The scenic route

An effective safe experiment rather assumes we have the time, energy and ability to design and implement it. Finding that time and energy requires motivation.

This web site is devoted to the ‘how’ of designing experiments that promote change. Maybe something needs to be said about maintaining the motivation needed to move beyond ‘designing’.

Finding your motivation

…… to see yourself through to your goals is tough.  In my own experience, this issue of sustaining my motivation can be a major STOPPER when it comes to making change.

I know this from personal experience, Even now, in later life, I have difficulties motivating myself around my health and fitness. You may think I’d know better, but I’m more a man than a psychologist. Knowledge and experience is not enough to sustain change.

Often there are hidden reasons for knowing what’s good for us,  yet not doing it.  some reasons are known (fear of change) and others (such as the Try Hard Driver) are not known.

All of this can present a major limitation when implementing the safe experiments contained in this web site.

The conservative impulse

We live with the built-in conservative impulse that holds back change, and that’s without any competing obligations and desires. This competition can dissipate and dilute the energy we possess. This acts as a brake on sustaining systematic change.    We find it difficult to break out of thinking-about-change toward action to make change. Too much time is given to ‘pre-contemplation’ as Proschaska and DeClemente termed it.

Therapists like me can unintentionally block motivation by being pushy; I warn my clients I can be ‘gobby’ and I invite them to raise their hand when it might help if I stop!   I can pursue a line of enquiry that seems right, but, in fact, it may be less relevant to the person in front of me.

Recently, I spoke with some-one who was troubled by a prior telephone consultation with a health professional. It emerged that professional had said a lot of useful things – factually sound, it seemed to me, if not totally up to date – but he alienated this person. So …….

Being right is not always enough

In the words of the song:’ it ain’t what you do, its the way that you do it’.  The pace of giving information can be too fast or it can be too slow.

Too fast is the more likely problem, in my opinion.

However, even before that, any motivator needs to hear what is being said.  What does the other person really want for themselves and/or from you?

One problem faced by Anthony Robbins, that well-known public speaker and motivator is that he may be the source of good ideas, but his audiences are too large to really hear what is happening for any one individual.

Even in the more intimate environment of a therapy room, there are problems of communication. Translating the complexities of the central nervous system into digestible and workable knowledge is difficult. It can lead a practitioner to offer detailed and complex ‘psycho-education’. Making the core information clear is a challenge to both professional and ‘client’.

The two well-known researchers in this area of motivational interviewing are:

William Miller and Stephen Rollnick

A key book they wrote is entitled Motivational Interviewing. It is popular and readable enough to have reached several editions up to now.

Some initial ideas to prepare yourself to use Motivational Interviewing (MI) in your experiments include the recommendations to:

  • be curious;  and, if necessary, dissatisfied with things. What do you want or, what don’t you have?
  • selectively attend to the world around you: do this to amplify what you want and/or do not have.
  • Consider the significance of your focus of your attention.
  • Listen to your own reasoning; hear it from your own mouth, not other people! Focus on your own autonomy, rather than wait on others to encourage you.
  • Be prepared to ask yourself: how you can continue to build motivation further.

Some examples of small safe experiments

…. can be found on:

where you will find:

The Royal College of Nursing and their four ‘RULES’ for health professionals

  • R – resist the urge to change the individual’s course of action through didactic means.
  • U – understand it’s the individual’s reasons for change, not those of the practitioner, that will elicit a change in behaviour.
  • L – listening is important; the solutions lie within the individual, not the practitioner.
  • E – empower the individual to understand that they have the ability to change their behaviour. (Rollnick et al 2008).

Each ‘rule’ has implications; for instance, note how my ‘pushiness’ – referred to above – is not likely to help in the long run.

Why? Rule Two advises that it is rather easy to get caught up in our own reasons. Even trained people can fail to see or hear what the other person is saying. It’s not unreasonable to approach a professional in the hope that they may have an ‘answer’.  However, therapy is not about finding solutions from another person. The route to articulation, and realising of our own needs, needs to come from within.

It follows that the words of a therapist can disempower the other person, sometimes called the ‘client’.

Hearing the words is not enough.  The quality of a good communication is not found in the words spoken, but in the words, as they are heard. What I hear, and how I hear the words, will determine the quality of my responses and any safe experiment I implement.

The effective small safe experiment needs to identify the small steps that will increase the confidence of the other person in their own ability to ACT.

Why I like Motivational interviewing (MI)

Results are best obtained by repeated experimentation. This can be trying, even boring, but motivational strategies are only tested when we repeating things.

MI values well-tried experiments such as using SUDS to ‘scale’ of our feelings or sensations when doing a body scan.

It respects the fact that you may be doing things already – before therapy starts, even if the prior outcomes appeared puzzling or confusing.

MI helps us build on solutions that work for us, e.g. promote more self-comfort and self-confidence.

MI places value on editing your own language to improve small victories without ignoring the small defeats.

MI helps keep a sense of proportion in the face of a small defeats (and even sees them as valuable and necessary).

If you want to extend your research into this topic, consider a visit to:
Leeds University

Further leads to consider

What is a Nudge

More on designing safe experiments.

What actions make up a nudge?

The scenic route to change

Raising the ‘spirit’ to act: an example

Therapy or ‘education’?