Resolve or Motivation – which is the true key to success over weight loss? by Raj Persaud

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Resolve or Motivation – which is the key to success in weight loss?


New Research finds how resolved you are to lose weight is more important than how much you intend to lose weight


Raj Persaud


DSCN0560Ryan Rhodes and Lori Horne from the Behavioural Medicine Laboratory, University of Victoria, Canada, have recently published a new scientific investigation into measuring motivation.


They point out in their research, entitled ‘Deepening the measurement of motivation in the physical activity domain: Introducing behavioural resolve’, that previous studies generally find half of all people who declare they intend to be active fail to actually achieve these intentions. This is referred to in the field as the “intention-behaviour gap”.


Rhodes and Horne explain the vital importance of this ‘intention-behaviour gap’ by pointing out that regular physical activity, at a moderate to vigorous intensity, has been linked to the reduction of over 25 chronic conditions, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and several cancers.


Unfortunately, it has also been estimated, Rhodes and Horne point out, that over 80% of adults fail to meet the minimum amount of physical activity to reap these benefits.


Intention has been defined as decisions to perform an action, but there is also the effort and time you are willing to invest to perform a behaviour. It’s this ‘intensity’ aspect of motivation which may lie behind this infamous ‘intention-behaviour’ gap, suggest Rhodes and Horne in their paper, published in the academic journal, ‘Psychology of Sport and Exercise’.


When people declare “I intend to exercise” or “I plan to exercise”, these statements, contend Rhodes and Horne, neglect how much effort will be expended to act on the intention across time.


For a repeated behaviour like physical activity (e.g., regular vigorous exercise) that requires you to organize large amounts of time, bring the body out of rest and undergo some pain/fatigue, use physical skills, arrange a suitable location, etc., all this requires considerable effort and attention that may not be assessed with the simple declaration of mere intention, argue Rhodes and Horne.


Rhodes and Horne have named their new way of thinking about how motivated you really are, as opposed to how much you claim to be, ‘behavioural resolve’. How ‘resolved’ you are, they claim, is a better predictor of future actual exercise than mere delcared intention.


‘Resolve’ is similar to the concept of ‘conditional intention’. Conditional intention is about the idea that it’s all fine and dandy to say how much you intend to do something, the acid test is when confronted with circumstances which represent obstacles or hurdles at the very point you are supposed to do it. So ‘conditional intention’ is about the idea the despite the conditions, you will still do it.


‘Resolve’ is an attempt to link motivation to real life circumstances, and obstacles which we encounter when we try to implement our intentions, but normally lead us to shelve our good intentions (ie a particularly cold morning which puts off jogging).


Intention is measured in standard psychological research with seeking how much you agree with statements such as: “I intend to exercise x times per week over the next two weeks,” “My goal is to exercise x times per week over the next two weeks,” and “I am determined to exercise x times per week over the next two weeks.”


‘Resolve’, in contrast, was measured in Rhodes and Horne’s research, with statements that elicit motivation in the face of conflicts with other priorities and the two most common physical activity barriers of time and fatigue.


Rhodes and Horne found in their study that resolve explained more future exercise than intention. Mere intention explained 24% of future exercise, but resolve explained 50% of future exercise.


There is still a gap between resolve and how much you actually do the thing you ‘resolve’ to, but its significantly more closely allied to what you end up doing in the future, than merely declaring your ‘intent’.


These gaps are being closed down by psychological research, but the fact they remain is testament to the elusive nature of our truly confronting our real selves. We think we know ourselves but we don’t really. We think when we say we will do something in the future it will actually happen, but it often doesn’t.


This means we continue to be blind to our true selves. This blindness is responsible for much of our inability to achieve our goals.



Deepening the measurement of motivation in the physical activity domain: Introducing behavioural resolve Psychology of Sport and Exercise, Volume 14, Issue 4, July 2013, Pages 455-460
Ryan E. Rhodes, Lori Horne



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