April 18, 2023

Move Beyond ‘Perfect Health’ To Make Better Health Attainable


Well focuses on incremental improvement through achievable steps and a cycle
of individual success that leads to larger accomplishments over time.


Most people think that doctors expect them to make perfect decisions in their health, such as completing every recommended screening or sticking with each new habit discussed during their visit. A recent study found that ~3 out of 4 Americans admit they did not tell their doctor about information that could be relevant to their health – and another study found that almost half participants were not wholly truthful with their provider about things like adherence to treatments or common lifestyle activities. The most common reason for this behavior is embarrassment. We feel embarrassed because we think our doctors expect us to be perfect, but what really matters is improvement. And this concept of ‘perfect health’ often gets in the way of more modest, attainable achievement.

While large, sudden shifts towards better health may make for a captivating story, the bulk of actual health improvement comes from small, incremental steps in a positive direction. For example, lifestyle changes can make a meaningful difference in lowering blood pressure but those impacts typically take months to achieve. Most people will not stay motivated for that long without sprinkling in a few successes along the way. Edwin Locke’s research shows that a person is more likely to stick with a goal if they think they are succeeding rather than failing. This shift to a ‘success’ mindset is a key opportunity in health.

“When I tell people about what we’re doing at Well, they sometimes assume that I must be in great shape or in perfect health. I wish. Honestly, I don’t even think perfect health is possible. We embrace the notion that no one is perfect. Improved health is about making progress… so, how might we help people take one step forward? Let’s start there.”

  • Andrew Schwint, Senior Design Director


Focusing on Improvement

In a world where every health brochure shows happy, smiling people striking a yoga pose or running gleefully down the beach, where is there room for real people doing the best they can? At times, “health improvement” can feel like a distant fairytale reserved only for the lucky few.

Many times on our individual health journeys, we allow expectations – expectations from ourselves, our doctors, or other people in our lives – to set the standards for our health at unattainable levels. We focus on a lofty goal or perception that just isn’t realistic for day-to-day life. This results in the common experience of individuals feeling badly about their interactions with their health. The consumer world understands how important it is to make a person feel good about their interactions with a brand or product, but the health industry seems to have it backwards. It’s time to flip the script and focus on incremental, attainable improvement.

Here at Well, we don’t focus on being “perfect”. Our philosophy is simply about improvement. Have a set back on a goal? No worries. Try again tomorrow. At Well, we want to replace self-criticism with compassion for the process of change, which we all know involves stumbling, standing back up, and taking another step. We understand the power of satisfaction in your health journey.


Building Individual Success

So, how do we help people find enjoyment in what previously felt like a string of disappointments? In a word, we become a true partner in each individual’s health, building trust, focusing on encouragement. To trust each other, we need to be honest with each other. That’s why we’ve designed a new kind of health experience that has no labels, no stereotypes, and no judgment. We are in it together for the long haul, listening, learning and doing the best that we can.

As for encouragement, we focus on that in a few different ways:

Empower: We empower each of our members with the best information available to them about their health. We organize the information into bite-sized pieces, so no one is overwhelmed, and we share the right information for each individual’s health context. Hence, members are given the knowledge to understand their health, to have confidence they are focused on the right thing, and to make the choice truly their own. Sometimes, having the right information available at the right time is all we need to take action.

Incent: Sticking to goals or stringing together one step after another is hard work. We get distracted or we get bored. At Well, we use the ‘carrot’ of rewards and incentives to keep our members moving forward. Similar to a retailer sending a discount code to get a customer back on their website, we will send gift cards to keep our members moving towards that new health goal. The goal, action, reward process is a powerful way to introduce a sense of achievement into the health improvement cycle.

Motivate: Having the right information and an occasional nudge is always helpful, but the most powerful lever for building and keeping new habits is an individual’s internal drive. We help our members get used to success in their health. We help them work on things that they actually care about. We also help them overcome behavioral health impediments to health improvement actions. Over time, our members develop an internal enjoyment for taking each step forward. A dopamine pop for their daily journey!

We are trying to get people to change their behavior in ways that will last. Yes, we want our members to break habits, to form new habits, to be successful in their health. But we don’t expect it to happen without a few setbacks. Why? Because that’s real life. And it happens to us too. Don’t believe us? Here’s the leader of our clinical team describing one of her most recent attempts at a new habit:

“I asked for a stationary bike for my birthday and set a goal to do just 10 minutes a day for a few days a week. But life takes over every time. The dishes, the dogs, the kids, that one last email. But when I make myself replace just one action – like writing that extra email – with hopping on the bike for a few minutes – I inch in the right direction!”

  • Amy Molten, Chief Medical Officer

At Well, we don’t believe in aiming for perfect health, because we don’t believe it leads to the best outcomes. We believe in trying, every day, with small steps forward. We believe setbacks are bound to happen. We celebrate vulnerability and imperfections, because these are the things that make us human. Forget about “perfect” health. Let’s focus on health improvement.