Thursday, July 12, 2012

Raising the consequences of failure (and psyching yourself out)

I'm reading a pretty interesting book right now: "The Accidental Creative: how to be brilliant at a moment's notice" (cool title, right?) and the author brought up this scenario:

"...imagine  that there is a wood plank lying across the floor, twenty feet long and six inches wide."  If I asked you whether you could walk across it, what would you say?  If I asked you to try to walk across it, would you be willing to attempt it?  I bet most of you would be willing to at least try -- and more than likely, most of you would be successful.


"...imagine that the plank has been elevated to a height of one hundred feet in the air and is suspended between two buildings."  Now what would your answer be?  Could you walk across?  Would you try?

Interestingly enough, the skills you need to be successful in this task haven't changed.  If you said "yes", you would do the first task but "no" to the second, why is that?  It's not any more technically difficult -- but.... the results of failure between the two tasks are much different, aren't they?

Let's think about all the things you do everyday:

You get out of bed.
You do some kind of grooming routine.
You change your clothes.
You go to work.
You take care of your kids.
You are kind to others even when you don't really want to be.
You wait at traffic lights.
You listen to your boss.

I could go on but I won't.

There are lots of things in any given day that you do -- because you have to.

Why should weight management be any different?  They are basic skills -- eating less than your mouth wants to.  Thinking before you eat something left out on the break table.  Not giving in to the tractor beam of the drive-thru.

Could it be that we don't follow through on these goals because the psychological "risk" of failure feels like it has gone up?  Have you ever heard yourself say, "I might as well have this now because sooner or later I know I'm going to give in anyway."?  So you let yourself off the hook because you do not believe you will ultimately be successful and the perceived risk of failure further down the line is greater (once everyone has seen how much weight you've lost, you've bought all new clothes and are just settling in to feeling pretty good about yourself) that you're afraid to fully commit to this new lifestyle -- so you give up while the board is still on the floor because you're afraid you won't be able to do it when you're 100 feet off the ground? that the kind of thinking that gonna get you some place you want to be?

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