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T-minus 5 days and counting until we all make grandiose resolutions we know we won’t keep. According to research, one-third of us will crash and burn before the end of January. Half of us won’t make it until June. In the end, only 10% of people who make New Year’s resolutions keep them.

In America, the most popular resolution is lose weight and get in shape. I see it every year. The basics and fitness classes at KMDC are packed. You can’t get down an aisle at Whole Foods because of all the people trying to shop with their nose buried in the latest diet book. And you actually have to wait in line at City Sports.

[WARNING: SCIENCE CONTENT!]

According to psychologists there are two types of motivation — towards and away from.

Towards motivation is something you want. In terms of the carrot and the stick, this is the carrot. This is also the strategy used by most health and fitness advertising. They show you the chiseled guy or the newly confident hot chick that’s just waiting to emerge from the flab. It’s pretty people making for pretty TV commercials.

Away from motivation is the stick You see this a lot in pharmaceutical advertising. It’s the scary, serious “Ask your doctor about taking X before Y happens to you.” Some gyms and fitness companies have also taken on the stick strategy with really funny results. The Reebok: Escape the Couch ad above is one of my all time favorite ads. Crunch Fitness has also employed this strategy in a series of ads.

Check out the Frankenstein and Farmer versions as well. (Sorry I couldn’t embed them into the post.)

So when you’re sitting on the couch channel surfing this January, keep an eye out for all the health and fitness ads. See if you can figure out if they’re using towards or away from motivation. Just don’t sit on that couch too long. It could be deadly.

If you really want to dive deep into the psychology of motivation and change, check out Change or Die by Alan Deutschman.

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