Wouldn’t it be great if we could find things that would inspire us to give up bad habits or establish good ones before circumstances arise that force us to change? Is it possible to use our power of imagination to visualize unpleasant outcomes and use them as motivation to change? Let’s explore this.
Many of the positive changes I’ve made, including giving up bad habits, came after I received some bad news, but not all of them. I’ve made a number of significant improvements when my life was coasting along just fine. The big and rapid changes seem to take place after a difficult event like a breakup with a girlfriend, layoff from a job, or receipt or anticipation of bad health news.
Here are some of the changes I made after a few painful breakups and a job loss. (I’ve only been laid off once (with a golden parachute) – along with hundreds of others on the same day. 🙁 )
- Became an exceptional student and graduated college with honors.
- Landed a job as a management trainee and rose to head a marketing group responsible for $400 million dollars in annual sales.
- Quit smoking cigarettes.
- Joined a health club and began exercising regularly.
- Converted from being an employee to being an entrepreneur.
In these particular circumstances, I used the pain to make huge positive changes. When it comes to receiving or anticipating bad health news, it is, of course, fear that motivates us to change. I’m not sure which is the more powerful emotion. They might be equal. Either way, the energy they produce can be channeled toward positive or negative pursuits.
I have an appointment coming up to see a doctor for a general checkup after not seeing one for more than 20 years! The insurance I’ve had during most of that time had very high deductibles and copays. It is known as a catastrophic policy, which makes perfect sense. I’ve had this type medical insurance since I began my journey on the entrepreneurial path years ago. Since I haven’t had any health issues over the years I never went to see a doctor.
Recently I switched to a new insurance company and plan that is an HMO with zero or low deductibles and copays. I’ve heard some of the same unpleasant stories about HMO’s that you probably have. But since it was such a good deal and I found a primary care physician (via online research) that looks really good to me, I thought I’d give it a try.
Since I made this appointment, I’ve had thoughts about my unwise behavior during the first half of my life, and a bit that spilled into the second half, continuously popping up in my mind. I find it amazing because my subconscious mind is suddenly delivering bad behavior memories that I haven’t thought about in decades! I’m generally a positive person so it’s quite unusual for me to be suddenly bombarded with these thoughts.
This situation has motivated or forced me to push forward on a couple of remaining health-related changes I’ve wanted to make in recent years. I’ll report on what they are and my progress later. For now, however, let me tell you that I’ve made incredible progress since I made that doctor’s appointment. 🙂 The thought of seeing a doctor and having “tests” after so many years has given me the extra motivation I needed to push past any resistance and discomfort of making these changes. This situation got me thinking about how to create this level of motivation without being faced with the real circumstances. Here’s what I came up with.
I believe it is possible to generate nearly the same amount of determination and energy by vividly imagining the situations and outcomes that we do not want. I’ve used this technique successfully in getting myself to “maintain” an exercise program and healthy diet. However, deeply rooted habits and physical addictions require more determination and energy. For example, although I was able to quit drinking coffee using a similar method, I had to use the pain of a breakup to stop smoking.
I do not like using negative energy to create change. It’s not good for your body or your mind. But if you weigh it against keeping a bad habit for years into the future it’s probably worth it.
Here’s what I’m going try in the future. Perhaps you’d like to try it as well. When I’m facing a deeply rooted bad habit that I want to give up, I’m going to do this.
- Visualize the worst-case outcome if I do not quit the bad habit.
- I’ll do this twice a day (morning and night) for 1-2 weeks. The purpose is to establish instant recall of this outcome in my mind.
- When I come to detest visualizing the outcome I imagined, I’ll quit the bad habit on that day or the next.
- If at any time I need a diversion or an extra jolt of motivation to hang on, I’ll simply begin visualizing the worst-case outcome I imagined.
- I will only use this negative force when needed and I will turn it off as quickly as possible.
That’s it. I hope this method works for you.