New Year, Same You
The new year is synonymous with change. We look back on the year with the determination to do things differently next time. Turning to a fresh page on the calendar inspires us to make changes from reorganizing our homes to updating our budgets to setting goals for our health. Then, as time marches on and the year isn’t so new, the motivation to begin and sustain change feels out of reach.
When this happens, we focus our energy on trying to find motivation or as some say, willpower. If only we had enough motivation, then we could reach our goals. But, according to the psychology of behavior change, the best motivation for lasting change is already inside YOU. This way of thinking is what we at Pivot uses to support you in setting, adjusting and reaching your goals - not willpower.
What is Self-Determination Theory
SDT is a theory of human motivation that applies to health choices. It also underlies Pivot’s whole-person approach to behavior change. It's all about motivation – how a person approaches a behavior, either intrinsically or extrinsically – and how programs like Pivot can help you develop motivation that lasts beyond willpower.
Intrinsic, extrinsic. What’s the difference, and does it matter?
- Intrinsic motivation is engaging in a behavior because it’s valuable, interesting, or enjoyable.
- Extrinsic motivation is doing something because you feel you have to or because you will be punished or rewarded in some way.
It’s the difference between quitting smoking because smoking gets in the way of the life you really want to live versus quitting smoking because your spouse is nagging you to.
Is intrinsic motivation better?
Yes! The Pivot app – with the help of coaches – can help your intrinsic motivations be the clearest source of change. Think of motivation as energy. We want the energy to come from a sustainable source. “My partner will nag me” or “My doctor will be disappointed” aren’t sustainable sources. What needs to happen instead is to find a better reason to change than to remain the same. Then you can develop a new vision of yourself. When you start to think of yourself differently, motivation becomes more intrinsic.
How can I accomplish that?
Pivot helps you feel competent and capable. You likely have some experience practicing healthy coping strategies in the past. You may quit smoking a dozen times before, even for a few days at a time. Pivot helps you build on those experiences. We also can support you in creating small, incremental changes that last, because health isn’t all-or-nothing, succeed or fail.
What’s the role of compassion in all of this?
At Pivot, we understand all behaviors serve some purpose – whether they help you deal with stress or connect with people you love. We want you to have a safe place to practice self-compassion; people are hard enough on themselves. You may know someone who woke up one day, decided to quit smoking and succeed. So, it might be easy for you to think, “Everybody else can do this. What’s wrong with me?” But the truth is that most people try dozens of times to stop smoking or find a stress management plan that works for them. If you’re in a cycle of trying but not succeeding, beating yourself up is not helpful.
How can a coach help?
When you feel yourself searching outside yourself for more and more motivation to power healthy change, that’s a great time to work with a coach! Your coach knows what to say (and when) to help you clarify the values, activities and relationships that are important to YOU. Then, they will help you make a connection between those intrinsic motivators and the goals you want to reach for your health. You’ll be on a journey towards positive, manageable change that lights you up – from the inside out.
Shaun Richardson, MA, TTS
Linda Bundick, MS, CHES, NBC-HWC, NCTTP