The Disconnected Values Model of Motivation

There is a massive gap between knowing what is healthy for us, and behaving accordingly.

It is easy to motivate or help someone who already values being healthy, moving well, and moving often. But what if they aren’t? The fitness industry primarily markets to people who are already active and value the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Gym members often just migrate to the next new gym that opens around the corner, but what about the millions of Australians and Americans that ignore basic health advice?

The Health Report Card

A whopping 56% of Australians rate their health as “excellent” or “very good,” while 10.4% rated their health as “fair,” and just 4.4% as “poor.” Dr. Lynelle Moon, head of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Health Group, isn’t so sure that’s accurate:

“We are living longer, our death rates are decreasing, and our overall burden of disease is falling, but there are a number of key health problems that remain.”

Here is our rough report card at a glance:

  • 13% smoke daily
  • 60% are low risk drinkers
  • 45% are inactive or not active enough
  • 63% are overweight or obese
  • 27% have one chronic disease, and another 23% have at least two
  • 2% have had a cancer diagnosis in the past five years
  • 5% have diabetes
  • 20% have had a mental disorder in the past year

Does anyone else think there is a disconnect there, or that we might just be a little delusional about our health?

Why it that people will line up to pay 35 bucks at the latest gourmet hamburger joint, but can’t afford a personal trainer?

Know Where Your Values Lie

What motivates us to do things? Probably the only thing that really separates the 7 billion people on the planet from each other is who we think we are, and what principles or standards of behaviour we have, or what we deem important in our life—in other words: our values.

Knowing your “why” is important. Doing things that are important to you or that you hold in high regard, that you value, often ensures your success. They are intrinsic motivators. Being driven by extrinsic factors or external motivators means you are powered by someone else’s values. Looking for motivation outside of yourself is not usually powerful enough to drive you through those hard times. Purpose trumps motivation any day of the week.

Most of us would like to think that we behave according to our values. But as you read ahead and explore, you may find this is not the case. For example, why is it that so many people say that their health is their highest priority and yet spend no time, money, or effort on it? Why it that those same people will line up to pay 35 bucks at the latest gourmet hamburger joint and drink cocktails all night, but can’t afford a personal trainer?

As a trainer, a professional athlete, or tactical operator, it is easy to judge people for their decisions. But if you are in those professions, you are going to value your training and performance far more than the average person, because you do it for a living. It is part of your purpose. Its perceived value is bigger to you than lining up for that burger or smashing those whiskey sours on a Saturday night. From that perspective, it’s easy just to turn around and label someone as just “lazy.”

My belief is most people know what is healthy and what is not. We are constantly bombarded with health information, and wading through all the crap and misinformation can be challenging. But most people intrinsically know what is healthy and good for them and what is not. So the six-million-dollar question is, why don’t we do it? It’s clear that with an obesity epidemic sweeping the globe, there is a massive gap between knowing what is healthy for us, and behaving accordingly.

Enter the disconnected values model (DVM). This is a cognitive-behavioural approach set forward by Dr. Mark H. Anshel at Middle Tennessee State University to help initiate and maintain exercise behaviour.

The core of the DVM program is to:

  1. Examine the benefits, costs, and long term consequences of unhealthy habits (in particular exercise or lack of it).
  2. Identify the client’s deepest values such as career, family and relationships, health, hobbies, etc., but this usually pertains to health and exercise.
  3. Identify the client’s behaviour and what their time, money, or effort is spent on in relation to their values.
  4. Identify if there is disconnect between the values and the behaviour.
  5. Conclude as to whether the disconnect is acceptable given its costs and long term consequences.
  6. If the disconnect is deemed unacceptable, initiate plans to structure an exercise plan that leads to self-motivation (intrinsically motivated), in order to begin and adhere to a long-term commitment to exercise.

How does the DVM work to encourage someone to move more?

The Disconnected Values Model Step 1: Costs vs. Benefits

The first step of the DVM is to sit down and explore the benefits, costs and long term consequences of unhealthy habits and a lack of exercise.

Surprisingly, there are some benefits to not exercising. For example, there is more time for other things. It doesn’t require any effort. There is no need to spend money on transport, gym clothes, equipment, and gym memberships.

But what are the costs?

  • Weight gain and increased body fat
  • Less energy for work and family
  • No recovery from stress

And the long term consequences?

  • Poorer health
  • Reduced energy
  • Reduced concentration
  • Chronic stress
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Increased chance of preventable chronic disease
  • Decreased life expectancy

Most people would say the costs and consequences outweigh the benefits.

The Disconnected Values Model Step 2: Discover What You Value

The second step in the process is determining one’s values. Work, family, health, and relationships are all great general ones. But we can really drill down into more specific values like balance, concern for others, character, commitment, compassion, courage, excellence, faith, fairness, generosity, genuineness, happiness, humour, humility, integrity, kindness, loyalty, security, and service to others.

The Disconnected Values Model Step 3: Compare Your Values With Reality

The third step is then connecting the truth about your life with your values. The chart below is one way I have worked with people before. On the left, list your values. Then in the next column indicate how important those values are to you on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the most important). In the next column, rate on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the most) how much time you spend on living your values. Finally, in the last column, calculate the difference in your scores.

Value Importance (1-10) Time and Effort Spent (1-10) Difference Score
Work/life balance

Was there a big difference on your scores? If there is, that’s totally ok. It doesn’t mean you are a bad person. Most of us have a disconnect between who we think we are, what we believe our values are, and what we actually spend our time on. The purpose of the chart is only to observe the difference between your values and deepest beliefs and your actual habits.

Is the difference acceptable? Are you ok continuing to live your life this way? Given the disconnect between the costs of no exercise and your deepest values, are the costs acceptable? If you deem it unacceptable, it’s time for an action plan to replace those negative habits with positive performance rituals.

Keep Struggling for Your Values

This whole process brings our unconscious habits to the forefront to shine a light on them. It makes us more aware, and that is the first step to real long lasting change. This simple exercise makes our habits conscious. Most of us know that in order to remove negative habits, we replace them with more positive ones. That is a conscious process. If we continue with this conscious positive ritual for long enough, it eventually becomes an unconscious one. This is our negative habit change progression.

Everyone wants to feel good. Everyone wants to have a great relationship and an awesome sex life, have an amazing job, to be financially sound, to be well respected and popular, and live a carefree existence. The DVM is a useful tool to get you there, but the reality is that reaching your goals requires work, and lots of it. If you want the benefits of what you value, you also have to want the associated costs. You can’t have the reward and not the struggle. Often you are defined by the values for which you are willing to struggle.

One of the main reasons why people fail is that they think they deserve to be happy. The pursuit of happiness is like a plague of entitlement and instant gratification that is sweeping the globe. But here is the clincher: you can’t have happiness without struggle and pain. Happiness is the positive result of working through all that it takes in order to get there. The quality of our life is not determined by our positive experiences, but how we deal with our negative ones. That’s what it takes to get good at life.

If you want that amazing physique, then you have to want the sweat, the soreness, adherence to healthy diet, the early mornings and so on. It’s not all about rainbows and unicorns floating through the sky pooping Skittles on clouds of puffy marshmallows. So many people are in love with the result, the pleasure. That’s easy. But you have to be in love with the process that will get you there.

More on goal setting and follow-through:

Your Fitness Truths Are Just A Story

Become a better coach:

Coaching or Individual Practice: Know When to Cut the Cord

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