Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Gaining it With Jillian

It's the end of a long day, the kids are finally in bed, the chores are finished, and I fall into the comfortable chair in our living room ready to turn on the baseball game and drift away into the bliss of America's pastime. I click the remote and the TV flickers on, only to show the title sequence screen of a Jillian Michaels DVD. I appreciate that my wife spends time with Jillian, it's a great stress-reliever for her. What I can't understand is why it's so difficult to push stop, remove the DVD, and turn the TV back to cable mode. I've now missed at least one at bat in the game, probably the Web Gem play of the night.

Jillian has become a national celebrity from her work as a Personal Trainer on the television show, The Biggest Loser. DVDs, books, commercials, and now a spin-off show have followed as millions of Americans have become Jillian-ites (I just made that up, so if she uses it in the future, I request a cut of the proceeds). Why such love for Jillian? It's because change is hard. Painfully difficult. So daunting in fact, that most people simply avoid change. And during her soon-to-be expiring 15 minutes, Jillian has inspired change. But, how?

Alan Deutschman writes of a study showing that 90% of patients requiring heart by-pass surgery do not change the unhealthy lifestyle habits that led to the condition requiring the surgery (Fast Company, 2005). This result has been shown in medical studies over and over again. In short, even when faced with death, people are often unable to change.

The fact that year after year, approximately 80% of medical costs are consumed by a small population of individuals with diseases stemming from poor lifestyle choices misrepresents the "burning platform" lexicon used in the business world. This says that when consequences are so desperate and dire, change can be forced. However, as shown by Deutschman and more recently proposed by Chip and Dan Heath in their book, Switch, this change or die approach is typically not very effective.

This brings us back to Jillian. The results from her work with common folks inspire hope. Her training is done in community, with support, and culminates in people experiencing new found joy and happiness in living as opposed to just a fear of dying.

Deutschman tells of one doctor who turned the 90% study on its head by refocusing the need for change from ultimate death to the joys of living. This particular doctor rehabbed cardiac patients in community, with support and pointed people to the opportunities they could now experience with family, friends, and in life. This approach resulted in 77% of patients making healthier behavioral changes.

In their book, the Heath brothers discuss an early market struggle between Target and Wal-Mart. Target ultimately emerged to successfully find their niche and become a market leader not by casting the vision of a burning platform wherein they had to outperform Wal-Mart or fade away, but rather by giving their team a glimpse of what might be possible with innovation, creativity, and colorful design. Their meteoric rise occurred in community, with support, and inspired eager anticipation of where the company was going and their teams wanted to be a part of that.

"Bring home good grades or you're grounded" doesn't inspire. "Lets talk about what you might become" just might.

"Avoid highly processed foods because they'll take years off your life" doesn't easily lead to behavior change. "Eat more fruits and vegetables to have more time to enjoy sunny afternoons of fishing with your great-grand kids" just might.

"Stop smoking or your lungs will turn black" doesn't always motivate. Envisioning the joy of being able to run around the baseball field with your children just might.

Being for something invokes more constructive passion, positive energy, and beneficial change in people than simply being against something. Do you want to see change in your diet, marriage, workplace, or lifestyle? It's unlikely that you will scare the change into existence. Look for something more, something deeper, something better and hold onto that. People aren't just losing weight with Jillian, they're gaining hope.

Now, if I could just convince my wife of the joy she'd find in our relationship if she'd just remember to put the DVD away when she is finished...