Tipping Desire Into Action Devorah Klein

People aspire to reach their goals, but need a little extra help

It’s not a lack of motivation that keeps people from making changes to reach important goals. It’s the lack of clearly designed paths to success. The changes may be about recycling more, saving for retirement, taking medicines to improve health, or sticking with a program. Throughout these interactions, there is a common thread: people are finding it difficult to go it alone.

The Evidence — Stories from around the globe

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My donations are bigger than yours

Donating money to good causes seems like a universally desirable activity. Although many agree, few carry through on their intentions. They forget, other things come up, or they just never get around to it. United Way explored other ways to help people move from desire to donation. Instead of preaching solely about the benefits of donation, the worthiness of the causes, or the added perk of tax deductions, the United Way aims for people’s raw competitive nature.

Imagine companies who naturally compete for market share and profit also competing for maximum donations. Who can raise more: Fidelity or Schwab? For Ezra, an Abbott employee in his late 20s, the tactic really speaks to his competitive nature, “United Way at Abbott is huge. There’s competition, and they announce every day who’s winning and who’s losing. It’s great—everyone gets involved.”

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Hesitant to walk the walk

Jonathan is very involved in the HIV/AIDS community, volunteering his time to events, being a support to friends during testing, diagnosis and living with the condition. An acknowledged hypocrite, he is learning as much as he can to be a resource to others, but has never been tested himself. There’s always an excuse. A crazy travel schedule. Concerns about privacy. Perceived low risk. The only way he can picture himself being tested is if he could do it at home. He reasons that the costs of testing through a clinic are just too high right now.

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Football saves a friendship

When Bobby’s childhood friend got married, he knew that it would be a struggle for them to see each other as often. Time they had spent hanging out when they were younger was now spent with their significant others. And asking for a night out with the boys was something that had to be negotiated each and every week. That’s when Bobby’s friend suggested getting season tickets to the Bucks so they would be guaranteed one night per week to go see the game and spend time with one another. And the best part of the plan, they only had to ask their significant others once for the time away.

Aside from the fact that they have always followed the Bucks, both friends admit that they buy the season tickets mostly to stay connected with one another. It’s a ritual. Just like listening to a new CD on their way to the game. Making a commitment to the team is a proxy for their commitment to the friendship. It’s an investment made today so that they don’t lose the connections in the years and decades to come.

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Recycling

It’s not that people don’t want to recycle, but sometimes they just don’t remember. With a simple design change, the bin-in-bin system makes recycling easy in the moment. A larger bin for recycling with the smaller bin for non-recycled waste inside creates a clear framework to help people understand what percentage of their trash is recyclable. It also encourages them to rethink tossing recyclable objects into the regular trash.

Bank of America

By reframing saving from an event to an automatic everyday action, the Bank of America Keep the Change program embodies the principles of behavior change. The costs of saving are reduced, the mental model is reframed, and the routine is made much more seamless. On top of that, the savings-matching program is a way to give instantaneous reinforcement.

Weight Watchers

Losing weight is notoriously difficult, with challenges to many facets of behavior change. In response, Weight Watchers has developed a comprehensive system to help people reach their goals. They offer two programs, Points and Core, which support two distinct mental models of losing weight. Self-assessment quizzes help people recalibrate the costs and benefits of losing weight. The flex point concept creates flexibility to fit better into people’s lives and allow legal “cheating.” And, meetings and weigh-ins give quick feedback and encouragement of progress.

Discussion

Dave Weissburg

November 30, 2009

My colleague pointed us to packaging for Azithromycin.

Check it out at
http://www.flickr.com/photos/scoobyfoo/sets/72157606520347896/

A few things struck him as interesting about this:
1)    Not your typical pill packaging. Text is large, clear, sparse and to the point. Also appealing, in a functional, clean kind of way. The legalise is hidden away at the back.

2)    His doctor made a point of saying that 5 days on this dose is ‘the same as a 10 day course’ on other antibiotics. In large clear print it says “Azithromycin keeps on working days 6-10”: This is all motivated by adherence issues, most likely. Was this formulated specifically to address adherence issues with antibiotics?

Did they manage to drive design for adherence all the way back into formulation, and carry that right the way through packaging design? If so, kudos to them. Did they get design help to do this? Frankly, if IDEO had contributed to this packaging concept, we’d be pleased, even if it could be better. Are all antibiotics packaged this way? If not, why?

A second colleague commented-
This is the generic version of Zithromax. The original was an undifferentiated antibiotic from Pfizer, introduced in 1991?.  Pfizer pulled a coup (at least 2 years ago) with their adherence packaging (one of the only and best examples of pkg driving adoption by docs) and the generics for Azithromycin (including Sandoz and Greenstone) have followed suit.

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Mads Bab

January 22, 2010

I believe that self-determination theory (SDT) and focus on strenghts gives us valuable insights into the driving forces of action.

According to SDT three factors need to be in place for a person feel intrinsicallymotivated and thus have the internal power to consistently move forward towards a goal.

- First we need to feel that the actions taken feel autonomous - that they are congruent with who we really are.
- Second we need to feel competent, we need to feel that we can make a difference.
- Third we need relatedness as you point out in the story on “Football Saves a Friendship”.

I would like to elaborate a little on our first need - the need for our actions to feel autonomous.

Inspiring goals can sometimes be hard to get going at, as you also point out, but with actions that are congruent with who we really are it might become more easy to get started.

Because - why is it we are reluctant to move our goal into actions? Many times because we see the necessary actions in the wrong light - we argue to ourselves, that “this is not really me”. Because if it was we probably would have started much earlier.

A growing trend in business and personal development is to focus much more on our strengths - discover them and align them to the goals we are striving for.

But to many people are unaware of their strengths - simply because to little time is spent on discovering them, talking about them and deploying them more focused.

The consequence of this strengths unawareness is that we tend to look at the most obvious actions - the ones prescribed by others. And since these “don’t feel like me” we do nothing.

However if we are much more clear on our strengths we can set out actions that are congruent with these strengths or try to link other needed actions to what we do best.

Christopher Petersen and Martin E.P. Seligmann creators of the the Values In Action (viasurvey.org) strength approach, state that actions aligned with our strengths provide us with:

- A sense of ownership and authenticity (”this is the real me”)
- A feeling of exitement while displaying it, particulary at first
- A rapid learning curve as themes are attatched to the strength and practiced
- Continous learning of new ways to enact the strength
- A sense of yearning to act in accordance with strength
- Invigoration rather than exhaustion when using the strength
- Intrinsic motivation to use the strength

It seems to obvious, but the problem is our focus is often on the negatives.

We tend to study what doesn’t work in order to find out what works. That doesn’t work so lets look at what works grin

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A.

May 10, 2010

I would like to elaborate a little on our first need - the need for our actions to feel autonomous.

Inspiring goals can sometimes be hard to get going at, as you also point out, but with actions that are congruent with who we really are it might become more easy to get started.

Because - why is it we are reluctant to move our goal into actions? Many times because we see the necessary actions in the wrong light - we argue to ourselves, that “this is not really me”. Because if it was we probably would have started much earlier.

A growing trend in business and personal development is to focus much more on our strengths - discover them and align them to the goals we are striving for.

But to many people are unaware of their strengths - simply because to little time is spent on discovering them, talking about them and deploying them more focused.

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Mads Bab

May 10, 2010

I couldn’t agree more with the last comment.

Strengths is so much more than competences that many tend to mistake them with - they are much more about the motivating drivers in our personality.

Research from Positive Psychology shows that playing to your strengths increases your performance, goal attainment, resilience and well-being.

If this is true it is clear that the tipping point between desire and action might be in the alignment of goals and strengths.

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S.H.

June 30, 2010

Reaching its goals can be difficult, it demands discipline and that’s something we are lacking in these days because for years it had be seen like a prison, while discipline must be see as a tool to improve oneself and improve society.

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B

August 2, 2010

Additionally, by saying, “I’m going to stop smoking,” you could be setting yourself up for a fall. While this goal has the appearance of being specific, it also focuses on the negative, making it very difficult for your subconscious mind to form a target it can aim at.

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Gerald

August 13, 2010

I read an interesting study which found that recent Harvard graduates who participated in a short goal-writing exercise were found to have been much more successful about 10 years down the road. Sometimes, one just needs to visualize goals through writing.

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Cindy Gallop

August 25, 2010

This is exactly the point of my startup venture http://www.ifwerantheworld.com, which I began concepting 4 years ago and launched with a demo at TED in February - it’s a radically simple web-meets-world platform designed to turn good intentions into action, one microaction at a time.

Cindy Gallop
Founder & CEO, IfWeRanTheWorld

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Jenn

October 18, 2010

I tend to think that when people need these kinds of help they aren’t actually practicing behavior change. It is way more effect for long term change if they do it just on their own will not through some sort of gimmicks.  For example, the friends should not of had to use football as an excuse to see each other. If they were truly friends, their wives should have respected that and encouraged their continued socialization.

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Laurel Clark

January 11, 2012

Sometimes its all about finding the right hook to hang your change on. When I read that a day without excersize was as damaging to the body as smoking a pack of cigs, the descriptive nature of that fact kicked me right in the butt, off the couch and down the road to working out. It gave me a mantra strong enough to make the change a habit. Humans are truly creatures of habit so good or bad it all begins with a CHOICE.

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