Mindless Health: 9 Questions for Daniel Pink
New York Times bestselling author of five books and host of National Geographic’s “Crowd Control,” Daniel H. Pink reveals why looking good in a bathing suit shouldn’t be your goal.
1. What is the most effective strategy for getting healthier?
Change your environment so that the mindless, default choices made throughout the day are healthier ones. So if your partner works in an office, pack her a healthy lunch instead of just letting her eat fast food. Get rid of processed foods in your own home and make healthy food available so that there’s not even an option to eat garbage. When you want to have a talk, go for a walk instead of lounging on the sofa. Changing your partner’s default food and health choices is an act of love. To me, the best thing we can do is make it easier to eat well and harder to eat poorly — both in our homes and as a matter of food policy.
2. Why do we crave unhealthy foods?
Those of us in the U.S. and elsewhere live in a world of cheap, abundant calories. Yet our brains and bodies evolved in a world of scarce calories — and haven’t come close to catching up. So the problem is our Stone Age brains in the modern world.
3. What is your most effective strategy for managing stress?
Running. I’m not a fast or accomplished runner. Not even close. But if I didn’t run regularly, I’d be a crazy person — or worse.
4. People wait until they are sick and unhappy to make lifestyle changes. Why is this?
In two words, hyperbolic discounting. That is, we inevitably prefer a small reward now to a bigger reward in the future. We eat that slab of chocolate cake this afternoon because it tastes good, rather than eating something healthier that will make us better off in the long run. When those bad choices accumulate, we’re often in a world of hurt — and in retrospect, we wish we had acted differently.
5. Based on your research around motivation, how do you suggest people motivate their partners to make healthier lifestyle choices?
One of the legends of motivational science, Edward Deci of the University of Rochester, always points out that motivation isn’t something one person does to another. It’s something people do for themselves. So we need to think less about motivating others than about helping them find their own motivations. In this case, it’s far more effective in the long term for people to make healthy choices for purpose-driven reasons (to stay healthy for other family members) than for vanity reasons (to look good in a swimsuit).
6. What do you think is the secret to longevity?
Having close social connections and sense of purpose.
7. What gives you a sense of purpose?
Seeing my kids grow into terrific human beings — and trying not to do anything to screw that up. Also, to the extent I can in my books, helping people see their world more clearly and live their lives more fully.
8. Do you have a “tribe” that provides ongoing support?
My wife and kids are my main tribe. The only problem is that it’s tough for anyone to kick someone else out of the tribe. We’re kinda stuck with each other.
9. If you could give one piece of advice to people, what would it be?
Be skeptical of advice from self-proclaimed experts.
Order Daniel Pink’s new book Drive
to find out what truly motivates all of us
and how you can apply that to your life.