Insight into how change happens

“Behavior happens when…” That’s how B.J. Fogg advises how to express the left side of his formula, B=mat, which I will get to in a moment. But what I noted was that he shared that guidance, and I wanted to follow it.

I’d bet that that happens not seldomly with him. He’s clearly a winning individual.

So: the formula. M denotes motivation, A denotes ability, and T is for trigger. What it means: Behavior happens when sufficient motivation and ability combine with a trigger. All three have to coincide exactly, he said; just a few seconds’ separation will make a difference.

To illustrate what that means, with a version of his example: Say you’re soliciting $10 donations to save cute animals. Most people would have some motivation to do that, and because the request is modest, they’d also have the ability. Combine those with a trigger, in this case your asking for a donation, and you’d likely encounter success.

Bits to take away:

  • Motivation and ability are exchangeable, to a degree. More motivation makes up for limited ability, and ease of ability lowers the degree of motivation needed for behavior to change.
  • When motivation is high, but ability is very low, that’s frustration.
  • When ability is high but motivation is very low, that’s Viagra spam. Or, as Fogg labeled it, “annoyance.”

Fogg was not only able to explain and illustrate his Fogg Behavior Model in about 1:50, he got audience members to test out their ability to also explain it to a partner in less than 2 minutes.

The value I gleaned was to understand why starting small, which I already counsel to my coaching clients, is the obvious choice. Starting at the easy end of any chore allows some early success, which begets more success, just as change begets change. Someone who’s highly motivated to achieve something but dives in at the deep end will likely encounter early defeat, and perhaps give up.

Disclosure: I am Virgin Pulse's guest at this event, which includes lunch and beverages. I was not required even to share what I'm writing with anyone, never mind gain approval.

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Author and wellness innovator Michael Prager helps smart companies
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