Friday, April 4, 2014

The Krispy Kreme Theory of Motivation

When I went I moved into my new office a few years ago, one of the benefits of its location was that there were three donut shops all within a short distance of it.  My favorite by far is Krispy Kreme- did I mention I’ve got a terrible sweet tooth?

When I talk to clients about making positive change, one thing that often comes up is motivation.  Change is always stressful and habits (even bad ones) usually have some pay off.  So let’s say you want to reduce your social drinking.  While there will be benefits, there will also be costs (less time with friends at happy hour, etc.).  You want to be more organized in the morning?  Great, but you’ll have to give up some free time to organize closets, etc. 

So when someone tells me, “I really want ________ but as hard as I’ve tried I can’t accomplish it” the first thing I question is the cost/benefit ratio.  I call this the Krispy Kreme theory based on my own experience of trying to reduce the amount of sweets I eat.

 Currently I’m in the midst of trying to improve my health to get ready for a hiking trip.  One of my strategies was to give up my lovely Krispy Kreme doughnuts, which on most days I can do just fine (the benefit of improving my health outweighs the yummy short term benefit of the taste).  But every now and then I’ll be having a rough day and just can’t resist.   For me, the need the donut meets on a stressful day outweighs my desire to improve my health.  Hence, the Krispy Kreme theory of motivation is that we only can make positive change when the benefit outweighs the costs.

So if you are trying to make positive change and it seems like it’s impossible to make progress, ask yourself “What need is this habit meeting?”  “Is there some benefit to not making change?”  “Is there a cost to making change that is just too painful?”   Once you have a good assessment of all the cost and benefits you can start overcoming obstacles and find ways to have meet need while supporting your goal.  

For me, when I need a break from a bad day, I don’t just say too bad – suck it up.  Instead, I’ve found a few ways to give myself a treat that doesn’t go against my long term goal of improving health.  I might watch an episode of my favorite TV show on Netflix, have lunch with a friend, or buy some new fun nail polish.  I get the need met by treating myself but doing it in a different way.

Good luck with your goals and if you need some inspiration, I highly recommend the pumpkin spice cake donut from Krispy Kreme J.