Driving home from a wedding on January 2nd 2016, my wife was looking at her Facebook feed on her iPhone and made a little exclamation, “Wow!”
Of course that made me curious, so I said, “what was that for?”
“An old colleague of mine just posted that she walked 10,000 steps every single day last year.” she stated.
Now I was really curious, “Can you get me an interview with her!”
Fast forward a month and half and I sat down with Janelle at a coffee shop on the campus of the University of Minnesota where she worked. For the next 60+ minutes I was enthralled listening to her story and asking a ton of questions.
“How did you do it?” “What was your motivation?” “How were you supported?” “What was the hardest part?” “Why?” “What insight can you give to people who want to achieve something like this?”
Some facts first:
Total steps in 2015: 6,456,950 (that is 6 million, 456 thousand, nine hundred and fifty) totalling 2,818 miles walked.
May 2015 was her most active month with an average of 21,388 steps per day and her most active single day of 80,606 steps.
Dang – that’s impressive!
February 2015 was her least active month with an average of 14,190 steps and her single lowest step count on any day was 10,016 (just 16 steps over her goal) on January 16th, 2015.
See more stats at http://www.nivens.me/blog/2015-fitbit-stats
How Janelle did it
I wanted to know how Janelle did it.
Walking 10,000 steps everyday is not easy nor is it a task that you can do by just forming a new walking habit.
It takes concentrated effort and dedication. It requires that you have an emotional commitment to achieving your goal. It takes support from friends and family and sometimes even strangers. It takes coming up with hacks to motivation to keep that fire going all year long.
In my interview, I wanted to find out if Janelle employed any of the six actions that I’ve identified as being key to successful change (see here) and (here). When I asked her about how she did it, she used all six to some extent: Engaging her emotions, Plotting her progress, socializing her support, harnessing her habits, enabling her environment, and preparing her plan to overcome obstacles.
Janelle engaged her emotions.
One of the key concepts from the change work that we’ve done, is that purposeful change is more likely to succeed if you actively engage your emotions.
Rational change, we found, is not sustainable. However, emotions are hard to consciously activate.
We’ve found that one way to hack into those emotions, is to align your change with your self-identity. If you can align your change behaviors with who you perceive yourself to be, then your behaviors become easier, and when you behave in ways not aligned with that self-perception, you feel angst to come back into alignment.
Within the first five minutes of the interview, without prompting, Janelle stated, she identified herself as a “walker”. She talked about how she always liked to walk, how she walked with her mother when she was younger, that when she walked, she felt better. In her mind, she identified who she was as a “walker” and that implied that she behaved in certain ways (walk instead of drive when possible, take the stairs – not the elevator, etc…).
By identifying herself as a walker, she was emotionally invested in those behaviors. It made it easier to do them and harder to not do them. Here is a picture from her Facebook page (Minnesotan’s will recognize the famous Walker Art Museum):
Janelle plotted her progress.
Plotting ones progress towards a goal is important. Research has shown that progress, no matter how small or insignificant, provides humans with great satisfaction. We know from behavioral economics that the closer you get to a goal, the more motivated you are to achieve it (see here).
Of course Janelle had her fitbit to track her steps…but that wasn’t all – she had her calendar. Janelle had gone online and bought a special full year calendar (from Europe), had it shipped over and framed. This was hung in her home office where she saw it every day.
Each day that she walked 10,000 steps, she added a sticker to that calendar. Different colors represented different step counts. Yellow was 10K, blue was 15K, and red was 20K.
One interesting side note, was the amount of stickers she had actually added to her motivation. Here is how she describes it:
“In November and December I gained some motivation by the fact that I was running out of yellows and eventually blues. So, I had to walk more to get to the 20K level (red).”
She also set up motivational milestones. She created a “walk wish-list” of different places or walks that she wanted to do. She posted these to her Facebook page (adding a social element that we will talk about later). When she achieved these walks, she was able to check them off her wish list.
Additionally, Janelle joined a fitbit group (again, we will talk more about the social aspect of this in a bit) that had different walking challenges. Fitbit calls these challenges, “a fun way to help you stay motivated by competing with friends and family.” These mini-challenges helped provide ongoing ways to measure her progress.
Her fitbit group also had a leaderboard that showed her daily steps compared to those in the group. This was a way to track her progress not only against her goal, but as part of a fun competition against others.
Janelle socialized her support.
When she decided to commit to her 10,000 steps a day for a year challenge, she purposely posted her decision on her Facebook page. She told me that she did this to create accountability. By publicly stating her intentions, she enlisted her Facebook friends to become part of her social support team and keep her on task.
We often feel more pressure to do things for other people than we do for ourselves. I call this “other focused motivation.” For some people, this motivation is much stronger than the motivation that they have to complete things for themselves.
Please join us in welcoming Tim Holdgrafer to The Lantern Group team. Tim joined the team last month as our sales director in the Midwest region. He will be responsible for managing all of our new sales for our Motivation, Team and Workshop solutions.
He brings over 20 years of experience in delivering financial services and business solutions to a wide range of clients from large multinational companies to local start-ups and entrepreneurs.
Tim has a passion for driving change within an organization.
Additionally, Tim is an experienced facilitator having worked with The Lantern Group since 2014 helping deliver some of our most exciting and challenging team building programs.
Tim earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota – Carlson School of Management and is a long suffering Gopher football fan. In his spare time he enjoys staying active through running, softball, golf and playing hockey every sunday night. He uses his team building and leadership experience to help his coaching of youth soccer and hockey in Minneapolis as well as being the Cubmaster for over 90 young boys. When he has some downtime, he also enjoys reading and researching genealogy. Tim is married and has three fantastic boys.
Please give a big welcome to Tim!
I’ve been reading a lot of books and articles lately on willpower. It is incredible the new research on willpower and how we can build our willpower reserves up and how they get worn down. I am fascinated by the larger impact of this research and the implications that it has on our ability to change. It is fairly evident that the more willpower one has and that one applies to their change process, the more likely that change will occur.
For the past two years, in addition to my regular day job, I’ve been researching what it takes for people to make meaningful and purposeful change.
It has been fascinating.
I’ve talked with a number of people about their change journeys. I’ve read countless books and journal articles on change. I’ve been introduced to a number of new insights from neuroscience, motivational theory, behavioral economics and habit formation that, when brought together, can have a huge impact on how people can effectively change. I have identified what I think are six major components that help drive successful change.
I’ve lived this, breathed it, and dreamed it…
I’ve not been able to keep my own change habits going.
At the beginning of the year I had set out to write five pages a week on change (not quite a New Years resolution, but very close). I thought that would be a manageable goal and one that would allow me have enough material for a book on change by the end of the year.
Five pages a week isn’t even a page a day – how hard could that be?
Well it was hard. Very hard.
“ The bottom line in all of it is that, in life, it’s all about people.” Colin Powell
I saw Colin Powell speak way back in the 1990’s and I can still remember one part of his speech. He talked about how he had two dogs – a small dog and a big dog. He stated that his small dog was the alpha and had no fear. He stated that this was because the small dog’s only reference point was the big dog. It looked at the other dog, saw that it was big and powerful, and assumed that it must be big and powerful itself.
It is often the same with people. We tend to use the people around us as reference points on who we are.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that, “A person’s chances of becoming obese increased by 57% if he or she had a friend who became obese in a given interval.” (Christakis & Fowler, 2007). The theory of self concept explores how we view ourselves – which is shaped by who we hang out with and who we surround ourselves with. Jim Rohn states, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
So it’s all about the people you surround yourself with.
Do they have a positive outlook or a negative one? Do they work hard or not? Do they live life to the fullest or complain about what they are lacking?
So ask yourself this – who is in your circle of friends?
1) What did you purposefully set out to change or achieve?
2) What was your motivation that drove you to that do this (was their a specific trigger or was it something that you had focused on for a long time)?
3) What were the key actions that you took to achieve that change or result?
4) Did you change things in your environment to achieve this (i.e., move the treadmill into the bedroom or hang a progress chart on the wall)
5) Did you tell people (or a single person) what you were trying to do?
6) Did you set milestones to your goal?
7) Did you measure your progress against those milestones?
8) What was the hardest part about the process?
9) What was the most important part of your change journey?
10) What tips would you give for someone else who is trying to change this aspect of their life?
Leave your response in the comment section 0r send me an e-mail at email@example.com – Thank you!