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"Be the change that you wish to use in the world"


Forces For and Against Change:
Leverage Your Energy Effectively

The individual forces for and against healthy behavior change are motivation and resistance. The system forces for and against individual change are supports and barriers. If you increase your supports and decrease your barriers, you increase your chance of changing. But if your resistance is stronger than your motivation, you will not change.

Forces For and Against Change

Motivation and supports generate a positive force toward healthy habits. Resistance and barriers generate a negative force toward unhealthy habits. The relative strengths of these opposing forces influence whether you will develop healthy or unhealthy habits. Your challenge is to understand these opposing forces, so that you reduce the negative force and increase the positive force for change.

Here is a list of items that can create these opposing forces:

  • Individual characteristics (family history and personal development that shape values, beliefs, attitudes, perceptions, roles and assumptions)
  • Relationships (family, work, play and spiritual)
  • Situations (work and family stress, finances, housing, etc)

Here are some questions for you to think about:

  • What contributes to your resistance to change?
  • What contributes to your motivation to change?
  • What are the barriers to change?
  • What are the supports to change?

Your challenge to change will be even greater if you cannot reduce your barriers nor increase your supports. Then you need to focus your time, attention and effort on reducing your resistance and increasing your motivation. Even if you can reduce your barriers and increase your supports, you may still engage in risky behaviors because your resistance to change is greater than your motivation to change.

Leverage Your Energy Effectively

Create your leverage points by identifying what is really important to you and linking it to behavior changes. At a high leverage point, a small amount of energy leads to a big change. For example, grandparents may quit smoking because they want to live longer and see your grandchildren grow up, leaving them a legacy about why they quit smoking for their grandchildren. But for a young man who is a heavy smoker, this issue is unlikely to have much impact. On the other hand, if he has a concern about reduced erectile function because of his smoking, he may decide to quit.

At a low leverage point, a large amount of energy leads to a small change. For example, it takes a lot of exercise to lose a small amount of weight. If you value this weight loss, you will still do the exercise. But there are many more reasons to do modest amounts of exercise (a minimum of 30 minutes of walking three times per week), including preventing and treating depression. It can become a high leverage point if you think that this is a small amount of energy used and place a high value on treating depression. With no leverage points, your energy goes to nowhere.

Leverage points may occur at an individual and/or systems level. If change does not occur at an individual level (reduce resistance and/or increase motivation), you may be more effective working at a systems level. Or, if change does not occur when working at a systems level (by reducing barriers and increasing supports), you have to work at an individual level.

Here are some questions for you to think about:

  • What is the quickest way for you to change-reduce your resistance, increase your motivation, reduce barriers and increase supports?
  • What are the best leverage points for you to change?
  • How much energy can you devote to change?
  • What are reasonable goals for you, given your current situation?

Once you have answered these questions, you are well on your way to discovering what it will take for you to change your unhealthy habit.



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