In a recent article in The Washington Post, novelist Lionel Shriver argues that what really motivates most people to lose weight or quit smoking, despite what they may say, is not health but vanity—the joy of looking good.
To which I ask: Is there anything wrong with that?
True, there are nobler motivators for changing an unhealthy habit than vanity. In my book Changepower: 37 Secrets to Habit Change Success, I point out that there are three types of motivators. First, there are the “Eight Great Motivators.” These motivators are lofty ideas that are powerful enough to inspire change. Ideas like “being a role model for my child,” “love,” and “vitality” can lodge firmly in your higher brain, motivate you, and guide your behavior. (The Eight Great Motivators are: higher values (like health), higher goals, love and loving relationships, happiness, self-respect, becoming a positive role model, envisioning a better future, and spirituality.)
In her essay, Shriver argues that ideas like “health” are too abstract to be motivating. That may be true for some. But the results of many studies suggest that just thinking of your motivator can promote determination and willpower. In other experiments, people who wrote briefly about their core values increased their self-control in a variety of situations. Having a higher motivator—like “love of family” or “health”—is not just an exercise in idealism. It works!
The second motivation for healthy changes is avoiding pain. Pain can prod your imagination into revealing the hell that awaits you unless you change. I quit smoking when someone dear to me died of lung cancer. I could imagine myself suffering the same fate, and I changed.
When vanity is linked to one of the Eight Great Motivators, it can be especially helpful:
While some people might turn down their noses at vanity motivators, I agree with Winston Churchill when he called vanity “that vice that promotes so many virtues.”
(c) Meg Selig
Thinking of core values increases self-control. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0062593