Using Cue Words to Stay Motivated

Woman Doing Yoga Exercises In Gym, Sport Fitness Girl Sitting Lotus PoseUsing Cue Words to Stay Motivated
Lately I have been playing around with the voices in my head. OK, I admit, that sounds rather strange, but follow me for a minute. We all talk to ourselves. I think I probably talk to myself non-stop throughout the day when I am not engaged in an actual conversation with another person. I would love to have a transcript of all the things I say to myself throughout the day. I am guessing I am not alone on this.

Do you talk to yourself? What does the voice sound like? Is it generally pleasant, or it is mean and critical? One way we have a positive effect on our goals is by changing up the way we talk to ourselves, using cue words. I will admit, I won’t be able to change all the negative voices in your head in one article, however, cue words are a very effective way to easily help us stay on track with our goals.

Here is an example of how the process of developing cue words can work. This week I have been rather busy studying for finals. When I study, I feel extra snacky. I want snacks!!! The café cookies and brownies were looking extra good this day. I took a moment to check in with my body and really connect with my cravings. Urge surfing is a technique that I walk through with my clients in session that have challenges with snacking. So I checked in with my body and I said to my body, what is this feeling? Then I noticed I said to myself: “I feel unsettled.” I took a deep breath and did some brief mindfulness and I said to myself “Settle in.” Ahhhhh!! Instantly I relaxed and felt better. I repeated settle in a few times and the craving went away.

Now you can use this technique to help with cravings, to motivate yourself for a workout, or any other behavior that you are wanting a little extra motivation with. Cue words are usually used in a performance context, but I tweaked it, because those of us on a fitness journey of sculpting our bodies have additional challenges with our sport or lifestyle when it comes to hunger.
 

Step 1: Identify an area that you want to have more motivation with. It could be to workout, to eat healthy.

Step 2: Connect with the feeling. It is good to do this in real time. For example, if you are not wanting to go to the gym, do this right then on the spot. Check in with your feeling and ask yourself: “What is this feeling about?” Or something like that. Take a few moments to connect with it.

Step 3: Take a few nice deep breaths and you wait for the communication from your body. Relax into whatever the feeling is.

Step 4: Identify a cue word based on how you feel. For example, I was feeling unsettled, so I said to myself settle in.

Step 5: Repeat your cue word several times to test the effectiveness. If it is not very strong, repeat the steps and create a new cue word.

Step 6: Write your cue word down and use it as often as you like for similar situations.

That’s it, that’s all there is to it. I hope you enjoy this technique and find it helpful especially now at a very tempting time of the year. I like to say, if you can eat healthy this time of year, you can do it anytime.

Also be sure to visit my audios if you are wanting some extra motivation in this potentially challenging time of the year. Here is the link:

And if you are interested in some personalized attention, check out my customized programs. I would be happy to offer you a complete custom nutrition plan along with all the mental tricks custom to your situation. 

Until next time,

Nancy Georges

IFBB Figure Pro
Contest Prep Coach
Mental Game Coach

The Mental Game of Dieting for Competition

broccolibrat

Transforming Hunger
The Mental Game of Dieting for Competition  

What I am about to talk about is a very controversial subject. I want to approach this subject with extreme care. I am going to talk about hunger, and how to accept it as part of the dieting process. I am sure you can already see why this is controversial, since hunger is our body telling us that we need food and it is mandatory for our survival.

So, I will issue a warning, that is, I am assuming that your diet is enough food to sustain you but you are still hungry. If you are having problems with memory, concentration and focus, extreme headaches, and lack of motivation, or if your diet is under 1200 calories, then the probability that you are not eating enough is higher. Each person will be on a case by case basis but, I want you to be responsible enough to gauge whether or not you need to change you plan of action (i.e.: the diet) or change the way you are thinking about it. If you feel you are eating enough calories and you trust your support team, then please read on. If you are having any concerns then please consider a second opinion to your procedure.

The subject of hunger came up because of several athletes that have mentioned to me they are struggling with hunger. In addition, I was having a conversation with my sport psychologist recently about the sport and we were talking about hunger, and he was asking what I do when I get hungry. And I said, well you are going to be hungry, there is no way around that. He seemed pretty surprised by that. I just accept hunger as part of the process. I told him that I reframe hunger into my hunger for how I want to look. And the better you look, the easier it is to live with the hunger. He really did seem shocked. He said, so hunger is inevitable? I said, of course, it is a diet. I said most people (non-competitors) eat at the smallest discomfort, they don’t even wait to be hungry. So the reality is, most people never feel real hunger. This got me thinking and wondering if people really think that they are going to diet and not feel hungry, seriously? We are reducing our calories, so of course there will be hunger. Which got me to wondering what other misnomers are out there about dieting and the competition journey. I always claim for things to be easy and I stand by that. However, I do feel hunger. It is the way I perceive it that is what makes the process easy for me. Here are some other common threads that we have as competitors. Now, this is not a license to complain, rather an awareness to reframe and use some mental techniques to help make the journey you are on easy and fun.

Normalizing the Dieting Journey

1. You will feel hungry. I think that we all are in agreement that we will feel hungry. However, stating it as such that everyone feels it, really puts it into perspective. There is nothing wrong with your hunger signals, they are real and we all feel them. We are used to grazing. So, when we set up a plan to eat every three hours and not snack in between, it is difficult. The sooner you make peace with hunger, the sooner you get shredded.

2. You will sometimes have lower energy. This also surprises some people. I am going to be upfront, we all feel this too. Some of us hide it better than others, some of us drink more coffee than others, but we all go through periods during dieting where we feel tired and we don’t want to go to the gym, or fold our clothes or wash our hair. Seriously, sometimes washing my hair during contest prep is just a hassle. Now you know, we are all feeling it, even if we don’t say so.

3. You will sometimes get irritated about things that normally don’t bother you. When I am dieting and I hear someone complain about something that seems trivial to me I am thinking… seriously? Do you realize that I did an hour of cardio, spend an hour packing my food, and had a weight workout before you even woke up this morning? I like to pretend that I am stoned. (not that I have ever been stoned) but if I had been, I would want to feel stoned when someone was saying something annoying so it would just roll off my back like no big deal. Realize we are a little hypersensitive and give others the benefit of the doubt that their behavior would probably not be that annoying if we had just ate an entire pizza.

4. Some people will comment on how you look in a negative way. This is probably the hardest one to deal with, feeling fantastic about how you look and then someone saying, you look tired, are you OK? Or you look sick, you really should eat. Or, are you still doing that diet thing? People don’t get it. I stopped trying to force them to get it. I don’t let it bother me.

5. You may feel lonely or isolated. This is probably the most difficult. We so want people to understand and appreciate what we do. As it gets closer, we do limit our social activities, but that does not mean we need to be or feel isolated. We usually connect through food, but we don’t have to. Find other ways to connect with people. It is challenging but it can be done. Make peace with many people not getting what you are doing, this will also be very beneficial in helping make the process easy.

6. You will wonder if this is worth it, or if you should quit. This may not come into play until a few weeks out. But, most athletes at some point in the contest prep will have an emotional meltdown (or two) wondering if it is all worth it. I remember one time having a meltdown and crying over nothing as I recall it. I was sincerely and honestly upset. I finished my rant to my boyfriend, then lifted up my shirt and said, and look at my abs, my abs are shredded! And I continued to cry. No joke. Doesn’t happen daily but it happens. Make sure you have a strong support team that will be there for you when you need it.

I hope you found this list helpful, there are of course many many other things I could have selected, but in the 20 years that I have been competing and coaching, those are the ones that stand out to me most. My thought process around all of these subjects is to find ways to make them a normal part of your process. Not everyone is going to understand what we do, personally I don’t care. I want what I want for me, not for anyone else anyway. So if I don’t get the approval, I don’t try to force it down people’s throat like a religion, but if they want to ask me questions about what I am doing, then I will share, and of course I hope they join in on the healthy eating bandwagon, because that is one less stressor in my life, however, I don’t need other’s approval in order to move forward to achieve my goals. I move from the passion of my heart, that is my guiding force. I hope that it is yours also. At the end of the day, very few will really get what we are doing, and that is OK. That is what the fitness community is for.

Mental Game Tools: Hunger Resources
Hypnosis Download: Appetite Control
Visualization Exercise: Nutrition Compliance
Nutrition and Life Balance: Inner Athlete Coaching

Visualization Exercise to Increase Motivation to Achieve Fitness Goals

This visualization exercise to increase motivation includes the goal setting segment. easy visualization exercise to help increase your motivation to achieve your goals. I made the mental exercise as vague as possible to be for any event, competition, wedding, photo shoot, important business meeting, vacation, you fill in the good stuff, I guide you on the journey.

Download the worksheet:
Link to PodBean Episode

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Week 3: Pre-contest diet without a contest

Can Mental, Emotional and Physical Transformation Be Reduced to a Number on a Scale?

It’s the end of week three, and I am still going strong on my pre-contest diet without a contest. My birthday was yesterday, no cake. I didn’t even want any cake. To be honest, it was weird. Once I lock in the diet is easy. The ease of locking into the diet is something that I address in this video, because I know there are people who do struggle with this, and I don’t want to make light of your struggles at all.

The question that came up for me this week in my candid video is this: Can a mental, emotional and physical transformation be reduced to a number on a scale? It is ridiculous I know, but we all do it.

Part of my emotional transformation this week is exploring the resistance. Last week, I seemed to be in the zone with allowing every emotion to come at me with reckless abandon. This week, I have been a little resistance, and I will explore why in my video.

So here’s week three. Let me know if there are any questions you have or anything you want me to address next week. I am feeling committed to another week, so feel free to email me what emotions you would like me to explore while I am on my nutrition plan. Sorry for the rambling at the end. Like I have mentioned, I don’t edit, I just let the video run and the thoughts come out of my mouth.

Week 1: Pre-contest diet without a contest. Is Dieting Really Easy?

Hello, it’s me again. I decided to do a mid-month newsletter this month. I have something that feels important that I want to share with you today. You may know that I stopped competing in 2009 due to a back injury. I have not been 100 percent since. But this update is not about my recovery, rather it is about me moving forward in spite of not having recovery. It is about embracing where I am and being ok with it, even if it feels not ok, and moving forward.

I started a pre-contest diet a week ago today. No, I am not competing. But, I am doing this for several reasons, the first is obvious, let’s face it, I can stand to lose a few pounds. But the second and more important reason is to feel my emotions. Before I was in chronic pain, I never considered doing anything to numb myself to life. After six years of pain, trust me, I have found a multitude of ways to numb myself to pain.

Recently, I have been in less physical pain, and I have decided to feel my emotions in all their glory… Well, let me say, they are not all that glorious. I wanted to do a video so you can see the raw emotional tone of my week as I launch into week one of my pre-contest (without a contest) diet. My diet this past week consisted of 1800 calories, no just-a-bites, no alcohol and no sugar. I cut out most of my fruit as well. I had a small amount of fruit on Friday due to a splitting headache from cutting sugar. As of now my energy is good, and my workouts are strong.

I hope you enjoyed this month’s video newsletter. I know I am not as elegant on video as I am in writing. Hopefully it brings some light on the important subject of being who we really are, while we strive for increased excellence in our lives.

Nancy

July 2015: How Happy Relationships Help With Goal Achievement

Couple of scubadivers looking at camera in water holding hands as if flying

When I refer to balance, I don’t mean that every area of life is equally balanced. That is not realistic. If we are pursuing a specific goal, it is a given that there will be an increased emphasis on the particular area that is the goal, which naturally leaves a decrease in focus on one or more other areas. But balance is still important.

For example, one of the elements that is of upmost importance to me is a person’s support system. If I am working with someone who is having challenges in their relationships, then the relationships need to get tended to first and foremost. It is simply more important to cultivate meaningful relationships than it ever will be to get in great shape. I never really had a rhyme or reason to this philosophy, other than it just seems like common sense to me.

That is, until Hofmann, Finkel, and Fitzsimons generated some clarity for me with their study on relationship satisfacation as it relates to the ability to self-regulate and achieve goals. They argues for the importance of happy relationships as it relates to goal pursuit. The hypothesis of the article is that people who are in happy relationships have a much easier time pursuing their goals as well as practicing self-regulation. Naturally, I had to investigate.

Relationship Satisfaction and Goal Achievement

Being the self-regulation advocate that I am, I had to write about this brand new study done by Hofmann, Finkel, and Fitzsimons (2015) which argues that people high on state relationship satisfaction have an easier time with self-regulation and ultimately, goal achievement. I want to discuss their “four parameters of effective self-regulation.”

Hofmann, Finkel, and Fitzsimons (2015) base their hypothesis on relationship satisfaction being correlated to self-regulation using the following four factors.

The first self-regulatory factor is perceived control. That is the extent to which a person feels the ability to achieve their goals are within their control. This includes feeling like they have the ability to take the proper action as well as have a stable environment that allows them to focus on these goals. Hofmann et al., (2015) claim that the way relationship contentment affects perceived control is through the emotional stability that satisfying relationships provide. This is not exclusive to romantic partner relationships.

The second self-regulatory factor is goal focus. This refers to a person’s ability to maintain focus on a desired goal. Hofmann et al., (2015) argue that goals are held in working memory, and unsatisfying relationships take up cognitive load that distracts a person from their goals.

The third self-regulatory factor is perceived partner support. This refers to the extent to which a person feels that they are being supported in their endeavors. Hofmann et al., (2015) state that social support offers us an increase in motivation and helps us to reach our goals. When we feel like someone has our back and is cheerleading for us, it helps increase motivation.

The fourth self-regulatory factor is positive affect. Happy relationships put us in a good mood right? Well, for the most part, yes this is true. Hofmann et al., (2015) state that the better mood we are in, the more positive behaviors we will engage in that are related to our goals. They also state that since we are not bombarded with intrusive thoughts and concerns about our relationships, we have extra energy to focus on our goals.

Hoffman et al., (2015) did find a correlation between positive close relationships and one’s ability to self-regulate in order to achieve their goals. I will leave the reference if you are interested in the details of the study.

For the purpose of my newsletter, I simply wanted to flush out the ideas of the importance of positive communication with those that are important in our lives. It is an important consideration simply to enhance interpersonal communication, but it turns out having positive relationships, also benefits us with goal achievement. Now go hug someone you love.

Reference: Hofmann, W., Finkel, E.J., & Fitzsimons, G.M. (2015). Close relationships and self-regulation: How relationship satisfaction facilitates momentary goal pursuit. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1-19.

June 2015: How to Reduce the Need for Self-Control

Successful couple of young athletes raising arms to golden summer sunset sky after training. Fitness man and woman with arms up celebrating sport goals after exercising in countryside field.Willpower, self-regulation, and self-control; whatever you call it, many claim it is the cornerstone to success with goal achievement. In fact, I have written many articles myself on being able to increase willpower and self-regulation.

Recently I came across an article by Job, Bernecker, Miketta and Friese (2015) that argues will power is not in limited supply. In other words, just because we utilize willpower to go to the gym, does not mean we will be any less capable of using this resource to say no to that cookie. It is a fascinating study that aims to prove the only people that are limited in their ability to use willpower are those that believe it is a limited resource. That’s right, if you believe you have limited willpower, then you do. This new insight got me to thinking. Why do we need to use willpower or self-control at all? If we want a goal, why don’t we just do what needs to get done to achieve it? Why can’t we treat our goals like brushing our teeth? We do it every day. It takes daily effort, yet the cognitive load on this activity is almost non-existent. What if we applied the same concept of brushing our teeth to achieving our goals? What if our goals didn’t take self-control at all, rather they were a series of automated behaviors, just like brushing our teeth? Sounds too simple doesn’t it?

Recently I have taken on some new health behaviors that looking back on how I implemented them, they carried very little need for self-control to implement them. All I did was create a plan, write it in my calendar and then performed the tasks. They were small tasks, nonetheless, as I was going for my daily morning walk this morning that I have been doing for about two months now, I got to thinking how natural and easy it has been to incorporate that activity into my daily routine. I started with a plan to go for a walk first thing in the morning three times a week. I did that until I was successful, then I increased it to four, then five, now, I go for a 45 minute walk most mornings and I don’t really think about it as a hassle at all. It is an enjoyable part of my morning. And, when I don’t go, I don’t worry about it, I just go about my day and go for a walk the following day.

I have been theorizing for some time now, that when we have goals, we tend to make sweeping changes in our lives that require cognitive load and take mental space, which causes us to utilize willpower or self-control in order to implement our new activity. But, what if like my morning walk, you made changes in your life in the same way?

There is only one way to find out if my hypothesis is true for you, and that is to try it. Here are some simple steps.

  1. Think about a goal that you have.
  2. What’s one behavior that you can do this week that will move you in the direction of that goal?
  3. Write it down in your calendar. Put the days and times that you will do this activity. Make it simple, maybe three times a week or something like that.
  4. At the end of the week review your progress and make adjustments the following week that are slightly more ambitious.
  5.  Once this behavior gets automated, add a second behavior.

Continue to your heart’s content.

That’s all. A few simple changes now leads to your desired goal later. Here are a few more ideas that will help you to reduce the need to self-control and make your health behaviors an effortless part of your life.

  1. Establish goals that not only have a compelling outcome, but are also fun to do in the process.
  2. Make your workouts fun
  3. Scale back slowly on undesired habits.
  4. Laugh a little, or a lot.
  5. Don’t overthink it.
  6. Get rid of the rules.
  7. De-stress.

Feel free to send me a message and let me know your thoughts. I would love to hear about your success with it.

Reference:

Job, V., Bernecker, K., Miketta, S., Friese, M. (2015, June 15). Implicit theories about willpower predict the activation of a rest goal following self-control exertion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Advance online publication.

February 2015: The Athletic Mindset; How to Develop FOCUS

Close-up portrait of young and beautiful woman with the virtual hologram on her eyes  laser medicine and security technology concept Taking your physique to the next level is not for everyone. I get plenty of emails from aspiring athletes exclaiming their dedication to taking their physique to the next level. But are they ready mentally? Many times they are not. Here is a simple test. If I told you that in order to achieve athletic greatness as you define it, you will have to limit your social media to ten minutes a day, would you do it? I’ll wait for you to take an honest assessment of your answer. But Nancy I have to be on social media for work. Or, but Nancy I have to be on social media for networking and to run my business. But Nancy, I have to… fill in the blank.

The fact of the matter is, over 90% of the people I tell to take specific actions to help them create focus on their goal, just can’t do it. That is why I tell people that competing is not for everyone. It takes a strong mental mindset and a huge amount of self-discipline to create the physique of your dreams, by stepping on stage in a competition. But people don’t believe me, because I preach about how easy the process is. The process is easy if you are willing to do what it takes. So, are you getting ready for competition season right now? Even if you are not and you are simply stepping up your game, the following steps will help you harness your focus. And ultimately, lead you to establishing the discipline required on a daily basis both physically and mentally. Are you ready to step up your mental game? Here is what I do to eliminate distractions and help me laser focus on my goal.

1. Have a goal. This is presupposed really. But if you are going to be cleaning out the extraneous mental clutter, we have to know what goes in its place. What your mind should be focused on as often as possible, is your goal. Is it competing? Is it getting in great shape? What is your goal? Don’t worry about a timetable for now, just establish the goal.

2. Get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. If you are going to achieve your greatness, you have got to stop binge watching Netflix and get your butt to bed.

3. Cut down your social media to ten minutes a day. You probably thought I was joking, but social media is the number one energy draining element of athletes worldwide. Social comparison is an energy draining nightmare.

4. Visualize for 1 hour a day. Since you are not going to be on the computer so much, you have more time for thinking about your goal. So do just that! Think about your goal as often and as long as you can.

5. Eliminate energy drains from your life. Ok, so you can’t up and quit your job because people around you are negative, but you can refrain from engaging them in negative dialog.

6. Eliminate gossiping about other. The reality is if you did this and ten minutes of internet time and replaced that with visualizations, you could have the mindset of the top level pro athlete. The reality is; there is too much work to do on your goals and not enough time to play around with negativity.

7. Seek professional counseling on personal issues. If you are having a personal issue, you want to have a way to deal with it and eliminate it from your life. Look for counselors that are interested in solution-focused therapeutic modalities. Get rid of your negative clutter.

8. Don’t over think things. Don’t stress yourself out about how far away from your goal you are, just keep on going with a positive attitude until you get there. And enjoy the fruits of your labor.

If this list seems overwhelming to you, pick just one thing that you can do this week to step up your mental game. You will see results not only in how you think and feel, but also in how you look.

A final thought about focus, it is about discipline, NOT struggle. Get your mind on what needs to be done and release the struggle. Focused effort requires working smart, not working hard.

January 2015: Self-Regulation Success

cartoonish_character_2008013293-1113int.epsThis month I want to talk about successful self-regulation. I know this won’t be the first time, and most likely it won’t be the last. Self-regulation and self-control in the context of goal achievement are subjects that are near and dear to my heart. I think it would be good to revisit self-regulation since many of us are embarking on new fitness journeys with the demarcation of a new year.

Self-regulation, will power, and self-control are all terms that are used to describe efforts that are made in order to change the way a person responds to a stimulus. For example, when we want to break a habit or create a new habit, we employ our self-regulatory efforts. A logical response right?

The important thing, in my opinion to understand about self-regulation is that it presupposes there is something to regulate. In other words we have a goal in mind. It is no surprise why so many fitness and motivational experts spend so much time on SMART goals. Without a clear direction of where we are going, we are most certainly not going to get there. If we want to curb a behavior, or create a new behavior for that matter, we have to have an idea to what end we have in mind. In other words, why is it important to postpone something that looks really good right now? Whether it be a new dress, a cupcake, a cocktail, gossiping with a friend, or lounging around and watching TV, what motivation do we have to stop these behaviors and start doing something else? How do we know to self-regulate in the first place? The answer is, we have a goal of something that we want.

What is interesting about goals is that once we establish them, we are also setting ourselves up to feel not only good about achieving them, but bad about not achieving them. Goals in part are a cause of low self-esteem. According to Baumeister, Heatherton, and Tice (1994), low self-esteem is nothing more than our inability to self-regulate in order to live up to the standards that we have created for ourselves. Now, I am not going to address depression, this is something completely different, and potentially a medical issue, but we have all felt bad about ourselves at one point or another. In fact, even the media understands this and many companies such as Dove and Lululemon have created ad campaigns to attempt to send a message that we are all ok just the way we are. But what is fascinating is the thought that our own goals and our lack of discipline to achieve our goals is the root of what is creating feelings of low self-esteem.

So, how do we set up goals, and standards of what we desire, AND implement effective self-regulation. This is really in my opinion the key to getting what we want, once of course we know what that is. I am going to offer an easy solution to this dilemma. In fact, the solution is so simple you may even disregard it a first. But it does not require you to do mental mantras or write in your journal, or put yourself in a hypnotic trance to convince yourself that your goals really are worthwhile. It doesn’t require you to create a vision board, or to post love notes on your bathroom mirror. It only requires one thing and that is very simply, to change your environment. Think about all the ways in which you feel that you have not lived up to your own standards and moved in the direction of your goals, where were you? Change your environment. That is it. If you find yourself waking into a bakery, walk out. If you find yourself lying on the couch, get up. If you find yourself with gossipy friends, walk away. (Seriously, you really can walk away). Do whatever you can to make your environment conducive to your goals, that is my challenge for you this January. I know it seems simple, and it really is. I am looking forward to receiving an email from you, detailing your success, just by making this one change.

 

Reference:
Baumeister, R. F., Heatherton, T. F., & Tice, D. M. (1994). Losing Control: How and Why People Fail at Self-Regulation. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

 

December 2013 Newsletter #1: Self Control The Key to Goal Achievement

This month I am very excited to share with you a subject that is very near and dear to my heart. You have heard me talk before about self-control. Well, I am back at it again. But with good reason!

You see; our inability to control ourselves is the cause of so many of our problems. Just fill in the blank on any given subject and most often the challenge is the very specific problem with us taking control of our own minds and doing the tasks that need to get done to achieve the goals we say we want.

It is so strange, if we say we want some goal; we should just wake up one morning and be on our merry way to achieving it, no problems! But unfortunately life doesn’t happen that way, or better put, our brains don’t happen that way.

This month I am going to talk a bit more on the subject of self-control and let’s see if we can all get better at this elusive process.

Self-Control: The Key To Goal Achievement

According to Hedgcok, Vohs and Rao (2012), there are two stages in the process of self-control. The first stage is “recognizing the need for self-control” and the second stage is “implementing controlled responses.” The question that this study answers is in the context of the two stages of self-control. More specifically, what stage is affected by the depletion of resources? The second question addressed was to find out if it was possible to train people to be better at self-regulation.

In order to test which part of the process of self-control was affected, an fMRI was done. The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is hypothesized to be most active during the conflict recognition phase, and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex was hypothesized to be most active during the implementation phase. Hang in there, the point is coming. You will be able to appreciate the study when we discuss the methods of improving self-control.

The results of this study were that the ACC was indeed activated during the task associated with “recognizing the need for self-control.” And it was not effected by former use of self-control. What this means in real world applications is that people do not have a problem with recognizing that self-control should be utilized. The DLPFC was effected by former use of self-control. What this means in real world applications is that people do have a problem in the implementation phase regarding self-regulation. This set the researchers up for the next phase of their study where they tested a behavioral therapy method that would help people improve at the implementation phase.

There were two conditions to the second part of the study. The first they called the “implementation intervention” condition. The second was called the “conflict intervention condition”. The participants in the implementation intervention were told to think about their goal. The participants in the conflict intervention condition were told to be mindful of the conflict between their goal and their immediate needs. At first blush, we can look at these options and logically deduce that it seems more effective to think about the goal only than to think about the goal and at the same time think about competing goals that fulfill more instant needs. And your instinct would be correct if that is what you predicted.

It is far more effective to think about one goal only and not competing goals. So how do we do this? For starters, let’s decide which goal we pick? Do you want the short term goal of instant gratification? If so, that is ok, just be perfectly clear that is what you are doing. Or, do you want a long term goal that you have been thinking about and salivating over for some time now? If so, I say, let’s pick that one.

Now, your only objective is to practice focusing on that. One way is to cut off those other options. Some people find this to be easy and effective. But if you really are conditioned to the goals of immediate gratification, not to worry, I have a super fun exercise for you.

Box of Thoughts Technique:
So you have two competing thoughts, so you will naturally need two boxes. What we are doing in the Box of Thoughts exercise is taking a mental thought and turning it into a physiological process. This allows us to represent physically what we were experiencing in our mind.

1. In the first box, put a list of at least 20 concepts or positive thoughts associated with your goal.
2. The moment you have a thought that is counter to your goal, write that thought down on a piece of paper and put it in the second box.
3. Now, pull out a sheet from the first box that has a list of one of your positive thoughts and this is your new thought to be thinking about.

Repeat this as many times as needed to help train yourself to focus on your goals and not what is conflicting with your goals.

That’s all there is to it! I hope you have enjoyed this month’s newsletter and the Box of Thoughts technique.

Reference:

Hedgcock, W. M., Vohs, K. D., & Rao, A. R. (2012). Reducing self-control depletion effects through enhanced sensitivity to implementation: Evidence from fMRI and behavioral studies. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 22, 486-495.