Taken at face value some of the concepts tend to fall short, so look for my comments in italics.
The key outline from the book is the 6 everyday elements that are often the culprits behind a lack of progress:
1) Personal Motivation – Not to be confused with willpower, but rather, interrupting your impulses by connecting with your goals*, you can greatly improve your chances of success.
In other words, you should find ways to constantly reinforce your goals. Post-its, reminders, anything that disrupts bad decisions and makes you think about your goal.
*My Note: I disagree with the authors on this front, as I believe that most goals are short-sighted for the most part. The biggest disappointment I had with this book, was the lack of values/beliefs, personal philosophy, living from a state of purpose, and their association in goal-setting. The goal-setting element of this book was just weak in general, though this principle does still generally make sense. Goals tend to be very meaningless when not put together correctly, and for the most part authors talk about goals loosely in most books. I encourage you to use process-oriented goals as a compass and not results-oriented goals, which are destinations and the direct result of actionable steps you take on a daily and weekly basis.
2) Personal Ability – These are skills you’ve developed to align with the changes you want to make. Changing persistent and resistant habits, ALWAYS requires learning new skills.
For instance – learning how to distract yourself from unhealthy foods by keeping them out of the house, and out of sight, or learning to eat more slowly.
3) Social Motivation – Bad habits are always a social animal, if we surround ourselves with like-minded individuals — an accomplice or coach — we can increase our chances of success by 2/3’s!
Surrounding yourself with people who share/support your goals is a great way to accomplish them.
4) Social Ability – Change requires help, information, and real support from others. Get a coach or mentor and you make change far more likely. It also helps to get others on board, family members, close friends, etc…
For instance – joining a gym and integrating with a class of people who share common objectives and desired change.
5) Structural Motivation – Essentially an environmental effect on motivation. Directly link short-term rewards and punishments** to long-term plans and you are far more likely to increase your chances of change.
**Again I must disagree with the authors on this front. They at least argue that these long-term plans need to be linked in the short-term but unfortunately they also try to link those short-term rewards or punishments to long-term situations, goals and/or objectives, which is a surefire way to kill off internal motivation in the long-term. Carrots and sticks will work, in the short-term. I’m willing to bet you want something more substantial.
6) Structural Ability – Environmental skills. Small changes in your environment, can have a remarkable effect on your skills to resist temptation.
For instance – the ability to avoid the office lunch room full of donuts, muffins and other treats.
Overall, I think the concepts of the book are fairly sound, but also incomplete. I dislike the reference and differentiation between ‘motivation’ and ‘ability,’ as I believe ability is often directly related to motivation and vice versa.
I think the authors differentiated in this manner, to simplify complex topics and in order to outline the need for skill development in any ‘change pursuit.’ That is the most important concept of this book and a few others like it on the topics of change.
Skill Development is a Necessity for Change
If you take nothing else from this post, let that sentence simmer a little in your mind.
I disliked the attempt to lump emotional, intellectual, physical, occupational, and spiritual realms of well-being into one topic, “Personal.” While placing emphasis on environmental and social well-being as significantly more important.
We know for instance already that more highly educated people, physically skilled, higher earners — 60k seems to be about the threshold where beyond doesn’t matter much anymore — and spiritual and emotionally intelligent — as Daniel Goleman points out — are generally more fit.
Refer to the Piesseo Theory to see more about what I mean. Any process of change is a multi-centric problem to address, so this pattern ignores a lot of potential limiting factors.
The authors, also fail to focus on one problem at a time, advocating instead that people try to use all 6 of these factors at the same time when trying to bring around change.
6 must be better than 1, I suppose?
Claiming that the more change mechanisms you use, the better is something I strongly disagree with. There are numerous studies showing that more focus you give a single factor, the more success you will have, the more diluted your focus, the less success.
I will forever argue that trying to change your environment, your social sphere and acquire personal skills or motivation is far too complicated for the majority of people to deal with all at once.
This is why most people fail at the majority of weight loss programs, it’s too much change at once. The brain becomes overwhelmed, then you panic, get frustrated, anxious and lose focus. Negative thoughts and emotions ensue too big a change.
Their approach is analogous with multi-tasking, which is a complete myth.
Instead, I would break down these spheres even further, to get more specific, because these mechanisms or dimensions are too global to address as individual elements for change.
The more specific you get, the better.
Overall, this is a decent approach, in that, it at least makes you aware of important concepts. It’s not that dissimilar from my own approach with a few key distinctions.
I particularly liked the chapters on changing others — tip, it’s easier to try and change yourself and your view, than it is to change someone else outside of your control.