Push or Pull?
Once I was driving to Vegas with a couple of buddies. I was driving, and they were goofing around. They accidentally had knocked off my rear view mirror, so my friend decided he would hold the rear view mirror and check to see if anybody was behind us. Luckily we were in the desert, on long flat stretch of road with clear visibility, so it didn’t really pose any danger. For this particular situation, the mirrors on both sides of the car were fine.
We did have to stop and fix it before we got to Vegas, as driving around the city streets mid day required much more visibility.
I was talking to a friend of mine recently, and she was saying that she has a problem, and based on her conversations with some of her other friends, they have the same problem. She’ll decide on a goal, and get really fired up to go after it, whether I be losing weight, or learning a new skill, or making an effort to improve her current or find a new relationship. But something always seems to happen after a couple weeks.
She said she always starts out like gangbusters, and then for some reason, she loses her motivation and a few weeks later, her drive to achieve what she thought was extremely important fizzles to nothing, and it’s quickly forgotten.
She said several of her friends experience this same thing, and she was wondering if she was doomed to spend the rest of her life on short bursts of motivation for various projects that soon fizzle out. It seems to be a common problem for many people, especially for things like exercise and weight loss.
Could there be a solution?
One answer may lie in what motivates us. In NLP, there are these things called “meta programs.” These are basic, general filters that everybody has, ways that we categorize the world and our own feelings and beliefs. If you can uncover and change on of your meta programs it can completely change the way you view the world and the possibilities it contains.
Depending on who you ask, there are around twenty or thirty general meta programs, and while NLP tries very hard not to label anything as “good,” or “bad,” as everything is contextual and has it’s place, in meta programs, some “settings” seem to be more resourceful than others.
Generally speaking, each “meta program” has two different extremes, and being closer to one extreme tends to be more resourceful rather than being closer to the other extreme. It would be better to be 30% of one side and 70% of the other, rather than the other way around.
When I asked my friend what motivated her to start her goals, it became clear what was causing her to fizzle out. One of the “meta programs” is your motivation strategy. We are all either motivated by moving away from pain, or motivated by moving towards pleasure.
If you are motivated by moving away from pain, you may look at yourself in the mirror, get disgusted and get right into a high intensity exercise program. After a couple of weeks though, because you’re putting hard effort into your routine, the disgust diminishes, and the pain that you are moving away from goes away, which in turn kills your motivation. It’s like jumping back from a hot stove. You are motivated to move in a hurry, but only until you are far enough away so you don’t get burned. If you were to use your hot stove to motivate you to take a trip to France, it wouldn’t work out so well.
On the flip side, you can be motivated by pleasure too much. People that are incredibly driven to thrill seek and experience all kinds of endorphin rushes while ignoring the risks are an example. They are always after the next rush, but ignore the pain or injury they may be causing themselves. Another example is the stereotypical businessman that never has enough money. Always more, more more, until they keel over from a heart attack due to the massive stress they didn’t notice because they were always thinking more more more.
One analogy is the driving with the rear view mirror. You need to have some pain to remind you of, to keep you motivated, and a solid expectation of the pleasure you’ll receive when you get there. If you compare the sizes of your windshield to your rear view mirror, that is a good metaphor for the balance between a motivation away from pain, and a motivation towards pleasure.
So how do you do that in real life? Make sure you create several different emotional filled visualizations when starting out on your program, whatever it is. For the diet and exercise example, some good negative away from motivations would be your naked body in the mirror, all your buttons popping off at a party, the scale breaking when you stand on it. Some good positive motivating visualizations that would pull you toward your goal is an imaginary photoshopped picture of your face on a supermodels body, or listening to all your friends tell you how great you look, or getting propositioned on the street (if you like that kind of thing).
When you develop a powerful push/pull engine, by using pain to push you towards your goal, and using pleasure to pull you at the same time, you’ll have a much better chance of succeeding.
By using just this one meta program, the away from or toward motivating strategy, many people have found it incredibly easy to consistently and repeatedly set and achieve goal they otherwise would never have accomplished.
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