When we want to change something in our lives, we are making a conscious decision – we mentally choose to do it.
Our goal may be:
- To lose weight.
- To get a new job.
- To save up for a holiday.
- Or anything else you want to achieve.
However, as soon as we consciously decide on our goal, we are mostly battling with our unconscious minds to achieve it – i.e. we don’t have full control.
There are so many things going on in our lives that we simply can’t think consciously about all of them. To save time, effort and energy, our minds run mostly on auto-pilot.
Your brain’s auto-pilot system allows things to run in the background without you having to think about them hardly at all.
Examples Of Your Auto-Pilot System
- You can tie your shoelaces but probably can’t describe how you do it.
- Once you learn to ride a bike, you never forget.
- You brushed your teeth today, but may not remember doing it.
- You suddenly find yourself on Facebook and you can’t remember why.
- You can drive while holding a conversation.
- You may feel the urge to do things like binge eat or smoke in certain situations.
Of course, the first time (and quite a few times after) you do these things, you have to really think about them.
However, after a while, the auto-pilot system in our brain creates an “App” (just like on your phone) which contains the necessary steps to carry out the action. The “App” is then stored in our subconscious mind.
The process and necessary steps are packaged up nicely in the “App” – All the complicated bits (like the code in a phone App) are stored within. All you have to think about is just pressing a “virtual play” button to run the App.
When you want to ride a bike or tie your shoelaces – you think about doing them and the App runs. You don’t have to think about all the complicated and intricate steps.
There are some Apps though that are triggered by things in the environment around you. I.e. They are run subconsciously without you realising that they have started. Good examples of this are when you find yourself on Facebook or feel food cravings – the trigger is not obvious but something connected with the situation you are in will have run the App.
Another name for these subconscious Apps or actions is HABITS.
Habits are learnt actions, whether you decided to or not.
A habit can be as simple as doing two things together and associating the two. Eating in front of the TV is an example. Your brain then associates watching TV with having something to eat, so you’ll get a craving for food.
It’s important to know that these subconscious actions exist as bad habits can have a detrimental effect on working towards your goals – and they could be triggered at any time, and before you realise it, it’s too late!
Barriers to making progress
You have control over everything you do, however without realising it, what you have taught your subconscious mind could be sabotaging your results.
The following are examples of things that are detrimental to achieving your goal:
- Losing motivation
- Low self-belief
- Low self-esteem
Push and Pull goals
When we decide to change, there are two factors that motivate us:
- The thing pushing us away from where we are – The negative emotions.
- The thing pulling us towards where we want to be – The positive emotions.
These can be described as the push and pull goals.
Push goals are something that you don’t want or are trying to avoid happening. We are very motivated by emotional pain. For example, you are much more likely to put effort into stopping someone from stealing £1,000 from you than earning £1,000 extra.
Pull goals are what you DO want. As you progress towards your pull goals, the motivation increases as you start to enjoy the rewards of getting nearer to the goal.
The problem with goals is that people tend to only look at the push motivations. It will become clear why this doesn’t work later on.
Away from (Negative) and Towards (Positive) language:
As well as the Push and Pull goals, we have to think about how we actually phrase the goals as well…
Your brain doesn’t know how to not think about something…
Don’t think of a red balloon…Don’t think of a red balloon…Don’t think of a red balloon…
What are you thinking of?
You can’t control yourself, can you?
The brain is very good at focusing on things, so whatever you give it, will be what it focuses on – it doesn’t matter about the words around the object, so even if you add a “don’t” in front of it, a RED BALLOON will still be conjured in your head.
This becomes really important when thinking about what you want and the push and pull goals you use – remember that I said before that pull goals are often forgotten about.
Push goals use what can be referred to as “away from” language which tends to be very negative. The following are some examples:
- I don’t want to be fat
- I want to lose weight
- I need to reduce my stress
- I need to stop being so self-conscious
As your brain can’t NOT focus on something, using “away from” language makes you concentrate way too much on the negative things in your life.
Just like with the red balloon, your brain will ignore the words around the subject. “I don’t want to be fat” keeps you focused on being fat for example.
The more you focus on these negative words, the more your life will start to revolve around them. Your brain will start to create the Apps to run automatically around things that relate to being fat, overweight, stressed and self-consciousness. This is definitely not what you want.
The solution lies in the pull goals plus changing the “away from” language into “towards” language.
The following are some examples of the same goals as above, but with a change in the way they are presented.
- I want to be fit and lean
- I want to feel more relaxed
- I want to eat a healthy diet
- I want to have great confidence
Hopefully, it’s clear in these examples that your goal is the focus rather than what you want to get away from.
Unfortunately, though it’s very easy to fall into the trap of using “away-from” language.
When we are presented with a problem we focus on it rather than on where we want to be instead. This stops us from setting clear targets for what we actually want.
So, instead of focusing on the problem, focus on what you WANT.
TASK: Write down 5 of your goals using towards-language and from a “pull” rather than “push” perspective.
Phrasing your goals in the present tense will help a lot too. Changing the “I want”, “I feel” etc…for “I will”, “I am” etc…will start to make you act as if you have completed your goal, and then the habits and identity shift required to maintain this lifestyle will catch up as a result.
It’s also important that:
1: You set a wide range of goals and they will complement each other. E.g. Don’t just set a goal of how you want to look, but set a goal of how you want to feel as well! A lot of people set a body image goal thinking it will change how they feel but remain unhappy when they reach it. To change how you feel, you have to work on the mental aspects as well.
2: Your goal target sits between a range rather than being a specific number. It’s difficult to achieve something and keep it where it is – especially with weight loss. This is why it’s important to choose a “happy” range, where you’d feel comfortable sitting. This will make you feel more comfortable when your weight does fluctuate a little. When you do want to, you can push a little bit more for important events (like a holiday or wedding), then relax at other times when you want to enjoy yourself (all within this range). When you go outside your “happy” range, you know it’s time to focus a bit more.
If you would like some help setting and achieving your weight loss goals, feel free to get in contact.