Change Anything: Structural Motivation and Structural Ability

This week we are wrapping up my series looking at the six sources of influence found in one of my favorite books, Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success, by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler.

The last two sources to cover are structural motivation and structural ability. Structural motivation looks at bribing ourselves to change. Instead of believing you can simply make the change on your own, try something to entice you toward change. Structural ability looks at making changes in your structure or space to make your goals easier to reach.

Let’s start with structural motivation, which the authors describe as ‘inverting the economy’. Change your incentives to help you toward your goals. Here are a few tactics to use.

Use carrots and the threat of losing carrots.

  • Find an incentive for making the changes.
    • Take 30 minutes to read your favorite book when you turn down a commitment.
  • Give money to a charity you hate if you don’t meet set goals.
    • Maybe you give to a charity you don’t like if you say yes to a commitment you really wish you had turned down.

Use incentives in moderation and in combination.

  • Use small rewards, not big ones.
    • Taking yourself out for coffee each week you successfully deal with incoming mail and paperwork.

Use rewards in combination with social and personal motivators.

  • If you’re trying to keep your kitchen table uncluttered, maybe a family dinner or hosting book club is your reward.

Reward small wins.

  • Break your goals into smaller steps and reward those steps as you meet them.
    • Spend 15 minutes a day dealing with paperwork, instead of a Saturday afternoon.

The final source of influence is structural ability. This source looks at controlling your space. It’s tactics include:

Build fences

  • If you are saving money, don’t go into stores where you know you will spend money, unless you stick to a predetermined list and budget.
  • Don’t sign up for any magazines or mail subscriptions.

Manage distance

  • Create a distance between yourself and temptation.
    • Delete Internet bookmarks to make online shopping more difficult.
    • Deal with your mail somewhere other than your kitchen table.

Change cues

  • Create cues in your environment to remind you of the changes you are making.
    • Use your phone or photos on your fridge or car dashboard to place notes or checklists.

Engage your autopilot

  • Find a way to put something on autopilot or into a default mode so you don’t have to think about it.
    • Schedule regular appointments to deal with paperwork or to spend time with family members.

Use tools

  • Regularly post your progress on Facebook.
  • Commit to nightly family dinner or breakfast.
  • Ensure your electronic devices are working for you in your change.

We have now covered all 6 sources of influence. Remember that you need to use all 6 sources, not just a couple, if you want to make real progress towards change.

I hope you have found something useful in these posts and are able to use this information as you tackle some changes in your life!