The Disconnected Values Model
Welcome to 2012.
I have decided to write a lengthy article knowing that most people will have the time while on leave to read it.
This may be the single most important thing that you read about your health and fitness this year. Everybody has the knowledge-eat well and move more. But why don’t we do it?
This time every year I watch many people around me start to drag themselves back to training or the gym to work off the unwanted pounds and to regain the health and fitness they just squandered away over the festive season. The 2kg-6kg of excess baggage that is usually put on over this time of year takes most people, through a focused combination of dialing in their eating and increasing their activity levels, a few months to get back on track. So the first few months of the New Year are in fact just playing catch up on poor choices.
I also watch a lot of new people start to engage in exercise again. Yes the New Years Resolution. They usually include things such as giving up smoking, exercising more or joining the gym, eating better, not drinking as much alcohol, giving to a charity.And so on.
What’s my view on New Year’s resolutions? I don’t really have one. For most people they are a pipe dream that makes them feel good about themselves. By March and April every year those good intentioned resolutions are now ancient history and forgotten. Sound harsh? Read ahead.
Many psychologists say that New Years resolutions usually come from guilt and are selfish.
A number of psychologists say that New Year’s resolutions are really about making yourself feel good by making promises to yourself or other people because you feel guilty about the stuff you KNOW intrinsically you SHOULD be doing. So perhaps they are selfish. Even the bit about giving to a charity. Most people tell others about their resolutions or donating to a charity to make themselves feel good. To be externally gratified. So in other words you are doing it so someone pats you on the back and blows your trumpet. So chances are they are never going to work, especially as your friends and family rarely hold you accountable. The fact is that you should be holding YOURSELF accountable.
So why not decide to act from more positive motivations other than emotions like guilt and do the things that you know you should be doing so you don’t need to have any New Year’s resolutions from year to year? Achieving something worthwhile is the real reward, not the fickle approval of people you already know or will never know.
Ok here comes the big “C” word. Here it comes… Commitment
Definition of Commitment:
The act of committing to a charge or trust. An agreement or pledge to do something in the future. An agreement to assume a financial obligation at a later date. The state or an instance of being obligated or emotionally impelled-the commitment to a cause.
Here is an all familiar scenario. All the trainers reading this will empathize with my frustrations and understand what I am writing about here. And if you are just about to undertake a new fitness regime or are currently training and reading this and wondering why you aren’t getting results then this may really resonate with you and challenge your perspective on your ACTUAL commitment to your current training.
A prospect walks into any given gym or club wanting to embark on a new health and fitness goal. Whether it be lose weight, tone up, bulk up, get strong, toned or any other fitness goal. When talking through an initial assessment they tell you how important it is and how, on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being not important and 10 being the most important that they personally sit on 8-10. They tell you travel is not a concern, that time is not a concern, that money is no obstacle, that they have support from their friends and family or their spouse. That they are ready, willing and able……So they are pretty committed to a change for the better, right?
So the journey of self improvement begins, however for some reason these clients are always late, don’t make their sessions, cancel all the time, as well as not only cancelling sessions with you, but also do not do anything exercise wise or nutritionally when they are not with their trainer and as such don’t make time to eat healthily and exercise regularly. Of course they never get results. What’s worst, still often in denial and without any self awareness to the fact they are their own worst enemy, they still proclaim to not be lazy and be committed to their goals of real health and fitness.
And most of the time it’s the trainers fault right? I remember that program on a Current Affair where all these gym members were blaming their trainers for not getting results.
Enter the Disconnected Values Model.
This model helps people
- Examine the benefits, in contrast to the costs and long term consequences of the habit they most want to change
- Identify their deepest values and beliefs (e.g., health, family, faith, integrity)
- Detect a “disconnect” between the negative habit and identified values and
- Conclude whether the “disconnect” between the negative habit and identified values is acceptable given its long term costs and consequences.
The conclusion that this “disconnect” is unacceptable creates incentive and commitment for health and behavioral change. Therefore the Disconnected Values Model (DVM) explains the “disconnect” between people saying one thing but actually spending time on other things.
In other words, when people say something is the highest priority for them, for example a core value or belief, does the time that they spend on those activities and their behaviour (habits) actually align with what they say or believe (values).
The Disconnected Values Model (DVM)
The process of behavioral change is a challenging process for trainers such as myself because habits and routines, in this case, lack of regular exercise and good eating, is firmly entrenched in a person’s lifestyle. Attempting to increase exercise behavior or nutritional change is particularly difficult because it is accompanied by an array of long-held feelings and attitudes that may reflect negative previous experiences (e.g., the physical education teacher who used exercise as a form of discipline, burnout from too much physical training as a former athlete, injury from previous exercise attempts, parents rewarding or punishing children with food, making you eat your greens or everything on your plate etc).
Further, vigorous exercise requires effort and some degree of physical discomfort in order to obtain the well-known benefits. The degree of discomfort, often measured as “ratings of perceived exertion” (Borg, 1998) directly reflects a person’s body weight, current fitness level, and the person’s sedentary lifestyle.
The DVM (Anshel & Kang, in press) is predicated on two points that define self-motivated behavior and have strong implications toward promoting exercise behavior. The first point is that self-motivated behavior reflects a person’s deepest values and beliefs about his or her passion, that is, their mission, or passion. An individual’s acknowledged mission reflects their desire to become fully engaged in activities that “really matter” in meeting personal goals and future aspirations. The second point is that the primary motivators of normal human behavior consist of three stages: (a) to identify a deeply held set of values, (b) to live a life consistent with those values and (c) to consistently hold ourselves accountable to them. Therefore an individual whose values include health, family, and performance excellence examples of three common values – should be self-motivated to exercise because it is consistent with these values. The DVM puts forward the perspective that developing an exercise habit rests, at least in part, on recognizing the inconsistency between one’s negative habits (i.e., lack of regular exercise) and their values, and then to institute a new, positive habit of exercise that is strongly connected to one’s values.
Negative Habits and Performance Barriers
The model begins by acknowledging the existence of negative habits, defined as thoughts, emotions, or tasks we experience regularly that are acknowledged by the person as not healthy or in the person’s best interests, yet, remain under our control. The model puts forward that the primary reason individuals engage in negative habits is because the perceived benefits of maintaining the habit outweigh its costs and long-term consequences. Negative habits (e.g., lack of exercise, poor sleep and nutrition) lead to barriers in performance, such as fatigue, negative mood state, and lack of concentration.
Perceived Benefits, Costs and Long-term Consequences of Negative Habits
There are benefits or “pay offs” to every negative habit we have. If there were no benefits to a negative habit, the negative habit would not continue. As discussed earlier, the benefits of not exercising, for example, include more time to do other things, not experiencing the discomfort of physical exertion, and having expenses related to purchasing fitness club memberships and exercise clothing, including shoes. Of course, there are possible costs and long term consequences to not exercising.
These include reduced fitness, weight gain, and higher stress and anxiety (both of which are reduced due to exercise). The long-term consequences of these costs include poorer physical and mental health, reduced quality of life, and, in some cases, shorter lifespan. Are these costs acceptable? If they are, then the negative habit of not exercising and maintaining a sedentary lifestyle will likely continue. However, if the costs are far greater than the benefits, and the person concludes that these costs are unacceptable, then a change in behavior is far more likely.
Determining one’s Deepest Values and Establishing a Disconnect
The DVM then presents individuals with a list of values and asks individuals to designate and rank them. Examples include integrity, happiness, honesty, character, excellence, commitment, and concern for others.
To help clients detect an inconsistency between their values and their negative (self-destructive) habits, consultants or mental health professionals might ask non-exercising clients “To what extent are your values consistent with your actions? If you lead a sedentary lifestyle and are not involved in a program of exercise, yet one of your deepest values is to maintain good health, to what extent is your value inconsistent with your behavior? Is there a ‘disconnect’ between your beliefs about good health and your unhealthy behavioral patterns?”
Acceptability of the Disconnect
If a person acknowledges that the negative habit of not engaging in exercise is inconsistent with their deepest values and beliefs about what is really important to them, the follow-up question must be to ascertain if this is acceptable. Is the disconnect between this negative habits – lack of exercise – and the values a person feels passionate about… acceptable? If the disconnect is acceptable – and for many individuals who feel that changing the negative habit is either undesirable or beyond their control – then no behavior change will likely occur. Only when the disconnect is unacceptable to the individual is the person prepared to commit to behavior change, and then engaged in developing and carrying out an action plan.
So let’s try a mini version of the DVM model. And LET’S keep it specific to your health and fitness
In the first table list your top 10 beliefs or values in order of priority
|Priority||Value or belief about self (what is important to me?)|
In the second table list the things you spend your time on (habits and behaviour) in order
|Time spent||Habit or Behaviour (what do I actually spend my time on?)|
Where does your health and fitness place in your core values and beliefs and does it align with the time you spend (your habits and behaviour) on it? Is there are striking difference or a “disconnect”?
Now weigh up the costs and long term consequences versus the benefits. For example what are the pro’s of not exercising and staying fit and healthy? What are the cons’s of not exercising and staying fit and healthy?
I have done an example for exercise below.
|Costs/consequences of the given habit or behaviour e.g. not exercising||Benefits of the given habit or behaviour e.g. not exercising|
|Reduced fitness||No associated costs|
|Weight gain||No time spent exercising or traveling|
|Higher stress and anxiety||No discomfort from exercise|
|Poor body image||Scared of trying and failing again|
|Reduced quality of life|
|Reduced confidence and esteem|
|Higher risk of disease and illness|
|Less social interaction|
|Poorer mental and physical health|
|Shortened life span|
Once you have considered the costs vs benefits ask yourself is this acceptable? Am I happy to live with the costs and long term consequences of that behaviour?
In conclusion if you deem that it is “acceptable” to take the consequences of this behaviour long term and the costs associated with it as you feel the benefits outweigh them, then you may feel there is no need to change. And that’s ok.
So for example you may be happy with where you are at with your health and fitness.
If you are not however and it doesn’t align with your core values-then its time to do something about it, to perhaps change your priorities so they align more with your core values and beliefs and as we have discussed above, not just talk about it, do something about it.
A little about my business motto that some of you might not know: “Meet Life head On”. It means like the bull, to live life aggressively.
It doesn’t mean to be aggressive in a violent way. It means to move forward with strong intent, purpose and resolve. My training style is often a slap in the face for many, to force you out of your comfort zone and to encourage you to be brutally honest with yourself and to take charge of your health and fitness. In our classes we aim to be extraordinary rather than conforming to the ordinary and mediocrity of most commercial fitness gyms. Our training is not usually going to make you feel warm and fuzzy. Although it might make you feel warm.
TRUE change is not a passive process and requires brutal self inventory as a catalyst for moving forward and making permanent change. I’m not a paid friend or cheerleader and in fact my training will usually make you feel worse initially because it will challenge you mentally and physically and take you out of your comfort zone. That is the trade off. It is earnt. There are no shortcuts, pills, fads or magic potions that will give you the same health benefits as exercising often and having great nutrition.
Lasting change requires being aggressively honest with yourself, using pressure to your advantage and running towards risk rather than away from it. It is having a clear vision as to what you want and more importantly what you are willing to sacrifice in order to get it.
Stop making excuses and “Meet Life Head On”.
Make 2012 your best year ever.
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