As many of you know, I recently went on a 2 week trip to Thailand. It was literally the best time of my life! While volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park I learned a lot about elephants. Did you know that elephants eat 300 or more pounds of food a day?! That they are super intelligent and can remember things from long ago? That they are compassionate towards one another and have emotions just like people? That my last name CHANG means 'elephant' in Thai?? Coolest part!
These amazing animals are so smart that they were taught to give us kisses with their trunks! Right after I received a kiss, the elephant would immediately look for his reward... corn! The elephant had learned "I kiss, I get corn". This behavior made me think of our behavior and what drives us. Why do we do what we do? Why did the elephant kiss me? It wasn't because he knew I would love it. He did it because he knew what the consequence or result would be. For the elephant, it's because he knew he would get a piece of yummy corn. Let's analyze behavior for a moment.
Let's break it down to A-B-C. Antecedent or what happens before the behavior. Behavior- behavior and Consequence- what happens after the behavior. A- Elephant trainer says "kiss" B- Elephant kisses Justine C- Elephant gets corn. What is the underlying motivation for the elephant to kiss me? Is it the corn? Yes and no. The elephant loves corn but its deeper than that. Remember elephants eat massive amounts of food a day. The real motivation or MO is hunger. Analyzing behavior isn't always easy. Figuring out why someone does something isn't always clear. What is the corn then? It is a reinforcer. By definition a reinforcer is only a reinforcer if it increases the future frequency of that behavior. You should've seen the elephant, he kept trying to kiss me over and over! Reinforcers aren't always something tangible. It can be the removal of something aversive like a headache going away after taking tylenol or someone's praise when you squat! Yes... now I will talk about exercise!
Why do you go to the gym? Why do you have a personal trainer? Why do you work out 3x a week? Why do you see a nutritionist? Why why why why? Ask yourself the question why. What is the real motivation and what is your reinforcer? It is different for all of us. It is important to figure out what the answers are to those questions. I encourage you to ask and answer these questions because they will help you to stay focused on your goals. As a trainer, I will help you with the reinforcer - it usually isn't corn!