In my last column, I offered the possibility that logic-based, long-range goal-setting for fitness improvement is probably the wrong thing to do for most people. Now, I'd like to delve further into behavioral change and how we might turn our fitness businesses into much more positive consumer experiences.
In her WELCOA "Re-Branding Health as Well-Being" interview, behavioral sustainability scientist Dr. Michelle Segar, concluded that reasons for people initiating a behavioral change and maintaining a sustainable behavioral change are two different animals. Logic-based reasons for change, which are often based on future results, take a back seat to feeling-based reasons that offer immediate benefits.
According to Segar, framing a behavior as something that you should do makes it feel like work, as opposed to something that you want to do because it will help you feel and/or function better now. For a major portion of our population (which, after all, are at best mid-level exercise-self-motivated), if it feels like work, it probably isn't going to be fun. And if it isn't going to be fun, why should I do it?
Reasons that appeal to sensory perception rather than logic tend to result in positivity and well-being. As Segar stated in the interview: "This frame actually influences whether doing this behavior depletes or energizes you."
Exercise science has clearly proven that activities that cost energy in the short term will produce more energy in the long run, but try to sell that in today's time-crunched world. However, if an activity choice is marketed as a fun way of producing more enjoyment, more energy, greater vitality and a stronger sense of personal well-being, individual tendencies will move in that direction.
Perhaps it can best be described as the difference between paying a price (no pain, no gain) and getting a reward for an enjoyable activity. People need to get curious, according to Segar. Offer ideas and messaging that spark people's curiosity. Behaviorally speaking, igniting curiosity is a key step to producing openness and receptivity.
One of the ways our industry can achieve this is to promote group activity. We have been remiss in doing this, and now we're suffering the consequences.
In my next blog, I'll discuss a few ideas about group-building and its positive effects on joining and staying.
Share your thoughts about how to motivate members in the comment section below.