So in case you missed it, part one of this little series is right over HERE. In the previous post on Fitness Goals I spoke about the role of emotion in getting clients to achieve their goals. One component we touched on was how popular advertising plays on the concepts of appealing to people on the basis of sex, competition, fear, or guilt. You can also use sex, competition, fear, and guilt to your advantage. We’re going to focus on this point in todays post, because it’s pretty cool to be able to get people all jacked up about something they thought was impossible. We’re gonna find out today that the only thing impossible is to get your clients to achieve a Fitness goal they didn’t know they wanted.
One of the caveats of any marketing campaign for a big-name product isn’t about the technical specs of a product, or about how convenient it is, or in actuality any of the things that makes a product great. It’s more about the sizzle than the steak. All advertising campaigns are based on creating a feeling. An emotion that makes the viewer say to themselves “I want to be that,” whatever that may be. You’ll see this in everything from condos to cars to soda to financial planning. You’ve bought lots of big ticket items, useless crap, and everything in between because you felt something about that product or service.
Let’s be completely honest here:
No one gives a rats ass about stats and figures.
Start quoting details at someone and they will just as readily want to throw their face on an axe than buy in to what you’re saying. People have an attention span of roughly 8 seconds (THANK you, tv, internet and iPod multitasking!!!), so you only really get one shot to get an emotional spark that could create buy-in and motivation to achieve a fitness goal. The benefits of exercise on a physiological basis are great to know, but they aren’t going to be selling features to anyone.
An emotion is a completely irrational concept. Nerds like me (well, not really like me, but kinda like me) have a lot of difficulty wrapping their heads around believing someone would do something they inherrently knew was wrong, dumb, less than optimal, or even dangerous, simply because of an emotion behind it. How else do you explain smoking??? People choose to start smoking, not because it fills a physiological need, but simply because it fills an emotional one. Often people begin smoking simply because others around them they wanted to look cool in front of were smokers, which in their minds meant that by emulating their actions, they would then become somewhat more cooler and become accepted by the cool kids.
DOES THIS MAKE SENSE TO ANYONE???
When an emotion is attached to a goal activity, even something as cool ridiculously toxic as smoking, it can overcome all rationality and make a person actually do it. Obviously, exercise isn’t as bad as smoking but it’s harder to start. Therefore the emotional barriers are higher. Would you not agree that sometimes it seems to be harder to get people to start exercising than to get them to start sucking back cancer sticks.
Now let’s take it back to working out. What are some of the main reasons someone wants to actually begin working out?
- lose weight
- gain muscle
- look better
- feel better
- recover from an injury
- increase athletic performance
These are all great fitness goals, too bad they’re all useless goals.
What will losing weight give the person or how would it improve their lives?
What will gaining muscle give the person or how would it improve their lives?
Look better? For what? And what does “better” mean to that person? Are they expecting a different bone structure, genetic profile, to become Mr. Olympia or a Supermodel?
Feel better??? Shut up. If you want to feel better, go to bed, wake up early, eat breakfast, take a dump and actually take a second to see what’s going well in your life, and then you’ll feel better. A better question would be why the hell do you not feel good now? Is exercise going to fix it?
Improving athletic performance is an easy one to work on as the person is already emotionally invested in a goal activity where the workout is a means to an end. Ask any pro athlete why they work out and they’ll say to make them better at their sport, which in turn means they can keep their job. If we were to tie employment to physical fitness the way a professional athlete, firefighter, military personnel or police officer, we probably wouldn’t have an epidemic of obesity and all it’s related issues. Either that or we would have a huge rate of unemployment going on.
No matter the fitness goal, we have to dig under the surface to find out what may be driving someone to achieve that goal. As mentioned before, the four basic drivers are sex, competition, fear and guilt. When someone tells me what they want to achieve, whether it’s lose weight, strengthen an old injury, run a marathon, whatever, I always ask them why that goal is important to them. I tend to get a lot of “I don’t know,” or “I thought it would be a good goal to shoot for,” which means it’s pretty much dead in the water and not going to happen because they have no emotional involvement in it.
For the driver of sex, people will tend to do something that makes them more appealing to those they want to attract. Losing weight, gaining muscle, aesthetic training, improving physical performance to add that wow factor will all be things that will make someone want to do something. There’s also the spirituality of sex that makes someone drawn to someone else, regardless of their physical appearance, which means the way a person carries themselves, their self esteem, self image, personality, and other hard to measure components that can all be improved with exercise. Add to it the fact that people who work out consistently tend to have higher sex drives and you’ve got the recipe for consistent success.
Competition can be just as powerful as sex, when utilized in an environment where the person feels they have a chance of success and some form of reward at the end of the line. There’s a concept known as the State of Optimal Arousal, where the perceived challenges have to match up to the individuals’ perceived skills in order to make them want to continually compete. If the skill is too low or the challenge is too high, the individual can’t get jacked up to compete, likewise if the challenge is minimal compared to the skill (think Michael Jordan playing one on one against Urkel), the arousal won’t be there, nor will the drive to compete and to beat the opponent. One of my favorite Jordan quotes is quite simply:
I’m not out there sweating for three hours every day just to find out what it feels like to sweat.
Fear plays into the concept of a negative result from a current behavior, like fear of a heart attack because of obesity, or for athletes the fear of being cut because of low productivity. Fear can be a powerful motivator, in the short term. However, fear over the long term is never really successful, because as mentioned previously people have a very short attention span. News reports are all over the place showing how being overweight will increase all sorts of crazy problems that are completely preventable, but still no one gets off the couch because they want to lower their risk of type 2 diabetes.
Fear is successful in situations like basic training for the military, training camps in sports, but unfortunately that’s about it. Trainers who like to yell and domineer their clients tend to find they have a hard time keeping clients because it’s not a motivating feature to a lot of people, and can quickly become a deterrant from activity. I’ve always believed you help more people with honey than vinegar, but every now and then you have to put a little fear into people to get them to move faster, run harder, push more weight, or give it a new level of effort they wouldn’t normally give. Again, it has to be measured and used appropriately.
Guilt is one of the worst motivators, but it’s still prevalent. Guilt essentially means someone is obligated to do something for someone else, and they don’t want to do it but they pretty much have to. The motivation will be removed as soon as the responsibility is removed, which makes guilt a hard seller for continued involvement. This is why term contracts are so unpopular with people, because they feel they have an obligation to use a service or product for a period of time, even if they aren’t committing to it.
So how can you successfully motivate someone to achieve their fitness goals? Let’s look at the two most powerful driving forces in motivation:
Sex and Competition.
Sex can be broken down further into vanity, ego, appearance, and self concept. Playing on any of these components can create a feeling of euphoria in an individual that can make them create that “feeling” of being emotionally involved in a goal. While it may be great to gain muscle and lose fat, what those do or the person will be as important to note as the physiological necessities. Fitting into their skinny jeans, having their spouse say “you’re looking ripped lately!!”, for ladies having other women say under their breath “bitch” when they walk by is apparently a big thing. For guys concepts like power, respect, and of course, the ladies, will make us do some pretty crazy things. Building someone up will always work better than breaking them down in terms of getting them to do something you want them to do, or in getting them to do something they want to do for themselves.
Competition can be huge. In my large group Boot Camp classes, I’ll typically engage the participants in mini-competitions, games and other activities, but I’ll also create some competitive drive, simply by saying to someone who’s ahead of someone else “Hey you’re beating so-and-so.” Then I’ll go over to so-and-so and say “hey, that guy’s four reps ahead of you. You gonna let him beat you when you’re so close to being the first one?” GAME ON!!! While there’s a lot of people who will say they’re not competitive, put them in a room full of people and tell them they’re in second place, and they will just about kill themselves to be first, even if there’s no prize at the end of the road.
There’s also a lot of weight-loss challenges across North American gyms and clubs, piggy-backing on the success of the Biggest Loser. A competitive drive with a big prize at the end of the road could be the proverbial carrot to dangle at the end of the treadmill to get people to accomplish their goals, so setting up small competitions can play on people to make them work harder and achieve more than they would have without it. Why do you think there are so many recreational athletic leagues with championships and trophies that cost all of $20, or why people will pay hundreds to thousands of dollars to compete in races of different types? Competition is incredibly powerful.
Everyone will be different and need to be motivated in different ways. What complicates things further is that motivation is fleeting, and will change on a daily basis, even with competitive athletes or injured clients. The physics of exercise is easy, as is understanding the physiology.
Lift heavy shit = getting jacked and swole
That’s my five year degree in a simple mathematical equation for you. Thanks Mom and Dad for footing the bill for part of that one!! The harder part and the part that would probably play the biggest role is understanding the psychology. I would encourage everyone reading this to figure out what your driving force is in attaining your own goals, because it will help you to determine if that goal will actually happen or not.