We have all heard the phrase the carrot or the stick, but which of these approaches motivates you more? How would you like to find the magic formula that helps you achieve everything you set your heart on? What exactly would you achieve if you no longer self-sabotaged, and more than that, how would it feel to be able to do whatever it takes, and enjoy the process?
Most of us have something that we dream about achieving “if only” we could find the motivation or discipline, and for most of us it’s something that could change our lives for the better. It doesn’t have to be weight loss, it might be to find a new job or a new relationship, or anything in your life you want to change. You want it, but some part of yourself sabotages your best efforts, sometimes not just once, but time after time.
The six-million-dollar question is…Why? When you begin to understand how your brain works, the answer becomes much clearer.
Think about this scenario; when your alarm goes off in the morning do you put it on snooze and snuggle down for a few more moments of pleasure or do you jump out of bed as the thought of being late or rushing around at the last minute is just not an option?
This is the basic concept of pleasure versus pain. Consciously many people are driven to achieve pleasure, it’s what they think about most as they have their eyes on the prize! But unconsciously the natural human instinct is to avoid pain. When we were hunter gatherers, pain usually meant death, so avoiding it is a primal survival instinct. As all our default programmes are created and stored in our unconscious mind, this is where the real change needs to take place.
We must create a strategy that removes the pain of doing things we don’t like. We must find a strategy that minimises pain, that is as easy to adapt to as possible. This is an important factor when creating goals and strategies. In simple terms if you decide you want a new job but really hate interviews, the thought of doing what it takes to achieve your goal is more painful than not achieving the goal; so instead of putting yourself through the pain of being interviewed, you settle for the job you don’t want. You settle for less.
Likewise, if you want to lose weight but the thought of going on a diet or going to the gym means doing things you don’t want to do, then you are likely to choose to stay overweight, or fat. In short, the pain associated with change is stronger than the desire for the end result. This also explains why people stay in bad relationships so long, the thought of dating or the fear of being on your own is more painful than staying where you are for some people. There’s many ways to settle for less.
The great news is that you can you get over this totally natural primal desire to not experience pain and still achieve your goal. How? Well the simple (but not always easy) answer is to create a strategy that is as pain free as possible, and to begin to associate more pain with NOT changing. This can be harder for some things, such as changing your job where not going for an interview is not an option! But if you want to lose weight and you hate the thought of going to the gym, but you would like to spend more time with your mates, try booking a badminton court once a week and playing together, or perhaps going to a dance class, do anything that makes exercise fun.
When it comes to foods I have one rule that I give all my weight loss clients and that is “If you don’t like it – don’t eat it – no matter how healthy it is”. People get so many negative anchors from dieting because they spend so much time eating things they don’t like and don’t eat the things they do like. No wonder they self-sabotage!
So how would it be if you could look at a bag of crisps or some other food that makes you fat, but you eat anyway because you enjoy it, and genuinely not want it. No need for will power! Have you ever eaten or drank anything and afterwards been ill? When I was pregnant I once ate lemon chicken and was so sick afterwards that I can’t even bear the thought of ever eating lemon chicken again. I associate pain with something that used to give me pleasure. A very obese friend once asked me where she could buy some XXL lycra workout shorts, astonished I congratulated on her decision to be more active, “oh no” she said, “I’m not going to exercise, but my legs are so fat that where they rub together, I have so many scabs my thighs look like an infected bag of crisps”. Yuk. I told this story to a client who was getting through 6 packs of crisps per day, and then invited her to visualise eating “scabs” and imagine what her thighs would look and feel like covered in these disgusting scabs. Within 5 minutes the thought of eating crisps went from pleasure to pain. This is a simple technique that allows you make changes naturally without feeling deprived.
When you understand how thought patterns and behaviours are created it becomes easier to deconstruct and change them, without pain.
Watch this short video from a previous blog to help you stop making those instant decisions that are making you unhealthier and fatter.