When it comes down to it, we humans are motivated by results and proof, a personal return on investment. We put in effort only if we can see a worthwhile result. A what’s-in-it-for-me mentality that doesn’t make us selfish, per se, just efficient. We need to see some evidence that what we’re doing is working and has a purpose. Because the worst thing we could do is give something up without getting something back, wasting our efforts and more importantly, our precious time. This theory, I believe, is never truer than when applied to health and weight loss.
It’s not about incentivizing, we’re above that. Don’t give me extra points or even money as a prize, what I’m looking for is deeper than that and more valuable. It’s validation – it’s the affirmation that I’m a smart and capable person. And validation is what we need on every level, in return for every healthy step we take. Not eating that slice of cake doesn’t fill my tastebuds with glee, so where’s my pat on the back for my self-restraint? Taking the stairs should, but doesn’t, lead to my pants instantly fitting more loosely, so where’s my chorus of hearty congrats? The absence of a reward slows me down, so I’m looking for the the results to justify my effort, and if not, at least a stamp of approval that I’m on the right track. Check out Walgreen’s “Balance Rewards” commercial for an example of a totally on-point messaging strategy.
In analyzing why we need this sort of validation for something as basic and innate as our health, a few hypotheses arise. Maybe it’s a result of generations of helicopter parenting, rewarding children for participation and mediocrity. Maybe we crave validation now because we’ve been trained to receive it for anything we do, and we feel we deserve it. Or perhaps, doing something so difficult as refusing a delectable dessert feels so big that the reward should be equal and immediate.
However we look at it, there’s a need for validation. And that’s where digital health solutions, like FitBit or SIMBAND, come into play. When digital technology calibrates proof for you in increasingly advanced ways (e.g. number of steps taken today, average calories burned a week, growth in cardiovascular stamina this month) and shows you in real-time that what you’re doing is working, justifies your efforts as you drip with sweat, you get all the validation you need. Trade the bagel for a protein shake and now, instead of feeling deprived and grumpy, watch your numbers adjust in your favor… the ultimate high-five. Indisputable data tells you you’re on track, your efforts are working, what you’re doing is worth it, and you’re heading toward your goals. Suddenly that protein shake tastes better and you’re confident in your ability to be healthy. No need for imaginary fireworks or confetti celebrations to make you feel like your efforts are recognized, because your progress is your true validation.