Jonathan Ross by Jonathan Ross
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For more on how to turn negative attitudes into a source of motivation, join ACE fitness expert Jonathan Ross for our recorded one-hour webinar.

Do you have clients that frustrate you by continually failing to follow your guidance?  Of course you do.  Everyone who works in fitness does.  But is the problem theirs or yours?  That's where things get difficult.  It's both.  Yes, they have to do the work, but our responsibility – if we are to call ourselves professionals – lies beyond just telling people what to do and discovering why they should bother.

The "facts" of fitness aren't hard to figure out.  The "how" is relatively easy to access.  You know it, teach it, and it's available in countless books and websites.

In general, people find change in health and fitness to be difficult, and it's due to an out-of-control reward system.  The perception that to get in shape, you have to give up everything that tastes good and is fun doesn't sit well with most people's reward system.  Countless studies have shown clearly that when given a choice between a smaller reward now and a larger reward later, people most often choose the immediate reward. 

The result is that the "pain" of giving up favorite junk foods or sacrificing couch time for training time is greater than the less tangible, more abstract "pleasure" achieved from hitting fitness goals that are months away.

The solution is to: (1) develop a greater understanding of what motivates people to change, and (2) use strategies for helping people uncover their powerful emotional reasons for their fitness goals.

Do People Hate Change?

Lots of people have babies. Some people even multiple times, and most often on purpose!  There might be no more inconvenient of a change than the changes necessary to accommodate a child in your life.  Clearly, change can be welcomed and embraced, even when it is very inconvenient. 

The reason being is that the drive and desire – motivation – to make the change (have a child) outweighs the desire to stay with the same situation (not have a child.)  And this provides the formula for success with any change, including fitness.  Start with the desired change; discover the powerful emotional reasons why the change matters, and then start to teach the how.

You have to find the why before you can reveal the how.

But How Do You Find the Why?

If you want better results, ask better questions.  When a client tells you their goals, the first thing most fitness professionals do is start thinking of all the great, cool exercises to use and the workout program.  And this is the problem.

The workout program should be the last thing you work on.  As soon as you hear someone's goals, the next thing you do is start getting more detail on those goals by asking "what" until you get deep enough to make the goals specific, relevant, and meaningful for the client.  For example, if someone starts with a goal of "get in shape," that's too vague and meaningless to be powerful.  You keep asking questions like "What will be different in your life when you get in shape?" and "What does 'get in shape' mean to you?" until you get the detail you need.

You'll often have to repeat and re-ask some questions as many people aren't used to thinking this deeply about their goals – and this is why they continually struggle.  I call this relentless questioning being "usefully annoying."

Once you get enough detail on the goals, then you ask "why" until you discover the reasons why the client cares about the goal.  You might find that a goal that starts as "weight loss" really means "be able to see my son or daughter get married or graduate college," for example.  You won't ever know unless you ask.  And if you don't ask, you can't help a client work around life's endless parade of challenges to fitness program compliance.

For a deeper exploration of these concepts complete with practical examples and sample questions to ask to help you unlock detailed, emotionally relevant goals with clients, join Jonathan for a live one-hour webinar, “Overcoming the ‘I Hate Change’ Mentality,” on Wednesday July 11th at 11:00am PST.

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