Why are we so good at coming up with ideas about what to do but so terrible at actually doing them?
According to Eric Barker, an editorialist at Time Magazine, it’s because we’re missing an essential step—we fail to take into account our emotions. In his June 30, 2014 article titled, “How to Motivate Yourself: 3 Steps Backed by Science,” he encourages readers to engage their emotions. He writes, “get positive…get rewarded…and get peer pressure.”
Time Magazine’s online article database houses Eric Barker’s article, and along with it, 2700 other articles that address the question of how to get motivated and motivate others. Time Magazine reexamines the same question over and over again, article after article.
Really? Two thousand, seven hundred articles — all in one magazine?
It turns out that Time Magazine was on to something. Well-known book reseller, Amazon, stocks more than 24,000 titles pertaining to habit change and another 63,000 related to motivation.
Time Magazine and Amazon are simply responding to public need. People around the world are desperately seeking ways to change bad habits and to create good ones, as well as the motivation to do so.
Co-Active Coaching authors agree. They write, “People participate in or seek out coaching because they want things to be different.”

Want to Succeed? Don’t Fail.

As coaches we deal with the same dilemma of how to motivate others for habit change. Professional coach and author Tony Stolzfus suggests several tools in the same vein, including reminders, assessing regret, designing rewards, creating replacements, and establishing accountability.
A study conducted by the University of Scranton in January 2014 found just 8 percent of people were successful in achieving their resolutions. The same study further reported that 25 percent failed within the first week.
It’s the same story year after year.
In a 2012 article for Focus, best selling author, Leo Babauta writes, “I was setting myself up for failure, and in failing often and not learning from those mistakes. I was learning to be good at failing. Failing became my habit.’
It seems that the more our habits fall short of success, the more difficult it is to find the motivation to persevere. It’s almost as if the mental muscle for change has atrophied. In fact, it’s actually the neural pathways that have become rutted, making new connections too difficult to forge.
Plainly put, we get good at our bad habits.
With the wealth of resources out there, we have no shortage of tools to assist us with habit change. Our new tools create the desired effect initially, but the newness wears off, and the florescent yellow post-it begins to blend in with everyday life as the days go by.
Most of us find ourselves tossing out our list of goals and resolutions in the recycling bin before the ink has even had time to dry. Clearly. the tools are missing the mark.
Justifiably, potential coaching clients ask, “What does a coach’s toolbox bring to the table that I haven’t already tried and failed?
As coaches, we need to consider this question, “How can we change our tools to make our change-tools successful?”

Being on the Right Side of 50 Percent Matters

At a recent Family Life marriage conference, my husband and I sat listening to some of the best Christian speakers on marriage in the world. They were all moving and informative, but the most compelling by far was the one given by Shaunti Feldhahn, Harvard graduate, best-selling author, and researcher.
“Divorce isn’t the greatest threat to marriage,” Feldhahn said. “Discouragement is.”
Along with thousands of others filling the Verizon Center in Washington, DC, I perked up. “You’ve probably heard the grim facts”, she said. “Half of all marriages end in divorce.”
Yes, I had heard that statistic and found it particularly overwhelming and depressing. Then she continued, “But what if these ‘facts’ are actually myths?”
Feldhahn explained that the actual divorce rate has never been close to 50 percent. The myth was born from a study that predicted a future divorce rate of 50 percent, if the rate continued based on a current trend.
In Feldhahn’s groundbreaking research, she discovered that the rates at the time the statistic was given were at an all time high. They had actually been decreasing steadily ever since.
“Instead of motivating couples to fight harder for their marriage, their belief in approaching doom had had the opposite effect, creating a futility and demotivation to continue the fight for marriage,” Feldhahn explained in her book, The Good News About Marriage.
By the end of her message I felt renewed, refreshed, and ready to lead the charge for families all over the world. All of a sudden marriage building a healthy marriage didn’t seem like such an impossible task. I discovered that simply having proof that failure was not inevitable was motivating me. That it would actually be a longer shot for a marriage to fail than to succeed.
Most marriages are on the right side of the statistic.
“Without awareness of a given belief, you are going to be in a constant reaction state without even understanding why,” author Mateo Tabatabai explains in his book, The Mind-Made Prison. Perhaps, the greatest powerhouse motivation technique coaches bring to the table for squashing bad habits is facilitating the reshaping of limiting beliefs. Individuals generally lack the awareness to recognize their own narrow perspective and time-rutted patterns of behavior.
Coaches are uniquely positioned to ask questions to reveal limiting beliefs, guide clients in visioning practices to create a more positive mindset, and brainstorm with them to determine which tools will be most supportive in changing their habits.
What we may have discovered is that the coaching process in reshaping limiting belief serves as the first, and best, motivation tool.
Give this a try. The next time a client is frustrated and stuck as a result of repeated failure, consider spending more time asking questions to identify and reshape limiting beliefs. Remember, a hammer is only as effective as the carpenter holding it. Coaching tools work much the same way.
Want to motivate your clients with habit changing tools? First, help them to clearly see the job at hand, and then, only then, open the toolbox.
Here are a few places to start:

  • Identify limiting beliefs. Indicators of a limiting belief (adapted from The Mind-Made Prison) include:
    • The client intellectually knows what they want to do, but can’t seem to make themselves do it.
    • The client is experiencing the same challenge over and over again.
    • The client expresses a “take one step forward, two steps back” experience.

You might also consider asking these powerful questions:

  • How have your past failures set you up to fail again?
  • How are you preparing differently for this time to be a success?
  • Who do you know has succeeded in the same way you want to succeed?
  • What can you learn from your past failures that will help you succeed this time?

While there’s no one-size-fits-all tool for facilitating motivation in the lives of their clients, helping clients reshape limiting beliefs is a powerful place to start.

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