Diabetes and Motivation

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This leaflet is provided by Diabetes UK, the leading charity that cares for, connects with and campaigns on behalf of every person affected by, or at risk of diabetes.

Something that people with diabetes often say is, "I have no motivation". You may know what you need to do to care for your health, but you sometimes struggle to actually do it. But did you know that you are motivated? You're motivated to get dressed every morning. Brush your teeth. Go out and collect your child from school even though it's raining and you can't find your umbrella. We tend to do these tasks without thinking, and usually don't have to get ourselves 'motivated' to do them. Why is that? Well it's because these actions are an expression of our values.

Do you value your health?

Although many of us will intuitively answer 'yes' to this question, if we're honest our actions don't always demonstrate that this is the case. If you find yourself ordering more takeaways than you should, then you may be valuing an easy life, stress relief after a difficult day, distraction and comfort from an argument you had, or simply the taste of the delicious menu that's in front of you! A conflict in values is very human.

So what is a value?

It is simply something that is important or beneficial to you. A value might be your family, success, freedom from pain, freedom from stress, or even to avoid a 'lecture' from your doctor! We have both 'momentary' values, like the ones above, and 'lasting' values. It is the lasting values that are important for sustained behaviour change. These require that we look a little deeper and ask ourselves, "What's important to me?" and "What do I want my life to stand for?". These are very searching questions! It may be the first time you have ever considered them and you might wonder what on earth they have to do with diabetes. It's a great question.

Diabetes can feel like an unwelcome visitor into our lives; and it is. The challenge is that diabetes is a visitor that is here to stay, and as hard as it can be to think about, for us to live long and happy lives we need to consider ways we can learn to live with it. Values are our hearts' deepest desires for the way we want to interact with and relate to the world, other people and ourselves, including our diabetes. They are leading principles that can guide us and motivate us as we move through life. To discover your values, think about your answers to these questions:

  • "What matters most to me in life?"
  • "How do I think my diabetes being poorly managed might affect my life and the things that matter to me?"
  • "If I were able to manage my diabetes better, how might that benefit me and those that matter to me?"

With diabetes and health goals, we can often get stuck and know we 'should' change but haven't yet committed to doing anything about it. Our values are what links what we should do, with what we actually do, and by focusing on our lasting values rather than the momentary ones, we can move towards action.

Your doctor or nurse may be keen to help you set diabetes 'goals' - so where do goals fit in with values? Values are directions we keep moving in, whereas goals are what we want to achieve along the way. A value is like heading north; and a goal is the river or mountain we aim to cross whilst travelling in that direction. Goals can be achieved or 'crossed off', whereas values are an ongoing process. If you want to be a fun, active grandparent, that is a value - an ongoing process. A goal that links to this value may be going for a walk each day and building up the time until you can do 30 minutes at a time. You may not fulfil the goal every day, but as long as you are still living by the value, you will re-commit to the goal if you get off track.

Ask yourself the values questions above, and link a health goal to each one.

  • Create a physical reminder of your value so you can be prompted of it daily. A meaningful photo by your bed, or a drawing made by your grandchild on the fridge for example.
  • Share your values and goals with someone else, including your diabetes health care team if you can. 'Going public' helps you to stick to them.
  • If you can find someone else in your network who has similar values, you can keep each other on track. Social support is a great help.

Steven Covey, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People"

Steve Peters, "The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Program to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence, and Happiness"

Jen Nash, "Diabetes and Motivation"

Content used with permission from Diabetes UK - Emotional Issues. Copyright for this leaflet is with Diabetes UK.

Original Author:
Diabetes UK
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Diabetes UK
Document ID:
29241 (v1)
Last Checked:
15/04/2016
Next Review:
15/04/2019
Now read about Assessment of the Patient with Established Diabetes

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