Thanks to Gary Stebbing, Performance and Conditioning Coach, for this guest blog.
Exercise is almost uniformly recommended as fundamental to good health, so why do so many people live basically sedentary lives?
Why is behaviour change still such a puzzling conundrum within health and medicine?
As a practical coach one has to adapt and refine these questions to something more relevant….
How can one get better as a behaviour change agent; and more specifically how can one assist in creating a movement habit for clients or patients…..?
But is trying to change behaviour the wrong approach? Should we shift our personal mindset towards a focus on changing beliefs rather than behaviours……?
In their fascinating book Switch, authors Chip and Dan Heath use a very intriguing analogy to explore change:
Imagine a small rider sitting on top of a very large elephant walking through the jungle. The jungle is the environment that we live and function in – a very powerful influence on our lives. The elephant is our beliefs and attitudes – very powerful in driving our daily behaviours and actions. What happens in daily interactions is that we often try and intervene at the level of the rider. You can shout as loud as you like at the rider, what chance do you think the rider has of getting the elephant to change direction if it doesn’t want to?
Perhaps strategies to influence the elephant might have more success…..
Stanford psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck has used another approach to studying mindsets and their impact. Her work explores what she has defined has the ‘fixed’ and ‘growth’ mindsets.
Those with a fixed mindset tend to like to appear smart to others and adopt more of a ‘this is the way it is’ type of attitude. Her work suggests amongst many things that they avoid risk of failure, lack resilience when things get tough and may feel threatened if others achieve success around them.
In contrast those with a growth mindset tend to be happy to try new things, be more robust when things aren’t going well and inspired by success around them.
If you follow this thinking into the path of exercise, what might be the differing outcomes for the fixed vs. growth minded individual.
Exercise is often tough at the beginning, negative feelings due to poor fitness levels, difficulty in grasping how to do new movements, watching others around you who seem to be more competent and finding it easy……it is easy to see how a fixed mindset might see exercise as not for them, while a growth mindset experiences the same things yet relishes the challenge!
Everyone loves working with growth mindset individuals….
So the true coaching challenge is to find the strategies to keep the fixed mindset in the game long enough to help them adapt the way they view and experience exercise and movement.
Perhaps the target is to help all individuals build something you might call the “movement mindset”.