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The LOVE Motivator

Use the "love motivator" to help--not hurt--your life.

 Pxhere, CC0.
Love--hearts and flowers?
Source: Credit: Pxhere, CC0.

For better or for worse, love is a powerful motivator. Remember the excitement, energy, and euphoria you feel when you fall in love? You are motivated to clean your living space so that special person will have a positive impression when he sees it. You are motivated to change a disagreeable habit so that you become more worthy of a relationship with her.

Love, like many other positive emotions and events, can make you willing to change--though not always in a healthy direction. In fact, romantic love is a two-headed monster.

While we usually think of "love" as a positive motivator, think about all the people you know who first adopted a bad habit or risky behavior under the spell of a boyfriend or girlfriend. (Not you or me, of course, but so many others.) I would be as rich as Bill Gates if I had a dollar for every person who started smoking, practiced unsafe sex, experimented with an illegal drug, popped a pill, downed an alcoholic drink, or smoked a joint to please, tease, get accepted by, or get closer to a special someone. Of course this kind of "love" is fool's gold, because it makes you forget who you are and what really matters. This love can hurt you.

True love is consistent with your higher values and goals, expands your sense of self, and helps you function in this world. This "love motivator" is so powerful that I dubbed it one of the "Eight Great Motivators" in my book, Changepower! 37 Secrets to Habit Change Success. By "love," I don't just mean romantic love but also loving relationships, including love of family and friends. Here are some examples of people who changed habits because of love and loving relationships:

  • Phillip quit smoking when a friend with heart disease asked if they could quit together.
  • My student Tim overcame his pattern of dropping his courses each semester because he realized he would never be able to pair up with an educated woman unless he was educated himself.
  • Sam quit drinking when his girlfriend told him she wouldn't marry someone who drank. They've now been married over 20 years.
  • Many pregnant women are motivated by love of their future child to quit smoking, drinking, or drugging.

Remember in "Gone with the Wind" when Rhett Butler quits drinking after his daughter pushes him away because he has whiskey on his breath? According to a large-scale health survey done by the Edelman agency, parental love motivated 25% of respondents to change health habits.

A group of researchers led by Arthur Aron examined the parts of the brain activated by romantic love. They found that romantic love is associated with the reward and goal-seeking regions of our gray matter. Their conclusion: "...rather than being a specific emotion, romantic love is better characterized as a motivation or goal-oriented state that leads to various specific emotions such as euphoria or anxiety." Yes indeed, love is a motivator.

So if you find yourself falling in love, and you feel those "love hormones" coursing through your body and brain, consider using "the love motivator" to change a habit--for the better.

(c) Meg Selig

I am the author of Changepower! 37 Secrets to Habit Change Success (Routledge, 2009), reviewed here. For more insights, tidbits, and quotes on habit change, motivation, willpower, and healthy living, please like me on Facebook and/or follow on Twitter.

Sources:

Aron, A., Fisher, H., Mashek, D. J., Strong, G., Li, H. & Brown, L.L. Reward, Motivation, and Emotion Systems Associated With Early-Stage Intense Romantic Love. Journal of Neurophysiology 94: 335, 2005.

The Edelman Health Engagement Barometer: http://www.slideshare.net/edelmaninc/edelman-health-engagement-baromete…

Selig, M. Changepower! 37 Secrets to Habit Change Success (2009), NY: Routledge.

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