Day 4 of 31-Day Series “Your Last Health Resolution”

How to change?  I’m sure I can provide a definitive solution to this age old problem in a short blog post.  No problem.

Despite my sarcasm, we actually can find an answer for you.  The operative word is “we”.  I’m going to provide you a framework to determine how you can change yourself.

Along with owning a personal training company, I also work with an online health and wellness platform called DailyEndorphin.  We focus on corporate wellness and helping people change behavior.  Part of my work involves research into what we call “user experience”.  I look at how to create an experience online that will result in changed behavior offline.

When analyzing the user experience, I look through the lens of the Fogg Behavior Model.  BJ Fogg, founder of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford, has developed a behavior model to explain how real change occurs.  The simple equations is: behavior = motivation x ability x trigger.  It looks like this in graph form:

Fogg Behavior Model

Permission to post from Dr. BJ Fogg:


Don’t let it scare you.   I’ll break it down.  Three elements must occur simultaneously in order for a behavior to happen.  Those again are motivation, ability, and a trigger.  Interestingly, Fogg’s model suggests a small trigger can cause behavior change with high motivation and low ability (or vice versa, with high ability and low motivation).  In other words, you just need a little nudge if you’re motivated but don’t have a lot of ability. 

You don’t have to understand the model fully to benefit from it.  We can use it to analyze your health goal.  Let’s go through this questionnaire:

  1. When considering your goal, would you say you have:
    • High motivation
    • Moderate motivation
    • Low motivation
  2. Considering the same goal, would you describe your ability to achieve it as:
    • High ability (easy to do)
    • Moderate ability
    • Low ability (hard to do)

If you answered high on both questions, you’ll most likely find it very easy to achieve your goal with only small triggers needed.  If you answered low on both, you’ll need significant, consistent triggers to make it happen.  This may not seem like rocket science because it’s not.  The key is understanding yourself and ensuring you have the appropriate amount of assistance (triggers) to reach your goal.

When I went through training to become a Marine Corps officer we endured all kinds of physical challenges.  Each of us had different levels of motivation and ability.  One thing was constant – a drill sergeant screaming in your face.  That’s a pretty effective trigger.  We had one candidate who severely lacked both motivation and ability.  The drill sergeants rode him day in and day out.  With such an extreme trigger, he performed to the best of his ability.  His motivation slowly increased, and he had the privilege of becoming an officer.  What he lacked in ability he made up for in a strong trigger and motivation.

No behavior models tomorrow, but we will explore another psychological aspect that derails people over and over again.