The Attitude-Behavior Gap: The Reasons

Bilbo Baggins: I just need to sit quietly for a moment.
Gandalf: You’ve been sitting quietly for far too long! When did doilies and your mother’s dishes become so important to you?

Gandalf the Grey, preach it. I knew all along we understood each other.

Moving from one life to another requires courage. It requires honesty and a little bit of desperation. As we briefly discussed in an earlier post, dramatic change often comes with its own set of excuses built-in. I wanted to take a minute to address each of the four large ones, using the example of a healthy diet to clarify each point.

Ignorance

This excuse is couched in laziness. We depend on others’ opinions rather than determining our own. If we are told that this cause isn’t worthy, or that exercise regime doesn’t work, we believe it without real examination. We can overcome this excuse by asking good questions and searching for facts. In this situation, the respectable reason for not eating healthier is that we don’t know how. The real reason is that we don’t want to put in the work to find out.

The excuse: I can’t eat healthier, because no one in the nutritional field can agree on what is “healthy.”

The flaw: I am depending on rumor and vague information, but haven’t taken the time to go looking for facts myself.

The solution: If I take responsibility for my own education, I may discover that good answers are easier to find than I thought.

Fear of Change

This excuse is built around a comfortableness with our current situation that supersedes our desire for betterment. We view the value of improvement as not worth the effort required. Even though, on a theoretical level, we understand that the change would good for us, we allow ourselves to be discouraged by the work involved. The respectable reason for this excuse is that the work is not worth the result. The real reason is that we don’t want to move from our comfort zone.

The excuse: I don’t eat healthier because I’m afraid of what I’d have to give up.

The flaw: I am thinking primarily of what I would lose, rather than focusing on the good I could gain.

The solution: If I focus on the positives of the change, the negatives seem much less powerful.

Options

This excuse goes hand-in-hand with ignorance, and is based around assumptions. We assume we can’t do something, although we’ve never tried it. We assume that there are no alternatives, because we haven’t seen any. The respectable reason for this excuse is a lack of options, but the real reason is a lack of motivation.

The excuse: I don’t eat healthier because it costs too much money.

The flaw: I am accepting the assumption that healthy food is more expensive than unhealthy food, but I haven’t looked for inexpensive alternatives.

The solution: If I poke around on the internet a bit, or talk to some healthy friends, I may find ways to improve my diet without breaking the bank.

Empowerment

This excuse is founded on the belief that our actions will have no impact on the big picture. We don’t vote because we believe one opinion won’t make a difference. We don’t boycott because we believe no one is listening. The respectable reason for this is that our change would not do good, but the real reason is that we don’t believe that the change is important for its own sake.

The excuse: I don’t eat healthier because I don’t believe it will really improve my well being.

The flaw: Not believing that my actions are powerful is not a strong enough reason not to try.

The solution: If I decide to do what is good for my body anyway, I will probably be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Which of these four obstacles have you encountered? What did you do?

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6 thoughts on “The Attitude-Behavior Gap: The Reasons

  1. We’re all ignorant at some point or another, but when I learn something new I make a conscious effort to integrate into my life. Fear of Change, again something I think everyone has to a greater or lesser degree, but I’ve discovered once you get past the initial resistance, make one lifestyle change and stick to it for a while, everything else gets easier, definite snowball effect there. Options, there are always options, it’s just lazy to assume there’s only one way of doing things. Empowerment, this is kind of a non-issue for me. I do things because they will improve my life and well-being. If doing those things makes a political statement, well it’s a nice bonus, but it’s just a bonus.

  2. excellent post! I have struggled with ALL of them, but have found “fear of change” to be the most paralyzing. Because often, we CAN talk ourselves out of the other obstacles.

    Fear, it seems, can have more control over us than we have of it. My first course of action with cracking that nut, has always been to first recognize that I feel it, and that it is paralyzing me. If you can at first admit you are afraid, and then reason with yourself that it’s ok to be afraid, then it is easier to convince yourself to move forward through your fear – toward the positive that you are now focusing on!

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