Imagining goals doesn’t quite cut it
It’s a fact. Our brains don’t distinguish very much between imagining something and doing it! Mentally rehearse your perfect golf swing and your real one gets better. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Pity it doesn’t work with losing weight.
The trick is to imagine fully enough. We have to be able to imagine something in its entirety and reasonably accurately. We must have no objections or leave anything out!
That’s the rub. By the time you can imagine something completely, or be totally confident that it will work, you have done it already, and probably often!
Using our brain’s confusion to our advantage but keeping it real
We want to capitalize on the inability of our brains to distinguish fact from fiction but we also want to keep it real. We want to use our imagination to get us going, but bear in mind that we still have to do whatever it is that we do. We still have to stumble and fall, and get ourselves up again. (In fact, stumbling and falling and getting up again must be part of the story that we imagine – we need that skill of error recovery too!)
The ravine exercise
I’ve been using David Whyte’s story of walking alone in Nepal and coming to a ravine with a rickety bridge. He couldn’t cross it and he couldn’t double back because he had insufficient supplies. Panic!
We often find ourselves in similar predicaments. We look at what we want – the other side of the ravine. And we look at the bridge. It’s too rickety to walk on. The gap between where we are now and where we want to be feels too big. We can’t help ourselves. Our attention is drawn to the gap. We stare at the ravine and the long drop down – and we can think of nothing else.
The current advice is to do what you would do if you are on the edge of the ravine: check your pockets, see what you have to help you, make sure you are safe. Get your feet back on the ground. Then funnily, you find a way out of your predicament. Or, at least survive until the rescue party arrives.
This metaphor works – but it is still hard to do. The ravine draws our attention no matter how hard we try not to look at it.
The fast forward exercise
I’ve been trying out another mental trick but I haven’t tested it fully. Would you try it too and let me know how it works?
Think of yourself as you are now, warts and all. Now play yourself forward 10 years. Don’t change a thing. Just make yourself older and fatter!
You probably won’t like the image all that much. And you will be motivated to take the next step. List the first thing to change and do it right now.
Do you do it? Of course keep a record too. In a few weeks, you’ll look back and be surprised at how much you have got done.
I’d also like to know how much effort it took and whether you got a lot done attending to little things. The extra chocolate biscuit. The internet banking that is not done. Whatever!
The psychology of forward movement
The psychology is simple. We keep our feet firmly on the ground rooted in now. We imagine what we can imagine – what we understand – and roll it forward with obvious changes – slower, greyer, not as good looking.
Then do what has to be be done now. It is so much easier!
At least, I hope it is. Do tell me!