Have I finally found the trick to mastering my health decisions? Maybe. It’s a long story but I’ll tell you what I mean: This topic requires that I confess something I don’t often like to tell people: I read self-help books. Even worse? I listen to self-help audio books now! I always think of that episode of Sex in the City when Charlotte goes to the bookstore and buys a self-help book after her divorce but ends up feeling so gross about it that she throws the book away.
I am no Charlotte but I do have reservations about several types of self-help books (yes, I really have become one of those people). Anyway, back on point: last night I was browsing the local public library selection of audio books on my iphone and I noticed High Self Esteem and Unshakeable Confidence:
I browsed past it. It was a little too far out there for me. I downloaded a few other choices and didn’t love them and found myself browsing back through. OK, fine. I downloaded it. I put back in my ear buds and prepared to be disappointed. Instead I was very pleasantly surprised. The first author is Dr. Larry Iverson. From his website:
For over twenty years Dr. Larry Iverson has educated, motivated and entertained audiences. From his work with Olympic athletes beginning in 1982, to the main platform of Fortune 500 conferences, he delivers motivation, persuasion and communication strategies you can apply right now. Larry blends vision with his background as a Clinical Psychologist in guiding you on an insightful journey, while you develop personal insights that assist your personal development. Larry masterfully uses enthusiasm and humor to help you gain control in your life.
Olympic athletes, huh? OK, I’m listening… He starts with the basic premise that all decisions are made based on emotions, two emotions in particular: pleasure and pain. We either avoid certain behaviors because of the pain they cause or we engage in behaviors because of the pleasure we receive. Obvious? Probably. But, here’s where it got interesting. We can choose to reinforce the pain/pleasure system in order to achieve the outcomes we want. So, if I know that I want to drink more water, I should spend some time setting myself up for success. I’d think about how rewarding it will feel at the end of a long day when I’ve accomplished my goal. I’d think about how much better I’d feel when I wake up the next morning. I’d think about how disappointed I am when I wake up after having skipped out on something I really wanted to achieve. Basically, I’m just reinforcing the things I already believe but bringing them to the forefront of my mind and leaving no question that drinking water is good and not drinking water is bad.
As I practiced with this little exercise, I found myself thinking about water. I actually paused my book, got up and got a glass of water. Hmmm… Maybe I fail at my health ambitions because I haven’t clearly established these emotional connections to pleasure/pain responses. I haven’t attempted to think big with this yet. I’m still focusing a little small. Today, I brought a water bottle to work and I’ve been focusing on how great it is to be hydrated. Next: physical activity. How terrible does it feel when you’ve missed a workout?
OK, maybe a cursory look at this topic makes it seem kind of dumb but when I imagine spending a significant amount of time making these emotional connections, I can kind of see how this would work. Let’s find out…