It's important to stay the course as an Astronaut. Being off course, by a few degrees every day can end you up in the wrong solar system.
Scientists have found that the idea of visualizing your goal is not powerful enough to help you reach it. In fact, it can have the opposite effect. Just visualizing the goal relaxes you too much. Your Assistant feels like you already reached the goal. Now she's ready to slack and enjoy the reward of reaching the goal.
But, there is something you can do to help you reach your goal. It's called Mental Contrasting. Mental contrasting is where you visualize your goal and then notice that you aren't there yet. There is a divide between your desired future and your current situation. And, then you notice that there are obstacles today that could keep you from ever reaching your weight loss goal.
The “mental contrasting” of your goal and its benefits and then the obstacles you'll face creates a “necessity to act”—which is essential for actually achieving your goals. This exercise gets both the Boss and the Assistant fired up about your big goal, and puts them on the offensive and the defensive for the battle of the day.
Just visualizing your goal relaxes you too much. The mental contrasting fires you up to act.
Doing this simple, quick exercise every morning as part of your morning routine is a powerful way to address any obstacles and keep you from having to rely on willpower when faced with temptation. Making a plan beforehand turns down the heat, so the temptation doesn't feel so enticing.
How to Do Mental Contrasting
1. Think of a goal you’d like to achieve (i.e. reaching your goal weight).
2. Imagine achieving it. (Get specific here. Maybe imagine seeing your doctor and she gives you the good news that you get to go off of medication.)
3. Feel good about achieving your goal, but do NOT stop there.
4. Now, think about what might get in the way of you achieving that goal today (i.e. Ice cream in the freezer).
5. Come up with a strategy to ensure you overcome today's obstacle (move leftover ice cream to the freezer in the garage. Make plans for your next dessert day.)
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Addition to Your Morning Routine
You've been working on reading your Big Why and getting on the scale every morning. It's an important part of your routine. It's something very simple, but it brings great results. Isn't it surprising how such a little thing can make such a big difference?
Well, we’re going to add one small thing onto that routine. You're going to be surprised at how it kicks up that routine even more. It makes weight loss even bigger and more effective.
The Truth about Visualization
Researchers have found that when you visualize your future, when you think about how things are going to be when you've lost 20, 30, 40 pounds, it's actually demotivating.
What they found is that that idea—that future that you envision—it's actually so rewarding that you're de-motivated. Your blood pressure goes down. You're relaxed. You feel like you've already reached that goal. And, that's actually not good news when it goes comes to moving forward and losing weight.
It's that idea that was popularized by the book, The Secret, where all you have to do is envision your future and it will happen. There is probably some truth (that it helps your goal) to know what you want— like we've been doing with the five whys. But, what researchers have found is really effective is to bring your future down to the “micro level” day-to-day. And, that's with a process experts call mental contrasting. And, here's how you do it.
Get a clear future picture
As part of this mental contrasting technique, we are going to create a picture of an experience that embodies that Big Why for us.
If you're a Big Why is about being able to play with your children or grandchildren, I want you to have a mental picture in your mind of actually doing that. Maybe taking them to a theme park or taking them to a park where you need all of that energy.
Let's say that your Big Why is about being really confident at work and having the energy and the mental clarity to do that. Then, maybe you would see yourself in a big presentation where everyone claps because it was so amazing.
Or maybe it's just feeling confident from day-to-day so you have a picture of yourself enjoying a Caribbean cruise in whatever outfit you want.
Maybe it's that you want to be in shape and healthy when you're older. Let’s say you view yourself doing a 5Kk when you're 70!
Whatever it is, I want you to have a very clear mental picture.
Now, you don't have to replay this whole scene in your mind, but just have that clear picture.
Contrast and Identify Obstacles
Then, what you do is you take that clear picture, and you contrast it with where you are now. You're not quite there yet.
Then, you think of what obstacles will be in your way today. What's going to keep you from getting there in the future?
Then you come up with a plan for those obstacles. If you're thinking, “Oh, I might not want to exercise today because I can't do it as soon as I wake up because I've got a meeting.”
Then you would think, “Okay, well what can I do to get around that?”
If you think, “Oh, today is Friday, it's donut day at work. What kind of plan am I going to put into place so I don't eat donuts?”
Plan a Solution
Whatever it might be, I want you to think of the obstacles you might face today and come up with one way you're going to get around that obstacle.
Again, this is that technique, mental contrasting technique . To do mental contrasting, you’re going to be contrasting side-by-side what you want for your future, where you are now, and what obstacles might get in the way today.
When your brain sees the difference between where you are now and where you want to go, this creates a tension that is very motivating to your brain to act. You're getting the Boss part of your brain involved— thinking about, What are the obstacles?” And, then you're giving a clear plan to the Assistant (subconscious part of your brain), so she knows exactly what to do.
When it comes to moving towards that future, it comes down to what we do in this moment—what we do today.
Add this one little piece (mental contrasting) to that morning routine that you already have. You're going to find you lose even more weight. And, you're going feel like you have a better control of what's happening today. So, go ahead and try it.