How would you persuade teens to drink less soda?

Ramit Sethi

Pop quiz time:

How would you persuade kids to drink less soda?

Here’s a surprise: Facts alone are usually a very poor way to persuade people to change their behavior.

This flies in the face of conventional wisdom, which says, “Just put it out there! Let people make their own decision!” Yet facts alone are poor persuaders. You can take an idea with the very same principles, apply persuasive methods, and change people’s behavior dramatically more.

For example, researchers from Johns Hopkins studied how to persuade teens to drink less soda. They used signs outside corner shops to test three different approaches:

From the Daily Mail article:

One asked if they knew that the average fizzy drink contained 250 calories, another asked if they knew it was equivalent to ten per cent of their recommended daily intake.

A third asked ‘Did you know that working off a bottle of fizzy drink or fruit juice takes about 50 minutes of running?’

Results showed that providing calorie-related information did cause sales to drop by over a third (40 per cent), but that the physical activity equivalent was most effective, reducing soft drink sales among teens by half.

Instead of just sharing simple facts, they changed the framing — a classic persuasion strategy — and reduced soft drink purchases BY HALF!

What’s fascinating is that if you asked the average person on the street, they would simply say, “Just share the calorie counts. Let people make their own decision.” This is why I call them the unwashed masses.

“But Ramit,” you might say, “that’s paternalism! You’re telling people how to think! We should let people make their own decisions.” We can discuss paternalism later — and in persuasion, I have clear views about ethical persuasion and paternalism — but if your goal is pure behavioral change, know that facts alone are generally unpersuasive.

Btw, what if I asked you to persuade teens to have less sex? Would you…

  • “Educate” them on the risks of teen pregnancy? (Educate is always a red flag for pundits who don’t understand persuasion.)
  • Show them people who had teen pregnancies and how it affected their lives?
  • Show them how teen pregnancy would make you fat and unable to spend time with friends?

The third — the most evocative, visceral effect — might be most persuasive. And in fact, we see that that very approach has been linked to lowering teen birth rates…through MTV’s 16 and Pregnant show.

There are countless examples of highly rigorous, peer-reviewed studies demonstrating time-tested principles of persuasion.

If you read my material, you know that I focus on persuasion and behavioral change. That’s why instead of writing worthless tips about cutting back on lattes, I write about…

Why does this matter to you?

Because slowly, email by email, blog post by blog post, I want to help you become masters of persuasion. So you can persuade yourself to change your behavior — to earn more, save more, to find your Dream Job — and to persuade others to live better lives.

Now, I want to ask YOU:

Knowing what you learned about persuasion today, what is ONE area of your life where you can use persuasion to change your behavior? Be specific. Do not just say “I am going to go to the gym more.” Say: “Before, I used to think ___ and it got me ___ results. Today, I learned ___. Now, I am going to change my approach so I get ___ and I am targeting ___ results.”

Leave a comment here.

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  1. Tommy Walker

    I used to think that making small “investments” into my career would help me get further… buy this course, pay for these ads, spend money on this software… but I’ve recently started persuading myself to save more money, and work harder so we can move into our house.

    When my wife said to me, we need to make X,000/Month and I looked at the income and said we’re doing that, so that’s not the problem, it really helped to push us in the right direction, and I am happy to announce that we’re going to be able to move into our first house within the next few weeks!

  2. Rob

    Before, I used to think that it was ok to spend a yearly bonus when you get it. Today, I learned that if I frame my mental perception of myself differently based on past behaviors (ie: being broke and living pay check to pay check; having to say no b/c I don’t have the money vs. seeing myself as having some money in the moment to get a ‘want’), that I can shy away from the temptation to spend my bonus on something and instead, become the financially responsible person that I should be and want to be. I’m also using the Lent season as sort of a motivation for self reassessment and challenge. During this time other people around me are giving things up (my roommate gave up drinking) and it kind of represents a support group and reinforces the behavior.

    • Tommy Walker

      Rob I was the same exact way!

      I have to admit too, being more in control of my finances has really helped me to feel more “grown up” and like I have a lot more control of my future. As strange as that may sound, I’m glad I stopped sabotaging myself and got in control because now I feel like I can do anything.

      How about you?

  3. Stephanie

    I thought that buying a new set of comfortable tennis shoes and signing up for a gym membership ACROSS THE STREET FROM MY HOUSE would be all the motivation I needed to start exercising regularly in the morning. It wasn’t. Now I have a pair of unused shoes in the closet and a wave of guilt washes over me every time I leave my apartment and see the gym across the street.

    Even if I give myself all of the tools I need to exercise, I learned that I can’t just “tell” myself to go. I certainly can’t drum up even an ounce of motivation in the morning when I’m not even a morning person (really set myself up for success with that plan).

    Now I’m going to change my approach from relying on motivation and self-messaging (“go to the gym, or you’ll be fat!”) to “action-centered” processes. Basically, I’m dividing my goal into baby steps. When I walk through the door after work, I have to put my gym shorts and tennis shoes on. My goal is to use that momentum to get me out the door and to the gym. “Excercising regularly” will come later… now it’s just about execution.

  4. Susan

    Before, I used to think walking at an increasing intensity of speed and incline on the treadmill would help me lose weight. It did get me a few results (no weight loss, but more muscular calves so I fit into a pair of tall boots in my closet). Today, I learned that interval training (alternating speeds from fast to slow, with and without, incline) would produce better results (for weight loss) in less time. It is also supposed to increase my metabolism for a short period of time following exercise. Now, I am going to change my approach to use interval training so I can get a better workout without investing more time and I should lose some weight. I am targeting weight loss as a measure of my improved results. I will give myself 4 weeks of this changed routine, with weight taken every other day, and no calorie increase, to see if this is effective. If so, I will apply this interval training to my other exercises (weight training, etc) to reach my ideal weight goal.

    P.S. On the teens and colas issue, I never had a problem. I raised my kids to think that soda of any kind was a special, once a week treat. Once they had the treat (at home, a party, or elsewhere), that was it for the week. When they got older, they had to pay for this once a week treat from money they earned outside the home. Of course, I provided plenty of healthy drinks for free. This method led to two adults that don’t drink any colas, by choice, unless they are very ill and have to push fluids. Then they drink one cola week, in the form of a tablespoon or two added to a glass of water. None of their visiting friends complained about what we had to eat or drink, and my kids never complained to my face about this policy.

  5. jakob

    I used to think people wouldnt make a decision on something because of how many barriers were in their way. Today i learned that people are inherently selfish and will only act on something if you directly relate your product to their situation. Now i am going to change my approach by making my product’s story something that my target market can easily identify with and test the conversion rate based on this different approach.

  6. Jen

    Right now, the biggest way I want to use persuasion is to change my family’s eating habits. I already did it for myself and have become vegan (I am not an animal hoarding hippy, I read a book called The China Study and some others that were very convincing).

    Before, I used to think I could just tell my family what was healthy and unhealthy and they’d drop the bad stuff and it got me poor results. My husband’s never sure what is okay to feed the kids or not (yeah poor guy) and the kids don’t seem to relate to “healthy” choices. My personal choices are met w/ skepticism and slight hostility… Today (it’s been coming to me in doses since before today), I learned that I have to get into their heads. Now, I am going to change my approach (goal is to get them eating less meat) and I am targeting results through appealing to what they can relate to (also not saying anything if I don’t have a plan because otherwise it’s just nagging). The kids are more likely to be influenced by us calling a food “Yummy,” or a “treat,” vs. “unhealthy.” And my husband probably needs to hear how important he is to my and why I have concerns about his high animal protein intake.

    I think however, you want us to discuss business. In business, I’m having a little harder time applying this technique. Before, I used to think that just hard work would help me to progress and it got me some good results, but I’m still not employed (I just started to obtain freelance work, but it’s not enough so that I don’t have to work outside my home). Today, I learned I’ve probably got to continue to sell my skills through persuasion, e.g. instead of saying, “I write grants,” say something more specific and appealing to the agency I might target.

    However, now I’m not sure I’m ready to change my approach because it’s earlier than I intended to go back to work (have a 5 mo old in addition to 3 other kids). I just implemented a plan in January to write 2 grant proposals over the course of 6 months, a change of plans that was initiated after reading Ramit’s materials. I’ve just finished one grant project (and am being paid) and am beginning the second one. However, a goal before I began this freelance work was to return to work in Sep. 2012. Now I think I could gain more work writing from home… I’m not sure how to set my next goal. Persuade myself to target organizations who could pay me. vs. rely on referrals??? I don’t know…. Persuade myself to adhere to a more rigid work schedule (e.g. instead of working when I can, know exactly when I will be working and who will take care of the baby and/or older kids during that time)? Clearly I have some things to think about in setting & revising my work goals for after I meet this most recent goal I set.

  7. Brandon

    Ramit, how would you reframe motivating people’s laziness to think for a minute and actually do this exercise?

    This is what I did.

    I used to think, ‘bah, that I know how to do that, I don’t need to comment and engage in the exercise, I’ll just do it in real life” and so I wouldn’t comment.

    And then I thought, “Well first of all, it’ll only take a few minutes, second, I’ll feel that much more accomplished by contributing my thoughts that will potentially help another person, third, I’ll feel less guilty about being a constant freeloading consumer instead of a contributor, fourth, I can actually engage my creative and critical thinking process which I associate as ‘challenge’, which I actually do enjoy, and fifth, I might get some respect points from Ramit by actually interacting with his material instead of being the mystery reader that has time to read the long-ass articles but can’t find the time to think and type — things we all do — for a few extra minutes.

    I actually feel more motivated now than when I first started typing.
    Thanks Ramit.

    • Jeanne

      Nice post. This was sort of paradigm shift for me. Hence my reply back thanking you!

  8. Paul

    Before I used to think that if I just ‘worked harder’ or ‘pushed myself more’ that I would work out more. I didn’t. Got NO results. Today I learned to change my frame of reference. I realize, if I don’t work out, I’ll keep gaining weight and feeling lazier like I have been for the last couple months. Now I’m going to change my approach, so I think, “if I don’t work out today, I’m choosing to be fatter.” Forget that. I don’t want to get fatter. I’m not letting today be a fat day.Today I’m exercising so I can get my energy back and be happier.

    • Paul

      Good job, other Paul! I have no such issue (I’m actually quite skinny) but I know a lot of people whose only goal is “lose weight” but they really don’t know how to stick to it. You might want to try that “don’t break the chain” technique I mentioned down in my comment. But just in case, here’s the link again:

      And yes, I am responding because we share the same name 🙂

  9. Andrew

    I’m curious to hear why a difference of 10 percentage points in effectiveness is all it took for the ‘unwashed masses’ to become excellent persuaders.

    Factual approach – 40% reduction
    Evocative approach – 50% reduction

    I really do like the attempt at making the gap seem broader by comparing “over a third” to “A HALF”. Especially since it’s only a 3 percentage point difference between the differences of a third (33%) to the actual number (40%), and the 40-50% difference.

    The main argument wouldn’t seem nearly as valid if the calorie count was written as ‘reducing the sales by nearly half’ compared to the reduction by evocative means.

  10. Angie

    Maybe for me, appealing to my pride works better than facts. I used to try running at least 3 times a week for a total of 9 miles a week just so I could look better and give lip service to being healthy.

    Now I signed up for a 5K on April 1, which gives me a deadline to prepare for, and I also write out a list of important but not urgent things to do each week and include “Run 9 miles” on this list. Every time I complete an item on the list I get to cross it off, and for some reason I get some sense of accomplishment crossing things off the list.

    Before when I told myself I really should run, I would decide to put it off another day. Now when I tell myself I should run because I don’t want a bad race time posted online and I don’t want to look at a list of uncrossed off items at the end of the week. These techniques may not work for everyone, but it has worked for me.

    Now I have been running 9 miles a week since October. Once the race is done I will sign up for another one. Eventually when I want to run longer, I will sign up for a 10K.

  11. Mr.Moo to You

    Before, I used to think I was stuck with my part-time job and the hours someone else gave me, and it got me pathetic, poverty-line results. Today, I learned that you and I see teen soda-drinkage in a different light. Now, I am going to change my approach so I get better deals, more money for what I create and a better lifestyle and more freedom. I am targeting $50k per year ($47.7k last year, so I bet I can make it), effectively training my GF to be better to me and more stable tenant-related results.

    As far as how I’d convince teens to drink less soda, I’d put up a sign with emotionally evocative language about how soda burns your throat, makes your teeth all nasty and makes your eyes burn from dehydrating you, forcing you to slam down more water just to keep from passing out in the heat. I hadn’t even thought about calories… maybe because I’m a big fat dude. Moo!

  12. Nahyan

    Brilliant article.

  13. Mary

    With a take-home of $15 per hour, I am going to have to work for 18 hours-two and one half days-to pay for the 12 items of clothing I bought “on sale” with “free” shipping at llbean this morning. That also translates to 53 hours to pay my house note.

  14. Paul

    My current favorite “persuasion” technique is to use the “Don’t Break the Chain” method of forming habits.

    I’ve tried this before, but the above article is what really made it click for me. When I first tried using it, I didn’t keep up with it because I was too specific with my goals. It turns out that generic goals are better for this technique. Basically, make it really easy to put a big red X on your calendar, or app in my case. I use “Daily Deeds” for iPhone.

    I’ve been running a music blog for almost a year now but it hasn’t really gotten anywhere. Among many other reasons, I was just not very good about updating it. I had decided in my head to update the blog “Monday Wednesday Friday” but of course that never quite worked because things were always coming up. Now, using “don’t break the chain,” my goal is basically “do anything at all that involves my blog somehow, every single day.”

    This could be doing my blog’s email (doesn’t count if there are no new messages), composing songs, learning an instrument, writing a post, publishing a post… or even posting a comment on other blogs in case somebody feels like clicking the link on my name. Soon I’ll be working on trying to do guest posts on other blogs (like IWT if I can convince Ramit I have something interesting to say).

    I’m managing around 1 post a week versus about once every couple months before, and I’m doing at least something for the site EVERY DAY. The more I keep the chain going, the more I don’t want to break the chain.

  15. Robyn

    I used to think trying to convince others to see my qualifications would result in me getting hired ANYWHERE so I can get off of being on disability.This got me nowhere because business owners/ect.are so concerned with me having absolute evidence that I can do and have done more already.Today I learned going about it in a completely different way would not be a bad start at all.I have gotten more specific qualifications to start my own side business now with all my bases covered so I get a customer base that will spread.I know several places where there is a demand for some of what I can provide.I am looking for something that will work as a base to start from a place many have told me is a hopeless place to get into and work from.Trauma is not a choice,it’s what I am going to work from regardless.I am looking to turn bad into good,and use this business as another branch of networking for my next step.Turn what can’t be controlled with what I can change.

  16. StrangeRover

    Q:”How would you persuade teens to drink less soda?”
    A: Get them started on coffee.

    I’m kidding, but instilling/selling them on another (hopefully better) alternative could be quite effective – if, as you suggest, the alternative is *framed* properly.

  17. Gal @ Equally Happy

    I used to think that getting in shape was all about eating right and exercising more. So if only I could force myself through sheer willpower to eat healthier and exercise more, I’d get in shape. That got me some results but I quickly plateaued.

    Now I’m trying to change my lifestyle by having less unhealthy snacks lying around the house, motivate myself more with short term treats and competitions with my friends, communicate with my wife and friends what I’m trying to do so they don’t unwittingly sabotage me and try to find fun ways in which I could exercise but not be bored.

    In other words, I’m convincing myself that getting in shape is fun and something to enjoy instead of willpower challenge that must be endured.

  18. fran

    A few things: I tend to get messy and let things pile up. My best motivation is that I watch shows like “Confessions of an Animal Hoarder” and “Hoarders: Buried Alive” etc. Watching the horrific, moldy, insanity that these hoarder homes become is not only a great motivator for me, I also have the comfort zone of knowing that my messes never even begin to approach what the tragic hoarders in the show live with. So it’s instantly encouraging to me. That’s when I do most of my cleaning and organizing, while watching them pick through the rat carcasses and ancient pizza boxes on TV. My house now looks great–clean, fresh, pretty and well organized. I love these shows.

  19. Angela Sparks

    I signed up for Yoga teacher training in part because I wanted to incorporate more Yoga into my life, but never made the full commitment. Now that I am seeing the amazing benefits of a daily practice, it is easy to persuade myself to do it – because it makes me feel good, emotionally and physically.

  20. Aideen

    Before, I used to think ___ and it got me ___ results. Today, I learned ___. Now, I am going to change my approach so I get ___ and I am targeting ___ results.”

    Before I never paid attention to my social media consumption and I never thought about the results that I was/was not getting. Today, I’m positive that I waste too much time trolling social media website (FB, pinterest…). Now I am going to change my usage so I am wasting less time. The added hours in the day will be used to ready informative books and finish Earn 1K.

  21. Kirstie Smallman

    Before, I used to think that sharing the facts about Nia’s workout benefits was enough to get people to sign up for class. This got me poor results – very few people in my classes. Today, I learned that sharing my personal Joy for Nia is more persuasive. Now, I am going to change my approach so I get more people to sign up for my Nia classes and my target is to fill all my current classes to max-capacity.

  22. Ed


    I have been learning this stuff for a while, and really started putting it into action this year. My key insight has been that I used to think that if I just knew a bit more, and worked a bit harder, I’d get what I wanted. Today’s post reinforced that it doesn’t matter what you know, only what you do. Now I am changing my approach so that I have systems that make me do the important stuff. For example:

    1) exercise. I decided this year I was going to try to build some upper body strength. This has always been a weakness of mine. So… using the behaviour change principles learned here, plus the Minimum Effective Dose idea from Tim Ferris’s 4 hour Body Book, I taped some foam around a metal bar in my garage right next to my car and do at least one pull-up before each time I drive anywhere. Dayum impressive results – (500% increase in strength in 5 weeks with less than 2 minutes work per day).

    2) Career. I have been pretty successful in my career, but I have always just fallen into whatever comes next. I have never been strategic, and have been ultra frustrated with where things are heading in the past 12 months or so. I signed up for dream job (Master) because I knew that not only would I get fantastic strategic techniques and tactics, I would have a regularly scheduled accelerator call that I would have to be prepared for, and regular reminders as new material became available. As a result I have spent more time working on my career in the past three weeks than the past three years, and its all better targetted. Results: Interviews for stepping stone positions (to get to my dream job) with people already predisposed to like and hire me.

    3) On a side note, Tax. I hadn’t read the tax return article before today, and was really confused by it. In Australia overpaying tax is regularly used as an automated enforced savings strategy. I have used the strategy for years, and it directly resulted in:
    -having a deposit for my own home within 1 year of starting full time work.
    -amassing more than $20,000 worth of professional recording equipment;
    -travelling to Hong Kong, Africa, Thailand and Malaysia.
    Reading the comments I was astounded to see how people use ideology to justify inefficient behaviour. Yes you may have an objection to governments, touching your money, but $57 disappears easily on small things you’d never miss. $3000 is big, it hurts to lose it, you spend it on something big, or pay down debt if you have it. The flow ons from getting big wins like these just keep compounding.

  23. Rizwan

    You’re right, It will only take a few minutes, second, I’ll feel that much more accomplished by developing my programs from start to finish which will help me pay off loans, third, I’ll feel less guilty about being a constant freeloading person instead of a contributor, fourth, I can actually engage my creative and critical thinking process which I associate as ‘challenge’, which I actually really enjoy, and fifth, I might get some respect points from Ramit by actually interacting with his material instead of being the mystery reader that has time to read the long-ass articles but can’t find the time to think and type — things we all do — for a few extra minutes. Can’t stop thinking!

  24. Claire

    If the numbers sound too good to be true, they probably are. The Daily Mail thought “reduced the odds” by 40% or half meant reduced sales of sugar-sweetened beverages by that amount. The research paper meant reduced the odds ratio not “odds” as in layman terms. This odds ratio reduction amount came from reducing sales of sugar-sweetened beverages from 93.3% of beverages purchased before placing the signs to 86% after placing the sign about jogging, compared to 87.5% after placing the sign about absolute calories. That’s a 1.5% difference in purchases of sugar-sweetened beverages between the sign about jogging and the sign about absolute calories. The framing did help a little but the difference in actual purchases wasn’t astounding and the largest part of the reduction did come from the simple calorie number fact.

    I consider the statement about jogging a simple fact like the number of calories. They just changed the unit of measurement to something more understandable. To reduce purchases of sugar-sweetened beverages by more than 93.3% – 86% = 7.3%, they probably indeed need to do more than provide information.


  25. Vicente

    Before, I used to think that I can do it alone without networking and it got me zero results. Today and based on the other free Dream Job articles, I learned that it is essential to have a network of people that will support me in this game that we play. I just persuaded myself before that it’s somewhat cool to succeed independently without the help of others. Now, I am going to change my approach so I get more fulfilling connections and relationships and I am targeting a goal of having a summer internship that will be brought to me through the help of my network.


  26. Megan Cassidy

    Before, I used to think I didn’t earn enough to save or invest, and it got me negative results in my financial mindset (if I made more than expected in one month, I would automatically spend it on something that I didn’t value). Today, I learned how good saving makes me feel. Now, I am going to change my approach so I get a consistent savings plan and I am targeting putting at least 10% of my income into savings.

  27. Claire

    Forgot to include my answer to the question. Before, I used to think I would do as much as I felt well enough to do and it got me slower results with trying to recover from a chronic illness. This isn’t from something I learned today but maybe a little from other blog posts and trial and error. Recently, I changed my approach so that I commit to doing a little more than I am well enough to do now in the present and short-term future. E.g. I was not yet well enough to go to a tai chi class but I signed up for one that started in 3 months. There was a chance I might not have been well enough in 3 months but when the time came, I managed to go and in a short time did better than I thought I would. After another 3 months, I signed up for a second class earlier than I thought I could really handle it too. After another 6 weeks, the teacher started asking me for half and hour of practice every day. I didn’t think I could jump up to that much. I tried it and actually yes, it was too much, but I did practice more than I would have otherwise. I guess that is how to find the actual upper limit. Paying for a scheduled class and not wanting to disappoint my teacher’s expectations helped.

  28. hitch

    Granted, this works, but it will create a generation who hates pregnancy, even more obsessed with thier size, and the fat ones might go on having sex and soda like crazy. Knowing that there is no hope for them.

  29. Cindy

    I agree with Hitch’s point.

    For example, if you have an adult already addicted to soda, who has already felt the visceral effects (overweight, extreme tooth decay, etc.), how can you use this method to get them to stop drinking soda?

  30. kai

    I used to think I need to make big bold moves to see big bold changes in my life. After watching a documentary on knife fighting, which demonstrated the Hollywood myth of critical stabs, actual knife fighting relies on small cuts which add up to the opponent bleeding and subsequently defeated (read dead).

    I switched my life strategy to small steps each day. Each day I must do something in relation to my target goal- no matter how insignificant. And especially if it is mentally insignificant. E.g. what can 20 push ups before going to work mean?

    But I do it anyway, and it has been adding up. I did not realise until a few days ago I did 30 with no problem at all. And my girlfriend is noticing the change of my frame. 😉

    Its funny you see Ramit. Before you want to do some task, you feel so lethargic and demotivated. Somehow expending the energy to complete the task successfully grants you bonus energy and you want more.

    I’m sticking to this strategy for now. Health, career, soft skills etc. Tell me what you think.

  31. Jonathan

    There was a similar article in USA Today about the effectiveness of disgusting ads. They gave an example of a NY Dept of Health ad showing soft drinks turning into globs of fat that reduced sugary beverage consumption by 12%.

    So in order to get myself to avoid potato chips, pizza, buffets, and beer and to make sure I exercise consistently, I’m going to post pictures of fat people in swimwear around the house. So let’s see if triggering the disgust mechanism can get my butt in the gym on a regular basis.

    Positive motivation like envisioning how good I’ll feel or what life will be like when I’m in my target physical condition hasn’t worked. Neither has putting up pictures of guys who look the way I want to look.

    The other problem with having pictures of lean, muscular guys on the wall is women get the wrong idea about me when they come over. On the other hand, I don’t want them to think I have a fat fetish either…

  32. Nicholas Medina

    I used to think that announcing to everybody around I was going on a diet was the start of my Fat to Fit transformation.

    It did nothing but make the process harder.

    What worked? Not telling a single soul what I was doing, but just doing it everyday, because In the back of my mind I constantly reminded myself, that I am the one who is responsible for going to the gym, and saying no to excess calories.


  33. Edie

    Before, I used to think “Working two jobs is so tough! I need to decompress. Imma watch some tv and have a couple of glasses of wine!”

    This went on for a few months. It’s nonsense, not good for my general health and well being, and gives me bad sleep.

    So, in the past week, I have said to myself: “Working two jobs is so tough. I need to decompress. Imma do a Tae Bo workout and have a couple glasses of herbal tea.”

    It’s day by day, but I think the issue ( needing to decompress) and the new reward ( workouts + tea) will take hold.

  34. Jim

    I train people on a great product, but have been telling them facts…from today onwards, I’m going to teach, and then outline the potential consequences of not buying… I’ve been afraid of scaremongering…but I think this approach gets around that potential problem. It shows the facts and benefits, AND potential Dramatic changes that can only happen when you have it with you, as opposed to leaving it as a “nice to have” but making it a “must have”…

  35. Logan

    Ramit, as someone in the medical field, I have been hoping for years that you were going to turn your focus on persuasion and behavioral change to solving big healthcare problems, many of which come down to people’s choices about food and exercise.

    Last year, I decided that I needed to lose weight before [life milestone] this year. I signed up for CrossFit and have seen huge improvements over my old exercise methods. Here’s why: I just have to walk through the door of the CrossFit gym, and there is a trainer there to tell me exactly what I have to do and an entire class of people there who will be doing it alongside me. I don’t have to drag myself to the regular gym (no set classes = no requirement to get there by any specific time), come up with a workout, and convince myself to follow through with it. By narrowing down the choices that I have to make to get a workout in (“am I going to CrossFit today?” vs. “am I going to the gym? What time? What should I do when I’m there? I’m tired, do I have to finish this set?”) I don’t expend nearly as much of my reserves of willpower.

    Anyway, this stuff is awesome. Would love to hear how these methods can be applied in other ways — I’m thinking, for example, when my colleagues try to convince patients to take their meds, a lot of what they do is educate them on what happens if they don’t. Yet it doesn’t work. Ramit, I think you’re the guy to come up with a better way.

  36. hitch

    Here is what i learned about behaviour change from trying so many things. Half the battle is showing up. If its a excersize. I go to gym weather i feel like it or not. If i feel tired i doze off in the car for 15 min. Take a shower. I would either get refreshed and have a great workout. Or a mild workout or wrap up and go home. But i feel better about it . No guilt . I done my part . There is just no energy for me today. But even a light workout is better than a tv dinner. The othe half is having something to do. An excersize plan. Knowing my routine at the gym before going helps me get more out of it. In the gym u want to confuse ur muscles. Not to look confused trying to figure what to do. And A diet plan. Prepare meals ahead and pack it. Knowing that i tend to get hungry i pack extra 3 snacks that are least damaging. Rather than hit the vending machine

  37. JanetDHH

    Before, I used to think that I need to jog more and it got me moderate results at best. Today, I learned that if i focus on the unattractiveness of my ever-widening backside, I’ll be more motivated than of i focus on going jogging because it’s “good for me.” Now, I am going to change my approach so I get off my duff 3 times a week for 30 minutes and I am targeting firmer results.”

  38. Andrew

    Human behaviour is one of those things where people think out doesn’t apply to them or in “this situation”. I work with execs who constantly amaze me with their lack of understanding of what makes a team perform. They seem to think that staff are driven by orders, not motivation. They fail to realise that as soon they turn their back, the unmotivated staff just go back to social media. Like what a number of people have said here, the individual won’t change their behaviour unless they see some consequence or benefit specific to them. I’m no different, I did triathlon for a few years wanting to get and look fit. I got fitter but didn’t look noticeably more athletic. I switched to interval training and weights and the results have been excellent. I’m fitter and look fitter and don’t have to worry about wearing out the joints from long distance running. The main point being that I can stay motivated because there are tangible results. Without results, people soon lose interest.

  39. Mihir

    I used to think I could only start losing weight by implementing a large, comprehensive change in my diet and start a big exercise program. Now I’ve realized relatively small but still significant changes in diet can yield a quick solid “win”. I chucked milk and cereal in the morning for egg whites and a unsweetened, unflavored multi-grain oatmeal. For lunch I shrank the main course and added cottage cheese and fruit. I lost 10 pounds in a matter of a few weeks.

  40. Jeff Crews

    We might need to make this happen for our users on Persuade them why being healthy is so important!

  41. Julie @ Freedom 48

    Similarly, whenever I am debating purchasing something – I always calculate how many hours of work it would take to pay for the item. That mental work-through will often stop me from buying the item.

  42. Robert

    Get it? “Pop” quiz? About soda? Man, this is rich.

  43. Khaiyong

    I’m going to use my new persuasion powers to convince people around me – My social circle to get out from their negative patterns of behaviour when it comes to daily life. Which is:

    -Complaining about bosses/work/subordinates
    -“Not knowing what their passion is” hence stick with their boring old lives
    -All talk but no action.

    I’m going to use these persuade them to join my cause – Talent mamak (, a hangout spot for locals in Malaysia which connects people with passions/talents with potential job offers/freelancing gigs.

    My theory is – When you start to live your passion (even part time), life automatically becomes more enjoyable.

  44. JaneMD

    I think it would be even more effective to put up a sign that said ‘Your parents drink this and it makes them look cool.’ I bet it would have the opposite effect. I can’t take complete credit for that idea. I saw it on South Park, I believe, when they were trying to get the kids to give up ChinPokeman.