behavior on them. For example, a younger sister may tell you that your smoking habit influenced her decision to take up smoking.
The short-term benefits of behavior change can be an important motivating force. Although some people are motivated by long-term goals, such as avoiding a disease that may hit them in 30 years, most are more likely to be moved to action by shorter-term, more personal goals. Feeling better, doing better in school, improving at a sport, reducing stress, and increasing self-esteem are common short-term benefits of health behavior change. Many wellness behaviors are associated with immediate improvements in quality of life. For example, surveys of Americans have found that nonsmokers feel healthy and full of energy more days each month than do smokers, and they report fewer days of sadness and troubled sleep. The same is true when physically active people are compared with sedentary people. Over time, these types of differences add up to a substantially higher quality of life for people who engage in healthy behaviors.
Boost Self-Efficacy When you start thinking about changing a health behavior, a big factor in your eventual success is whether you have confidence in yourself and in your ability to change. Self-efficacy refers to your belief in your ability to successfully take action and perform a specific task. Strategies for boosting self-efficacy include developing self-efficacy The belief in ones ability to take action and perform a specific task. locus of control The figurative “place” a person designates as the source of responsibility for the events in his or her life. self-talk A person’s internal dialogue.