Motivation for Change
Most of the time what moves us is so deep that we don’t see.
Before I started working as a PT I believed that the personal training cycle would be something like this:
Meet the client followed by a biomechanical assessment of the client, define goals, and work out frequency, design plan, help the client to execute the plan, achieve goals. Very clear, simple, and straight forward. Too bad that life works in a different way. Between meeting the client and achieving goals the trajectory is a bit different.
It took me a while to realize that what people wanted and what they said what they wanted most of the time where different things, in the beginning, it caused me frustrations but quickly I learned that my role was to help people at the best of my ability and not be phased by things that were completely out of my professional scope. That frustration made me understand why the average professional life spam of a personal trainer is 2 years, yes shorter than of an NFL athlete! One of the most common complaints – those trainers have regarded their clients as having lack of commitment.
As a rookie my solution was simple: “I will match my commitment to theirs to not be annoying to them.” That utilitarian approach helped me to not get too involved in my clients’ life and allowed me to survive those first 2 years.
Them I had to admit to myself that I was paid to help and care not just to be a competent instructor and planner. In other words, I was competent, not even good enough, just competent. From that point I tried to get better tools to help people: workouts that were fun, record progress mostly, different modalities of movement, and overall just looking to let them know that if they tried hard they would get results. Exactly like I did when I was a jock.
And that was exactly why not much improved, I was looking at my thought process and projecting it on other people. That is exactly the mistake that many beginner trainers make: pep talks, compliments, a shoulder to cry, super hard workouts, cool exercises are all performed to appease the client and make them come back.
This carrot on a stick technique is fairly juvenile and is widespread because it works, short-term, but works, equal to giving the car keys to a teenager if their bedroom is kept clean.
It works but has limited effectiveness because the recipient of the benefit is trading a temporary pain for a temporary pleasure.
At some point, that exchange style of relationship will lose its novelty, and everything stales or regresses.
Nothing is being learned, no habit is changing, no last long effect should be expected as well.
I have seen the same act so many times: client starts training, trainer begs, coerces, entertains, listens and brings cookies for the client that sees results in the beginning and after a while loses interest, misses sessions and as a result either stay due unto the company of the trainer or goes away.
In that case, the trainer is not in the training business but in the rent-a-friend business.
I know, because I was and wasn’t even aware of it.
After realizing what was happening around me and with me I started looking for solutions. And I realized that I just didn’t know exactly what moved people.
It took me some time to remember an interview from Ricardo Semler. He explained that to know the real reason behind a goal you ask why 3 times.
And I used to ask once only.
If a new client told me that the goal was to lose 10 pounds I would either say OK or why and move on to the next question quickly.
It took me a while to learn how to properly behave like a 5 year old boy and say Why? Why? Why? In order to get to the root cause of the need for change.
Them armed with my new supper power I started being a bit annoying and asking too many questions.
At that point one of my clients was about to get married, we had a 6 months time frame to help her to look great in her dress.
Me: what is your goal?
Her: lose 10 lbs and have toned arms.
Her: Because it is my wedding (dummie)
Me: why is that important?
Her: because I want to look good!
Me: everyone coming loves you regardless of why is that so important?
Her: because everyone will be looking at me, and I will be the centre of attention.
When she actually verbalized her sentiment, I finally understood her motivation: embarrassment!
The most important day of her life was coming, the most important people in her life would get together and she would be the centre of their attention for hours. She was completely terrified of possible judgment or embarrassment regards her appearance.
In her own words: “ I could care less about doing legs, a tight midsection and tome arms is all that I need.”
I followed suit, tailored what we did to her needs she started seeing results, looking better and better, losing weight, the first 2 months where flawless, no missed appointments, steady changes in diet and lifestyle everything as planned.
On month number 3 we started to see missed sessions, lateness and overall lower compliance.
During month number 4 things got worse and we had to have a hard conversation.
I stated the facts and asked what was happening, let her talk, and was empathetic with the fact that as the wedding date was coming she was busier with work and the planning decision-making and social stuff related to the wedding.
At that point, I was as supportive as I could be, offered a few pragmatic solutions for which she had excuses for every one of them.
Reminded her of how well she did in the begging that she had it dialed down already it was a matter to keep doing what worked.
“It is what it is…” was her answer
“You can always buy a long sleeve dress,” I replied.
The look in her face was all that I needed to switch subjects.
This is an extreme case with a client that had a great rapport with and knew that I would put her needs before anything else, even at the risk of being fired by her.
She surpassed her goal, looked good in a bikini during the Hawaiian honeymoon, and thanked me for my reminder. “That was the wake-up call that I needed”
A few more years and a few more clients and more experience made me think deeper about the subject.
Change is not always easy, normally we start with a lot of enthusiasm, go hard in the beginning, and after a while – since old habits are hard to die – we start slacking, being less motivated, tired of the grind, unconsciously resist.
When those hard times come is when we need a great clean source of fuel for change.
I am scared of dying will get you better results then my doctor said so.
I want to play with my kids without feeling at death’s door, is better than I want to a role model to my child.
I want to get laid is more honest than I should improve my posture.
I am embarrassed that my chair arms’ are bigger than mine, is better than I should put a few pounds of muscle.
There is no right or wrong, there are brutal honesty and platitudes. Platitudes don’t move anyone when push comes to shove, platitudes are excuses in the waiting.
One of the most successful clients that I ever coached was a 30 something year old lawyer.
He looked good and had very clear goals = drop body fat to single digit, get a six-pack and increase the size of his arms.
When I asked why he was brutally honest with me:
“I feel good, have no injuries or pain. I look good but in 3 months it will be Pride weekend and I want to look great. I guess that I am shallow and vain…lol”
Needless to say that I knew exactly what moved him, how to communicate with him and that information helped me to coach him towards his 6 pack and python arms.