One of the best ways to find your motivation and change the way you take care of yourself is to look for it inside of two stories about the future, one irresistible, the other repulsive. A future that beckons is like a tractor beam that pulls you forward, while a future that frightens you serves as a repulser ray that pushes you away. Working together, your hopes and fears can move you to make dramatic changes.
“Civilization is a race between education and catastrophe.” -H.G. Wells
The problem is that if you wait for these things to become clear, they may take too long. At that point, you may find the repulsive future looming on your horizon, and the irresistible one fading from the realm of possibility. The good news is that you don’t have to wait until it’s too late!
Compelling futures can be intentionally designed, and the more three dimensional, vivid and intense you make these competing ideas, the more potent they are as internal agents of change.
“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” -Yogi Berra
Some people find it easier to create these compelling futures by writing them down. Others are able to do it through a relaxed flight of fancy into the imagination. Still others do best by finding living examples of the positive and negative futures. You can do some experiments to find what works best for you.
For example, if you want to lose weight and gain self esteem, imagine getting older and fatter, see yourself doing nothing more to change and notice how that adds up in the months and years ahead. To enhance the experience, see your future body nude in a mirror, or feel the effort and exertion it takes to move and function. You could even add a sound track of self talk, where your future self says “If only I’d done something back in the past, I wouldn’t be in this situation now!” Or, you could spend several weeks closely observing the difficulties that larger people have in moving and getting comfortable in different kinds of chairs, and the way that the people around them look at them, talk to them and treat them. Then observe the energy, ease and grace with which healthy people in your desired weight range move about in society.
Or, you could write a story about your future self, the difficulties you encounter as a result of bad health and bad feelings from being overweight and allowing laziness or stupidity to be the source of your decisions. Write about the choices you made that lead to this awful outcome. Then turn it around. Imagine a positive compelling future, and write a story about that, and include the steps taken, the choices made, the dates and times of turning points that produced the happy ending.
If you want to quit smoking and start breathing deeply, you could imagine yourself in a hospital some years in the future. See the pain in the faces of your loved ones, and consider all that is stolen from their lives and yours because of your habit of breathing smoke instead of air. Feel what it’s like to lose your voice and have to talk through a piece of equipment. Contemplate the loss of being able to take a special trip to celebrate a marriage or birth, and your family’s loss that results from something you didn’t do when there was still time to do something. Add in the pain, sadness, regret and disappointment to make this future extremely unpleasant, and well worth avoiding.