You’ve probably heard of G.I. Joe. You may have bought them for your kids, played with them yourself, watched the classic cartoon, or perhaps you sat through the terrible movie renditions of a few years ago. What you probably didn’t know is that originally G.I. Joe was used as a vehicle to make public service announcements to kids in America with the intent of conveying safety-related and hope inspiring messages like “don’t do what a stranger says,”, “you’ll never learn without trying” and “eat the right foods”. Each episode focused on a unique theme but they all ended in the same way, with a kid saying “Thank you G.I. Joe. Now, I know” and G.I. Joe saying, “Knowing is half the battle”.
But G.I. Joe was wrong
Knowing isn’t half the battle. Not when it comes to health and wellness and making the behaviour changes necessary to live a healthy, happy and thriving life.
This is known as the G.I. Joe Fallacy.
The term was coined by Yale professors of psychology Laurie Santos in her renowned Coursera course The Science of Well-Being, and claims that “merely knowing something is not enough to put [it] into practice”. Santos then proves this to be true citing a precession of scientific studies that directly or indirectly demonstrate that awareness does not translate into action. That’s what makes behaviour or habit change so notoriously difficult – that whilst knowledge can be power, knowledge is not action.
And that’s how we achieve health and wellbeing – through action.
Because the information is there, right? That cannot be argued against. In fact, there’s arguably too much of it. Literally, there has never been a time in human history with more abundance, access and availability of information. Generally speaking, because of course every case is unique, people aren’t doing things that aren’t good for them because they don’t know it’s not good for them. They usually do know. The reason people perpetuate unhealthy and unhelpful habits and lifestyles is because it’s difficult to do things differently.
So much of the human operating system evolved to run autonomously and unconsciously, meaning once ingrained, habits take on a life of their own. Our human nature is also very vulnerable to hijacking, and don’t for a moment believe the corporate powers are unaware of that. The ubiquitous love for super high calorie but non-nutritious fast/processed food is not [entirely] a failure of willpower. These foods prey on, or to clearer are intentionally designed to, to take advantage of our evolutionary design to consume calories when available given that for most of human history acquiring that energy required extreme effort and serious risk.
So, whilst Santos is correct that knowing isn’t half the battle, it is nevertheless an important part of it. Awareness is a critical step in any journey of change. However, what has proven to be far more successful is situational support and goal setting. Designing and interacting within a supported situational environment is vital to behaviour change success. Similarly, when aiming to achieve difficult goals, having a clearly intentioned, specific plan raises your chances of success by threefold.
And above all, this requires commitment. Not only a personal one but a community one, aka a commitment made to others. Which is what we offer here at Made To Thrive through coaching. Coaches are change agents who are trained in human health, behaviour and motivation. They use their skills to bring awareness to situations, strategize and design goals and offer support to overcome obstacles and successfully achieve targets. And it works.
So now you know – knowing isn’t half the battle. Making genuine and sustainable change requires motivated and intentional action. Knowing is just the start of the battle.
The battleground of health and wellness is won by first committing and inevitably doing.