Riding the Wave: Making the most out of whatever motivation you have

When I wrote the last article, Netflix or Gym: Why some habits are easier to form than others, I came across more information regarding behavior change than I could have imagined.  In trying to keep that article on point I had to cut out some other points that factor in to changing behavior.  In this short follow up I want to talk about another important factor regarding behavior change and that is motivation.

Have you ever experienced a surge of motivation? It’s a wonderful feeling where difficult tasks suddenly seem easy to accomplish. Does that motivation eventually run out and your left feeling like everything is a chore?

Well you’re perfectly normal then. According to Stanford Behavior Psychologist BJ Fogg (@BJFogg on Twitter) our levels of motivation over a period of time can be mapped out on what’s called a “Motivation Wave.”  The Motivation Wave is expertly explained in his video:

The effective take-away from this video is that motivation is not constant.  When motivation is low we are more likely to engage in automatic structured behaviors and when motivation is high we can easily tackle difficult behaviors.  What Dr. Fogg is suggesting is that periods of high motivation are best capitalized upon when we use them to structure future behaviors, reduce barriers to behavior or increase our capability for the behavior.  All three of these actions work to make repeating the action easier in the future.

What’s novel about this approach is that it is common to engage in a desired behavior when motivation is high.  Unfortunately just going to the gym or eating a meal with plenty of vegetables does not do much in the way of ensuring repetition.  Instead we should use periods of high motivation to schedule work outs with a trainer (structure future behavior), prepare meals ahead of time (reduce barriers to behavior) or learn a new recipe (increase capability).


Want to learn more about Dr. BJ Fogg?  Check out and on twitter: @BJFogg.