Does motivation for behaviour change seem impossible? It doesn’t have to be!!

Simon Long

Simon Long

Simon is a highly experienced personal trainer and behavioural psychology expert
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Hey everyone! Simon the personal trainer here! And today we’re taking a look at the biggest stumbling block clients find when trying to create a long-term change in their diet or exercise habits (or both). Motivation! 

You’ve probably experienced it many times yourself. You have an initial spark for change. Maybe you catch a glimpse of yourself in a mirror, or see an unflattering photo, or you run out of breath just climbing a flight or two of stairs. And you decide “Right, that’s it! Time to get this shizzle sorted once and for all!”. And you start strong. But before long your motivation has plummeted, your effort drops, and eventually you quit.

Obviously this sucks. Big time! But why does it happen? And how can you beat it?

“If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” — Maya Angelou


What are the two sides of your mind?

When you first catch the unflattering look at yourself, or have a moment of realization that things have gotten out of hand, you enter what is called a motivational peak. You recognize change is needed, and the motivation to create that change flies up. Awesome!

Unfortunately though it takes on average a week, at the very most two, before that initial spark of motivation begins to drop, and your interest in following through with your behaviour change starts to wain. Why is this though?

The easiest explanation is to imagine you have two sides to your mind. I call these the Gremlin and the Human (which I expand on much more in my book The Three Pillars of Weight Loss, which will be available later this year. Watch this space!), but they have been called many things in the past: the horse and the charioteer, the elephant and the rider, the chimp and the human, the id and the ego. 

So what are they? Well the Gremlin is the older, more animalistic side of our mind. It focuses on your short-term happiness: 

“Eat the cookie now cause it will be nice.” 

“Skip training tonight as watching TV is easier.” 

“Start your diet on Monday because that’s the best time” (Why is it? Why do we think this? There isn’t really a reason. I will probably make a video on why we do this later. So make sure you Like my Facebook page so you don’t miss it).

The Gremlin is also an emotional beast. When you get angry because someone cuts you up and react by losing your rag (to blow off steam), or get upset when someone turns their nose up at you, making you feel down and causing you to go on a spending spree online, this is the Gremlin telling you how to react. It’s often called the fast brain, because it doesn’t use reasoned and considered arguments to choose how to react, instead using quick to flare up emotions.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is the Human. It is often called the slow brain, as it takes it’s time to consider the situation, and applies logic to your choices. Maybe the person cut you up because they are rushing to help a loved one who has been in an accident. Maybe the individual who turned their nose up at you is just self-conscious, and reacting in that way is just their defense mechanism. By taking your time to consider situation, the different sides of your mind can come up with vastly different assessments, which leads to very different reactions.


“If you want to fly, you have to give up what weighs you down.” — Roy T. Bennett


How do the two sides of your mind affect behaviour change?

When you’re changing your behaviour, the two sides of your mind have very different stances. The Gremlin likes the status quo. It isn’t motivated by long-term change, instead wanting you to seek happiness in this very moment. Unfortunately though, this often leads to long-term dissatisfaction. 

Let’s take the behaviour of changing your diet. You can know, and the Human can use logic to argue, that cutting out the takeaways will help you to lose weight. But in the very moment, due to our genetic predisposition to high fat and sugar foods, the Gremlin knows eating the takeaway will make you happier. And all the logical arguments in the world saying that choosing the healthy alternative will help you to lose weight will not sway its opinion.

But no worries right? All you need to do is ignore the Gremlin, and instead pay attention to the Human? Yeah I’m afraid that just won’t work. Keep in mind we call the Gremlin the fast mind, and the Human the slow mind. The reason we do this is because the Gremlin reacts quickly, blowing up the importance of eating the takeaway with emotions and getting you to make the choice before you have a chance to think about it.

The Human on the other hand has to wiiiiiiiiiinnnnnddd up. It takes it a while to even wake up and notice a choice is being made. And often by the time it’s woken, the choice has passed. This is why after you binge eat a tub of ice cream you start to feel regret. Because the Gremlin is satisfied now and being quite, whilst the Human is fully awake and speaking its logic; helping you to see that the change you desire will never happen if you keep doing this!


“Change is painful, but nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.” –Mandy Hale


So how do you control the Gremlin?

It may seem like a lost cause, but controlling the Gremlin is entirely possible. All you need to do is approach it in the right way!

Remember, the Gremlin is the emotional side of your mind. It will never care about logic. The argument that changing your diet and losing weight will help you to live longer is perfectly logical. But this argument is never going to win it over.

But if you focus on the emotional element of the behaviour change, well now you’re talking a language the Gremlin can get on board with! If you focus on losing weight so you can live long enough to see your grand-kids get born and watch them grow up, then the Gremlin will begin to perk up it’s ears. Because although this argument is 100% in the same ball park as living longer, it’s no longer a logical argument. Now, the argument is an emotional one! And that’s what the Gremlin understands!


“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” — Wayne W. Dyer


So what’s the takeaway?

Let’s clarify exactly what’s being said here:

  1. You have two sides to your mind.
  2. One side, the Gremlin, cares about your immediate happiness. It reacts quickly and uses emotion to influence your choices. It does not care about logical arguments.
  3. The other side, the Human, is the logical side of your mind. It makes reasoned arguments for behaviour change, but reacts slowly. Usually after a choice has already been made.
  4. To influence the Gremlin to get onboard with your goals, you need to focus on your emotional motivations for change.

Of course, knowing what your emotional reasons for change are can be difficult. But don’t worry! I’ve got you covered. I’ve made a short companion video for this blog article, which you can find in the blog on my website here, or on my Facebook page . Don’t forget to Like my page whilst you’re there to get a tons of other free tips and tricks for long-term weight loss and behaviour change!


I also put out lots of free information on my Body Vision channels, which you can find on the Body Vision Facebook page and the Body Vision Youtube channel. So don’t forget to Like and Subscribe to those too! 

And of course if you’re interested in learning more about my journey (I was very heavy at one point) then you can find a bit about how I became the top personal trainer in Leicester here. And if you’d like to speak to me about your own weight loss journey then you can find out more about my personal training services here, and you can get in touch for your free, no obligation consultation here

But if you aren’t based in Leicester, or need an option that doesn’t cost you anything, then you can use my Body Vision app, which I created to allow anyone, anywhere to access my approach to long-term behaviour change. Check out the website here, or download on your Apple or Android device now to get started! 

And slightly off topic, but if you have any interest in amazing colouring and styling of hair, then make sure you check out my wife’s Here Come The Blondes Instagram page!! She’ll be available for booking in Leicester soon, and you’ll be able to find out where there!

But until next time, I hope this has been useful, and please take care and have a great day!

Best wishes,

Simon =]


“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi