Everything changes but you

Oomph seminars logoThe title of this blog is borrowed from a famous Take That song. Unfortunately, they weren’t really writing about behaviour change, but the title sums up the challenge we face when trying to change our behaviour. With all the internal and external conflicts (even greater than those faced by Take That themselves) pulling against what we know we should do, it often means everything changes but you.

Sticking with this theme, the biggest ‘arena’ for behaviour change at the moment is sustainability. Being able to meet this challenge and help everyone live more sustainably will be like being booked to play Wembley, the O2 and Glastonbury in the same year. At Do Nation, this is our goal – to exceed the dizzy heights of Take That (or One Direction for you younger readers) and truly make sustainable living mainstream.

To tackle this challenge, we need to do two things – put a bit of Oomph back into sustainability and keep increasing our understanding of how to help people change their behaviours. That’s why last week, we got together with the brilliant Vivian Partnership and joined their latest Oomph seminar focused on behaviour change.

Hermione talking at Oomph seminar

After Hermione told our story to a room filled with a variety of sustainability experts from business, academia and consultancies, we got down to discussing what makes each of us tick and why despite most of us wanting to change our behaviours we rarely act on this intent – even when we are working in the field and should know better.

Ben reviews the whole day in his blog, but below are some of the themes that stuck out for me, all of which seemed to be a trigger to act for some but real barriers for others. I told you it wasn’t easy.

Significant others

Friends, family and band members can be great, helping supporting you and spurring you on to reach your goals. There were various stories in the room where another family member chose to live more sustainably in some way, for example eating less meat, and this spurred other family members on to do the same. However, if others in the family struggle to get on board with these changes it can cause trouble – having to prepare several different meals for different people is difficult unless you have the culinary skills of Jamie Oliver.

Technology

Technology is great. Our 24/7 access to the internet means we can order just the food we need online whilst looking in the fridge, thus reducing food waste. But it can also make us lazy – if we are not at home when we place the order, we may well get items we don’t need and end up throwing away. Or even worse, be tempted to order a naughty takeaway.

Labels and stereotypes

There were two types of people in the room – those that liked labels and those that did not. Some protested against being called vegetarian or vegan, whilst some wore it as a badge of honour and valued it an opportunity to discuss sustainability with friends and family. Although we all agreed it is important to see yourself as part of a community or tribe we have to be careful when encouraging people to be more sustainable, not to brand them with a label they don’t care for.*

Being mindful

It has become a bit of a buzzword of late, but slowing down and thinking about your actions is the first step to changing our behaviour and not getting stuck in automatic mode. Unfortunately, we each have a limited capacity for the amount of behaviours we can actively think about. The goal therefore is to be conscious about a limited number of actions and repeat them until they become automatic or unconscious again. Kind of like this blog – at first I was consciously making Take That references but it only takes a minute before they kept coming back for good.

*Despite writing a blog with far too many Take That references I would prefer not to be labelled as a Take That fan. Although I have a feeling that I maybe asking for it.

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