“If you don’t believe, you don’t act.”
So said a well-known motivational speaker at a recent seminar I attended. But it’s far from the whole story and here’s why.
You don’t need to believe to act
One of the deeply rooted furphies in motivational training is that behaviour change is only possible if you win the head-game. If you believe you will make it happen. While there is no doubt that motivation can play a role in getting you off the couch, it’s not the entire answer and relying on willpower will only set you up for failure.
Why? Two reasons:
- Motivation is not stable – it fluctuates along with mood and energy levels
- We are not always rational – we are governed largely by our biases and heuristics rather than our conscious determination, and that means just because we know what we should do, doesn’t mean we will.
Forget motivation, change the environment
In many cases rather than attitude changing behavior, it’s actually the other way around. Behaviour changes attitudes. Take the following two studies for example
- Voters were more likely to support a school funding initiative if they were voting in a school rather than church hall (Berger, Meredith & Wheeler 2008). In other words, it was their environment rather than attitudes that shaped their behavior; and
- Participants who had larger bowls served themselves 31% more ice cream than those with smaller bowls (Wansink, van Ittersum & Painter 2006). And the kicker of this study? The subjects were experts in nutrition!
As these studies show, our behaviour is impacted by our environment and what we do may in fact have nothing to do with what we believe or what we intend. What does this mean for your business?
Stop flogging yourself trying to change your customer’s beliefs or attitude and instead pay attention to how you can shape the environment (your shop, website, office) to change behaviour. Worry less about hearts and minds and focus more on hands and feet. You’ll not only stop wasting money and effort on motivational marketing, you’ll be surprised at how small tweaks in what you already do will make a meaningful difference to your results.
Bri Williams runs People Patterns, a consultancy specialising in the application of behavioural economics to everyday business issues.