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« Don't just catch up -- get ahead! | Main | Time to think again? »

Fooling Yourself the Positive Way!

I’ve written in the past that one of the best ways to get yourself moving on something you are resisting is to use the magic phrase “I’m not really going to …. now, but I’ll just….”. For example if you are putting of writing a report, then say to yourself “I’m not really going to write the report now, but I’ll just get the file out.”

What the phrase accomplishes is to get you over the first step. Once you’ve done that your mind seems to lose much of its resistance and you start to gain momentum. In fact what often happens is that you seem to get into an almost automatic frame of mind in which you hardly notice that you are doing the task.

I remember last summer I was sitting in my garden one Sunday afternoon after lunch enjoying the sunshine, when I became aware that I really ought to be mowing the grass. Naturally that was the last thing I wanted to do, so I said to myself “I’m not really going to mow the grass now, but I’ll just get the power cable out”. The next thing I knew was that the grass was mown. It was almost as if someone else had done it. But there wasn’t anyone else around, so I knew it must have been me!

If you use this phrase a lot, an interesting thing starts to happen. You frequently find that you by the time you have finished the phrase, you already well into the task. For example, by the time you have said “I’m not really going to write this report now, but …” you will have started to write the report!

So just saying the first half of the phrase gets us moving. We don’t even have to specify what the first step is.

What is happening here? Why should saying we’re not going to do something be the trigger phrase that gets us to do it?

In some way one part of our mind seems to be able to fool another. One part is perfectly aware that we intend to write the report, at the same time that another part is blindly believing the lie that we’re not really going to do it.

Notice the difference between saying “I’m not going write that report now” and “I’m not really going to write that report now, but …” In the first one, we mean it!

What happens if we start to use this technique on longer-term things? “I’m not really going to lose 10 lbs, but …” or “I’m not really going to sail around the world, but …”.

Have fun finding out!

Reader Comments (3)

Mark, Very interesting post. I am playing with a theory that in order to be a good leader, you need to be able to lead yourself. I think this is a fab technique for doing that...

I have just ordered your two books. If they contain more of the same, im looking forward to the read.

March 7, 2007 at 9:47 | Unregistered CommenterGuy Levine
Hi, Guy, good to hear from you again. I hope you enjoy the books (and by the way there's three, not two!)
March 7, 2007 at 10:27 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
This is interesting. I just wrote about an almost identical technique I use with myself on a blog I'm using to track my weight loss. I don't know why it works either, but it does.

I use this technique not only to do things I don't want to do, but also to NOT do things I DO want to do (but know I shouldn't).

You can read it here:
March 7, 2007 at 18:05 | Unregistered CommenterCharles

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