According to the research of Dr. Anders Ericsson, motivation is the most significant predictor of success. He found that experts in many walks of life, whether sport, music, chess, dance, or business, had put in the most hours at their craft. He was the one who coined the phrase, “It takes 10 years and 10,000 hours to become an expert.”

This same concept of motivation applies to making changes in our lives. Change is difficult because our habits are deeply ingrained – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

But then, change is the only constant.


I am reminded of the Change poem:

If we always believe
What we have always believed
We will always feel the way we have always felt.

If we always feel
The way we have always felt
We will always think the way we have always thought.

If we always think
The ways we have always thought
We will always do what we have always done.

If we always do
What we have always done
We will always get what we have always got.

If there is no change
There is no change


Very CBT-based indeed (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) – with the Thoughts, Emotions and Behaviour elements present, and with Beliefs thrown in.

Doing what we have always done will not give us a different outcome. If something works, do more of it. If it doesn’t, DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT!

Whatever we hold onto on a consistent basis in my mind is what we will experience in our lives. Change requires change.

I like the motivation matrix that breaks it down along two dimensions: intrinsic v. extrinsic and positive v. negative. The resulting four quadrants produce different experiences and outcomes:

  1. Internal-positive: Personal growth, challenge, desire, passion, satisfaction, doing it for its own sake, self-validation [Likely outcome: successful change, fulfillment].
  2. External-positive: Recognition and appreciation from others, approval, status, avoidance of punishment, rewards (financial or otherwise). [Likely outcome: some change, partial fulfillment, dependent on others for continued change and good feelings].
  3. Internal-negative: Threat, fear of failure, inadequacy, insecurity [Likely outcome: some change, possible relapse].
  4. External-negative: Fear of loss of job or relationship, inadequate respect from others, financial or social pressures, pressure from significant others, unstable life [Likely outcome: some success, high risk of relapse].

Motivational Interviewing is a technique used in the Substance Use arena and it speaks to the cognitive dissonance that is present between someone’s goals and their effort towards those goals. If goals are not translated into practice, there is a disconnect and this is pointed out. So, we can either lower our change goals to match our efforts or we can raise our efforts to match our goals. Or, are we really wanting (not needing!) to make any changes in the first place?

There is a quote that goes: “The difference between a dream (a wish) and a goal is a plan”. But we have to work/implement that plan. Otherwise, it’s just an item on our bucket list.

The most popular framework for discussing motivation to change is the Stages of Change Model developed by James Prochaska, Ph.D. and Carlo DiClimente, Ph.D. Their work began during the late 1970s when they became interested in the way people change. They developed, tested, and refined the Stages of Change Model.

This model is one of the most widely used and accepted models within the field of addiction treatment. In “Changing for Good” (1994), Prochaska and DiClemente describe the six stages of change: Pre-Contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, Maintenance and Termination.

As applied to addiction treatment or otherwise, I struggle with Stage 1, that of Pre-Contemplation. Here, benefits of the status quo outweigh the costs. People are, as Prochaska & DiClemente said “unaware”. They have no plan or intention to make any changes. So, why is this even a Stage in the model? It’s like “pre-navel gazing”! We don’t know what we don’t know!

Stage 2 speaks to “navel-gazing”. Awareness is there but so is ambivalence. Let’s form a committee to decide if we need a committee for change!

If we do decide to make some changes (benefits outweigh costs), we have to conquer our will.

Then we need to develop a plan (Stage 3).

Well enough but we need to work the plan now (Stage 4). This may encompass the internal-positive and the internal-negative quadrants of the motivation matrix. Lapses (not relapses) will occur. Here, we begin to develop new habits.

In Stage 5, we have achieved some semblance of personal achievement and satisfaction. We have established a change It has been integrated into our lives. But maintenance is key.

Stage 6 speaks to a ‘happier’ lifestyle for us, either in terms of personal health, healthier relationships, making better choices, etc.

Twenty-three centuries ago, Aristotle knew something about the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation when he distinguished between what he termed “external goods,” such as prosperity, property, power, personal advancement and reputation, and “inner goods,” or “goods of the soul,” including fortitude, temperance, justice, compassion, and wisdom. He taught that the good life is not one of consumption, but one of the flourishing of these virtues.