Have you ever found yourself doing the exact thing you don’t want to do? Like gaining weight when trying to lose it. For me, I’ve spent the last 10 years trying to lose 20 pounds and managed to gain 50 instead. I’ve often wondered why I can achieve complex things that I set my mind to and fail at a task as simple as choosing what I put in my mouth. Time passes. Nothing changes. In fact, the more time passes, the more defeated I feel.
When it comes to dieting or changing any type of behavior for that matter, we each have an internal battle going on inside our heads. Our conscious and subconscious are fighting it out. Trying to ignore a craving or exerting our will power over it rarely works. Science tells us the more we repress a thought the harder it is to escape. I’m going to try a new approach. Care to join me?
- Separate yourself and become an observer watching this strange battle between your conscious and subconscious mind.
- Recognize that your subconscious mind can produce strong ideas, but it can’t make you take an action. It’s your conscious mind that decides whether to give in to temptation.
- No matter how much willpower you start the day with, come dinner time it’s pretty much gone. As long as there are two competing ideas you will expend energy trying to resist subconscious messages using conscious logic.
- Resolve the cognitive dissonance and be of one mind about your choices and willpower is no longer required.
- Write down a few facts about the situation that you know are true. For example: I can go to the restaurant and have fun with my friends without eating dessert. I can relax without alcohol. The truth is that alcohol makes me anxious and depressed the next day. Shopping will not make me feel happy when my checkbook is overdrawn.
- Keep this list handy and whenever you are relying on willpower to get you through a situation and you feel like you are about to give in to your subconscious. Pull out the list and read it.
Calming the dissonance in your mind will do more than trying to grit your way through the situation. Remember, you have a choice. Just like a whining child, the more times you DON’T give in to your subconscious, the faster it will get the message that “no means no.”
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”
Romans 7:15-20 (NIV)