Did you know that you have two parts to your brain, one that works on an emotional level and one that uses reasoning and logic?
If you have a goal that you’d like to achieve, either a life goal or a weight loss goal, learning how to work with these two parts of your brain can help you succeed.
If you can learn this lesson and apply it in all areas of your life, you’ll also be able to teach it to those whom are most important to you, to help them achieve their potential.
The achievement of any goal that’s important to you will typically require being consistent and minimising deviations.
Have you ever wanted to read a book, but found yourself mindlessly surfing the internet? Suddenly a few hours have gone and suddenly it’s way past bed and book time. Which part of your brain won: the emotional or the logical?
Say you have a goal to lose weight and shape up. This involves sticking to your eating plan, your exercise plan and your go-to-bed-early sleeping plan, and then someone brings home a box of chocolates and a movie?
This is when the conflict starts.
Your logical brain tries to work for you to do (or avoid) what’s necessary to keep you on course. Your emotional brain is a slave to instant gratification and comes up with every type of internal dialogue to steer you off course. “It’s only a little bit.” “One night won’t hurt.” “I don’t feel like it.” “I deserve it.”
Your logical brain is concerned for your future and your emotional brain is only concerned for the present, and your feelings.
The part of your brain that wins really depends upon the scenario and how well you've prepared yourself for the scenario.
Impulses happen in scenarios when the emotional brain trumps the logical brain, or the logical brain has not been prepared in advance. Broccoli or chocolate?
"Our emotional brain has a hard time imagining the future, even though our logical brain clearly sees the future consequences of our current actions," says Laibson at Harvard University. "Our emotional brain wants to max out the credit card, order dessert and smoke a cigarette. Our logical brain knows we should save for retirement, go for a jog and quit smoking."
Four Ways You Can Succeed by Helping Your Logical Brain
1. When setting goals, attach emotion to their outcome
Not only can achieving a worthwhile goal bring immense happiness, the steps along the way can be a source of happiness as well. Setting a clear vision of you achieving a specific goal and a clear vision of how that will make you feel, can be very strengthening.
If you haven't done it already, make sure you complete the My Vision Statement on page 7 of your Healthy Inspirations Daily Planner and read it twice a day for the next 30 days. It sounds "woo woo" but the process is used by top sports psychologists to help sports people achieve their potential.
So, don’t just set the goal, image the emotion that will come with its achievement. Then write this out and read it twice a day.
The next step is to get crystal clear on the daily habits, like pre-planning meals and shopping, that will take you to your goal.
2. Control your environment – inside and outside your body
Let’s start with your internal environment. One of the mantras promoted with the Healthy Inspirations eating plans is “Eat according to your plan to stay ahead of hunger, as hunger is the enemy of weight loss.” This means that you have to pre-plan your meals and pre-plan your shopping lists and protein snacks, so you are always surrounded by the foods and snacks that keep you satiated.
Have you ever gone shopping when hungry? It's harder to avoid tempting snacks.
Next, you should control your external environment. Imagine the following scenarios and choose the one that will be easiest for your logical brain to manage your restraint:
- There’s an open clear-glass bowl full of Smarties on your desk at work each day.
- The same clear-glass bowl is there but it has a lid on it.
- The bowl is opaque and it has a lid on it.
- The bowl is in the office kitchen on the bench.
- The bowl is in the office kitchen and in a cupboard.
- There is no bowl of Smarties.
Obviously, it will be easier for your logical brain if you minimise or avoid the confrontations. Have you heard of “decision fatigue”? That’s when the stress of constant decisions (big and small) wears down our self-control – the logical brain.
To minimise decision fatigue, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg mainly wears grey tshirts.
For the same reason, President Obama would mainly wear blue or grey suits.
Anything you can do to create structures and rituals to reduce the small and big decisions you need to make every day, can make your journey to success easier.
Use environmental control to minimise tempting scenarios and to make the good habits easier. Prepare meals in advance. (Some do all meals weekly and freeze them.)
- Put your gym gear or walking shoes by the front door before you go to bed.
- Keep a glass of water on your desk.
- Drive or walk home by a route that does not pass your favourite ice cream store.
Figure out your most common distractions and temptations and deal with them now.
3. Look after your emotional brain
Do some non-food things that make you feel good.
- Watch a comedy.
- Join a singing group.
- Have a hot bath.
- Get a colouring in book and pencil set.
- Set aside a time where you have your own space to sit and read a good book, and tell others to leave you alone for this 30 minutes a day.
- Get outdoors in the sunshine each day - preferably at the same time - make a recurring booking in your daily calendar. If you need to meet with someone, have a walking meeting.
- When did you last walk around the block – and without your phone?
4. Just do it!
There’s power in just taking action, even though you can hear your emotional juke box playing a record. Just say hello to that record and move regardless. Think “Mind over mattress.” Once you get moving you establish some momentum. How many times have you said “I didn’t feel like going to the gym but I feel so much better now.”
Have you ever seen a space rocket taking off and the controller counts “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, blast off”. There’s no stopping the rocket. Counting down has a more powerful effect on the brain than counting up. If you say to yourself “I’ll count to 10 and then get moving.” You might just keep counting. Try the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Go Rule. It will help your logical brain get control and help you achieve your goals.
As your brain's thoughts (logical and emotional) drive your actions and inactions, you want to employ as many clever strategies as possible to make the goal-achieving strategies a habit. That way you’ll hit your weight and fitness goals so much easier and you’ll be able to maintain them so much easier.
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“If the fire in your heart is strong enough, it will burn away any obstacles that come your way.”