In their book, “Switch” Dan and Chip Heath liken the subconscious mind to an elephant, and the conscious mind to its rider. As the rider, the conscious mind call the shots, and the big powerful subconscious obeys. We believe that we are aware and in charge of our actions, but are we ?
Have you ever had the experience of finding yourself with your hand in the cookie jar, both literally and figuratively, without knowing how it got there? Or, have you ever become so distracted by chores that you put a meal off until you were starving, out of control, and eating on your feet instead of at a table?
How does this happen really? If you’re following the TEAM technique of Thinking, Eating, Allies, and Movement, how could you forget your established goals, and the behavior that helps you reach them? It’s the elephant. Yes, it is the powerful beast inside you that has needs and desires that are counter to what you want. Freud called it id, ego, and superego, but I like the visual of the elephant.
So how does the elephant take over? When you are tired, busy, frustrated, angry, or just foggy headed you lose awareness of the road you’re on, and you can be pulled away from the path you want to follow. They say an elephant never forgets, but you are at the mercy of amnesia: the amnesia that makes you forget your goals and turn to snacks.
How do you counter this amnesia? You counter it with awareness, and you cultivate awareness with behavioral tools. The technique is simple, but the execution can be difficult. Here are some ways that you can establish awareness, and keep it strong.
1. Set goals. You must know vividly and specifically what you want in order to keep it in mind and in front of you. Without a well established destination you will wander off the path that leads to it.
2. Make a schedule. In addition to knowing what you want to do, you need to know when to do it. I risk sounding like a broken record with my clients and students when I repeat the phrase:
Three training sessions a week, marked on your calendar, just like a doctor’s or dental appointment. When it comes to eating, my students who have hit it out of the park with their fat loss have all chosen an eating plan and schedule and followed it. That’s the secret to our success in a nutshell right there.
3. Create cues and reminders to help you remember. The elephant is big and powerful, so you need ways to steer your awareness back to the road you want to be on. I write down my eating plan in the morning, I have a whiteboard by my computer, and I write my daily goals on it. In my daily meditation I revisit my goals, and I visualize myself doing the tasks that will help me reach them. Note- this is an incredible tool that so few people use! Try this: every day at say, 11:45, pause and reconnect mentally with your goal for 2 minutes. Repeat this at 2PM or 3PM, or whatever your “Amnesia Hour” usually is. This may help counter a takeover by your hungry subconscious.
So there are the three tools: A Goal, A Schedule, and Reminders. Can you take some time to get creative with your reminders? Could you carry a polished stone, put up post its, pick a number that you associate with your goal, and every time you see that number reconnect with your desire?
Your authentic ideal body is truly worth these efforts. Once you establish them as a pattern, they can be incredibly freeing and comforting: much more comporting than being dragged off of your chosen path by junk food.
So stay aware, and reach your goal.