Finding Motivation 3 Keys

Having practiced as a PA in primary care for over 25 years, I have had the opportunity to work with thousands of people – all with varying medical conditions. It has always interested me as to why certain people seek medical help yet others avoid health care providers like the plague itself.

Let me give you a simple illustration. Recently in our clinic we received a phone call from a patient who was insistent that she be seen immediately. Our schedule was full but with a little rearranging we were able to get her work in. Her worry was that her home blood pressure monitor was reading her blood pressure 10 points higher than what would be considered a normal blood pressure. With a little reassurance and a minor lifestyle adjustment (eat a little less salt) her issue was adequately addressed. She felt much more relieved and I am confident she made the change in her diet that we recommended.

The very next patient however was a completely different story. This person had not been to our clinic for nearly a year and only came in because we would not refill his medications until he was seen. He has severe hypertension, markedly obese, pre-diabetes, a terrible cholesterol profile and a strong family history of heart disease. After some lengthy negotiation I was finally able to talk him into having a little lab work and adjusting his medication dose but he had no interest in making any lifestyle changes.

In reality most people fall somewhere in between these two extreme examples. So where do you fall in that spectrum? What is your current motivation to make change?

Regardless of a persons’ motivation, it has become clear to me that the more motivated a person is – the better outcome they will have. They are more compliant with making the necessary changes to achieve a higher quality of health. On the contrary those with little motivation tend to find themselves in a perpetual downward spiral until they get to a point where fear prevails and they finally are willing to consider making changes. Hopefully, before it is too late.

3 Critical Components to Change Behavior

#1 Get Uncomfortable

I’m guessing that you wouldn’t be reading this unless you had something stirring inside leading you to think that change may be necessary. I would encourage you to continue to develop that thought. As uncomfortable as it might be – stop and take inventory of what isn’t right with your health. Think about medical conditions that you’re dealing with now what you know the consequences to be if unaddressed. Think about what you can gain by making healthier choices and think about what you can lose without making those changes. Motivation for change comes from within – when there is a certain level of discomfort.

#2 Do It For More Than Just Yourself

While this is not solid science or the result of a major scientific study, I can tell you without a doubt, people have more success in changing behavior when they are doing it for a cause beyond themselves. For example, the young woman who wants to eat healthier so that she will set a better example for her children; or the middle-aged woman who wants to make changes so that she can enjoy her grandchildren and travel with her husband – both are likely to have a better long-term outcome than a person who begins a program of behavior change solely for selfish reasons or for vanity. So think about the positive impact you can have on the people around you if you were to make some healthier choices.

#3 Connect

Making a behavior change is hard. There are minefields everywhere. Studies have shown, and my own experience has proven, that it is nearly impossible to lose weight and maintain weight loss without support. That support can come from a variety of sources. It might be a family member or a close friend, or it might be your health care provider or a local or online support group. Regardless put your pride aside and recognize that we are all here to help each other through this crazy thing called life – so don’t be afraid to reach out and connect.

Greg Lindholm, PA, MPH

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