Friday, August 6, 2010

Carrot or Stick?

Should we reward good behavior or punish bad behavior? This is an interesting concept as we consider the impact of our lifestyle choices on our health and the Nation's healthcare costs. Carrot or stick? The concept isn't a new one. There are those that believe training a dog is best done through strict discipline and there are those that think if you love a dog enough it will do the right thing. There are also parents who subscribe to the "life is tough" theory and there are those who spoil their children. Which way works best? The answer is both, and, it depends.

We are all different human beings. While our DNA is 99% the same as any other human there are genetic variations that create differences. Plus, we can explore the whole nature vs. nurture discussion. The point is there is no single solution for training a dog or raising a child. If you have more than one of either, you probably recognize what I'm talking about. So, you adapt. You try one method and if it doesn't get the results you want, you try something different. In some ways, all of life is a bit of an exercise in trial and error. Hopefully, the trials are fun and the errors not too significant.

How does this apply to wellness? Should we punish people for drinking soda by taxing it, or reward them for eating vegetables by making them cheap? As with dogs and kids, with wellness. Some people need to be discouraged from soda consumption by paying a premium. Some people will only eat vegetables if it is the least expensive way to feed their families. Some employees will only exercise if their company pays for their wellness program. Some employees will only exercise if they are punished for being sedentary by increased healthcare premiums.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The secret to lifelong, sustainable wellness is for each of us to figure out what works best for us. Yes, it does require a little effort. Remember, nothing worth having is always easy.

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