Part II of ‘How to Burn Your Belly Fat by Hacking Your Brain.’ Learn how to tap into the power of story and create goals that stick
I remember it as any uncool high school kid would. I saw the cool kid from my neighborhood, “Courtney,” the summer after our freshman year of college sporting the ‘freshman fifteen.’ If you are for some reason not familiar with the freshman fifteen, it is what happens when someone who was eating home-cooked meals goes to college and eats crap food and probably some extra liquid calories for a solid nine months—weight gain in the area of 15-20 pounds. In the case of “Courtney” I might have had some uncharitable thoughts (like a lot), but that was when I was young and didn’t understand the mental weight of weight gain.
I haven’t seen “Courtney” since that day because her family moved, but I have no doubt that she attempted to lose weight at some point because most of us do. My freshman fifteen came when backpacking through Europe and discovering cheese and gelato. They are both amazing and combined, do not make up a balanced diet.
Lifestyle change is going to be a battle most of the time. There will be losses and wins, but the best generals don’t let one loss determine full retreat for the whole army. The best generals don’t wave the white flag and grab the case of Oreos, Vodka, and cranberry juice because things didn’t go perfectly.
The best generals learn from the loss without drowning their feelings with a quick hit of sugar. They talk to those in the fight to understand what should change in the future. But the biggest thing that the best generals have is the ability to see beyond the small losses. They have their scene of success painted, and they know learning from losses is how to transform the battlefield.
In my last post, I discussed that the best way to burn fat was to paint yourself a scene of success to keep you steadily on the path towards your goals. It takes significant mental energy to change your lifestyle, so the key is to understand tiny changes (tiny habits) you can make that will keep you on your path to success. These small changes create easy wins and slowly change your habits and patterns that will cement them into your new lifestyle. But how should you start? How do you create your Oscar-worthy movie ending?
4 Scenes of Success
- Distant: 3-5 years in the future—Your vision of who you want to be, where you want to be, and what you want to do
- Long-term: 90 day
- Short term: this week
- Immediate: today
Building Your Scenes: How to Start
When you wake up tomorrow, the first thing I want you to do is to lay on your back and close your eyes again—then don’t fall back asleep. You are living today over again before it even starts. Weird? Kind of, but you know how the majority of today will go. What will you be overcoming today? What is the feeling you want at the end of your sales call? How do you want conversations with your kids, spouse, or coworkers to go? How are you going to avoid eating that donut at work today?
Play out the one thing you are changing about how your day runs, your new tiny habit, and picture how you will feel when you are not a failure at the end of the day. Capture the emotion of your personal win and roll out of bed. Pull that emotion out and relive it when you are confronted with a tough part of the day. Use it to energize and change your unconscious actions of going to the break room and grabbing the donut you said you wouldn’t have today. Pre-celebrate your win. Keeping that emotion of winning will help overcome the sense of sacrifice throughout the day.
1% better everyday= 37% better in a year. 1% worse everyday= 97% worse at the end of the year, so not only will each year continue to be bad, but will get much worse as time goes on.
I had my engineer husband check the math and really it is that bad if you continue to just be a little worse every day.
Will pre-playing your scene of success solve all your problems in a day? Nope. Will you completely be a new person immune to living a day on repeat? Nope. But the goal is to reduce some of the mental energy required to make a few small changes that stick. Your scene of success for today will be set up by knowing what your scene of success is for the next five years, this month, and this week. Winning for today is huge, but winning on the regular is how life change occurs.
Building Your Scene: Where to Start
Where do you start? Like in Star Wars, I recommend starting in the middle—your scene 3 months from now. Why? Because picturing yourself more than 3 months from now is hard for your brain to project out. One year is so far in the future that you, 12 months from now, is kind of an imaginary creature. You have so many months to go before a year from now comes around. You have time to eventually get around to making 12-months-from-now you amazing. 3-months-from-now you needs right-now you to start picturing your scene of success. 3-months-from-now you needs right-now you to figure out what is important this week to make the success scene seem real and maybe a little urgent.
Playing out your scene of success rests on the fact that you take quiet time away from your electronics to picture your scene of success without distractions. Maybe you take yourself out to the library or your favorite coffee house. Go somewhere you can focus with paper and pen and write down the end of the movie for your life 3 months from now.
Break up the next 12 weeks and write down a thought on what the picture needs to look like for you to progress each week steadily towards that end of the movie. At the beginning of each week, write down the scene of success for that day with your tiny habit. Each day, play the scene with your regular daily tasks. Pre-play a day where your tiny habit fits into normal life operations. By visualizing success as you start the day, your unconscious self can do an incredible job guiding some of your actions. The more you can rehearse your day before it starts, the better you can mentally prep the brain and rewire it for the change needs to achieve your goals.
What Can Kill you Scenes: Unrealistic Scenes
Me imagining myself 5 years from now winning the Tour de France would be a great example of a scene that is just not realistic—mainly because I would look horrible in that bright yellow and would never wear it. Plus, I only ride a bike with my kids for less than a mile once a week.
Many people begin lifestyle change goals with unreasonable expectations for themselves, and when they get frustrated, they settle or give up, making unhappy memories along the way. Setting an unrealistic scene of success for yourself is how disappointment and failure can grow into hopelessness and despair. If you didn’t learn hope or realistic goal setting from your parents or home environment, you can still learn it as an adult, but it will require skilled help and support from friends or family.
Many people go to school for years so that they can help people set lifestyle goals given what is currently going on in their lives. Check out Registered Dietitians, Physical Therapists, and Mental Wellness providers. Interview several because a degree does not mean you are great at what you do. Find someone you click with and get going on some realistic scenes of success.
What Can Kill you Scenes: Value Your Happiness Now AND Later
When reaching for a better future with your scenes of success, don’t forget about your quality of life in the present! This is the biggest problem with living life in the huge annual goal mindset (and that is the reason I don’t have a 12-month scene of success). One year is a really long time to withhold and sacrifice, which is why it typically fails.
You cannot just focus on the feeling you will have 12 months from now because that will not be enough to keep you going. That is why you do the scene of success daily so you can celebrate your wins day in and day out.
Celebrate what you want to see more of.—Tom Peters
If you don’t celebrate your daily or weekly wins, it is hard to keep sight of why you are working so hard. Celebrate your small victories by writing on a post-it note and putting them on your bathroom mirror. Collect them for the month. Check out where you started and where you finished.
DIG (Get Deliberate, Get Inspired, Get Going) Deep Action Steps:
Get Deliberate: Set up a time to go somewhere quiet and WRITE DOWN your 5-year vision, 3-month scene of success, and the next four weeks of your scene of success.
Get Inspired: Decide what you should do to celebrate your wins! Have a pair of shoes you have been looking at? Outdoor furniture you want? Short day trip you have been wanting to take? Set that as your goal for realizing your scene of success 90 days from now.
Get Going: Share your scenes of success with a group of friends. See if they want to work on lifestyle change with you. Help each other stay accountable or hire a coach to work with your group.