“This” moment vs. “that” moment

June 18, 2011

One of the mental tricks I use to stay motivated has to do with trade-offs and picturing myself in the future. Being able to really put yourself into a future moment and feel it is a very valuable skill.

When I’m stuffing myself with hundreds or thousands of calories I don’t need (mind you, that’s hundreds or thousands, not hundreds of thousands), I am very “in the moment.” Consequences are shoveled out the window as fast as the food is shoveled in. I’m working on retraining my thinking to consider THIS MOMENT versus THAT MOMENT.

Here’s what I mean. I picture myself at pivotal moments in the future: on the eve of my 30-year class reunion or at a close relative’s wedding. I also think about less pivotal but nonetheless crucial moments like the one when I run into an old friend in line at the convenience store (hopefully not while I’m buying Twinkies).

I’m slim and healthy and look great. I carry on an easy conversation with whoever’s on hand because I feel confident. In the corner of my mind, I start thinking back…

When I look back at this moment, with the fork full of cheesecake poised for deployment, from that one, will I regret missing out on the dessert? Will I even spare a thought for all the gooey deliciousness I passed up? I doubt it. I think I will be proud and happy and would not trade that moment for anything.

Now I picture myself at that moment again, but this time still overweight, unhealthy, and miserable. I may not even go to that reunion or wedding, and if I do, I’ll feel uncomfortable, self-conscious, even angry with myself. If I’m at the convenience store, I probably will be buying Twinkies and trying to pretend they’re for ravenous wolves in the parking lot when I see the old friend.

Won’t I look back at this moment, this choice I’m making right now, and say, I would have gladly traded that second helping or that bowl of ice cream for being thinner and attractive today?

Who wouldn’t?

Of course, it’s not exactly an even trade; one positive food choice won’t transport me into the future sans 50 pounds, just like one bad food choice won’t doom me to everlasting failure. How I look and feel at that future moment will be determined by a long series of decisions.

But I can’t live those decisions ahead of time. I may say, I am determined to eat right from now on. But I can’t actually make the choices, live them, until the minute I’m faced with each one.

So, ultimately, the equation is a balanced one after all. If I make the right choice this minute, and then make the right choice again tonight when I get the nibbles, and again tomorrow morning when faced with the tray of donuts in the break room, all those decisions over time will result in a slim, healthy me. Even if only 75% of those choices were made well, I will have made serious progress toward my goal, and I will have much more confidence and peace of mind.

As I work the crowd at the reunion, chat with my old friend next to the candy bar rack, or pose for photos at the wedding, I will be thrilled with myself for making all those smaller sacrifices in order to get where I am, and there will be no regrets. It’s not like dessert is on its way to extinction; if I absolutely, positively cannot live without a little splurge at that special event, cheesecake will still exist.

So give this visualization technique and try. I’d love to hear your comments on the idea; put in your 2 cents below.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: